Beach or Mountains? 7 Stunning Destinations that Deliver the Best of Both Worlds
When choosing the ideal destination for a gorgeous getaway, many travelers find themselves with a difficult dilemma: 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 slopes, you’re not alone. In fact, 59% of US travelers want to take a beach vacation in 2019, while 53% say that the presence of mountainous areas is an important factor in picking a destination*. With that in mind, Booking.com, the digital travel leader connecting travelers with the widest choice of unique places to stay, a range of must-do travel experiences and seamless transport options, has delved into its more than 28 million listings across more than 150,000 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 for your next vacation.
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 those enticing blue waters, adventure lovers 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, you 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: Rich in history, this former windmill has been transformed into a unique apartment that combines traditional elements with a modern touch. After a day of beach hopping and exploring the island’s charming mountain villages, you can enjoy a glass of local wine on the spacious private terrace, savoring interrupted views of the sun setting over the Ionian sea.
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 only 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 islands most lengthy stretches of creamy white sand. Travelers who are looking for a sincerely 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 indigeneous 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 dazzling 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 sumptuous 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 also 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 literally surrounded on all sides by greenery and flowers, offering a restful getaway to unwind, rejuvenate and spend some quality time with friends or family.
Midway between Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, Paraty is a beautiful town and one of Brazil’s lesser known havens. With characteristic 17th and 18th-century architecture hailing from its history as a port city during the Brazilian gold rush, its surrounding sandy beaches are backed by dense jungle that climbs to crown the gentle peaks of the surrounding mountains. This picturesque pedestrian-only town is packed with multi-hued houses, boutique shops run by friendly locals, and ancient churches. After a busy day at the beach or exploring its cobblestone streets, you can finish the day with a chilled glass of cachaça and some typical Brazilian delicacies in one of the many traditional cafés sprinkled throughout the center.
Where to stay: Located in a charming fishing village just a few minutes from both the historic center of Paraty, Casa Mar Paraty is a modern guest house with proximity to both and Prainha Beach and the surrounding mountains. After an invigorating hike through the rainforest, you can relax in the property's infinity pool and take in the fantastic views over Ilha Grande Bay.
*Research commissioned by Booking.com and independently conducted among a sample of 53,492 respondents across 31 markets. In order to participate in this survey, respondents had to be 18 years of age or older, had to have travelled at least once in the past 12 months and be either the primary decision maker or involved in the decision making of their travel. The survey was taken online and took place between October 16th and November 12th, 2018.