Log in or sign up
Gain access to a range of benefits:
- Monthly giveaways and luxury lifestyle offers
- Free courses and exclusive content, videos and events
- A community of 90,000-plus over 50s
The uplifting tingle of that first touch of sand. The energising tonic of early morning swims. The soul-stirring wonder of sunset strolls. The zing of fresh air, fresh food, and fresh views that leave you with a fresh outlook on life. It’s fair to say that summer beach breaks are nigh impossible to beat — the benefits and pleasures of taking it easy while taking in a big dose of vitamin D are beyond measure.
With that in mind, Rough Guides’ travel experts have selected five of the best beach breaks for summer 2023. And fear not if you’re looking for more than just lounging around. These hand-picked trips offer opportunities to enjoy extra experiences alongside all the rejuvenating rewards of a seaside holiday, whether you’re longing to lux-out with lavish spa treatments, or fancy blending beach-break-chilling with adventurous thrills.
With a magnificent coastline that stretches for over 930 miles, plus dozens of unspoiled islands, the toe of Italy’s elegant boot offers a satisfying spread of beach types, with an impressive eighteen of them awarded coveted Blue Flag status. And, if you’re into historic and gastronomic delights, Sicily definitely has your name all over it — it boasts some of Europe’s best-preserved Hellenistic treasures, and fine food to boot.
It’s obvious why the ancient town of Taormina has long lured travellers, especially those with a penchant for the romantic. Perched on Monte Tauro with majestic Mount Etna as a backdrop, it presents itself as a maze of winding alleys and intimate, fragrant piazzas, with its Greco-Roman amphitheatre still in use today. When you’re done exploring town, head down to the two sweeping bays it overlooks.
More opportunities to meld sublime beach experiences with ancient culture and epic scenery can be enjoyed on Sicily’s UNESCO World Heritage Site Aeolian Islands. Panarea is known for its fumaroles, hot springs and prehistoric villages, while Stromboli is home to an active volcano that’s unique for its near-constant activity. Meanwhile, the tiny island of Ustica, reached from Palermo, is big on hiking, diving and authentic dining.
Back on the mother island, you won’t want to miss exploring the craters of Etna Park, and the Bove Valley lava desert. Then there’s all those wonders of the classical world, among them the Roman Villa of Casale, the Valley of Temples, and the glorious Neapolis Archaeological Park.
One thing’s for sure, taking a beach break in Sicily doesn't mean missing out on culture. To experience the island’s diverse offerings, Rough Guides’ experts can tailor an immersive tour of Sicily to your exact needs.
There’s no denying Bali’s enchanting splendour. From the moment you arrive, it’s clear to see why it’s known as the Island of the Gods. It’s blessed with beaches so beautiful they look too perfect to be real, forested volcanoes that seem to be conjured from an adventure movie, and exquisite art and temples. Then there’s the fine food, exhilarating festivals, and wellness retreats that will leave you wondering why you left it so long to visit. All of which means Bali offers countless opportunities to blend the best of a relaxing beach break with pretty much any other kind of experience.
Given the perfection of Bali’s beaches you’d be wise to explore its epic interior before embracing the coast. Believe us, once you’ve stretched out on that sand, you’ll struggle to pick yourself up. For an idyllic outdoor experience in Bali’s rural heartland, trekking the paths, paddies and plantations of Sidemen comes thoroughly recommended. Or, for a more high-octane experience, hike to the Hidden Canyon (Beji Guwang) where wild waterfalls, cooling pools and intricately carved rocks will more than reward your efforts.
Nature-lovers won’t want to miss exploring the dense jungles and orchards of Mount Batukaru, or the spiritual majesty of Garuda Wisnu Kencana Park. Devoted to the Hindu god Vishnu, this houses the towering Uluwatu Temple and hundreds of macaque monkeys, with beautiful beaches in the vicinity, too. Take your pick from surf sites, snorkelling spots, and expanses of shoreline that are ripe for horse-riding.
To make the most of your time in this tropical paradise, Rough Guides’ best of Bali trip slips seamlessly between coast and jungle to offer a beach-based break with extra sparkle.
If you’re in need of a break to reboot and recharge, but also want to walk on the wilder side, Madagascar (aka the Great Red Island) is another idyllic option.
Famed for its unique biodiversity, Madagascar’s landscapes are also thrillingly varied. Steamy, emerald rainforests. Savannahs speckled with baobab trees and limestone peaks. Golden beaches bordered by mighty boulders, fringed by palm trees, and fronted by the bath-warm waters of the Indian Ocean. Sounds like the trip of a lifetime.
