Step onto the white sands of some of the world’s best beach resorts for Australian travellers. Find exotic beaches with our guide to luxury properties where, as Katrina Holden writes, your direct-access beachfront room ensures your bed is just a few footsteps from the beach.
You’ve seen the brochure – soft sand, pulsing sunshine and crystal aqua waters so clear you can almost visualise your grinning reflection on its surface. But what may not be in the fine print is the reality that your room is six storeys above sand level, in an air-conditioned cocoon that leaves you feeling rather disconnected from the salt spray and frangipani scents below. On your ideal holiday, you didn’t envisage an elevator ride to the beach and footbridges over gardens through a maze of hotel facilities; long, bumpy buggy rides through rainforest; or waters that may not even be suitable for swimming.
The most prized contemporary luxury accommodations are now environmentally sensitive, taking a wider, but low-rise footprint. These savvy operators recognise the main attraction for their guests – the desire to flop and drop on the beach and in the ocean, where they can be at one with nature and/or each other – with as few obstacles to navigate as possible.
In our summer exotic beach getaway story, we suggest some of the best beach resorts for Australian travellers where there’s just perhaps lawn between your bed and a beautiful beach. We explore Fiji, Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia, Vietnam, French Polynesia, the Philippines, Bali, Hawaii, the Maldives, Seychelles and Mauritius – and tell you exactly which rooms to request. And for those who prefer a getaway closer to home, we rate Australia’s best beachfront destinations.
Lizard Island, Great Barrier Reef, Queensland
With 24 soft white beaches and a lagoon to choose from, or snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef direct from the resort, the newly reopened Lizard Island offers visitors the chance to experience Australian beachside holidaying at the most northerly resort in tropical Queensland. No black sand or pebbles here – instead, fine-grained, pale sand contrasts with the turquoise waters of the Marine Park, home to green sea turtles and spinner dolphins. The resort can be reached by private transfer from Cairns airport. Many of the 40 villas and suites have private plunge pools and views over Sunset Beach and the Coral Sea. For the bed-to-beach stay, request an Anchor Bay Suite; while the grander The Pavillion and The Villa are more elevated with broader views. When not in your private pool, you can take a guided nature walk, play tennis, take a champagne sunset cruise or a savour a private beach degustation.
Rates: from A$1,699 per night; from A$2,399 for the Anchor Bay Suites.
Best time to go: April-November, avoiding peak and wet season. The resort is closed 1-15 February.
Haggerstone Island Resort
Although the House Mawu is the premium accommodation at the remote, barefoot-luxury, all-inclusive Haggerstone Island Resort on the Great Barrier Reef, the Beach Hut room is the only accommodation right on the beach. Open-plan and driftwood-decorated, with large canvas shutters that open directly over the sands, tree trunks inside the room and a canopy over the bed, it exudes rustic chic. Set apart from the main resort, its seclusion adds to the appeal. Haggerstone is well-known for its fishing – and you feast by night on your own catch of the day. The resort is reached via a private charter from Cairns.
Rates: All-inclusive rates for the Beach Hut start from A$800 per person/night twin-share.
And there’s also…
Just a 15-minute helicopter ride from Hamilton Island, One&Only Hayman Island is part of the Great Barrier Reef and brings the cool elegance of the One&Only brand to one of Australia’s most beautiful beaches. The Beach Villas have direct access to the white sands, while the Beach House is a freestanding property on Hayman Beach.
Rates: Start from A$1,330 per night; Beach Villas from A$2,500; Beach House from A$3,700.
Orpheus Island on The Great Barrier Reef has newly refurbished rooms, with its North Beachfront Villa on the sheltered western side of the private island overlooking the Coral Sea. The resort accommodates up to 28 guests and can be accessed by a 30-minute helicopter transfer from Townsville.
Rates: Start from A$1,200 per night; North Beachfront Villa from A$2,800 per night
Due to open this February, Elements of Byron sprawls along a 2km stretch of absolute beachfront on Belongil Beach at Byron Bay. Sustainable practices were used in the construction of the 22ha resort and its low-rise villas are designed to integrate the natural environment. Book one of the five Beachside Villas for direct beach access, private bathing decks with freestanding outdoor bathtubs, the quickest pathway to morning beach yoga with the First Light Club, and use of the beach club.
