Perhaps one of the most anticipated and celebrated moments in the year is the summer holiday. Endless al fresco dining options, long evening walks in the parks and arguably some of the best events, London comes to life in the summer. What took a toll on most of our summer plans and travel opportunities has left many feeling disheartened and defeated. But as travel expert and founder of the luxury London-based travel company My Native Julie Hepworth notes, it’s worth looking at the positive outcomes in travel that have disrupted the industry over the course of 2020. Whilst the pandemic has largely allowed flexibility around booking and re-booking, it gives us all that anticipation to plan and prepare the first proper holiday once that is safe to do so. Whether you’ll wait to hit the slopes for the upcoming winter spots season or catch some sun in an all-inclusive destination, Julie Hepworth created a carefully curated list of her top picks to start planning the perfect escape.
Location: Meribel, les 3 Valleys
Nearest Airports: Chambrey, Geneva, Lyon
Best suited to: Families & couples
Why we love it:
The uber-efficient, knowledgeable & friendly in-house ski room (we doubt you’ll find better…)
The fact that the property is ski-in, ski-out, directly on the slopes
Afternoon tea & crepe station in the cosy bar; ideal for refueling après ski
The spacious rooms & suites work brilliantly for families, and there are enough cosy nooks & crannies around the hotel for couples to hideaway too…
During the week leading up to Christmas last year, we swapped the crowded, frantic, London high-streets for the quiet, vast slopes of Meribel – and what a brilliant decision that was. Le Coucou had just opened its doors and we were thrilled to see it in the flesh.
What sets Le Coucou apart? First and foremost, the interiors are quite unique for an Alpine hotel – contemporary, warm, elegant & subtly quirky, masterminded by Pierre Yovanovitch – the French interior designer. The 55 rooms – 39 of which are suites – all have a terrace and are wonderfully spacious.
Skiing is a brilliant holiday to arrange with friends and extended family and, as such, the hotel has sought to accommodate larger groups travelling together. There are two four-bedroom chalets which are independent to the hotel but connected via an indoor passageway. Each one has four bedrooms, four bathrooms, a large lounge opening out onto a balcony with views of the slopes, a dining room, a games & TV room, a pool & private sauna, boot room with ski-in, ski-out access and full use of the hotel facilities.
We’re definite converts to pre-Christmas skiing… quiet slopes, complete escapism from festive preparations and generally good snow. Just be prepared for the odd day off the slopes when a December snowstorm blows in. February half-term and early Easter will also work brilliantly here, as you are in the heart of the Three Valleys, you’re only a gondola ride away from the higher-altitude slopes in Courchevel 1860 and Val Thorens for late-season skiing.
Auberge Mauna Lani l Rosewood Hotel Georgia
Location: Vancouver, Campbell River & Hawaii
Nearest Airports: Vancouver & Kona
Best suited to: Anyone who loves the great outdoors…
Why we love it:
The cool, fresh interiors at Auberge Mauna Lani and the ‘Auberge’ ethos on maintaining a connection to the local culture
The cedar & glass lodges at Sonara Resort with spectacular ocean views
The Art Deco features of the Rosewood Hotel Georgia in downtown Vancouver
To experience one of the world’s finest outdoor playgrounds, consider a week on Hawaii’s second-largest island, Maui. Learn to surf, paddle an outrigger, swim in the island’s seven sacred pools (& waterfalls), snorkel, dive and join the ‘Morning Ocean swim clinic’ – if you’re an early-riser. We’re very excited about the brand-spanking new Auberge Maui, Lani; their two bedroom, beachfront bungalows with private pools are hard to beat for families. The Keiki-only explorers club is an outdoor base-camp designed like a rustic tropical hideaways with tree swings, hammocks and a big sandbox for shell hunting. Young kids will spend their days involved in sandcastle-building contests, beach bonfire storytelling and making s’mores. For older children, there are fabulous mountain bike tracks, hikes and kayaking, and beach yoga & cross-training for the fitness fanatics.
Hawaii combines wonderfully with British Columba (a direct, five-hour flight from Vancouver) so we’d recommend spending a few nights in Vancouver on the way out. And if you have time, head north to Sonora Resort – a wilderness lodge set in dense forests on the water’s edge in British Columbia’s Inside Passage. Activities on offer include world-famous salmon fishing, guided eco-tours by rib boat, close-up views of grizzly bears, orcas, sea lions and dolphins, remote glacier tours by helicopter, and riding ocean rapids. There are some brilliant mountain-bike tracks and hikes directly from the hotels for more independent exploring. The resort is also Relaid-Chateaux so foodies will be immensely happy.
