Beach or Mountains? 7 Stunning Destinations that Deliver the Best of Both Worlds
Our imminent return to travel presents a small dilemma: when planning the ideal destination for a gorgeous getaway as it becomes safe to travel again, opt for a pristine sandy beach or a breathtaking mountain vista? For those who find the prospects of sunning on the shore as appealing as hiking the mountains, you’re not alone. In fact, 65% of US travelers believe great beaches are a key travel motivation vacation in 2021, while 56% say that the presence of mountainous areas is an important factor in picking a destination*. With that in mind, Booking.com has delved into its more than 28 million listings across more than 152,000 destinations to identify some of the most spectacular spots where beach and mountains meet. With lush tropical rainforests, epic peaks, crystal clear water and miles of sand all available within close proximity, you really can enjoy the best of both worlds when planning your next vacation for when it’s safe to do so.
Soufrière, St Lucia, Lesser Antilles
For an idyllic destination that combines impossibly Instagrammable beaches with hiking routes through lush tropical forests, look no further than the Caribbean paradise of St. Lucia. After a dip in the enticing blue waters, adventurers can opt for an invigorating hike across Gros Piton, a UNESCO World Heritage listed site and one of two volcanic peaks on the island. Starting from the village of Fond Gens Libre, it takes about two hours (one-way) to reach the summit at nearly half a mile above sea level (2,619 feet). The one-of-a-kind panoramic views from the top are definitely well worth the effort!
Where to stay: Featuring villas with private pools, Sugar Beach, A Viceroy Resort is located right on the perfectly white sands of the aptly named Sugar Beach with the towering peak of Petit Piton rising dramatically from the North, ideal for capturing some truly legendary vacation pics. After an exciting day of exploring all the island has to offer, guests can relax at the resort’s Temazcal outdoor sauna - a traditional dome-shaped Mesoamerican sweat lodge.
The small, unspoiled Greek island of Ithaca is renowned from Homer’s Odyssey as the mythological homeland of the story’s hero, Odyssesus. Free from the crowds that descend on some of Greece’s more popular vacation destinations, the quiet island is dotted with pretty pebbly beaches buffeted by turquoise waters and charming historic villages that stand sentinel across the more mountainous interior. Getting around Ithaca is best done by car, as the island is relatively small and easy enough to navigate. There are a number of scenic routes to explore, including from Vathy to Stavros, with recommended pit stops at Anogi and Exogi for an authentic taste of rustic village life. Let your curiosity be your guide, as no matter where you choose to explore, you’ll be rewarded with stunning views.
Where to stay: Well located in Vathy, the capital and the main harbor of Ithaca are the Odyssey Apartments. Offering sleek and modern accommodation on the hillside with sweeping Ionian Sea views. Each apartment is well equipped with all the amenities needed for the perfect home away from home.
Located along the Dalmatian coast between Split and Dubrovnik, the picturesque port town of Makarska entices with fragrant pine forests, rugged cliffs and the iridescent blue-green waters of the Adriatic. While the town itself is small enough to explore by foot or by bike, if you’re feeling adventurous and want to explore a bit off the beaten track, having a car will allow you to venture into the nearby Biokovo Mountains, the second-highest range in Croatia. As a reward for your efforts, you’ll be treated with expansive views of the dense forest cascading down to the crystalline waters of the sea.
Where to stay: Mere minutes from St. Peter Lighthouse, in the center of Makarska, Apartments Beso offers sweeping views of the port. Just imagine tucking into a home-cooked meal on the balcony, as you gaze out at the myriad of boats sailing in and out against the shimmering blue waters of the harbor.
Also known as the “Garden Isle,” the Hawaiian island of Kauai is a true tropical paradise with dramatic cliffs, lush rainforests and miles of golden beaches. As tempting as it might be to lounge about and just soak up all that beauty (which you definitely should do), renting a car to explore more of Kauai’s inviting coastal towns, secret beaches and iconic waterfalls is a must. It takes about three hours to get from one end of the North Shore (Haena) to the West Side (Polihale), a scenic drive that takes you to one of the island's most lengthy stretches of creamy white sand. Travelers who are looking for a spectacular sight should definitely visit Koke’e State Park, a tumble of Jurassic scenery with emerald foliage and coral-colored cliffs. Hike one of the seven trails or take the road up to the Kalalau Lookout for glorious, unparalleled views of the coast.
Where to stay: If dining under the stars, serenaded by the sound of the waves crashing on the shore sounds like the perfect escape, then the oceanfront Kauai Shores Hotel in Kappa might be the place for you. To spice up all of the tranquility and relaxation with a little adventure, consider booking a helicopter tour for a high-altitude perspective of the islands’ magnificent volcanic landscapes.
Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia
With almost half of its landmass covered by forest, Borneo is the world’s third largest island, stretching across three countries. It’s also a haven for nature lovers, thanks to its abundant diversity of indigenous plant and animal life. Home to Mount Kinabalu, Malaysia’s highest peak, the state of Sabah on the northernmost tip of the island makes for a stunning vacation destination, popular not only for its verdant rainforests but also for its expansive beaches.
Where to stay: Located in a nature reserve overlooking the South China Sea, Shangri-La’s Rasa Ria Resort & Spa offers lavish views of the region’s glistening beaches, dense jungles and majestic mountain peaks . Whether you opt to take it easy with a relaxing cruise along the Kinabatangan River or want to kick it up a notch with an intrepid trek through the bush, no matter the pace you prefer, there’s plenty to explore.
Bay of Islands, New Zealand
Made up of more than 140 subtropical islands off the coast of New Zealand’s North Island, the Bay of Islands is a diverse playground of undeveloped beaches and stunning volcanic landscapes. There are so many lush forests, secluded bays and rich history to explore, you’ll want to plan your trip well in advance to make sure you don’t miss a thing. Having a car in the Bay of Islands is super handy and makes it possible to cover more ground. Regardless of where your curiosity leads, a stop in Kerikeri is essential. There you will find New Zealand's oldest house, the Mission House, sometimes referred to as Kemp House. For keen walkers, a trip along the Kerikeri river bank up to Wharepuke and Rainbow Falls is a must.
Where to stay: Located in Paihia near the Opua Forest and offering fabulous views of the bay, the Craicor Boutique Apartments are surrounded on all sides by greenery and flowers, offering a restful getaway to unwind, rejuvenate, and spend some quality time with friends and family.
With a mission to make it easier for everyone to experience the world, Booking.com is sharing Getaway Deals for travelers to use when booking their summer 2021 getaways, as it becomes safe to do so. Discounts start at 15 percent and are valid for stays until September 30 2021. In addition, Booking.com is bringing the great value of its Genius program to even more customers by giving all account holders access to the program’s Level 1 benefits, with no minimum number of previous bookings to qualify, including access to exclusive 10% discounts at hundreds of thousands of participating properties around the world. All travelers have to do is download the Booking.com app, log in and look for the Genius logo to identify associated benefits, discounts and perks.
*Research commissioned by Booking.com and conducted among a sample of adults who have traveled for business or leisure in the past 12 months, and must be planning to travel in the next 12 months (if/once travel restrictions are lifted). In total 47,728 respondents across 28 countries and territories were polled