With more than 4,700 miles of coastline, Italy is home to some of Europe’s most picturesque seascapes peppered with secluded coves and stylish resorts. The dramatic scenery of Liguria’s Cinque Terre, where traditional villages perch on rugged headlands, attracts scores of tourists in the summer months; the Amalfi Coast is another major draw, with its cornice road that winds along towering cliffs. Italians descend on the beaches in July and August, although it’s possible to seek out tranquillity at one of the exclusive hotels that hug the country’s coastline.
Il Pellicano, Porto Ercole, Tuscany
Set up in the 1960s by a dashing British aviator and his American wife in a secluded cove on Tuscany’s rugged Argentario coast, this spring-to-autumn haven of dolce vita luxury has always been a clubbish, word-of-mouth kind of place. Now under the dynamic management of style maven and designer Marie-Louise Sciò, the hotel has refined its service, gained a Michelin-star and added a spa without losing its insider cachet and house-party vibe.
Read the full review: Il Pellicano, Porto Ercole
Hotel Santa Caterina, Amalfi, Salerno
A superlative example of the best hotels, not just on this coast but in Italy, run since 1904 by a family who mix warmth and devotion with professionalism and the highest of standards. Add to that a handsome, intriguingly laid out 19th-century building; standalone folly-suites tucked amongst the gardens, citrus groves, pergolas and arbours that tumble down the hillside to the sea; a glass lift that whooshes guests down to the pool and beach club, balconies that jut over the water and classic white Amalfitana interiors splashed with Mediterranean colour, and you have an address that joyfully combines personality with glamour and integrity with charm.
Read the full review: Hotel Santa Caterina, Amalfi
Belmond Hotel Splendido, Portofino, Liguria
Housed in a protected Benedictine monastery dating from the 16th century, the Splendido first opened its doors to guests in 1902. Since then Winston Churchill, Clark Gable, Ava Gardner and Marlon Brando have passed through. Expect genteel interiors, exceptional service, and sensational, panoramic views of romantic Portofino harbour and the Ligurian sea beyond. It’s a short walk to the nearby cove of Paraggi beach.
Read the full review: Belmond Hotel Splendido, Portofino
Away from the more familiar ‘costas’, try the beaches along the north coast from the Basque Country to Galicia, or the Costa de la Luz on the Atlantic. Do you enjoy seeking out tiny coves awash with clear, turquoise water discovered on a walk through the pines? Or will miles of white sand, crashing waves and a surf or kiteboard keep you amused? Perhaps it’s a beachfront bar with a steady supply of Mojitos to keep you dancing into the early hours. Then again, you might just want to lie on a lounger while keeping an eye on your kids as they paddle on the shore. Spain really has something for everyone.
Hotel Tamariu, Tamariu, Costa Brava
If you want a beach right on the doorstep, this hotel, positioned on the small seafront promenade in the village of Tamariu, is ideal. There are scenic walks along the coastal path, and the larger, sandier beaches of Calella de Palafrugell or Llafranc are a short drive away. The smart hotel restaurant looks directly out onto Tamariu’s seafront promenade so you can tuck into the buffet breakfast whilst enjoying the sea views. At lunch and dinner, there’s a good choice of super-fresh, just-off-the-line fish, plus Catalan specialities and international options.
Read the full review: Hotel Tamariu, Costa Brava
W Barcelona, Catalonia
You’ll need a streak of fabulousness to feel really at home in the W – its bars and restaurants are peopled with model types, and its poolside areas can look like catalogue photo shoots on a busy afternoon. In contrast to this, and the dazzling lobby, the rooms themselves are a little subdued, but their all-glass fronts do afford spectacular views of the sea, the city or – if you’re lucky, or pay a little more – both. The W’s location on the water’s edge, the sea lapping at its feet, means that beach-goers and sea-gazers will love it.
