Winter sun holidays: the world's most idyllic places to stay

Telegraph Travel experts
Swap wet, dark evenings for sunsoaked weeks on the beach and by the pool - (c)2015

There's something particularly wonderful about escaping to a far-flung place for days filled with sunshine, holiday vibes and relaxation, when back home is still in the depths of a grey winter. Follow our expert guide to find the best hotels for winter sun – which all have a minimum average temperature of 25°C – in destinations including Thailand, Barbados and the Maldives.

Our favourites include those with direct access to white sandy beaches and hilltop infinity pools with impressive views out across the ocean. Just try not to feel too smug as you read by the pool, cocktail in hand, as the weather app on your phone updates you of the torrential rain back in Blighty.

ST LUCIA

St Lucia is largely mountainous and coated in rainforest, making it one of the Caribbean's most dramatic-looking islands. This is particularly so in the south-west corner, where two giant green volcanic cones, the Pitons, rise abruptly out of the sea. The island is a good choice for being active – walking or zip-lining in the rainforest, climbing a Piton, diving – but is also ideal for an indolent, romantic break. Fortunately, St Lucia excels in beautiful places to stay that make the most of the landscape and the weather too: think private cottages in jungly grounds, plunge pools and hammocks on terraces, and outdoor showers. Note that while beaches in the north have golden sand, in the south-west they are mostly grey/black.

Where to stay

Sugar Beach, St Lucia

Sugar Beach

Soufriere, Saint Lucia

9Telegraph expert rating

The best of any place to stay on the island. The estate's 100 plus acres run down to a palm-backed beach of blinding white sand (imported from Guyana), and the near-sheer wall of the Petit Piton rises dramatically on one side of the property. Facilities include a vast communal swimming pool, a memorable spa with eight treehouse treatment rooms perched above the forest floor, and watersports (including a dive centre; the snorkelling in the bay is first rate). Read expert review From £182per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com

Ti Kaye Resort & Spa, St Lucia

Ti Kaye Resort & Spa

Anse La Raye, Saint Lucia

8Telegraph expert rating

This dramatically-sited and remote clifftop hotel sits high above one of Saint Lucia's best beaches. Its quaint gingerbread cottages are ideal for romance, the atmosphere is infectiously chilled, there's a delightful little spa, and the snorkelling and diving is first rate. Rooms come with four-poster beds, but it's their outdoor spaces that are most memorable. All have open-air garden showers and enjoy panoramic sea views from large terraces furnished with a hammock and rocking chairs. Read expert review From £131per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com

The best hotels in St Lucia

THE MALDIVES

The most alluring archipelago in the Indian Ocean is at its best during the winter months. Daily temperatures average a balmy 26ºC to 31ºC, the Tiffany-blue waters are so calm they’re like glass, visibility is fantastic for diving and snorkelling the mesmerising reefs, and the water temperature is so warm you certainly won’t need a wetsuit. The dry season runs from November to April with blue skies and low humidity, making it the ideal time to enjoy the talcum-powder-white beaches, private infinity pools and unrivalled sunsets. And with more than 100 private island resorts, there’s sure to be one for every kind of traveller.

Where to stay

Soneva Fushi, Maldives

Soneva Fushi

Eydhafushi, Maldives

9Telegraph expert rating

The original barefoot Maldives retreat. Soneva Fushi is an eco-chic jungle hideaway with Robinson Crusoe-style villas dotted along the blindingly white shore. Al fresco bathrooms are bigger than most London flats, and terraces come complete with hammocks, daybeds and most with a private pool. There's also a stellar spa, open-air cinema, world-class kids’ club and your-wish-is-their-command butler service. Read expert review From £649per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com

Baros Maldives

Baros Maldives

Maldives

9Telegraph expert rating

Clichés are a good thing when they involve postcard-perfect white beaches, turquoise waters and romantic dining under the stars. That's what you'll find at Baros. The remarkable house reef is a paddle from the beach, and promises an eye-popping cast of turtles, rays and exotic fish. Maldivian designers are behind the architecture and interiors of the seemingly rustic thatched villas and their use of natural materials, such as indigenous woods and stones, fit in well with the desert-island setting. Read expert review From £353per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com

The most romantic hotels in the Maldives

BARBADOS

Of all the Caribbean islands, Barbados is arguably the most reliable bet for a successful, hassle-free winter-sun break. You can fly there non-stop from the UK. Lots of high-quality hotels are on offer, especially on the upmarket west coast where pretty beaches are lapped by a calm sea that is perfect for swimming and watersports. Good restaurants abound (not the case on many Caribbean islands), as do engaging sights, including atmospheric plantation houses and glorious botanic gardens. It's also one of the safest Caribbean destinations, meaning exploring the island independently, whether in a hire car or on buses, is very much encouraged.

