by Sally Peck, The Telegraph, February 27, 2017
Holidaying with teens is a very “best of times, worst of times” scenario: you could be easing into a new type of break, in which parents enjoy the freedom to relax as their children are more independent and self-sufficient, or you could find yourselves tiptoeing around a moping adolescent who would rather be anywhere than with you.
To prepare for all eventualities, the secret to a successful holiday with teenagers is to keep your options open. Make sure that there are plenty of appealing activities available, spend the daylight hours tiring them out, allow them bursts of independence, and then sit back and relax.
Here, our experts pick some of their favourite spots around Europe to engage teens – but which will also give parents a moment of calm.
Caneiros, Algarve, Portugal
Caneiros is a godsend for families with children where there is a big age gap: here you’ll find activities for action-hungry teenagers, oversized day beds for sun worshippers, powdery soft sand for bucket-and-spade toddlers and safe water for all swimmers.
There are pedalos and kayaks to rent and caves to explore. The chic Rei das Praias restaurant on the beach is a great place to set up camp (you can even order a massage at your sun lounger).
Stay at Casa Rei das Praias, a tranquil 10-room guesthouse with a spa (read the full review here; from £110 for a double). A five-minute walk takes you to Caneiros beach and the hotel’s sister restaurant.
Ribadesella, Asturias, Spain
Ribadesella in Asturias, northern Spain, spans the Sella river. Teenagers can hone their watersport skills, particularly kayaking, surfing and windsurfing. On the eastern side, medieval lanes are lined with no-nonsense bars and restaurants that serve the best fish from the day’s catch.
To the west is the lovely Santa Marina beach, flanked by elegant mansions that were built by locals who had migrated to the Americas in the late 19th century and flaunted their wealth on their return with grand homes.
On the first weekend in August, more than 1,000 canoeists race down the Sella from the mountains to Ribadesella, celebrating their feat with a huge street festival.
A week in June at the Gran Hotel del Sella (read the full review here; from £81 for a double) by Santa Marina beach. Brittany Ferries (brittany-ferries.co.uk) offers competitive packages, including the voyage with a car from Portsmouth to Santander.
Bol on Brac, Central Dalmatia, Croatia
Lauded as Croatia’s most-photographed beach, Zlatni Rat lies a 20-minute walk along a tree-lined promenade from the village of Bol on Brac’s south coast. A rare geomorphologic phenomenon, this 1,500ft long peninsular of fine pebble shifts form, depending on winds and tides.
Ideal for active kids, it offers jet skis, peddle-boats and banana boat rides, while on nearby Borak beach you’ll find Big Blue (bigbluesport.com) organising windsurfing, sea kayaking and cycling, plus scuba diving (big-blue-diving.hr). Directly behind Bol, a marked trail leads up the rocky slopes of Vidova Gora (2,550ft); from the top, you have great views of the beach, the sea and the islands of Hvar and Vis . Nearby, visit the 16th-century Blaca Hermitage, built in the cliffs above the coast, and the bizarre Dragon’s Cave.
Stay at Blue Sun Hotel Elaphusa (hotelelaphusabrac.com) a modern hotel with indoor and outdoor pools, clay tennis courts, and bikes for hire; a standard double with breakfast is £112 in June. There are special deals for families.
Vouliagmeni, Athens Riviera, Greece
One great way to get teenagers interested in history is to bring it alive with site visits. Combine a trip to the Acropolis with a few days of sandy beaches and water sports, and you’ve achieved an educational holiday that no one could object to.
The Athens coastal suburb of Vouliagmeni (16 miles from the city centre by bus) offers swimming in the deep blue waters of the Saronic Gulf, palms trees, a yachting marina and smart hotels. The glitzy Astir beach has water-skiing, jet-skiing, windsurfing and beach volley – in the Sixties Christina Onassis, Joan Collins and Brigitte Bardot graced its golden sands. Nearby, there’s the less expensive public beach, overlooking a sheltered bay.
Stay at the Divani Apollon Palace & Thalasso. It has interconnecting rooms ideal for families, lovely sea views, and the best spa in Athens. Double rooms with breakfast from £175 in June (divaniapollonhotel.com).
This is the answer to every parent’s cry “How can I get my children off their screens?” For here the pull of the sparkling, clear, blue waters beats all previous addictions. With the resort steps from the golden beach and entirely enclosed, you can let teenagers head down to the brilliant water-sports centre to experience everything from the fun of a banana ride to the exhilaration of parasailing to honing their water-skiing skills.
They can learn to sail or scuba dive, windsurf or paddleboard. Meanwhile in any of the six structured layers of the kids’ club, from four months (with professional nannies) up to the urban graffiti-designed den where 18-year-olds can shoot pool undisturbed, the rest of the younger generation will be happy.
And the parents? With gourmet food, a world of local wines to explore and a spa which further reduces worry lines – the perfect holiday is guaranteed.
Rates at Anassa start from £319 for a double room. Kids’ club costs approximately £42 a day, including meals and an energetic programme of resort-side sports and activities. Read the full review here.
Lefkada, Ionian Islands, Greece
Sporty teenagers will love Lefkada, on the Ionian Sea, with its dramatically beautiful beaches and challenging water sports. Avoid the touristy east coast, and head instead to the more isolated west coast, where the village of Agios Nikitas overlooks the spectacular turquoise sea.