Read the full review: W Barcelona, Catalonia
Finca Cortesin, Casares, Malaga
This is one of the smartest hotels in Spain but it is not remotely flashy. You walk into an atmosphere of soothing luxury with none of the hushed pomposity often prevalent in high end hotels. With lots of space both inside and out, huge pools, great restaurants, a superb spa and a top-level golf course, you can happily just check in and switch off for the duration. In the hills just off the coast between Estepona and Sotogrande, just below the pretty village of Casares, the hotel has sweeping views down to the Mediterranean and across the countryside. The hotel’s beach club is five minutes’ away by private shuttle.
Read the full review: Finca Cortesin, Malaga
We are reliably schizophrenic about the French. This is understandable. They are both our next-door neighbours, and hereditary foes. Clearly, and like a classy courtesan, France is so damned seductive that she lures us away from fiercely-held principles. You can see how she might. The most diverse country in Europe runs from celebrated mountains to the continent’s finest coast via everything else in-between.
Le Petit Nice, Marseille
On a little rocky promontory, it is almost a bridge-head into the Med – which starts where the hotel terrace stops. Beyond, the blue is endless (contrasting splendidly with the white of the hotel). Land-side, the hotel is surrounded by a quiet residential zone half-way between the beaches and the city centre, two miles away. This is the sea-side for sybarites, who will get the full benefit of a glass of champagne on the terrace.
Read the full review: Le Petit Nice, Marseille
Hotel du Cap Eden Roc, Cap d’Antibes
A throwback to the F. Scott Fitzgerald era, this grand 19th-century mansion on the Cote d’Azur is set among nine hectares of landscaped gardens with a guest list that reads like the credits of a Hollywood movie. Service is flawless with a no-holds-barred concierge. There is a heated infinity pool, five clay tennis courts, 33 cabanas and a boutique. The Sisley spa has four treatment rooms, as well a sauna, steam room, gym and beauty salon.
Read the full review: Hotel du Cap Eden Roc
Castel Beau Site, Ploumanac’h, Brittany
It’s in the name, really: the beau site in question is a prime beachfront location, facing a sandy cove that’s surrounded by glinting pink-granite rocks, and is guarded by a tiny castle-topped islet at the mouth of the bay. There’s wonderful coastal walking nearby, but Ploumanac’h is only a village; don’t expect shopping or nightlife. Almost all the 33 bright and airy rooms enjoy full-on sea views; many have more than one window, and most have balconies.
Read the full review: Castel Beau Site, Ploumanac’h
Other island silhouettes on the horizon, a transparent sea lapping a sand or pebble shore (there’s a special Greek word for the sound – flísvos), a congenial beach bar a few steps away… for many visitors, these are the essentials of a holiday in the Greek islands. Venture further inland, however, and you will find atmospheric villages and monasteries, world-class museums and a laid-back lifestyle pursued mostly in public.
Lindos Blu, Rhodes
This boutique, five-star, adults-only resort clambers in tiers down to its own pristine beach. The style is minimalist modern, verging on stark, with only trickling water features and occasional shrubbery as relief. The fact of having just 74 rooms does lend an intimate, personal feel. Facilities include an appealing spa with indoor swimming pool, two outdoor swimming pools, plus a popular roof terrace with two whirlpool tubs and sun-loungers.
Read the full review: Lindos Blu, Rhodes
Mykonos Grand, Mykonos
Small Luxury Hotels of the World member Mykonos Grand fully lives up to the adjective, especially since a full renovation which was completed in 2015. It’s just uphill from secluded Agios Ioánnis beach, of Shirley Valentine fame, and 4.3km southwest of town. The hotel is arrayed in tiers, looking over the Delos and Rínia islets to superb sunsets.
Read the full review: Mykonos Grand, Mykonos
The three low-rise wings of this large resort hotel are set amidst mature gardens, its lush lawns planted with cypress, mulberry and palms leading down to the pebble beach, stooked with tropical-island umbrellas, below. Set at the north end of Moraïtika on Corfu’s east coast, it fringes of one its best beaches. Plenty of on-site facilities include tennis courts and beach watersports. Children are well catered for, with a playground and games room, plus dedicated pool and activity programme.