To meet Madagascar’s unique endemic residents, you’ll want to spend time in the national parks. Andasibe-Mantadia alone is home to 110 species of birds, around 100 species of frogs, and twelve species of lemur, including the inimitable indri — follow their curious chorus of toots and wails to find them. If you’re into wild walking, take the canyon trail through Isalo National Park, or tackle the trickier Piscine Naturelle Circuit.
Meanwhile, taking a boat trip along the Canal Pangalanes offers untold opportunities for immersion in Madagascar’s unique wildlife, landscape and culture. This 400-mile stretch of waterways and lakes on the island’s east coast offers insights into two worlds in one sitting — on one side, mangroves and lush vegetation; on the other, white-sand beaches. With traditional villages to stop off in, and a host of wildlife to watch out for along the way, this makes for an unforgettable trip.
Talking of the east coast, hop over to Île Sainte Marie for world-class whale-watching, enchanting snorkelling, and out-of-this-world beaches you’ll all but have to yourself. For more magical inspiration, Rough Guides’ fully-customisable Madagascar trip is sure to get your tropical juices flowing.
If you fancy sinking your toes into powder-soft sand between exploring charming towns and cities, a north-to-south coastal tour of Portugal just might be your goblet of Douro Valley wine.
Rising up from the banks of the Rio Douro (“River of Gold”) Porto is enticingly atmospheric, with a rainbow of elegant townhouses lining the medieval harbour, and seriously scenic places to eat and drink, especially if you bag a terrace table in one of the city’s historic cliff-top spots.
From Porto, wend your way south to Lisbon, taking in the magnificent Serra do Bussaco mountain range and lush forest landscapes along the way. On arrival, Lisbon’s waterfront location, wooded hills and cobbled alleys combine old-world allure with modern vibrancy, with pretty Praia de Algés village and beach within easy reach.
Nearby, UNESCO World Heritage Site Sintra is a romantic must-visit. The town’s cool mountainside location and fresh springs made it a retreat for high-ranking Romans, and later allured the likes of Lord Byron and Portuguese royalty. After meandering town (don’t miss the elegant, Italianate Quinta da Regaleira estate), time your visit to Cabo da Roca to see a breath-taking sunset accompanied by the crash of the mighty Atlantic — this is mainland Europe’s most westerly point.
More captivating coastal experiences await in Sagres, a cliff-top fishing port with five fine beaches within walking distance, among them sweeping Praia do Martinhal. Looking for a higher-energy experience? Albufeira in the southern Algarve is a great base for dolphin-watching and diving excursions, or you could just stretch out on one of many superb swathes of sand.
Though it has a clutch of busier resort areas, Palawan remains a largely unexplored region of the Philippines. As such, it comes especially recommended for travellers seeking Robinson Crusoe-esque remoteness, and divers.
Before pitching up in paradise, don’t miss seeing the highlights around Palawan’s coastal capital. Puerto Princesa’s beautiful bay boasts long-nosed dolphins, turtles and rays, and it’s also a launchpad for exploring the unmissable Subterranean River National Park. This UNESCO World Heritage Site features an extraordinary limestone karst landscape, with an underground river that emerges into the sea. While kayaking, keep an eye out for monkeys messing about on the river, and prepare to be wowed by an epic mountain-to-sea experience.
For back-to-nature beauty with more than a dash of luxury, Flower Island is a dream destination, with its very own pearl farm, countless beaches, biodiverse waters, and top-notch spa. Then there’s El Nido, known for its lagoons, islets, and cathedral-like karst cliffs, while Snake Island is surrounded by the shimmering sapphire sea, and named for the serpentine sandbar that connects it to the mainland at low tide.
If you’re looking for this kind of get-away-from-it-all beach break, chances are you’ll also want to keep your pre-trip stress to a minimum, so consider taking a tailor-made trip to Palawan to free yourself from the pain of planning. And, should you be struck by the urge to stray from Palawan’s beaches, the island also has some fascinating archaeological sites (like Tabon Caves) and excellent wildlife-watching. Rasa Island, for example, is home to the world’s largest population of critically endangered Philippine cockatoos, along with endemic beauties like the blue-headed racket-tail.
Longing to take a blissful beach break in summer 2022? Let Rough Guides Tailor-Made Trips take care of all that pesky preparation. Choose from existing, fully customisable itineraries (including those recommended above), along with trips to over 60 other destinations. Alternatively, if you fancy creating your own best beach break from scratch, the Rough Guides team can connect you to a local expert who’ll personally curate an experience that’s perfect for you.