Rates: From A$380 per night for Botanica Villas; A$530 for Beachside Villas. Best time to go: Byron Bay is sunny year-round, with its heaviest rainfall from January to March
Within One Long-Haul Flight
Described as Thailand as it once was, luxurious Soneva Kiri resort on Koh Kood Island is 80km off the mainland and 350km south-east of Bangkok. Largely undeveloped, Thailand’s fourth-largest island boasts beautiful beaches with turquoise waters and fishing hotspots. By private seaplane, it’s a one-hour journey from Bangkok airport. Soneva Kiri has 24 large villas and 11 private residences (from one to six bedrooms) fronting either the beach or rainforest, all with private infinity pools and personal butlers. For direct beach access, stay in the Ocean Front Pool Villa Suites or, even closer to the water, the Beach Front Pool Villa Suites. Soneva Kiri champions a “no-news-no-shoes” policy, and guests can choose from swimming, scuba diving, snorkelling with the resort’s on-site marine biologist, star-gazing from the Observatory, an open-air cinema in the jungle or a unique tree-top dining experience in a suspended bamboo pod.
Rates: Rooms start from US$1,570 (about A$2,229) per night; Beach Front Villas start from US$2,755 (about A$3,912). Best time to go: Between November and May, before the wet season and hottest months.
The Nam Hai
Ha My Beach, Hoi An,
With its tropical gardens and Ha My beachfront, The Nam Hai’s 60 one-bedroom villas and 40 pool villas are a luxury getaway for beach-lovers also keen on exploring the cultural treasures of the nearby UNESCO World Heritage-listed ancient village of Hoi An. A three-tiered seaside swimming pool arrangement caters to swimmers of all ages and abilities. Guests can also play tennis at the resort or tee off at nearby golf courses. Villas are designed to replicate traditional Vietnamese garden houses with contemporary touches such as Vietnamese artworks and lacquered eggshell bathtubs. All pool villas come with their own designated butler, private courtyard and temperature controlled swimming pool. For direct beach access, we recommend the one-, three- or five-bedroom beachfront villas.
Rates: Start from US$570 (about A$810) per night for the one-bedroom villas; beachfront villas from US$730 (about A$1,037). Best time to go: February to June. September-January is wet season.
Tetiaroa Private Island
Created by actor Marlon Brando, The Brando is a recent addition to the sustainable luxury accommodation options in this part of the world. Brando fell in love with both his Polynesian leading lady and the local culture while filming Mutiny on the Bounty in 1961. The island, a former go-to destination for Tahitian royalty, has all the cliches – white sands, coconut palms, clear warm waters and tropical birds. The Brando is committed to preserving the island’s beauty, using sustainable infrastructure such as a deep seawater air-conditioning system that reduces energy usage. All 35 of the island’s villas are on the beachfront with direct beach and lagoon access.
Rates: All-inclusive and start from €2,400 (about A$3,616) per night for a one-bedroom villa in low season. Best time to go: Tetiaroa is a year-round destination with good weather and medium temperatures.
Four Seasons Resort Hualalai
While there are several luxury accommodation options in Hawaii, many can be set back (or upwards over many levels) from the beach. A standout among the luxury options is the low-rise Four Seasons Resort Hualalai property on the Big Island. Guests can swim in the incredible King’s Pond – an aquarium carved out of lava that is home to 4,000 tropical fish. If open ocean swimming is your preference, many villas and suites offer direct beach access: the Kou and Kailani Suites, the Ho’onanea Villa (closest to the shoreline though still central to the resort’s facilities), and the Hawaii Loa Presidential Villa. Guests at the top 10 of the resort’s 51 suites and villas have access to 24-hour suite concierges who can help with everything from packing and unpacking to organising activities such as golf with a pro or even a surprise marriage vow renewal ceremony. Watch the sun set over the Pacific Ocean after a scenic flight over active volcanoes.
Rates: Start from US$945 (about A$1,329) per night for an Ocean Golf View Room; US$8,000 (about A$11,250) for Kou or Kailani Suites; through to US$14,995 (about A$21,088) for the Hawaii Loa Presidential Villa. Best time to go:In the Hawaiian summer (May-October) the weather is warmer and drier with average temperatures between 24-31 degrees C. Whale-watching is best between January and early April, while November-March is big-wave surf season on Hawaii’s North Shore.
