If cabin fever’s getting the better of you, make a plan of some of the places you want to head to once everything is up and running again. Here are some of the favourite beach getaways of our readers and staff to get you inspired.
“My favourite beach is Alona Beach on Panglao Island, Bohol, in the Philippines. You can either fly to Manila and transfer to Bohol International Airport, or fly to Cebu, get a taxi to Pier 1 and take a fast ferry to Tagbilaran Seaport. A great place to stay would be my four-bedroom house on Airbnb, of course! There are other excellent hotels such as Henann Resort Alona Beach (a large one with hundreds of rooms) or The Bellevue Resort (less crowded).
The diving and snorkelling there is incredible! Scoot over to Balicasag Island for its amazing drop-offs and sea turtles in the shallows. You can even take a ferry ride or helicopter to Oslob and swim with whale sharks. Alternatively, do a day trip into Bohol to see the Chocolate Hills, Loboc River and tarsiers (tiny primates), visit adventure parks, or cruise around in vintage cars – it’s like Cuba in the Philippines!
You can also rent a scooter and explore on your own. The people are amazing and will always help and steer you to some adventure. There is also amazing food on the islands, from local to international – it’s a smorgasbord of some of the best foods! A favourite moment from my visits to the area was being alone on a little outrigger boat between Panglao and Balicasag Island, with only my family and the boat captain. We shared the morning on the sea with pods of wild dolphins. It was a magical hour or so with them before they left to feed.”
Brian Kennett, Reader
“I’m more of a winter holiday girl but I really loved my first trip to Koh Samui two years back. Stepping out of the plane to blue cloudless skies and loads of greenery, I knew I was in for a good time.
I stayed at Santiburi Samui, a gorgeous resort along Maenam Beach in the north of the island, which is only about 20 minutes from the airport. The hotel has all sorts of rooms, from one- to two-bedroom suites to garden, pool and beachfront villas. Within the property, there’s loads to keep you occupied. Besides lounging by the beach or pool, there’s the Lén Spa (I had the collagen boost massage and it was amazing!) and the water-sports centre (I kayaked, paddle-boarded and rode a Hobie Cat). There’s also a lovely private beach along Maenam so it was great not having to jostle with the crowds.
If you’re keen on heading out, I recommend checking out the popular Fisherman’s Village. It’s packed with shops, restaurants and bars, and on Friday nights there’s a market selling all sorts of clothing, handicrafts and local food.”
Lindsay Yap, Editor
“We visited Sri Lanka for the first time early this year and swiftly fell in love with the place! We spent nine days exploring the country’s vast landscapes, from Colombo and Ella, through to Kandy and Uduwalawe.
After a week of non-stop adventure and hikes, our final few days were dedicated purely to R&R. Unuwatuna was perfect for this: an endless stretch of white sand, towering palm trees and crashing turquoise waves. We stayed at the gorgeous Villa Sulanga by The Chatham Collection, a three-bedroom beachfront property that’s so pretty it successfully removed any inkling of guilt for not leaving the villa at all until the afternoon on most days.
When we finally got the energy, there was plenty to do, from surf lessons and kite surfing to visiting the neighbouring turtle sanctuary or wandering the charming streets of Galle Fort. Once the sun’s heat had subsided, the stretch came to life with beach bars and charming restaurants and cafés. Two “musts” that are both a short tuk-tuk ride away are Sugar Beach in Talpe for casual drinks, and dinner at the iconic Fortress Resort & Spa in Koggala as a final meal before leaving!”
Leanda Rathmell, Regional Production & Client Services Manager
“Bali has been our go-to place for a short break for a while now. We normally try to go there a few times a year! From Hong Kong, there are several direct flight options, and the trip takes around five hours.
We love the luxury of staying in a villa. We go with friends and family, so when you break it down, the cost is quite comparable to staying in a hotel. Elite Havens have some lovely ones (elitehavens.com). We enjoy chilling at the amazing beach bars – there are lots of them springing up all over the place now. I love shopping at the small boutiques in Seminyak, too; it’s nice to see some different styles and the homewares are just gorgeous.
Favourite moments from our visits would definitely be sunset drinks at Potato Head Beach Club or Ku De Ta, or an early evening party at Finns Beach Club in Canggu.”
Jacqui Young, Integrated Communications Manager
“It’s hard to deny the perfection of some Maldivian or Seychellois beaches, and I’m smitten by Western Australia’s fabulous coastline. But my heart belongs to Umhlanga Rocks, just north of my home town of Durban. The best time to go is after the hectic summer holiday season. From April to June, you’re almost guaranteed clear skies and lower humidity. Cathay Pacific flies direct from Hong Kong to Joburg. From there it’s a short one-hour flight to King Shaka International Airport plus just a 15-minute Uber ride to Umhlanga Rocks village.