Read the full review: Delfinia, Corfu
A country of dramatic mountainous landscapes and dreamy deep-blue seascapes, Croatia is now easier to visit than ever before. Many lovers of the great outdoors come to Croatia specifically for its adventure-sports facilities – between the sea and the mountains, sailing, scuba diving, sea kayaking, rafting, mountain biking and rock climbing are all on offer. While Croatia’s rocky stretch of Adriatic coast is not suitable for large-scale tourist development, it is astoundingly beautiful, offering numerous small pebble coves backed by pinewoods and giving on to a crystal-clear turquoise sea.
Hotel Kompas Dubrovnik
The sleek contemporary interiors at Hotel Kompas Dubrovnik will appeal to lovers of minimalist design. Light and airy spaces have floor-to-ceiling glazing, welcoming the sunshine and affording endless blue views of sea and sky. The atmosphere is chic but casual. The hotel overlooks Lapad Bay, with its popular beach giving onto the deep blue Adriatic. It also has a turquoise indoor pool, in a restful space with natural stone walls and daybeds.
Read the full review: Hotel Kompas Dubrovnik
Hotel Adriatic, Rovinj
Hotel Adriatic’s look is retro-chic, with a contemporary edge added by the specially commissioned artwork – paintings, photography and installations. The original 19th-century facade and interior spaces have been retained. Inside, black, white and greys predominate, but the effect is vintage, not modernist, owing to use of natural and hand-crafted materials, such as marble and mosaic tiles. Overlooking the harbour, on the edge of Rovinj’s pedestrian-only old town there are few extras but Mulini beach is open to guests.
Read the full review: Hotel Adriatic, Rovinj
Hotel Mlini, Dubrovnik
Hotel Mlini is light and airy, with whitewashed walls, contemporary designer furniture and abstract paintings in subtle hues of blue and green. The overall effect is carefree and fun, while the hotel is small enough to make each guest feel special. The village of Mlini is made up of old stone cottages and a church, and from here a seafront promenade curves around the bay, leading to a string of small secluded pebble beaches, backed by pine woods and tamarisk trees.
Read the full review: Hotel Mlini, Dubrovnik
Golfers and sunseekers flood to the southerly Algarve seeking hidden coves and limestone rocks resembling abstract sculptures that rise out of the blue ocean all along the coast. Golden sands stretch from the west coast with its wild waves – a paradise for surfers – to the more gentle central and eastern Algarve, where long, accessible beaches alternate with mere handkerchiefs of sand at the end of dizzyingly steep steps carved into the rocks. There is much to discover in Europe’s most westerly country.
Vila Joya, Algarve
The hotel has the feel of a private villa and decoration follows suit, with antique furnishings and plenty of places to curl up and read. Outside, the lush gardens, filled with palms and bougainvillea, lead to the beach. It’s the Algarve’s most hedonistic retreat, set on cliffs overlooking the sea, with a two-star Michelin cuisine, beautiful spa and eight luxurious suites. All the rooms, mainly in beige and white tones, have sea views.
Read the full review: Vila Joya, Algarve
Vila Vita Parc, Algarve
After opening in 1992 Vila Vita quickly became a benchmark for luxury accommodation in the Algarve. It’s built in traditional Portuguese style, with whitewashed exteriors giving way to cool tiled interiors. The whole is set around lakes and fountains amid lush subtropical gardens. Offering commanding sea views and direct access to the beach, the hotel has something for everyone, from an outstanding spa, wine cellar and two Michelin-starred restaurant, to golf, tennis, paddleboarding and waterskiing.
Read the full review: Vila Vita Parc, Algarve
Martinhal Beach Resort & Hotel
On cliffs above the sea, with golden sands below and the Costa Vicentina Nature Reserve embracing it from behind, Martinhal lies near the historic town of Sagres. The 37-room hotel is low lying and ocean-facing with a variety of villas and town houses, also available to rent, around it. Martinhal has warm interiors – think squashy sofas and large bean bags – encourage relaxation and are particularly aimed at making children feel at home. It is the only completely children orientated resort on the Algarve and has a plethora of activities to suit all ages.
