Vacationers looking for a European vacation centered on lots of sunshine, warm water and beautiful scenery have many options to choose from, with France, Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal offering an eclectic mix of seaside resorts and golden-sand beaches. Here are five of the best:
1. Côte d’Azur, Provence, France
This stretch of coastline, known as the French Riviera, boasts crystalline seas and charming, winding streets. The region includes not only the well-known (and oft-filmed) hot spots of Cannes and St-Tropez, but also gorgeous beaches and scenery along the coastal roads between Nice and Monaco.
If you’re looking for luxury lodgings, there’s no better place than the five-star Grand-Hotel du Cap-Ferrat, situated on a peninsula that juts into the Mediterranean. The elegant early 20th-Century building was recently updated and eight of its suites have private swimming pools. The grounds and rooms offer breathtaking views of the coastline and ocean.
2. Mykonos, Greece
One of the small islands in the Aegean Sea, Mykonos boasts a diverse mix of beaches, with many of the best located on the south shore of the island. Popular south coast beaches include Elia, Psarou and Platys Gialos; all are perfect for swimming and strolling on the fine-textured sand.
The Mykonos Grand Hotel & Resort, situated on the lovely AyiosYiannis beach, is an upscale destination a short distance from Paradise Beach, known for its spectacular sunsets and beach-club parties. The five-star property’s amenities include a spa, a swimming pool, fitness center, tennis and squash courts.
3. Capri, Italy
This mountainous island is located just off the Sorrento peninsula in southern Italy. Marina di Mulo is considered the best beach on the south side of the island, while Bagni di Tiberio has a reputation for being the best on the north coast.
The Capri Palace, which adjoins one of the island’s many beaches, is a top choice for lodgings. It features 65 glamorous rooms, 12 suites and three top-notch restaurants. Guests are rewarded with stunning views of the island of Ischia and the Bay of Naples.
4. Ibiza, Spain
The third largest of the Balearic Islands just off the coast of Catalonia, Ibiza is a rocky archipelago that draws tourists in search of relaxing beaches by day and a red-hot nightlife after sunset.
The island’s 10-mile coastline is home to more than 50 beaches, ranging from quiet coves to festive spots like Las Salinas, known for its daytime beach parties. This mile-long, crescent-shaped beach, located on the south side of the island, is perfect for swimming, snorkeling and water sports.
One of the best hotels on the island is Ibiza Gran Hotel in Ibiza Town on the southeast coast. Set next to a marina, it features 157 rooms, including suites with private heated outdoor pools. The property’s perks include a spa and a casino, exceptional views of the Mediterranean and proximity to the island’s longest beach, Playa d’enBossa.
5. Madeira, Portugal
This stunning island southwest of Lisbon is a popular year-round resort. Its diverse beaches run the gamut: some have golden sand, some feature black volcanic sand and some are pebbled instead of sandy. But all are bordered by warm, sparkling water that beckons those looking to swim, surf or engage in water sports. Porto da Cruz and Praia da Ribeira Brava are two gems among the island’s many beaches.
Reid’s Palace Hotel, built more than 120 years ago on a cliff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, is the ultimate Madeira retreat, with 128 rooms and 35 suites and grounds that feature internationally renowned subtropical gardens. The hotel’s amenities include three swimming pools (two with sea water), and a luxurious spa.