Pamalican Private Island
The squeaky white sands of 90ha Pamalican Island, part of the Cuyo Archipelego, are home to the 57-room Aman Resort, Amanpulo. The clear waters and unspoiled reef make it an ideal location for water activities including diving, sailing and windsurfing. You’ll spot it all from the sky first, arriving by private plane to the island’s own landing strip. There are Treetop and Hillside Casitas, and 29 Beachfront Casitas with direct beach access. The spa is perched on the top of the hill with views over the Sula Sea.
Rates: Start from US$1,375 (about A$1,948) for Treetop Casitas; US$1,815 (about A$2,571) for Beachfront Casitas. Best time to go: December to May.
Tavanipupu Private Island Resort
This small island in Marau Sound was a former coconut plantation in the 19th century, owned by Norwegian Traders who purchased it from locals for ammunition. It’s relatively rustic, barefoot South Pacific luxury and can be hard to find – but not too difficult for Prince William and Princess Katherine, who stayed here during their Asia-Pacific tour in 2012. The top room is the Supreme Bungalow. The entire island can be booked for a group of up to 30. When not floating in the sea you can take a fishing tour or cycle through bush tracks on the Guadalcanal mainland.
Rates: Start from A$550 for the Supreme Bungalow. Best time to go: From June to September, when rainfall and humidity are at their lowest.
Surfers and sea-lovers have it all at Nihiwatu on the west coast of Indonesia’s Sumba Island – on “the edge of wilderness”. Southern Ocean storm swells roll into the beach, arriving on the very doorstep of this luxury resort with the famous “God’s Left” break right out front. It’s limited to 10 guests a day, and experienced surfers at the resort must register and pay US$100 to reserve their spot on the break. The resort is also PADI-certified, with underwater rock pinnacles creating the perfect conditions for some of the best diving in Indonesia. As well as surfing, diving, fishing or horse-riding on the beach, there’s also the must-do Nihi Oka wellness experience – a 90-minute trek through lush jungle to a cliff-top lookout where, in your own personal bale, you will be pampered with unlimited treatments for the duration of the day. All the villas at Nihiwatu have direct beach access, by path or stairs.
Rates: Start from US$900 (about A$1,275) per night. Best time to go: April to October. Peak period is July-August.
And there’s also….
For a special beachfront, five-star Indonesian experience with a difference, consider Amanwana on Moyo Island. With all the luxury touches of an Aman Resort, the 11 oceanfront tents at Moyo Island, to the east of Bali, offer the best of both worlds – the simplicity of camping on your own private beachfront in luxurious comfort and if privacy is paramount, this is the place. It’s the only resort on the island and has just 20 permanent tents – 11 on the beachfront and nine in the jungle. The tents are permanent structures with air-conditioning, wooden floorboards, pitched canvas ceilings, large ensuite bathrooms, a living area and white mosquito canopies over the king-sized beds.
Rates: Ocean tents start from US$900 (about A$1,275) per room, per night, plus taxes.
The St. Regis Bali Resort
While Bali is extremely popular, it’s not necessarily known for fine, white sandy beaches. Many of the best resorts are located on cliff-tops with ocean panoramas, or in the green and cultural Ubud region in the hills. However, the quiet beach enclave of Nusa Dua is recognised as perhaps one of the best beaches on the island. More than one resort fronts Geger Beach but they are all discretely tucked away from the other and have a real sense of privacy. One of the best on this stretch, boasting the best beach access, is the St. Regis Bali Resort where beachfront villas have private gates onto the sands. The beachfront villas start with the Gardenia Villa; one- or two-bedroom Lagoon Villas; and The Strand Villa, with its own private pool, garden, gazebo, and 24-hour St. Regis butler service.
Rates: The Gardenia Villa start from US$1,020 (about A$1,428) per night. Best time to go: May to October is the dry season with lower humidity.
And there’s also….
The Ayodya Palace is part of the larger Ayodya Resort, also at Nusa Dua. The palace section of the property is like a retreat within a resort where premium guests receive club-style treatment. The best suites are here, a private pool for Palace guests, a dining terrace overlooking the beach and a gateway onto the sand. Book the Kausalya Suite on the ground floor for beachfront access, a plunge pool and private tropical garden with day beds.