Nearby you have Kathisma (2.5 miles), a popular pebble beach with cafés and tavernas, and low-key Milos pebble beach (served by boat). On the south coast, Vassiliki offers excellent conditions for wind surfing and scuba-diving, while Agios Ioannis, near Lefkada Town, is the top site for kite-surfing.
For pure sand and sea, the remote beach of Porto Katsiki, backed by plummeting cliffs, is the most photographed, while Egremni is lovely, too, though you’ll need to check accessibility, after the 350 steps down to the beach were damaged in the November earthquake last year.
Stay at Myrto Apartments (myrto-apartments.gr), offering six self-catering apartments, with fine views down onto the bay (From £60 per night).
Argelès-sur–Mer, Pyrénées-Orientales, France
Argelès reckons it’s European HQ of camping. Given 55 campsites, and a ten-fold increase in the 9,000-strong population in summer, the claim is plausible. It also means there’s only a dull moment if you want one. Otherwise, it’s non-stop. Argelès is tooled up to cope. The beach is five miles long, and wide enough to accommodate all of Europe’s towels. I’ve galloped a horse along it in August and struck no one.
Beauty is built-in; we are at the exact point where the flat Languedoc coast rises to the dying sighs of the Pyrenees. So, if your teenagers can’t find happiness with the beach, sea and beach clubs, you might send them into the mountains for hiking, biking or horsing. Or perhaps to one of many adventure parks. I’d go for Canyoning Park, which reproduces wild canyoning brilliantly (canyoning-park.com). As the sun goes down, the warmth stays up with more entertainment in town, on the beach or in the campsites, than a normal body can handle.
Our pick of the campsites is the five-star La Sirène, with two-bed mobile homes from £30 a night (0033 468 810461).
Cavalaire-sur-Mer, Provence, France
Cavalaire is the family person’s St Tropez. It’s nearby, shares the same sun, sea and insouciance, but with no hint of excruciating A-list exclusivity. Granted, Cavalaire’s not quaint – it’s mainly post-war – but palms, pines and sunlight attenuate the effect.
And the splendid three-mile beach is a family magnet. If teenagers are not knocked out by nightfall, they’ve not been trying. The Maison-de-la-Mer, between the beach and port, is the one-stop shop for information. It offers offer kayaking, sailing, windsurfing, snorkelling and every other maritime activity short of whaling.
And should your adolescents tire of Cavalaire beach, take the free shuttle along to Gigaro beach and the coastal path through wild Med scenery. Or climb into the Maures hills directly behind. Evening-tide has its moments, too. The best beach restaurant is the Terre de Sable off the Avenue de St Raphaël; the best restaurant is Fabien Trivero’s Delicatessen on the Promenade de la Mer. Look out, also, for concerts and shows through the summer.
Stay at the Camping de la Baie, a 20-minute drive from the beach. Unusually for a campsite, it’s in the centre of town; a four-person mobile home is from £49 a night (camping-baie.com).
Île de Ré, France
While it will be monstrously busy in the peak summer months, the Île de Ré is pretty flawless as a family seaside holiday spot. The island’s south coast is flanked by many miles of continuous, dune-backed sandy beaches (wide at low tide, reduced to thin strips at high tide), where the waves offer good body boarding.
But for the best strand, head out to the far west to Conche des Baleines, a vast, exhilarating arc of golden sand backed by pine woods.
Other Île de Ré enticements include ubiquitous cycle lanes through a pancake-flat landscape of vineyards, marshes and saltpans – perfect for teenagers craving independence – as well as sensationally pretty towns and villages, and gourmet food markets.
Local rental agency AAPH Locations (aaph-locations.com) has village houses sleeping four for around £415 a week.
Forte Village, Sardinia, Italy
Sardinia has some of the best beaches in Europe, which makes it wildly popular with Italians – and Germans and Scandinavians – so book well in advance. August sees the crowds descend, so it’s wise to visit in July if you can.
The 116-acre Forte Village resort on the island’s south-west coast has something for everyone: Legend rugby and netball camps will keep the sporty active, or you could try the Chelsea Football Academy .
Even if you don’t enroll in a specialist sport, facilities are unrivalled at the resort and include tennis, cycling, basketball, swimming, boxing, and table tennis. The hotel can also arrange golf, water sports, diving.
There are also high-end boutiques and an on-site disco. If you’re more inclined to relax in the sun there’s an impressive pool and, most important, an expansive white sand beach stretching between Pula and Capo Spartivento.
From £1,362 per person for a week’s half-board (May half term) with Sovereign (sovereign.com), including flights from London, based on a family of four staying in a bungalow at Hotel Bougainville.
With contributions from Annie Bennett, Catherine Cooper, Jane Foster, Mary Lussiana, Belinda Maude, Fred Mawer, Anthony Peregrine, Terry Richardson
Reliable tour operators
For more ideas for beach holidays with teenagers around the Med this summer, we recommend the following tour operators, which have options for various budgets:
For club-style beach holidays with sporty activities and childcare/entertainment for younger siblings:
Club Med (0845 591 5004; clubmed.co.uk)
Mark Warner (0844 273 1680; markwarner.co.uk)
Neilson (0333 014 3351; neilson.co.uk)
For seaside adventure holidays - self-guided or in groups - that will keep your children active (as well as strong offerings for single parents):
Explore! (01252 884 725; explore.co.uk)
For tailor-made trips:
Scott Dunn (020 3393 5135; scottdunn.com)
Full guides to sand, sun and fun around the Med