Warehouse Hotel Singapore & Capella, Ubud l Bawah Reserve
Location: Singapore, Bali & the Riau Islands, Indonesia
Nearest Airports: Singapore & Denpasar
Best suited to: Warehouse Hotel, Singapore & Capella, Ubus (both suited best to couples), Bawah Reserve (works brilliantly for both)
Why we love it:
The Warehouse Singapore for the breath-taking interior design & innovative Singaporean cuisine
Capella Ubud for Bali Bensley’s innovative, playful design in a pristine rainforest setting
Bawah Reserve for the bamboo eco-villas and focus on sustainability and conservation
If, like us, you love your hotels to have lashings of local flavor, consider The Warehouse Hotel the next time you’re passing through Singapore. A conversion of thee adjacent Spice Trade warehouses, built in 1895, (known locally as ‘godowns’), the hotel combines its heritage quite brilliantly with contemporary interiors & an innovative, fresh and personal approach to hospitality, a unique offering in Singapore. A member of the Design Hotel group, the lobby will undoubtedly take your breath away, and the 37 rooms, impeccably designed, have wonderfully high ceilings and the cheekiest approach to room amenities we’ve ever seen. You should be….
Last but not least, the dining at in-house restaurant, ‘Po’, will make you want to return again & again; serving local Singaporean hawker classics and elevating them to refined, restaurant-worthy fishes is their USP, and they do it brilliantly.
Taking a sustainable approach to travel is definitely on our minds as we go into 2020. If it’s important to you too, ask us about hotels and lodges such as these that have a sustainable mindset. The impact on the local community is so important, there are some brilliant practices out there so if you’d like to explore these as you decide where to go & where to stay in 2020, talk to us. Greenwashing is rife in the travel industry, so don’t just think that ‘eco’ ticks the box.
COMO Cocoa Island & Maalifushi
Location: South Male & Thaa Atolls, Maldives
Nearest Airports: Male (40-minnute speedboat or seaplane)
Best suited to: Cocoa Islands is best suited to couples (and families who don’t need a kids club), Maalifushi works well for both couples and families
Why we love it:
The pristine beach & the incredible house-reef
The newly refurbished Dhoni Loft Villas at COMO Cocoa Island
The impressive dive-centre
The ingenious menu ensuring
Choosing an island to stay on in the Maldives is not straight-forward as they are not all made equal. Some are accessed by speedboat, others by seaplanes. Some islands have a spectacular, easily accessible reef whilst for others you’ll need to hop on a speedboat to swim with turtles, ray & reef sharks. Some islands have a wide sandy beach whereas others are not so blessed. And the focus on sustainability is not consistent either; fortunately, a few islands are now focusing on the environmental impact – no means feat in the Maldives where produce has to be flown in, waste management practices are generally poor, and solar energy panels are fat & few between.
This said, the two COMO resorts – Cocoa Island and Maalifushi – offer an abundance of reasons. First off, the staff are brilliant; attentive, genuine & very personal. Second, the focus on wellness is evident not only in the daily yoga, pilates, state-of-the-art gym and sublime spa treatments, but also in the COMO SHAMBHALA menu which offers tasty, lighter meals in addition to a wonderfully diverse a la carte. Furthermore, the beaches – particularly at Cocoa Island – are amongst the best in the Maldives; wide expanses and fine sand that extends through to the restaurants for relaxed feet-in-sand dining. Likewise, for the house reef at both resorts, a breath-taking display of marine life directly accessible from your private deck, and Marine Biologists on site too who are busy tracking whale-shark movements in the area and offering daily guided snorkel & dive trips. And finally, we were thrilled to see an immaculate, organic kitchen garden at Maalfushi; herbs & vegetables grown locally with no fertilisers or pesticides.
Accommodation is either over-water or beach-front. Ask us about our favourite suites & villas; we’d love to share our top tips with you.
Julie Hepworth is the Founder and Director of My Native – a London-based travel company that delivers exceptional luxury travel experiences to individuals, couples, and groups of friends. Focused on providing a truly unique and bespoke holiday, My Native’s global destination information is always current, insightful and personal. With 20 years of experience in the luxury travel industry, we will only entrust your holiday with partners we know and trust to ensure you the perfect getaway.