Rates: Start from US$191.25 (about A$271) per night; Kausalya Suite from US$1,030 (about A$1,463).
Jimbaran Bay is another quiet Bali beach that has the added benefit of being a just a 15-minute drive from the international airport. Known for its fish markets and seafood restaurants along the shores, early morning walks along the beach and cocktails as you watch the sun set over the headland at the end of the bay, it is something special. The best luxury options here include the Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran Bay with several Oceanfront Villas. Seek out those closest to Sundara, the beach club and restaurant, as they have direct access to the beach through a garden path and down a short flight of stairs.
Rates: Ocean View villas start at US$649 (about A$905) plus taxes; Oceanfront Villas from US$950 (about A$1,325) plus taxes.
Meanwhile, the InterContinental Bali Resort is just a few metres further along Jimbaran Bay from the Four Seasons, and is a popular choice for families with its wide, silky grass verges leading directly onto the beach. Club InterContinental guests are treated to special privileges including an adult’s-only club pool, complimentary afternoon tea, evening cocktails and 24-hour butler service. For direct beach access, book out either the palatial Imperial Villa or the highest room category at the resort, the Jivana Villa – both villas are two storeys and have a private swimming pool, outdoor spa and large terrace from which you can walk directly onto the grass path down to the sand.
Rates: Start from US$450 (about A$632) per night for a resort classic room; US$2,990 (about A$4,205) for Imperial Villa; US$4,990 (about A$7,018) for Jivana Villa.
Laucala Private Island
On 1,400 hectares, the luxurious, all-inclusive Laucala Island resort has just 25 private villas for guests who expect the ultimate in luxury with classic Fijian hospitality. The Plantation Villas, Seagrass Villas and Peninsula Villa all offer direct access to the beach. The Peninsula Villa has its own private natural pool, concealed beach and a jetty. In addition to the complimentary regular water activities such as fishing, diving or surfing, the resort also has an 18-hole championship golf course. A recent (included) addition is a 60-minute underwater exploration voyage aboard the resort’s new DeepFlight Super Falcon submersible – one of just three in the world. All food, beverages, a chauffeur and a nanny are included.
Rates: Start from US$4,600 (about A$6,455) for one-bedroom Plantation and Seagrass Villas; from US$6,600 (about A$9,247) for Peninsula Villa. Best time to go: Late March through early December.
And there’s also…
After a 10-minute seaplane flight from Nadi airport, couples can seek privacy in the oceanfront bures at the luxury adults-only Likuliku Lagoon Resort. The resort has 45 bures – 10 overwater and 35 along the beachfront with daybeds and private courtyards. Our tip: go for one of the18 deluxe beachfront bures that feature a private plunge pool.
Rates: Start from FJD1,790 (about A$1,162) per night for Garden Beachfront Bures; FJD2,590 (about $1,681) for Deluxe Beachfront Bures.
The Yasawa Island Resort & Spa is on its own unspoiled island with just 18 bures and 10 private beaches. Beach access is at your door at the Bure Suites and Deluxe Beachfront Bures – but for utter seclusion without compromising your access to the sands, book the Honeymoon Bure, ‘Lomalagi’ (Fijian for ‘heaven’). It’s tucked away from the rest of the resort at the end of a deserted white beach with its own horizon pool.
Rates: Start from FJD1,665 (about A$1,081) per night for Bure Suites; FJD3,500 (about A$2,272) for Deluxe Beachfront Bures.
And Further Afield
The Maldives, Mauritius and Seychelles are idyllic tropical island getaway destinations. Presenting slightly longer flight times for Australians than South-East Asia or the South Pacific, these getaways, with beaches so postcard-perfect they often appear to have been digitally enhanced, offer some of the best bed-to-beach getaways in the world.
The Maldives is an archipelago in the Indian Ocean made up of 26 coral atolls. While the region conjures the classic overwater bungalow images, many savvy luxury travellers prefer to sleep on dry land where it’s a mere step off the deck to the sands – and a shorter stroll to the rest of the resort amenities.