Where to stay

The Sandpiper, Barbados

The Sandpiper

Holetown, Saint James, Barbados

8Telegraph expert rating

The Sandpiper is spread around compact tropical gardens brimming with colour and birdlife. Around the property you'll find two swimming pools (the new one a slick-looking designer lap pool with loungers half-sunken in the water), an open-air restaurant fringed by koi-filled ponds, an inviting beach bar and a decked sunbathing area behind the sands. The food is excellent – some of the best you'll find at any hotel on the island. Read expert review From £337per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com

Bayfield House hotel, Barbados, Caribbean

Bayfield House

Saint Peter, Barbados

8Telegraph expert rating

This 1930s plantation-style home is a civilised and very welcoming guest house, run with great care by an elderly British couple. Offering comfy bedrooms, excellent breakfasts, a lovely garden and a swimming pool, it is one of best-value places to stay on Barbados' west coast. It's a four-minute stroll to Mullins Beach, one of the island's most popular strands. Gibbes Beach, a hidden, little-visited gem, is just along from Mullins Beach. Read expert review From £100per night

The best hotels in Barbados

GOA

Goa is India's sunshine state and it's an affordable option for anyone dreaming of a winter holiday with plenty of sun. It's long been the country's answer to Ibiza, but has actually grown up a lot in recent years. Beach shacks by lounge bars proliferate, plus there's been a spate of new boutique hotel openings. Yoga and wellness are still ubiquitous, so it’s a great place for New Year’s resolutions to be made and broken. Head to the northern beaches for more of a party 'scene' and the south for total seclusion.

Where to stay

The Leela Goa, India

The Leela Goa

Cavelossim, Goa, India

8Telegraph expert rating

The Leela Goa is a sprawling 206-room property, with a stately and discerning style that is an amalgamation of colonial Portuguese architecture and contemporary Indian design. It's spread across 75 acres, with three lagoons at the resort’s centre, and is home to a golf course, two swimming pools, and multiple sporting facilities. The added bonus is its private access to the beach. Read expert review From £102per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com

Anahata Retreat, Mandrem, Goa, India

Anahata Retreat

Mandrem, Goa, India

8Telegraph expert rating

This is a boutique resort with something of a 'castaway' feel about it: expect thatched cottages and a bamboo yoga deck dotted between tropical gardens and steps from the sea, plus several hammocks to plonk yourself in for an afternoon. An elevated sunset pavilion, accompanied by one of their signature cocktails, is a prime spot to drink in those mesmerising Arabian Sea sunsets. Read expert review

The best hotels for late summer sun

JAMAICA

For a Caribbean holiday that offers an ideal mix of culture, beach, fabulous food and sunny vibes, Jamaica beckons. The country of reggae beats and jerk spices has much historical interest, too, matched by the natural beauty of mountains, rainforests and golden beaches. A sunsoaked escape here can be anything you want, with all-inclusive resorts and boutique inns inviting you to settle in and a stay a while. During the winter, when the majority of the Northern Hemisphere is shivering or snowed-in, Jamaica comes into its own with clear, dry skies, toasty days and evenings made for dining alfresco.  

Where to stay

The Tryall Club, Montego Bay, Jamaica

The Tryall Club

Montego Bay, Jamaica

8Telegraph expert rating

Each villa at The Tyrall Club has its own character, style and interior design motif, although similarities are found in pitched cathedral ceilings with shingled roofs, louvered shutters and breezy indoor/outdoor floor plans. Almost all come with a private swimming pool and sweeping views of the lush green hills and sparkling Caribbean Sea below. Shared facilities include a communal pool, a private beach and a golf course. Read expert review From £489per night

Rockhouse, Jamaica

Rockhouse Hotel

Negril, Jamaica

8Telegraph expert rating

The Rock House has a truly dramatic setting, ranged along the cliff-edge of Negril’s famous West End. Backed by profuse tropical foliage, the rooms and dining rooms have a fantastic waterfront setting, on outcrops of rock linked by walkways. The vibe is tranquil and low key; guests hide themselves away, emerging for yoga sessions, meals and the occasional entertainment. Read expert review From £78per night

