by STELLA magazine writers, The Telegraph, April 24, 2018
Why wait for summer when the sun is shining at these exotic hotspots?
Niyama Private Islands, Maldives
Best for... adventure and luxury
The low-down: A slice of delicious paradise on earth. Niyama's plush villas and water studios with private pools perch on white sand and turquoise water, striking a perfect balance of luxury and relaxation. When you’ve had enough of soaking up the tropical dream, the island has plenty more to offer — exciting restaurants (in the treetops, underwater and floating on the ocean), after-dinner jazz and DJs, a surf school, an array of water sports and a level of friendly, attentive service that sets it apart.
Out and about: Eating at Niyama is an experience in itself. At Nest, diners sit on wooden platforms suspended in the treetops for a breathtaking forest feel (enhanced by a soundtrack of tweeting birds). A short boat ride offshore brings you to Sub-six, the resort’s underwater restaurant and bar. Pick one of their indulgent cocktails and watch the reef’s colourful residents shimmy past the glass walls.
The drift spa offers luxe therapies in treatment rooms with idyllic ocean views. Post treatment, the ‘sublime garden’ beckons — a lush outdoor relaxation area with sauna, steam room and plunge pool. For the adventurous, there’s everything from turtle quests, dolphin cruises, diving, snorkelling and water sports, as well as a dedicated surf school (a rarity in the Maldives).
Stella loves: Cycling along the picturesque sandy lanes, which are beautifully lantern-lit by night.
£475 per night per couple in a Beach Studio. Destinology offer seven-night stays from £2,499 per person, based on two sharing a Beach Studio, including half board, return flights with Qatar Airways from London Heathrow and return seaplane transfers. Price valid for travel between May 1 – July 20 2018.
• Read the full review: Niyama Private Islands, Maldives
Melia Braco Village, Jamaica
Best for… a spa with a view
The low-down: Sometimes you need the entire environment, beyond the confines of a treatment room, in order to fully relax. At the all-inclusive Meliá Braco Village, in the small town of Rio Bueno, you can choose whether you’d like your ‘Island Vibes’ massage in one of their stylish seafront Yhi Spa therapy suites, or out on the beach itself. Private canopies are dotted along the white sands of the resort’s exclusive stretch, meaning that you can listen to the calm waves in front of you, rather than some ‘spa day’ CD soundtrack. The rest of the menu is a fusion of popular Thai and Balinese treatments and classics with a Caribbean twist; try the pineapple and papaya body scrub to counteract one too many rum punches at the resort’s buzzing Jigger bar.
Daily yoga on the beach is a must, plus there is a fully-equipped activity park on site for anyone with the energy to do trampolining, rock climbing or zip-lining. For dinner, go for the steak with guava sauce at 876 Prime or the ‘Yah Mon’ penne with a kick at Rasta Pasta.
Out and about: Jamaica’s Trelawny parish and the neighbouring Saint James offer some rich natural phenomena to explore. The Martha Brae River, plus the popular Luminous Lagoon (a bay full of microorganisms which famously glisten at night) are both within the local area, as is the Mystic Mountain park if you fancy a Jamaican bobsled through the jungle (excursions begin at £40pp and can be booked through Jamaica Tours).
Stella loves: Complimentary jerk chicken is served almost around the clock from the beachside barbecue, O’Grille.
From £238, all inclusive (excluding flights); melia.com
Paradee Koh Samet, Thailand
Best for... barefoot beauty
The low-down: What sets Paradee apart from other resorts on Koh Samet is its blissfully tranquil beach with pristine white sand, crystal waters and not a single jet ski to disturb the peaceful ambience. The service is impeccable too: the staff anticipate your every whim, from fresh fruit by the sea to afternoon tea delivered to your terrace – and if you can drag yourself away from the sand, the spa offers a full menu of massage and beauty therapy. The 40 thatched villas, most of which have private infinity pools with whirlpool baths, are decorated in traditional Thai style and surrounded by tropical gardens that enhance the secluded, restful vibe.
Out and about: The informal, feet-in-the-sand restaurant has an extensive menu of traditional Thai cuisine and Western dishes, and a cocktail and wine list to match. The Sunset Bar is the perfect spot for sundowners, with panoramic sea views, and the cosy library offers a quiet corner if you want a break from the sun.
Stella loves: The indoor/outdoor bathrooms, where you can shower beneath the stars.
From £700, b&b; samedresorts.com
Armani Hotel, Dubai
Best for… fashion fans
The low-down: Downtown Dubai is where you stay if you’re in the know, and the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa is home to the super chic Armani hotel, designed by the man himself. Each suite is both sleek and minimal but warm and inviting, with views across the whole city. The understated luxury continues, and will make it pretty hard to drag yourself away from the resort, with the hotel’s in-house spa which makes for a supremely relaxing treat. The hotel has a selection of restaurants to suit every taste and are dotted around the building so different views and experiences of the city can be taken in.
Out and about: The hotel has a private lift to the world-renowned Dubai Mall so you can avoid walking there in the heat. It’s easy to get lost there for the day as there’s tons to do under one roof, including ice skating, a cinema, an aquarium, huge food courts and of course lots of shops.
For a treat, Ewaan at The Palace Downtown – a five minute walk away – offers private dining in hidden alcoves and Arabic specialities like shisha and mezzeh. The Sheikh Zayed Road which connects Dubai to Abu Dhabi is close by, and has hundreds of nightclubs and restaurants down it, but Armani’s own nightclub, Armani/Prive is a great night out and on your doorstep.
Stella loves: The lighting, room service, music, television and blinds in each suite are controlled by a stylish iPad.
From £425, room only; armanihoteldubai.com
• Read the full review: Armani Hotel Dubai