When looking for a beach holiday, there are many things that need to be considered before making your final choice. Getting it wrong can result in disappointment, so you need to consider carefully what exactly you are looking for. Do you want a cheap holiday deal or five star luxury; an all inclusive family resort, or a bed and breakfast hotel that gives you more freedom to travel around; a lively beach with all the shops, bars and restaurants along the seafront and plenty of activities, or a quiet, secluded beach where you can relax in peace and soak up the sun in beautiful surroundings?
It would be a mistake to think that a particular country does one of these things better than another. It's a matter of carefully choosing the particular area of a country you want to visit. For example, Ibiza is famous for its nightlife and revelry, but it's also a beautiful little island where you can get away from it all and find peace and seclusion. Similarly, all the other traditional Mediterranean destinations known for cheap beach holidays will also have luxury resorts and hotels. A Caribbean holiday is necessarily more expensive because of the travel costs, but cheap deals and family-friendly resorts can always be found in even those islands most associated with expensive luxury — just shop around.
When you go is also an important consideration. If you want a cheap deal and also avoid the crowds, many of the resorts in southern Spain, Greece or Turkey still have good weather early or late in the season. Go right at the end of the season and you may find things closing down around you, but chasing after who is still open can be part of the fun!
Spanish beach holidaysView Spanish beach holiday destinations
With its pristine beaches, lively resorts and beautiful countryside, Spain has long been one of the most popular of holiday destinations. Sunshine is pretty much guaranteed. Everything you'd want in a beach holiday — gentle clear blue seas, a non-stop party atmosphere or plenty of family-friendly activities, a cheap last minute holiday deal or exclusive resort — it's all right here.
For a perfect all inclusive holiday, with nothing left to chance and every activity and amenity on offer, your best bet is to head for the Costa del Sol. Here you will find a huge range of different types of resort and accommodation, a vibrant nightlife, more golf courses than you can cover in a fortnight and dazzling beaches. Further north, The Costa Dorada is famous for its golden sand and clear blue waters, where there is something for all tastes — whether it's secluded little coves, blue flag beaches, lively resorts or charming villages. The most northerly of the Spanish Costas is the Costa Brava, which is generally quieter with a wonderfully rugged coastline and many spotless beaches. The Costa Blanca is renowned for its beautiful white sand and dramatic coastline as well as some of Spain's liveliest resorts. East of here are the wonderful Balearic Islands — ever popular for their beaches, cheap package holidays, luxury hotels and beautiful and varied landscape, with each of the three main islands having its own special character. Just off the West African coast, the Canary Islands combine stunning volcanic scenery, year round sunshine and family resorts.
Wherever you choose to go, you will find a rich culture and history and a distinctive and varied Mediterranean cuisine. Spain has a long tradition as a great holiday destination, and it has something for everyone and to suit every pocket.
Greece beach holidaysView Greece beach holiday destinations
The world-renowned Greek beaches are everything you would hope from their reputation, with beautiful golden sands, dramatic cliffs, caves, dunes — and hundreds of them every year are awarded the coveted blue flag for safe bathing and an eco-friendly environment. The Greek countryside is extremely varied, with high mountains, lush forests and sun-baked olive groves; the Greek islands and their beaches are the jewels in its crown. The only problem is which to choose as a base for your holiday.
Corfu is one of the greenest and most beautiful of the islands, with high mountains, white limestone cliffs and pristine beaches — particularly on the western coast. For a lively nightlife, go east. This is one of the most popular and family-friendly of the islands. Further south, Kefalonia has even more dramatic scenery, with one of Greece's finest beaches, Myrtos, nestled below enormous cliffs that create a suntrap for those brave enough to make the steep zig-zag descent. Mpalos beach on Crete has a shallow bay around a small offshore tidal island, where the varied depth of water creates a view shaded with infinite gradations of blue. On the small Cycladean island of Ano Koufonissi, Pori beach has unspoilt scenery, beautiful white sand in a curving bay of the purest, clearest water.
The larger islands such as Corfu and Zante are generally more popular for those looking for a lively nightlife, although there is no Greek island that does not have its share of beautiful beaches. For all inclusive package deals and family holidays, Rhodes, Kos, Crete and Lemnos are good choices — although again it has to be said that the whole of Greece is extremely family-friendly, and water sports and other beach activities can be found at most resorts.
Turkey beach holidaysView Turkey beach holiday destinations
In Turkey, east meets west to glorious effect. Magnificent ancient ruins, beautiful white sand beaches lapped by azure seas, colourful bazaars, delicious Mediterranean cuisine with a spicy eastern twist, and a culture of hospitality that draws you in like an old friend, ensure that whether you are here on a cheap last minute holiday deal or staying at a luxury all inclusive resort, the experience of Turkey and its beaches will be one to treasure.
On the Aegean coast, Kusadasi is one of the most popular resorts and a base from which to explore the ancient Roman ruins of Ephesus. South of the port of Izmir, the Bodrum peninsular has plenty of lively and beautiful beach resorts such as Gumbet and Bitez. Further east, the Turquoise Coast is so beautiful that it has attracted visitors since the ancient Greeks first set foot here and has never looked back. The harbour and beach resort of Marmaris and the hilltop resort of Hisaronu overlooking the famous beach and lagoon at Olu Deniz, and Icmeler further down the coast, add up to a concentration of fine resorts with beautiful beaches and plenty of beach and water activities as well as cafés, bars, restaurants and nightlife.
Whether you want to get active, soak up the sun or see some of the natural wonders of Turkey, Antalya is a good place to start. Its beautiful setting beneath the Taurus Mountains and the magnificent cliffs rising beyond the town and the beach, where the river Duden plunges over the edge and into the sea, has to be seen to be believed — but that's just how it is with Turkey. If you've been around and think you've seen it all, Turkey will open your eyes.
Caribbean beach holidaysView Caribbean beach holiday destinations
The Caribbean islands are spread over such a vast area and are so geographically dissimilar with such varied cultural influences that they cannot fail to cater for all tastes and all types of holidays. The peak period is between December and April when there is little rain and low humidity, and the nights are cooler and more comfortable. This is also when the popular beach resorts are most crowded, although there are plenty of opportunities to get away from it all, especially on the less commercialised islands.
If you are looking for a cheap beach holiday in a relatively quiet resort, the Dominican Republic is a good choice. There are also top quality family-friendly resorts with all inclusive luxury hotels and water sports, and calm seas suitable for swimming and snorkelling. Whether you visit the lively islands of Jamaica or Barbados, relaxed Antigua or the stylish and beach oriented islands of the Bahamas, you will find a laid-back culture that is as infectious as their musical rhythms or the breeze in the palms.
Throughout the Caribbean, pristine beaches and sparkling seas are the order of the day, conjuring up an image in the mind of paradise — perhaps this is as close as we come. For sheer beauty Antigua is hard to beat. Relax under lush tropical palms on a sun-soaked beach, go wind-surfing or kayaking, or explore the reefs and tiny offshore islands. Jamaica is the largest and most varied of the Carribean islands, full of wonderful scenery and the most alluring beaches: pure white sand, bright blue seas, lively beach bars and cafés, and the scent of spicy jerk cooking and the sound of steel bands and reggae music drifting on the evening air.