The best hotels in Jamaica

BRAZIL

Brazil is continental in size and scope, packing in everything from a blossoming wine region in the south to steamy Amazonian rainforest in the north. Along the eastern edge runs a coastline just as varied, from the vast rolling dunes of Jericoacoara to the north to the coconut palm-covered sands of Bahia. Its seafood restaurants and five-star waterfront hotels have helped sophisticated Trancoso become an essential winter sun destination, but Rio is hard to top when it comes to combining the thrust of a modern city with crisp tropical beaches such as Copacabana and Ipanema. In Rio, there is also no better time to visit than when the locals are winding down to Christmas, building up to New Year, or getting in to the carnival mood.

Where to stay

Hotel Fasano, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Hotel Fasano Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

9Telegraph expert rating

Fasano has single-handedly revolutionised the city’s hotel scene with its superior service and understated cool, making it the place to see and be seen. If the understated luxury isn’t reason enough to justify the price tag, then its prime location most certainly is. Its found in the heart of affluent Zona Sul and on the boundary of the stunning Arpoador and Ipanema beaches, peering out over the most attractive stretch of sand in the city. Read expert review From £314per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com

UXUA Brazil, South America

UXUA Casa Hotel & Spa

Trancoso, Bahia, Brazil

8Telegraph expert rating

A cluster of colourful casas make up this arty rustic-deluxe retreat in south-west Brazil. What began as a fashion designer’s Trancoso holiday home has evolved into an award-winning community project that promises guests an authentic, immersive Bahian experience. Access to the sweep of white sandy beach is a short but steep walk through mangroves and past a few hawkers. Read expert review From £282per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com

The best luxury hotels in Rio de Janeiro

THAILAND

The west coast islands of Thailand are perhaps Asia's most popular destination for winter sun, and for good reason. The dry season stretches from December to April and it is seen as one of the most reliable places for guaranteed sunshine; the average high across this time comes in at around 32°C. Add in fantastic food, great value (there's lots of well-priced flights), dusty pink sunsets, white-sand beaches and aquamarine waters, and you'll begin to see why it's so popular. Phuket, the Pearl of the Andaman, is the largest of the bunch, and makes a good base for jumping off to smaller islands.

Where to stay

Six Senses Yao Noi, Thailand

Six Senses Yao Noi

Ko Yao Noi, Phuket, Thailand

9Telegraph expert rating

With its swaying butterfly-filled gardens, honey-coloured beaches, swish hilltop infinity pool and Zen garden spa, Six Senses is a tropical island dream scene. Golf buggies nip guests up and down the hillside, while bicycles, kayaks and boats are available to explore local villages and secluded seashores under your own steam. Rooms are actually vast thatched-roof suites with huge private terraces and sensual indoor/outdoor bathrooms. Read expert review From £350per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com

The Nai Harn, Phuket

The Nai Harn

Phuket, Thailand

9Telegraph expert rating

This hotel boasts one of the most beautiful locations on the island. It's set on the fringes of Nai Harn beach, a crescent of platinum white sand. There’s a Mediterranean elegance to the place – a sea of white walls popped with colourful mosaics, eye-catching contemporary art, curvaceous furniture and bursts of bright pink bougainvillea. The vibe is calm and classy and the knee-trembling views of Phuket’s rugged southern coast will stick with you forever. Read expert review From £113per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com

The best spa hotels in Phuket

GRENADA

For an idyllic, gentle and slow-paced getaway, the so-called Spice Isle ticks pretty much every box. It's got some gorgeous sandy beaches, most notably two-mile-long Grand Anse. St George's, the hilly, historic little capital, is one of the Caribbean's most attractive ports. The easily-accessible rainforested highlands in the interior offer rewarding hikes and waterfalls to discover. Further attractions include a quaint chocolate factory, a very old rum distillery, a fascinating nutmeg-processing station, and an intriguing underwater sculpture park. Tourist development is concentrated just in the south-west, and even there is low rise and pretty low key.

