It is easy to be overwhelmed by choice when booking a beach holiday. Our planet has 350,000km of coastline, much of it perfect for laying a towel on. TripAdvisor, a travel website, has published a selection of the 25 most highly rated shores, from Australia to Zanzibar. Unfortunately, it gives no clues as to which ones will give you the best tan for the best price.
I learned this first hand. I once booked a trip to the sparkling sand and azure waters of Grace Bay in Turks and Caicos, TripAdvisor’s top pick, only to spend nearly half of it under a dripping umbrella. Rain loungers aren’t much fun. So the first step in this data-driven guide to beach holidays is a simple one: check the weather.
Since exotic breaks aren’t cheap, you may want a destination where at least three-quarters of days are rain-free. That rules out Turks and Caicos, according to Weather-Atlas.com, and plenty of others on TripAdvisor’s list: the top spots in the Seychelles, the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica, as well as Brazil’s Baia do Sancho, Australia’s Manly Beach, and Britain’s quaint seaside resort of Bournemouth. The best beaches in Tanzania and Jamaica would pass only for a couple of months each year.
Next on the checklist are accommodation and access. Readers will love the crystal waters of Egypt’s Sharm El Luli and Greece’s Elafonissi Lagoon, but not the lack of decent places to stay within five miles. Listings from Expedia, a bookings website, show a dearth of four-star hotels near the best beaches in the Galápagos Islands, Cape Verde, Goa in India or Lampedusa in Italy – you may be better off renting via Airbnb.
Google Flights, an airline aggregator, suggests that to get to those destinations can be a slog, but not as hard as White Beach in the Philippines, which usually takes at least 24 hours from either London or New York.
Of the other options, the Cayman Islands and Florida’s Clearwater Beach are pricey: hotel rooms cost at least $270 (£205) a night in high season. They are half that rate in Mexico’s Playa Norte, and even less at the postcard-perfect Varadero Beach in Cuba or Eagle Beach in Aruba. The latter is largely rain-free for eight months a year.
Flights from America to the Caribbean cost about $400; Europeans pay about twice as much. But on their doorstep are cheap and cheerful options, including Spain’s La Concha, Portugal’s Falesia and Cyprus’s Fig Tree Bay.
The winner must surely be Turkey’s Kleopatra Beach: less than £200 to fly from most European capitals, and not much more for a week in a hotel. With an average of just three days of rain between June and August, you may even get to enjoy your sun lounger.
Top five beaches for average user rating (On TripAdvisor)
Top five beaches for lack of rain
Top five beaches for cheap hotels (4* rated, on Expedia.com)
Top five beaches for cheap London flights (return in economy)