See in the new year with your toes between the sand and a tropical cocktail in hand
Upbeat meets laidback at these barefoot beach resorts, where you can dance the night away to exotic beats and recover on a sun lounger by day. Whether you plan to party or relax (or a bit of both), here are five of our favourite end of year escapes to celebrate 2022 in style.
1. Tulum, Mexico
While many party people might flock to Cancun, the more chilled-out celebrations in tranquil Tulum draw a cooler crowd. Settle in to a beachfront bar along the power-white beaches dotted with rustic palapas and bohemian daybeds, to contemplate your new year’s resolutions over fruit smoothies or fresh sugar cane mojitos. A relaxing massage in a shore-side cabana is the perfect hangover cure for New Year’s Day, or a refreshing dip in one of the nearby cenotes – these deep, mystical underground waters are a much-needed, cooling respite from the Mexican sun.
Where to stay: With four fabulous Tulum hotels to choose from, you’ll be spoilt for choice when deciding where to lay your sun hat. For a couples getaway, Mi Amor more than lives up to its romantic reputation, with Caribbean Sea-facing cabanas along a rocky cliff, while adults-only Mezzanine has just nine beautiful bedrooms if you’re looking for a truly intimate hideaway. Then there’s the blissed-out La Zebra, where plush day beds rest on creamy sand under thatched parasols.
2. Phuket, Thailand
With some of Thailand’s best beaches, Phuket is an island to while away the final days of the year in total bliss. The heady scent of exotic flowers fills the balmy air, star fruit cocktails are ordered on repeat, and the Andaman Sea lures travellers from gently swinging hammocks into its warm waters. While there are plenty of places to party on the largest Thai island, it’s really the endless ways to relax that shine here – from traditional honey and ginger massages to sipping lemongrass tea on your balcony just watching the waves lap the shore.
Where to stay: Whichever of the five idyllic SLH Phuket properties you pick, you’ll want to keep coming back for more. The treetop villas of Keemala are hidden in the lush Thai rainforest, while Aleenta Resort & Spa Phuket is all about the ‘outside living-in’ concept – suites have retractable glass walls, lofts benefit from soul-stirring sea views and villas boast spacious outdoor living areas.
3. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Rio de Janeiro is the very best of Brazil, where sunny caipirinhas flow freely and mountains overlook the wild Atlantic Ocean. Countdown to the new year on the legendary Copacabana Beach, which plays host to the city’s second biggest bash known locally as Reveillon – which only slightly trails Carnival in the scale of its celebrations. Be sure to secure your spot along the famous sand early in the day, as by nightfall the beach will be buzzing with party-goers popping champagne. Several stages are set up to blast tropical tunes and get the beach on its feet with live Brazilian samba displays, so you can find your own rhythm in the build up to new year.
Where to stay: Famous for its distinctive façade of white, foldable shutters, and its prime position on Copacabana Beach, Emiliano Rio is where Modernist architecture meets minimalist interiors. Head up to the stylish rooftop bar and infinity pool that blurs the line between the glistening blue ocean and distant views of Sugar Loaf mountain.
4. St Barthélemy, Caribbean
There’s a reason the jet set return to this Caribbean island year after year to start the next in some serious style. St Barts is the place to see and be seen during the winter sun season, particularly in and around celebrity hotspot, St Jean. Luxury villas, trendy restaurants, and the chic boutiques of Gustavia are all brimming with fashionable visitors at this time of year – who watch from their superyachts as the sky is lit up with a magical firework display at midnight above Fort Oscar on New Year’s Eve. After partying the night away with the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio, let the warm, calm waters of Grand Cul de Sac – renowned as one of the best beaches in the world – simply wash your hangover away.
Where to stay: Nestled right beside a peaceful lagoon, Le Barthélemy Hotel & Spa effortlessly captures the relaxed spirit of island life, with décor and furnishings that reflect the natural beauty of St Barts.
5. Bamboo Island, Cambodia
Step off the tourist trail for New Year’s Eve and onto Bamboo Island, or Koh Russey as it’s known locally. With golden sands dotted with the occasional traditional wooden hut and BBQ, Bamboo Island feels like one of Cambodia’s untold secrets. Kick off your shoes, soak up the beautiful Ream National Park setting and let the charms of this tiny desert island wash over you as you wake up to 2022 feeling a world away from everything else.
Where to stay: The ocean is only ever a short walk away at Koh Russey Villas & Resort – after all, the island is little more than a mile wide – and nature is all around. For an unforgettable last night of the year, ask the staff about magical plankton swims or curl up with a film under the stars.