Read the full review: Martinhal Beach Resort & Hotel
Malta is best known in Britain as a sun and sea destination. There is certainly no shortage of either. Malta gets more than 300 sunny days a year and is surrounded by clear blue waters, some of the cleanest in the Mediterranean, and is much enjoyed by visiting swimmers, snorkelers and divers. Summer is delightful for the almost guaranteed bright blue skies and perfect Mediterranean Sea. This is the ideal time for sunbathing, swimming, diving and boat trips, as well as for local festivals and parish festas.
Radisson Blu Resort & Spa, Golden Sands
The Radisson Blu Resort & Spa, Golden Sands is a large, modern, resort hotel with a clean-cut polished look, its spacious public areas brightened with an occasional splash of modern art. Rooms are comfortable and practically designed, with wood-effect furniture and a bright, contemporary look. The hotel is perfect for a beach holidays as it stands right on Golden Bay, on of the best beaches in Malta. There are also good coastal walks either side of the bay.
Read the full review: Radisson Blu Resort & Spa
db Seabank Resort + Spa, Malta
The airy foyer is done out in creams and timber; screens of unstripped branches give it a pleasant natural feel. Outside is largely paved, though the area around the hotel is undeveloped so it feels very open. The location is ideal for a classic beach holiday, particularly with kids. The hotel sits at one end of Mellieha Beach, Malta’s longest sandy beach stretching 800m along the head of Mellieha (or Ghadira) Bay.
Read the full reivew: db Seabank Resort + Spa, Malta
The Westin Dragonara Resort
The large marble foyer centres on a villa-style monumental stairway leading down to the pool terrace and restaurants. Comfortable armchairs dot the interior, sunbeds line the palm-fringed pool terrace, and thatched umbrellas are sprinkled by the sea at the relaxed ‘beach club’. The 340 rooms in nine different categories are comfortable, well-maintained and five-star chain conventional. The Westin sits right on the seashore on a rocky peninsula between sandy St George’s Bay and St Julian’s.
Read the full review: The Westin Dragonara Resort, Malta
The stretch of Turquoise Coast running south and west of the gateway city of Antalya, known in ancient times as Lycia, is one of the most refreshingly undeveloped in the Mediterranean. This is due in no small part to the region’s rugged mountains which, bar a couple of narrow plains, a clutch of spectacular bays and a scattering of pretty coves, plunge straight into a startlingly blue sea.
Mandarin Oriental, Bodrum
Wrapped around its own private bay on the northern shores of a rugged peninsula jutting-out from Turkey’s beautiful Aegean coast, it’s hard to imagine a more laid-back yet sophisticated and exclusive retreat than the Mandarin Oriental. Discounting the passing of the occasional yacht or cruiser belonging to Turkey’s wealthy elite, who have made Bodrum and its environs their very own French Riviera, once you enter the grounds of the resort there’s nothing to remind you of the outside world.
Read the full review: Mandarin Oriental, Bodrum
Olympos Lodge, Antalya
Protected from development because it is a noted turtle nesting site, Çıralı Beach is an unspoilt gem on Turkey’s spectacularly beautiful Turquoise Coast. Backed by pine clad peaks, book-ended by limestone ridges plunging into deep blue waters and fronted by the graceful arc of a three-mile long beach, Çıralı has everything going for it – especially as planning controls mean no buildings are tall enough to peak out above the mass of citrus orchards and other vegetation. The Olympos Lodge occupies a prime spot towards the southern end of the beach, flanked by a crystal clear river.
Read the full review: Olympos Lodge, Antalya
D-Hotel Maris, Marmaris
Isolated and serene, D-Hotel is an unexpectedly sophisticated seaside retreat found in the middle of a vast nature reserve. Remote though it may be, with a clutch of excellent restaurants, inviting beaches, comprehensive leisure and sports facilities and an excellent spa combine to make it one of Turkey’s most inviting resorts. Sea-view rooms face an inlet enveloped by jagged mounds of volcanic rock and hillsides lush with almond and olive trees.