Where to stay

Calabash Luxury Boutique Hotel & Spa

St George's, Grenada

8Telegraph expert rating

The Calabash is a long-established, family-run, luxury hotel on Grenada's south coast. In front of the hotel is wide and peaceful Lance aux Épines Beach, and the usually calm waters are perfect for swimming or pottering around on a kayak or hobie cat. There's also an infinity-edge swimming pool with a spa alongside, and the food is easily the best of any hotel on Grenada. Read expert review From £317per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com

La Sagesse

St George's, Grenada

8Telegraph expert rating

This is simply one of the best budget hideaways in the Caribbean – a few-frills, back-to-nature, 12-room property on a magical, long crescent of golden sand, with hardly any other signs of human habitation around save a few villas. It's utterly romantic, and you may have the beach virtually all to yourself most days. Paths lead off through the undeveloped, surrounding land, and birdwatching can be arranged. Read expert review From £96per night

The world's most incredible paradise island hotels

SRI LANKA

Sri Lanka’s western and southern beaches come into their own between November and March, meaning less rainfall, more sunshine and gentler seas ripe for dipping and diving, and ideal conditions for seeking out blue whales and dolphins on ocean sails. Cobblestoned colonial-era forts, bird sanctuaries brimming with winter migrants and wildlife reserves where elephants, leopards and sloth bears roam offer land-based appeal. The island’s lofty less-sweltering interior is also in-season, and is a superb terrain for hiking – tea estates, sacred temples and cloud forest all cling to vertiginous mountain peaks rising up to 2,000-metres tall.

Where to stay

The Long House, Bentota, Southern Province, Sri Lanka

The Long House

Bentota, Southern Province, Sri Lanka

9Telegraph expert rating

Stylish, chic and indulgent sum up this boutique hotel along Bentota’s southern shoreline. Service is first-class and very guest-orientated while facilities include a good pool, sophisticated restaurant and well-maintained beach. The refined tropical tone of the villa is marked by opulent furnishings, custom-made beds, large armchairs and silk printed cushions. Read expert review From £337per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com

The Sandhya, Sri Lanka

The Sandhya

Ahangama, Sri Lanka

8Telegraph expert rating

The Sandhya has a charmed location at the centre of unspoilt Kabalana Beach, where surfers slice through the waves by day and the lights of fishing boats illuminate the horizon at night. All nine rooms are Indian Ocean-facing, but they don’t just peek at the sea – their floor-to-ceiling sliding doors really allow you to drink in the rolling waves and the cornflower-blue sky from bed. Read expert review From £141per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com

Sri Lanka's best coastal retreats

MOZAMBIQUE

Mozambique offers a largely untouched coastline that stretches 1,550 miles along the eastern edge of the continent, and idyllic islands scattered across two archipelagos. Expect palm-lined beaches edged with wild African bush. North of the Tropic of Capricorn, it’s lapped by the same marine-rich waters as Zanzibar, Mauritius, Seychelles and Maldives, but is far wilder, with a relatively small smattering of sophisticated accommodation options. Of the two archipelagoes, the Quirimbas is the more remote; and is home to one of the best hotels on the entire East African coast – Azura Quilalea Private Island.

Where to stay

Azura Quilalea Private Island, Mozambique

Azura Quilalea Private Island

Mozambique

9Telegraph expert rating

The perfect Crusoe fantasy: just nine thoroughly romantic seafront villas on a baobab-studded island in a remote archipelago, with pathways through shady forests to crescent beaches on which turtles heave up to lay their eggs, and a reef so close you can snorkel back to your room after breakfast. There's also a swimming pool built into an elevated promontory overlooking the ocean, a well-equipped Padi Dive and Watersports Centre and a small clifftop spa. Read expert review From £453per night

White Pearl Resort, Ponta Mamoli, Mozambique

White Pearl Resort

Ponta Mamoli, Mozambique

9Telegraph expert rating

Imagine a picnic breakfast in a white tent overlooking the Indian Ocean, dining on vivacious Mozambican cuisine in a private wine cellar, or prostrating in an outdoor four-poster bed that grips a cliff cloaked in coastal ivy. This resort takes its mission of creating extraordinary memories very seriously indeed. The setting is wonderfully quiet on a stretch of beach that’s the shade of lemon chiffon and sheltered by a lagoon. Read expert review From £447per night

Africa's most romantic hotels

ANTIGUA

With superb sand, warm sea and reliable winter sun, Antigua makes an ideal escape from a British winter. It’s an easy-going island, with plenty going on – sailing and snorkelling offshore and exploration and activities inland, plus the lively south-east around Nelson’s Dockyard. Direct flights and protected beaches make it suitable for family holidays too. Antigua’s hotels sit mostly right on the sand, and there is a good range. Many are all inclusive – easy for budgeting; others are independent, with a lower-key air. Go from early December, once the Caribbean’s humid weather and rainy season are past.

