This article was written for Annabel & Grace, which is now part of Rest Less.
The new year is a good time to make plans, and so of course I’ve been trying to decide where I really want to visit in 2020. I have my own ideas, but at this time of year the travel industry is making their recommendations too, so I thought I’d turn my eye to what The Hotel Guru might be plotting…
Waiheke Island, Auckland – For a Long Haul Adventure
Waiheke Island is a 40 minute ferry ride from Auckland, but it feels much further away – what with having its own warm, dry microclimate, and all the boutique wineries and olive presses taking advantage of it, plus the spacious, rural views and mysterious coves and bays. This is the perfect place to get to grips with New Zealand if you’ve had a long flight, or to relax if you’re just about to embark on one. The beaches are sandy and golden on the ocean side, and there are numerous gorgeous stretches, while on the landward side of the island the coastline is rocky and dramatic, lined with pretty, clear-water bays, perfect for sailing – or kayaking, or hiking, or ziplining around.
As well as natural assets, wine and the opportunity for adventure, the other thing people go to New Zealand for is the food, and Waiheke Island is good on this front too, with some of the boutique wineries offering elegant restaurants beside their tasting rooms. Waiheke Island used to be a hippy spot, so there’s also a wonderful legacy of galleries and craft stores to enjoy in the pretty old centres.
Where to Stay?
Te Whau Lodge is a luxurious choice which still feels adventurous because of the incredible views, private beach and peaceful surrounds. This is the sort of place where at night you can see the stars, and the only sounds are nocturnal animals and the faint lap of waves on sand. This spacious haven is the perfect place to experience the best of New Zealand – sip very locally produced wines on your private deck, or enjoy the view across Putiki Bay through double doors in a large living space with a real fire, and beautiful timber all around. Plus the breakfast ingredients are sourced from the garden! Rooms start from around £325 per night.
Practical Details: Waiheke Island is a 30-40 minute ferry ride from Auckland’s Downtown Ferry Terminal, which is about 45 minutes on the bus from Auckland International Airport. Auckland, on the North Island, is one of the sunniest parts of New Zealand, with a temperate climate involving all four seasons. And Waiheke Island is just that bit sunnier and drier again. It’s not hot, though, even in summer this region doesn’t get much higher than the high 20s, so it’s still comfortable for adventuring. Autumn, which is between March and May, is rainier and more humid. Winter gets some rain too, but it’s still mild temperature-wise, and this part of New Zealand doesn’t get any snow.
Niseko, Hokkaidō – Where to Ski
If you’ve not considered skiing in Japan, but you have considered visiting the country, then Niseko could be your chance at a free skiing trip tacked on to your explorations of these unique and historic islands. Niseko is on Hokkaidō, which is Japan’s most northerly island, also the coldest, and the one with all the world-class ski resorts. But it’s got more than that to offer, with numerous spectacularly mountainous national parks, historic towns and rice paddies arranged in between them, and the ski resorts.
Niseko is known for its powder snow. It’s high (and averages around 15 metres of snow per season), and big: a consolidation of four interconnected resorts which have around 800 skiable hectares between them. Because the skiing is just so spectacular here it’s a very international destination, and English is spoken almost everywhere. It’s a great spot for families too. And of course Japan is hosting the Olympics this year so it’s all spruced up for visitors, but not in Winter, so fingers crossed there are some good prices…
Where to Stay?
Large, elegant and contemporary, The Green Leaf Village sits at the base of Mount Niseko Annupuri, offering ski-in ski-out access to some of the best pistes in Japan. This 200 room property has a fantastic location, but it’s also got great facilities, with a large spa offering traditional Japanese, as well as more contemporary, treatments, plus a glamorous cocktail bar and an excellent restaurant. There are some nice touches, with outdoor terraces and those slightly magical looking modern fireplaces. The decor is simple and chic. Rooms start from around £110 per night.
Practical Details: Sapporo is the capital of Hokkaidō and has the island’s largest airport. You can fly there from the UK in about 16 hours, and from there it’s about two and a half hours by train to Niseko. If you’re wanting the ski season you’ll be wanting to come in January or February, when you might even see icebergs floating on the Sea of Okhotsk.
Isla Holbox, The Yucatán Peninsula – Perfect Beach Break
The Yucatán Peninsula is an incredible destination, a stretch of land and coastline lush with jungles, fringed by white sand and palm trees, and dotted with incredible colonial centres and Mayan ruins. But some of it is quite busy. And if that’s not the holiday you’re looking for, then consider Isla Holbox for your Yucatan beach break post-jungle-explorations. Holbox feels very Caribbean, with sandy streets and Caribbean style buildings, all wood, whitewash and thatch. There’s also a green tinge to the water, reminiscent of the Caribbean, and fine, white sand. You’re within the Yum Balam Nature Reserve, and there’s an incredible array of birds to meet and greet. And while it’s not entirely serene and remote, you’re within a boat, or golf-cart, trip away from having your own private beach. And there’s a friendly vibe come the evenings.
Where to Stay?
