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4 winter sun hotspots for end of year escapes

If 2020 has left you feeling low in Vitamin D (and sea), we’ve sought out the sunniest spots to beat the winter blues and wanderlust woes – from the tropical temperatures of Cambodia and the Caribbean, to the balmy shores of Mexico and the Maldives, it’s not too late to plan your end of year escape. These winter sun destinations will be worth the wait…

Cambodia

During the winter months, the sweltering heat and humidity is significantly softened by cooler temperatures and dry spells, making November-April the perfect time to visit Cambodia – which is currently open to international visitors, dependent on successful visa application, proof of a medical certificate and health insurance. Hidden jungle ruins, pristine beaches accessible by traditional long-tail boats, and a colourful Khmer culture of tangy cuisine and ornate temples await.

Koh Russey Villas & Resort, Bamboo Island…little more than a mile wide, nature is all around on this private island retreat. The hotel’s rooms, suites and villas – some with their own freshwater pools – blend with the backdrop of palm trees and bamboo groves, home to colourful local birds.

The Caribbean

Nowhere does white sandy beaches and impossibly blue waters quite like the Caribbean – and with many of the islands now open to international travellers, it’s still possible to get your dose of vitamin sea this winter. With varying entry requirements for visitors travelling from designated high to low-risk countries (this also differs from state to state if you’re U.S. based), be sure to read up on each island’s tourism board guidelines before booking.

Coral Reef Club, Barbados…Surround yourself with flowering shrubs, swaying palms, colourful bougainvillea, crotons and frangipani at this tropical hideaway on the secluded West Coast. All the rooms have a patio or balcony overlooking the gardens, pool or beach while the Plantation Suites and Luxury Cottage Suites have their own private plunge pool.

The Liming Bequia, Saint Vincent & The Grenadines…Living up to its name as ‘the art of doing nothing’ to Caribbean locals, this private villa resort slows every stay to the relaxed rhythm of Bequia island life, which is refreshingly off the beaten track compared to the larger Caribbean islands.

Le Barthélemy Hotel & Spa, St Barthélemy…This exclusive escape is set right beside a peaceful lagoon, where the décor and furnishings are designed to reflect the natural beauty of St Bart’s. Dedicate your days to total relaxation beside the infinity pool or in the individual wooden cabins of the hotel spa, or explore the the bright coral reef that encircles the entire island.

Mexico

Golden, palm-lined beaches meet centuries-old Mayan ruins, colourfully painted buildings, bohemian bars and spiced cuisine – Mexico will take any traveller on a journey of the senses. Home to some of the world’s most beautiful coastline, dotted with pretty palapas and coral reefs, days are best spent swinging in a hammock, or enjoying the sugar-white sands of the East Coast to the jungle-fringed eco-paradises on the West Coast. Head inland for vibrant cities, a medley of handicraft boutiques and markets, and beautifully preserved ancient landmarks which are drawing a more creative crowd.

El Pez, Tulum…With thatched-roof beach houses lining the shore, from a distance this laid-back luxury resort looks like a traditional Mayan village. Best enjoyed barefoot, go for a stroll along the peaceful cove and keep an eye out for newly hatched sea turtles – which sometimes hatch as late as November.

Villas del Mar, San José del Cabo…These elegant casitas take up prime position on Palmilla Beach, with an exclusive beach club to complete the picture of privacy. Room service comes in the form of in-villa meals personally prepared by the resort’s chefs, while the Villas del Mar catamaran is made for languid days of luxury at sea.

Hotel Amparo, San Miguel de Allende…Step inside a historic home which has been refreshed with bold prints and patterns, abstract art and bright Oaxacan textiles. Just down the cobblestone streets from a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Hotel Amparo makes the perfect boutique base to explore the city’s thriving arts and crafts scene – it’s easy to see why the hotel was recently recognised by Travel + Leisure as the best city hotel in Mexico, and the second best hotel in the world.

The Maldives

With its far-flung hideaways and private island resorts scattered across the Indian Ocean, the Maldives is proving to be one of the safest destinations to open its borders to international travellers, thanks to its dispersed geography and exclusive transfer services. The privacy of over-water villas and beachfront bungalows guarantees minimal guest interaction, while many dining experiences and activities can be enjoyed in open-air spaces, mask-free (unless you’re snorkelling, of course).

Huvafen Fushi Maldives, North Malé Atoll…Submerge into serenity in the first and only under-the-sea spa on ‘Dream Island’, with treatment rooms overlooking the reef. Also home to the Maldives’ first underground wine cellar, an evening at Vinum takes wine tasting to a whole new level. And this is before you have even dipped your toe in the water-lovers world of Huvafen lagoon.

Baros Maldives, Malé…Elegant, secluded villas with palm thatched roofs are either over-water or facing the beach at this castaway atoll, sheltered by large banana leaves and palms. Diving or snorkelling in the coral reef just off the island is a must with its variety of colourful fish, turtles, rays and an abundance of healthy coral.

Milaidhoo Island Maldives, Baa Atoll…As an adults only resort, Milaidhoo Island is known for its romantic atmosphere and absolute privacy is ensured with all manner of options for in-villa dining, beach dinners and even a night sleeping under the stars – an experience that was recently Highly Commended in the SLH Awards 2020 for Most Intense Bespoke Experience.

Velassaru Maldives, Malé…If you’re looking for a true Maldivian experience, choose one of the water villas at this far-flung island fantasy with a full sea-facing wall that opens out onto an over-water terrace and the lagoon beyond.