Where to stay

Carlisle Bay hotel, Antigua

Carlisle Bay

Old Road, Antigua, Antigua and Barbuda

7Telegraph expert rating

Carlisle Bay, tucked away on its own south-coast beach, set a new standard for the Caribbean when it opened in 2003, with sophisticated, stylish interiors and a fabulously restrained spa. Its isolation means plenty of privacy, but it's within easy access of the English Harbour. The colour schemes – grey and green on approach and muted once inside (albeit with moments of vibrancy) – are soothing and satisfyingly stylish. Read expert review From £316per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com

Jolly Beach Resort & Spa All Inclusive, Antigua

Jolly Beach Resort & Spa

Jolly Harbour, Antigua, Antigua and Barbuda

6Telegraph expert rating

Jolly Beach Resort and Spa sits in 40 acres right on the excellent beach at Jolly Bay, a huge curve of sand on the west coast of Antigua. There is plenty of activity at the hotel and sports on its beach, as well as a range of restaurants, kids’ clubs and even a golf club. Rooms are decorated in a modern Caribbean style, with bright floral fabrics and wicker furniture. Read expert review From £132per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com

The best luxury hotels in the Caribbean

ZANZIBAR

Basking in the blue waters of the Indian Ocean, six degrees south of the Equator, Zanzibar offers a balmy slice of paradise between November and March. The monsoon winds waft over the islands bringing a refreshing breeze and a light spritz of rain in otherwise bright, sunny days. Hiking trails in the Jozani Forest turn green again and families step out in Stone Town’s Forodhani gardens for nightly food feasts beneath the banyan trees. Best of all, in February, the Sauti za Busara music festival packs out the Old Fort with the hottest musical talent in Africa.

Where to stay

Matemwe Lodge, Matemwe, Tanzania

Matemwe Lodge

Zanzibar, Matemwe, Tanzania

8Telegraph expert rating

Zanzibar’s original eco-chic beach lodge with 12 vibrantly furnished guest villas and two pools perched on a coral rag cliff. Just opposite is the Mnemba Island Marine Conservation area which is home to nesting green turtles and more than 600 species of coral reef fish. Rather than trying to compete with the beauty of the setting, the lodge works hard to complement it with breezy, open-sided thatched structures, secluded seating areas, and a bar and spa set within the riotous foliage. Read expert review From £229per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com

Kisiwa House, Zanzibar

Kisiwa House

Zanzibar, Tanzania

7Telegraph expert rating

This historic house has been in the same family for generations and its conversion into a boutique hotel has been thoughtful and sympathetic. Enter through the original, 150 year old brass studded door to be greeted by a sculptural staircase that twists and turns up four floors from a tranquil ground floor patio to a sunny terrace with views of the ocean. Read expert review From £125per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com

The best hotels in Mozambique

LANGKAWI

The best time to visit the Malaysian island of Langkawi is between January and March, when average temperatures linger around 29℃ – but the fringe months of December and April can also offer good weather. It's the largest island in the archipelago chain of the same name that sits in the Andaman sea, and it benefits from a landscape of ancient rainforests, mangrove forests, and lovely sandy beaches, some with views of Thailand in the distance. Wildlife is a draw too; look out for macaques, hornbills, eagles, pythons, and bat colonies.

Where to stay

Four Seasons Langkawi

Four Seasons Resort Langkawi

Langkawi, Malaysia

9Telegraph expert rating

The Four Seasons Langkawi sits on a largely private, mile-long, sandy beach bordering the Kilim-Karts Geo park, a geological and ecological wonderland. A few minutes by boat takes you into a labyrinthe of mangroves and not far away are the ancient rainforests. Facilities are impressive too: think a large adult pool with private cabanas, a series of inter-connected children’s pools, a watersport centre complete with jet skis, and a spa that's to die for. Read expert review From £391per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com

The Danna Langkawi, Malaysia

The Danna Langkawi

Langkawi, Malaysia

9Telegraph expert rating

The Danna blends a whitewashed colonial-style exterior with stylish interiors that have an overall classic vibe enlivened by contemporary touches. It occupies a prime beachfront spot, but its coup de théâtre is the three-tier pool – the largest infinity pool on the island. There’s also an outdoor hot tub and a children’s pool. Read expert review From £224per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com

Contributions by Emma Boyle, Pippa de Bruyn, Lee Cobaj, Lizzie Frainier, Doug Gray, Paula Hardy, James Henderson, Jenny Johnson, Megan Lambert, Fred Mawer and Terry Ward.