Surrounded by palm trees and white sand, Pousada Mawimbi, is a paradisiacal collection of just 11 whitewashed rooms and suites in a sort of giant thatched hut-hotel. This is a magical Mexican escape, with simple, but beautiful decor of white walls, polished floors and colourfully woven throws, all with the sound of the sea as your background whisper. There’s a great cocktail bar and a Mexican restaurant. And they offer complimentary kayak hire. Rooms start from around £125 per night.
Practical Details: The closest airports to Holbox Island are Cancun and Cozumel. From both airports you need to make your way to Chiquila, which is where you catch the ferry from to Hotbox. It’s not the simplest journey, but it’s not too tricky, considering how close to paradise you’re going to be once you arrive. The whole journey takes about 20 hours from the UK, depending on where you’re starting from. Isla Holbox is warm and humid for most of the year, and it’s a good place to visit almost anytime outside of the rainy season, which is between August and October. Temperatures are marginally cooler in the northern hemisphere’s Winter months, but daily average temperatures for these months are still in the low 20°Cs.
Trancoso, Bahia – Long Haul Winter Sunshine 2020
In a world’s worth of beautiful beach destinations Bahia stands out because of the vibrancy and uniqueness of its culture, which is the meeting point of Brazil’s African heritage and Portuguese colonial Catholic influence. Its beaches tick all the boxes: fine, soft sand, sea one of a range of perfect shades of blue, gently swaying palm trees, the ‘right’ amount of creature comforts to suit all tastes – ranging from bare sand to stylish beach bars and resorts packed with watersports facilities. But it’s the character and colour, and the allure you’ll feel to try totally new things here, that make it worth travelling for.
The Hotel Guru’s Bahia recommendation is in Trancoso, which a very pretty town on a grassy stretch of coast overlooking some seriously idyllic beaches. This is the sort of place people will travel a long way for, and there’s a certain sophistication to the rustic look, that belies the fact that these casual-looking beach restaurants and open air cafes/bars on the candlelit square, are actually quite high end. That goes for the boutiques too.
Where to Stay?
The Villas de Trancoso is a fantastic beach-side resort with all the swaying palm trees, yellow sand, bright blue sea views you could want. Plus beautiful cabana style suites and a gorgeous infinity pool. This is a relaxed and relaxing place, with a range of rooms offering the right dimensions for most travellers, including families, an excellent seafood restaurant and a golf course. There are also loads of watersports facilities on offer. And it’s very romantic too. Rooms start from around £315 per night.
Practical Details: The closest international airport to Trancoso is Porto Seguro, which is about 15 hours flying time from the UK. From there you can travel on the car ferry to Arraial D’Ajuda and then it’s about 30 minutes drive to Trancoso.
Trancoso is a tropical paradise, which climate-wise, means it’s hot and sunny for most of the year, but also gets a fair amount of rain. There are drier hotter months: December through February are hotter and drier, March and April are hotter; and there are cooler months: May through September, but expect temperatures in the mid to high 20s°C all year.
Melbourne – Long Haul City Break 2020
Many Australians, especially those who’ve travelled a fair bit, will tell you that Melbourne is Australia’s European city, as opposed to Sydney which is more like the U.S. (the same people will call Brisbane BrisVegas), and that’s probably still a reasonable opening statement. Melbourne has fantastic museums, galleries and arts centres, and takes its food, drink and coffee extremely seriously. It’s also cool, in a stylish, design chic way, as well as weather-wise. And Melbourne has a great annual calendar packed with cultural festivals, not forgetting the world renowned sporting ones.
What you might not have known about Melbourne is that, as well as being built along the Yarra River, it’s also got some good beaches: St. Kilda is the inner city one, then there’s Brighton and Altona, which are better for swimmers and sailors. The thing about Melbourne is that there’s a lot to explore: there’s a lot in town, but there’s also a lot to the suburbs, enough to really enjoy a good solid fortnight before you head off to tick some of Australia’s other headline attractions.
Where to Stay?
Collins Street is one of Melbourne’s central streets, and the Treasury on Collins occupies a key position there, in the original Bank of Australia building. The Treasury isn’t just a hotel, it also has serviced lofts and apartments with kitchens and laundry facilities, so it makes a great base for a longer stay, and for families. Outside the building is quite grand and a bit austere, but inside it’s chic and contemporary with a great fancy-pub-style restaurant, called The Bank, and a fitness centre. The Heritage rooms and suites have fantastic balcony views of Melbourne. Rooms start from about £145 per night for the simplest.
Practical Details: It takes about 24 hours to fly to Australia, depending on which way you want to go round, and that decision will impact where you stop off or transfer flights. Melbourne enjoys all four seasons, ranging from a potentially sweltering Christmas if there’s no breeze off the coast, to a chilly June and July, where temperatures overnight can drop to 6 or 7°C. Spring is when Melbourne gets the most rainfall, but it does rain all year round here.
The Hotel Guru has done your hotel research for you. We’ve commissioned a collection of leading travel writers and journalists to offer their recommendations on where to stay, found out all the important, and minute, details about each property, and then cross referenced that with guides we respect. So if having a hot tub is important to you you can search by that, likewise pet-friendly properties and hotels with a great wine list.
Lots more fascinating travel ideas on this website – view them here