This is one of the original resorts in the area. Like its sister property, Soneva Kiri in Thailand, families are well catered for here where they might enjoy a movie screening under the stars at Cinema Paradiso. But the real attraction – aside from 60 flavours of ice-cream and 7,000 bottles in the wine cellar – is the range of one-bedroom villas and suites through to the nine-bedroom, 5,540sqm Private Reserve with its sunken dining area in the middle of an enormous swimming pool. All villa guests have access to the Mr/Ms Friday butler service.
Rates: Start from US$1,905 (about A$2,605) per night for a one-bedroom Crusoe beachfront villa; through to US$34,035 (about A$47,971) for the Private Reserve.
One&Only Reethi Rah
Glamour seekers gravitate towards the One&Only Reethi Rah. Its 12 man-made beaches are home to 85 beachfront villas with direct access to their own stretch of beach and the resort also has a Tweens Club. Book the three-bedroom Grand Sunset Residence with the largest stretch of beach and a private road leading to the property – plus exclusive use of two four-seater golf carts, pool, Jacuzzi and a private chef.
Rates: Start from US$1,850 (about A$2,607) per night; up to US$17,000 (about A$23,960) for the Grand Sunset Residence.
Cheval Blanc Randheli
For distinct French-flavoured hospitality and ultra-chic design, head to Cheval Blanc Randheli, operated by LVMH Hotel Management. All guests have the services of a majordomo during their stay – to take care of everything from trips to see manta rays or private meditation sessions on the reef, to reservations at the French nine-course degustation restaurant Le 1947. The ultimate in private luxury is the Owner’s Villa – a dedicated private island accessed by private berth and jetty – with four bedrooms, its own spa and outdoor pool.
Rates: Start from US$3,500 (about A$4,929) per night; Owner’s Villa upon request.
And there’s also…
For large families or private island hire, try the new Coco Privé Kuda Hithi, which sleeps up to 12 guests in six villas (price upon request) or Velaa Private Island, owned by a Czech billionaire Jiri Smejc, which features outdoor bathrooms, a three-storey wine tower, a semi-submersible, a nine-hole golf course and a Clarins spa. The four-bedroom Velaa Private Residences are secluded on a private beach.
Rates: Start from US$23,000 or about A$32,380 per night) for the Private Residences.
St. Regis Mauritius Resort
On Le Morne Beach, one of the best beaches in Mauritius, lies St. Regis Mauritius Resort, on the south-western side of the island. Fronting the lagoon, the resort features 172 guest rooms overlooking the Indian Ocean. The Beachfront St. Regis Suites and Grand Suites have separate indoor living room and outdoor balconies from which you step straight onto the beach’s grass verge in front of the sparkling blue waters. The best rooms in the house are the two St. Regis Mauritius Villas – both with ocean views, a private deck, direct access to the beach and a team at your call including a butler, villa manager, chef and security guards.
Rates: Start from €1,170 (about A$1,755) per night for the Beachfront Suites; €2,400 (about A$3,600) for the St. Regis Mauritius Villas.
Four Seasons Resort Mauritius
Beach-loving golfers might wish to head to Four Seasons Resort Mauritius at Anahita – and complimentary golf on its Ernie Els-designed course. When not cycling, snorkelling or centring yourself during yoga, relax in a contemporary-styled room with direct beach access. Rates: Options include the Sanctuary Beach Pool Villa from €1,327 (about A$1,992 per night); Sanctuary Ocean Pool Villas from €1,736 (about A$2,696); or Beach Pool Villas (€1,560 (about A$2342).
Best time to go: From May until December when the weather is more cool, dry and sunny.
North Island & Villa North Island
The Seychelles Archipelago, 115 islands off the coast of East Africa, is renowned for its natural beauty, bluest of blue waters and nature reserves with abundant wildlife such as giant tortoises. The conservation-focused, earthy-style North Island has 10 Presidential Villas, all with direct beach access to East Beach, where children are welcome. However, Villa North Island is a multi-tiered villa with private direct beach access that is is reserved for couples.
Rates: Start from €3,050 (about A$4,580) per night for Presidential Villas; €4,800 (about A$7,211) for Villa North Island. The entire island can also be hired. Best time to go: Temperatures are fairly constant year-round (from 27-32 degrees C). There tends to be more rainfall late November to mid-February. There is higher humidity January-June, breezier winds July-December.