01 Sleep: Hard Rock Hotel, Riviera Maya, Mexico
As soon as you see the iconic Hard Rock guitar poking out of the jungle, you know you’re in for a good time – and in good hands. From the cocktails served upon check-in (in jam jars, naturally) to the classic Fender guitars delivered to your room, this all-inclusive, five-star pleasure palace will rock your world. Choose from Heaven for adults-only or Hacienda for families, two distinct mini-resorts that guests can move between by golf buggy, and prepare yourself for some A-list entertainment. There’s amazing music memorabilia on display everywhere you look – Madonna’s pointy bra over here; Elvis’s actual bathrobe over there – free Sound.
Of Your Stay playlists to maintain the mood, and the opportunity to strut your stuff in front of a live audience with Jam Band, which gives guests the chance to play rock star for the day. And it’s not just music on the menu: dining options encompass authentic Mexican at Los Gallos, Italian at Ciao and French at Le Petit Cochon. If you can drag yourself away from the beautiful beach area, there’s also a Rock Spa and Body Rock gym.
Location: Just an hour’s drive from Cancun Airport, the Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya sits on the gorgeous Gulf of Mexico and is surrounded by calm coast and dense jungle.
Throughout the Quintana Roo region you’ll find all sorts of cenotes, or underground lakes, which offer unforgettable swimming and diving experiences. For a night on the town, Playa del Carmen is only 25 km away by taxi; while trendy Tulum is well worth a look, and just 50km to the south.
Highlights: Reserve a cabana over the sea, then lie back and relax, piña colada in hand, as shoals of tropical fish twinkle beneath you. If you need to cool down, grab a snorkel and dive in. Alternatively, stay in your suite, call room service and fire up the hot tub – the ultimate crowd-pleaser.
02 Sleep: Sentido Apollo Blue, Rhodes, Greece
Think luxury was a concept that came about after Ancient Greece had fallen? Think again. The Greeks invented the art of opulence thousands of years ago – and just one day at the Sentido Apollo Blue, a five-star hotel on the sun-kissed island of Rhodes, will show you how thoroughly they’ve now perfected it. At this bright and welcoming resort, modern comfort (hello, plush pillow menu) and convenience (including Wi-Fi, satellite TV and in-room tea and coffee facilities) combine with ancient Greek architecture (check out the imposing, Hellenic-style columns dotted throughout the grounds) and glorious waterfront views.
Location: Culture, crazy nights out or just chilling on the beach – your holiday is whatever you want it to be at Sentido Apollo Blue. Faliraki, Rhodes’ thumping party town, is just a short stroll (or stumble) away, and centuries-old stories abound in Rhodes’ Old Town, an easy 12km journey from the hotel, which was designated a Unesco heritage site in 1988.
Highlights: Can you think of anything better than having a massage while staring out at the ocean? We can’t. Sentido Apollo Blue’s wellness centre and spa offers just that, alongside an impressive list of massages and beauty treatments, as well as a steam room, sauna and Jacuzzi. The hotel also has a body and mind programme, with aqua fit and daybreak classes – the latter a restorative combination of tai chi, yoga and pilates accompanied by calming music.
03 Sleep: Los Jameos Playa, Lanzarote, Spain
Seaside Los Jameos Playa is one of those rare hotels that’s substantial in size but still manages to feel as intimate and attentive as a boutique property. Charm is the key – think shabby-chic dressers, cute and chintzy bedding, and wicker tables and chairs in each of the 530 rooms.
Location: A short drive from Arrecife Airport, Los Jameos Playa can be found on Los Pocillos beach, a gorgeous, expansive crescent of sand with lapping turquoise waters and neat rows of colourful sun-loungers and umbrellas. The beach itself is wonderfully quiet (although watersports are available should you get itchy feet), and the spot is hard to beat: from here you can take a short walk either along the promenade to the west to the buzzy resort of Playa del Carmen, or east to the island’s cool capital, Arrecife.
Highlights: What could top the exquisite 250-platter gala dinner served at the hotel’s signature restaurant? Only the sommelier’s astounding wine list, one of the island’s finest, which purveys vintages from five island domaines including El Grifo – which you can read more about on page 23. After an evening of gourmet indulgence, swing by the Piano Bar for a digestif in supremely elegant surroundings.
04 Party: Cinetrip Sparty, Budapest, Hungary
In a city that’s legendary for its spas and its nightlife, it was only a matter of time before some clever clogs brought the two together. Cinetrip, the brains behind Sparty, began these partiesin-a-spa (get it?) in 2007. The first was held at the 16th-century Rudas thermal baths, complete with laser light shows, DJ sets, acrobatics and plenty of booze. The events have proved such a success that within a few years they had to move to a larger venue. They’re now held weekly at Szechenyi, an incredibly vast indoor/outdoor bathhouse with 18 pools.
Highlights: Sparty is no ordinary pool party, so prepare yourself for a night you’ll never forget. When we visited, the temperature outside was a chilly 5°C – not the kind of weather you’d usually choose to strip down to your swimmers in. But the thermal waters here are a delicious 30°C, and after a sip or two of liquid courage (palinka for the initiated; beer for those not quite there yet), you’ll be ready to take off your robe and join the throngs of pool partygoers dancing awkwardly (hey, it’s not easy to dance in waist-high water) to a mix of house tunes and Euro hits.
If you only have one day: Looking for a more relaxed spa experience? Well, Szechenyi is open from 6am every day, with fresh thermal waters pumped from springs 1,000m below street level, steam rooms and saunas, massage treatments and more. Art-nouveau Gellert spa is another of our favourites, with private hot-tub treatments if you really want to splash out.
05 Eat: Galvin Bistrot de Luxe, London, UK
In our book, Baker Street is famous for two things: that fictional detective and Madame Tussauds. It’s a touristy destination, usually visited for a few obligatory snaps, and most of its restaurants cater for that market: think uninspiring chains and sandwich shops. But that’s most, not all. Because this is also the home of one of London’s finest French restaurants: Galvin Bistrot de Luxe. The first offering from the Galvin brothers (there are now a handful sprinkled across the capital), it epitomises Parisian elegance with its rich, mahogany dining space, immaculate white linen-covered tables and sultry lighting. The food is very well priced – from three courses for £15.50 on the set menu – and the quality is exceptional. The Atlantic cod comes with a pillowy-soft celeriac mash; the classic steak tartare (left) is succulent with a pleasingly peppery kick; and the apple tarte tatin melts in your mouth with its wonderful caramel tones.
BOOK IT: galvinrestaurants.com
06 Party: Coco Bongo, Cancun, Mexico
After the sun goes down, Cancun really starts to heat up. In the past decade or two, the city has carved out a reputation as Mexico’s top party destination, and some say it’s all down to one club: Coco Bongo. This phenomenal venue was one of the first to open along Cancun’s hotel strip, and since then no other has come close to matching its energy, electric atmosphere and infectious party spirit. What can you expect from Coco Bongo? In short, the unexpected. Acrobats perform mind-boggling contortions; conga lines snake all the way through the club; live bands (think Guns N’ Roses one moment, a Broadway-style rendition of Chicago the next) will blow you away; and you’ll barely be able to move for balloons, foam and glittering confetti falling from the sky. Ladies, do not wear heels – you’ll be dancing all night long.
BOOK IT: cocobongo.com