travel

Mauritius

Mention the word Mauritius and instantly you think of white sand and blue sea. Head to Belle Mare on the East coast of the island and that is exactly what you will find. A perfect place if you want some time to eat, drink and relax. 


  • Currency: Mauritian rupee
  • Local time: GMT +4
  • Language: English, French, Mauritian Creole

Resort: Belle Mare

Belle Mare beach is arguably one of the best on the island. Situated on the East Coast, there is a gentle breeze all year round meaning even on sweltering days it never feels too hot. There are several upmarket resorts to choose from, as well as several more catering to those on a slightly more restricted budget. What I loved about this area though was that walking along the beach, it never felt crowded or busy, or like too many hotels had been crammed in. It was always calm, always peaceful.

At around an hours drive from Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International airport, it is worth booking a transfer in advance so that you have someone to greet you in arrivals and whisk you away to your hotel.


Hotel: Emeraude Beach Attitude

We booked to stay at the Emeraude Beach Attitude hotel as part of a package with British Airways and could not fault the hotel. It is a small, adults only set up and the staff were friendly and attentive throughout our stay. The moment we arrived (after 16 hours of travelling door to door) we were warmly greeted and offered a cold drink and lunch before being checked in, which was hugely appreciated.

Rooms: The rooms were clean, comfortable and spacious, and mere steps from the swimming pool. With daily maid service and refreshing of towels, plus an inclusive mini-bar we were left wanting for nothing.

The air conditioning was also highly effective (and much needed in 36 degree heat)!

Food: All inclusive hotels can often be hit and miss with their food, but I can honestly say we never had a bad meal here. As the resort is small (just 61 rooms) the food is cooked in small batches and is constantly being cooked/topped up, meaning everything was super fresh and piping hot.

  • The breakfast options were plentiful and always in buffet style (with a chef station for excellent fresh omelettes).
  • Lunch could be had from either the buffet restaurant, which always had fresh salad plus several hot and cold options each day, varying from both Western and local cuisine. Taba-J, the Mauritian street food cart on site was an excellent choice for lunch also (or a mid-afternoon snack!), and if eating here, I particularly recommend the chicken roti!
  • Dinner comes with three options: A buffet meal with self service, à la carte with a set menu at the main restaurant (on rotation basis, roughly every other night) or a special meal at Kot Nou – the hotels signature restaurant. You can dine here with your feet in the sand and traditional food brought to you by smiling waiters.

Bar: The bar area is situated between the pool area and the main restaurant, and is open from 11am daily. Serving everything from cold soft drinks and iced coffees through to local wine & spirits and excellent cocktails, you’ll never go thirsty here! The all inclusive package really came into it’s own here as pretty much everything on the menu (bar imported spirits) was included!


Do: Boat trip, water sports, day trip to Port Louis

Although the main aim of most peoples trips to Mauritius is to relax, for those wanting to venture out of their hotel, there are lots of options for those who wish to be a little more energetic.

Our package with Emeraude Beach Attitude hotel included a glass bottom boat trip out to the coral reef, which was an excellent way of exploring the local marine life. There was also the chance to snorkel in the clear waters part way through the trip, and snorkels were provided.

Still on the water theme, there are many watersports options that can be booked on Belle Mare beach. From waterskiing to parasailing, paddleboarding to  kitesurfing, the prices were reasonable and the activities ran daily.

If you’re wanting to explore a different part of the island then consider a day trip to Port Louis, the capital of Mauritius. It is around an hour each way in the car, and taxis can be arranged by the hotel reception for those wishing to take the trip.

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Zante

Zante is well known for its stunning beaches and it’s turtles, and there are plenty of options to discover both on this island. With all but guaranteed sunshine and warm temperatures from May-September, plus loads of gorgeous beaches, this island is an ideal summer getaway.


  • Currency: Euro
  • Local time: GMT +2
  • Language: Greek

Resort: Alykes

Alykes is a lovely resort on the East coast of Zante with a long sandy beach and plenty of tavernas and bars to keep you occupied in the evenings. The sea isn’t tidal here, so stays at the same level on the beach all day. The water is totally clear and shallow a fair way out so it’s perfect for swimming.

There are plenty of beach bars and tavernas along the shore, offering drinks and ice cream in the day and relaxing evening meals at night. Buca Lounge Bar was a particular favourite – their ice cream selection was the best we found, and they had an extensive cocktail list.

There are plenty of options for trips from the town if you fancy a day out – We did a turtle cruise for €25 each, including a coach transfer to the South of the island and then three hours on a boat. Plenty of time for turtle spotting plus a couple of swim stops in crystal clear bays.


Hotel: Potamitis Studios

We booked the Potamitis Studios through TUI and had an excellent stay. The family run apartments are spotlessly clean, have a lovely pool area with plenty of loungers and there is a weekly Greek night that is not to be missed! They are in a great location, just a 10 minute stroll from the beach and all of the bars/tavernas in Alykes town.

The food at Potamitis is great, and if you choose to you have the option of breakfast, lunch and dinner here. Plus, the pool bar stays open late so you can have a drink after dinner with some of the new friends you’ve made (and trust us, you will – it’s super friendly here!).

Note that air conditioning is an extra €50 when you check in, but that’s quite common with Greece, and it was very much needed in the 34 degree heat!


Restaurants: Fidelio, Fishalida, Anatolikos, Koukounari

There is an impressive selection of tavernas in Alykes, and we were really spoilt for choice on where to eat.

For restaurants right on the beach, head to either Fishalida (excellent fresh fish, although lots of options if you’re not a fish fan too) or Anatolikos. The latter was described to us as ‘like something straight out of Shirley Valentine’ and that was so accurate! Cute chequered table cloths on tables right by the beach. Both have perfect settings for a meal as the sun goes down.