Accommodation ranges from the magnificently colonial fivestar Oyster Box Hotel or the neighbouring Beverley Hills, to more reasonable hotels, expansive rental apartments, and plenty of affordable B&Bs – all an easy walk from Umhlanga village and its plethora of friendly bars and eateries offering dozens of different cuisine options. Take a walk or go for a jog with locals and visitors along the well-patrolled beach promenade. Have a dip in lifeguard-protected waters, surf the feisty waves or – if your stomach can take it – go out on a deep-sea fishing boat.
Watch the world go by over singleorigin coffee at a chi-chi pavement café in the high street. Later, sip a sundowner at the Oyster Box’s Lighthouse Bar and then tuck into succulently flame-grilled peri-peri prawns at Joita’s Mozambican-Portuguese restaurant. My favourite moment? Harvesting delicious mussels off the rocks a couple of kilometres up the beach for a garlicky feast with friends and family.”
Verne Maree, Contributing Writer
“Hands down, the beach we love most is Mollymook Beach in Ulladulla, Australia. It’s in New South Wales, about 230 kilometres south of Sydney, on the Princes Highway. Driving there takes about three hours from Sydney. We typically stop halfway at Gerringong, a cute little town that has some nice cafés and surf and vintage stores. It is also home to Seven Mile Beach, which is the longest stretch of beach on this part of the Australian coast. It’s a very pretty drive.
There are a lot of places to stay in Mollymook. If you go to stayz.com.au, you’ll see a wide variety of holiday houses for different budgets. We always rent out a house called “Absolute Beachfront at Mollymook Beach”. It’s not a fancy house but it has a fireplace, a great garden for the kids and it’s just 20 metres to the beach. There is also Bannisters Mollymook, a hotel which just opened about a year ago.
There are many things to do: swimming, surfing, boogie-boarding, fishing, picnicking, driving to Pebbly Beach, meeting wild kangaroos, shopping for antiques, and exploring cafés and restaurants – the proper Aussie beach lifestyle experience! The rock pools during low tide here are pretty special as the tide brings in fantastic and amazing sea creatures to explore (but no touching!). We always snorkel around the rocks to see what new creatures have moved in; after that, we relax with coffees and hot chocolates at the beach. If you’re a great swimmer and a surfer, the waves in the morning are fantastic. For not-so-strong swimmers like us, go to the quieter end of the beach near the RSL club and swim in between the flags there.”
Susan Knudsen-Pickles, Brand Partnership & Events Manager
“Our favourite part of the world for a fuss-free family beach getaway is Dunsborough in Western Australia. Apart from the stunning beaches and super-relaxed vibe, it’s a pretty town with just the right mix of shops and cafés to be interesting without being too touristy. There’s loads to do in the area for all ages and interests – from animal farms, parks and playgrounds to chocolate factories, boutique galleries and wineries. Margaret River town with its river walks and streets lined with curiosity shops, bars and restaurants makes a good day out.
If you have more time, a trip to Boranup Karri Forest, Cape Leeuwin lighthouse and on to Augusta (Australia’s most southwestern town) is well worthwhile. There are also some stunning walks and cycle tracks in the region; I highly recommend doing all or part of the Cape to Cape Trail, which runs for 123 kilometres along the Leeuwin-Naturaliste Ridge. The scenery is spectacular; we’ve even spotted killer whales frolicking in the Indian ocean, so be sure to take binoculars with you!
Dunsborough is a three-hour drive from Perth, so it’s easily doable for a break of five days or more, and there are plenty of accommodation options to suit all budgets. (We love it so much, we bought a holiday home there!) And the best part is that it’s in the same time zone as Hong Kong, so there’s no jet lag to deal with!”
Juliet Keys, Copy Editor
Once we can all go travelling, what better way to celebrate than to do your “first” getaway in style? Elite Havens has a stunning collection of luxury villas and chalets across Asia where you can enjoy a five-star holiday.
The beauty of a villa is that you and your family or friends can indulge in all sorts of services and facilities that are in place just for you – from private pools and barbecue terraces to entertainment, with well-trained staff and a dedicated concierge team to take care of your every whim and fancy. Keen for a delicious meal cooked by a private chef and served alfresco by the villa pool? No problem!
Best in the world?
A recent survey by FlightNetwork asked 600 travel journos, editors, bloggers and agency reps to name the most beautiful beaches on the planet. The list included 50 spots from Oregon in America to a black beach in Iceland, and everything in between.Mexico and Australia were the only two countries to score two entries in the top 10. But it was the small nation of Turks and Caicos (southeast of the Bahamas) that nabbed the top spot, with the ridiculously turquoise waters of Grace Bay taking the honour. Whitehaven Beach in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef came second, with Anse Lazio in the Seychelles coming in third.
The highest-ranked Asian beach in the list was Maya Bay, in Koh Phi Phi, Thailand. This is the beach that came to global fame upon the release of the film The Beach, in 2000. So, while it’s undoubtedly beautiful, it’s also very, very discovered. Put it this way: you won’t have the place to yourself!
This article first appeared in the June 2020 issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.