We ate at Koukounaria one evening which had a lovely outdoor terrace and an extensive list of home cooked traditional Greek dishes. Particularly recommend the beef stifado here. It was also recommended to book here as it gets very busy around 8pm.

Fidelio was another favourite, serving lots of Greek dishes with particularly good side salads with most dishes. The local wine here was also very good, and crazily cheap at €7 a litre!

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Tenerife

Tenerife is the largest of the Canary Islands, and features a warm climate year round. Despite it’s reputation as a party island (mainly because of the Playa de las Americas resort) there are plenty of tranquil spots on this island for a relaxing winter sun break.


  • Currency: Euro
  • Local time: GMT
  • Language: Spanish

Resort: Los Cristianos

Located in the South of the island (typically the part that gets the sunnier weather) Los Cristianos is the perfect location for a beach break with friends or family. With several beaches to choose from – including the long and sandy Las Vistas – plus plenty of bars and restaurants, you will never run out of things to do. And if you do fancy an evening of dancing? Las Americas as mentioned about is only 10 minutes away in a taxi!


Hotel: Aguamar Apartments

A collection of spacious and always spotlessly clean apartments gathered around a large deep blue swimming pool. The staff are friendly, there are always plenty of sun loungers and its very conveniently located for access to the beach and the various bars and restaurants that Los Cristianos has to offer.


Eat: Pizzeria da Capo, Piccolo, Chill Out

Piccolo restaurant, situated on the Vistas beach with amazing views out to sea, offers good value and authentic Italian food. The truffle pasta with steak was a particular favourite, and they house wine is also very good.

Located on a corned one street back from the harbour is Pizzeria da Capo – an amazing family run restaurant serving huge portions of incredible Italian food. The menu of the day is exceptional in value, and changes daily. Booking is always recommended, as this place is always full!

Chill out is the place to go if you have a celebration during your time in Los Cristianos. A diverse menu with great quality meat and fish, and a very goo dessert trolly that comes around to your table if you still have room after the main course. Slightly more expensive than other nearby restaurants but worth the extra cash if you’re celebrating a birthday/anniversary.


Drink: Planeta Goloso, Marina Bay sunset bar, Players Lounge

Whether it’s an afternoon sangria in the sunshine or a gin and tonic at sunset that you’re after, Los Cristianos has a bar for every occasion. For a relaxing mid-afternoon drink, head to Planeta Goloso. With lots of parasol covered tables overlooking the beach, this is a place to relax, have a drink and take some shade from the heat of the day. They also have an axcellent selection of ice cream here!

Marina Bay sunset bar has, unsurprisingly, one of the best views of the sunset on the South coast. They offer a happy hour early evening, with discounts on sangria and local beers, and the view really is worht the few extra minutes walk from the centre of town.

If you’re wanting to watch some sport while you’re away, make your way to Players Lounge, where they have several screens showing most games live. Cheap beer, an extensive cocktail menu and a great view of the beach if you’re less bothered about watching the football!

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Zanzibar

Whether you’re transferring after an action packed safari or heading straight to the island for some serious down time, Zanzibar is an excellent destination when your number one aim is to relax on soft white sand with the crystal clear Indian Ocean lapping at your feet. 


  • Currency: Tanzanian Shilling
  • Local time: GMT +3
  • Language: Swahili, Arabic, English

Resort: Bwejuu

Bwejuu Beach has been voted in the top 30 beaches in the world, and is located on the South East coast of the island. This part of Zanzibar is one of the most unspoilt, offering pristine white sand and stunning azure waters, with many untouched coral reefs that can be ventured out to. The transfer time from the airport is around an hour, and I recommend pre-booking a private, air-conditioned car, as arriving at this airport can be fairly overwhelming in terms of the amount of people outside arrivals; many of whom are waiting to offer you a ‘taxi’.


Hotel: Breezes Beach Club

I stayed at Breezes Beach Club & Spa for 5 nights, and wow do I wish it could have been longer! Time seemed to stand still here – my only concerns were which cocktail to choose from the menu and whether to sunbathe by the swimming pool or take a stroll along the gorgeous beach.

The food options on site were brilliant – think themed nights and a la carte meals – and I highly recommend that when booking you choose the Full Board option, as it works out most economical come check out.

With four dining locations, three bars and a chai tea room serving afternoon tea daily, plus shops, a scuba diving centre and a Frangipani spa, this hotel has everything you need for a relaxing break without ever having to leave resort!


Do: Stone Town

I highly recommend visiting Stone Town, the capital of Zanzibar while you’re on the island. Whether you choose to stay a night or two before transferring to your chosen beach resort (Stone Town is on the coast, but the luxury resorts are on the other side of the island and the beaches are cleaner and more relaxing there too) or take a day trip from your hotel, you don’t want to miss out on Stone Town.

With its winding streets and alleyways, I almost guarantee that you will get lost at some point in Stone Town, but the locals were very friendly and more than happy to point you in the right direction. A helpful tip I found was to be guided back to the waterfront, as finding our hotel (we stayed at Zanzibar Palace for one night and I highly recommend it!) was very easy from this point.

If you have time, book onto a walking tour of Stone Town, as nobody can show you the city better than a local guide! We got to look around the former slave market, which was a fascinating looking into the darker history of the city, as well as visiting Darajani Market, which I warn you now, is not for those with a delicate stomach or sense of smell. With lots of raw meat and fish, it’s an attack on the senses, but a really interesting look at the daily life of residents of the city.

Make sure you set aside some time to visit Memories gift store to get those all important souvenirs and gifts to take home. We found that once we got to our beach resort, the opportunity to buy gifts was next to zero, so we were very glad we’d picked up what we wanted in Memories.