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First resorts
Mark C O'Flaherty reports on some of the most exclusive high-class holiday locations of 2010. Book early to avoid disappointment.

After years in the custody of raving backpackers, this still splendid Thai island is experiencing a high-end renaissance with a W Resort and a Nikki Beach joining the Four Seasons in the five-star plus category.

Forget the Full Moon shenanigans and the karaoke of Chaweng to the north, the secluded stretch of Lamai that is now occupied by the newest of the Banyan Trees is where you want to be.

A landscaped tropical amphitheatre of a resort leads down to a stretch of idyllic sand and palm trees. This is as close to a private-island as you’ll find in the Gulf.

The rest of the coast to the south is more public but still peaceful, dotted with cute budget shacks as well as the hot pink and Helevticabold boutique stylings of the new Langham Place, home to CHA, one of the best restaurants on the island.

Stay at: Banyan Tree, 99/9 Moo 4 Maret, Koh Samui, Surat Thani, Thailand from £440 a night (www.banyantree.com; tel: +6677 915 333).

As Beirut has soared once again, to vertigo-inducing heights of cool, the ripple effect has seen neighbouring Byblos on the coast up its game. The oldest inhabited city in the world (dating back to 5,000 BC) has turned into the Middle Eastern answer to St Tropez. Chic Lebanese and in-the-know Saudis flock to the Edde Sands beach club to holiday and wed. Tomas Maier bikinis and Chanel sunglasses are a fixture at the water’s edge and there’s a marina full of dazzling luxury yachts. Life on the shore around Byblos is one long cocktail soiree. Away from the waterfront there’s a photogenic cobbled souk to wander, shop and dine in, as Byblos has some of the best fish restaurants in the country. While the architecture veers towards the biblical and historical, this is nothing old-fashioned about this seaside resort. Parties tend to go on around the clock while posing and people watching has been honed to a fine art.

Stay at: The beach front bungalows at the Edde Sands Hotel and Wellness Resort, Byblos Riviera, Lebanon from £150 a night (www.eddesandsresort.com; tel: +961 954 6666)

Playa Migjorn, FORMENTERA
Ibiza may be enjoying another cyclical moment as a sophisticated and fashionable island getaway, but unless you’re in a villa in the hills you’re unlikely to find solitude and you’ll have to make do with a pool rather than the sea. Formentera is half an hour away by ferry and very low key in comparison to the larger island. There are beach bars but nothing obtrusive or unavoidable, and the water is dreamy clear and cobalt blue. This year’s revamp of the Gecko Beach Club, with lots of bright and breezy contemporary pale oak and white accents has brought the discerning sun worshippers back to Playa Migjorn, the best stretch of beach on the island. The architecture is reminiscent of the barefoot luxury posadas of Uruguay, but the sea is positively Caribbean. A word of warning for the bashful: Formentera is as much of a draw for naturists as it is for the likes of Sienna Miller and Leonardo DiCaprio.

Stay at: Gecko Beach Club, Playa Migjorn, Ca Maria, Formentera, Balearic Islands, Spain, from £270 a night (www.geckobeachclub.com; tel: +34 971 328 024).

Florianópolis, BRAZIL
If Brazil could be summed up by one piece of contemporary design it’s the Havaianas flipflop – made for a nation that lives for today, on the beach, in the sun.

Tourists may flock to Ipanema and Christ the Redeemer but native Brazilians prefer the 42 white sand beaches around the island city of Florianópolis – or Floripa for short – in the south. Chic, up-tempo, wealthy and youthful, there’s hedonism aplenty if you’re in the market for it but you can also find secluded, romantic and peaceful beaches.

The diving and snorkelling are also among the best in South America. The west-side beaches have calm waters, while surfers and white water rafters head to the east. Floripa is consistently hailed as having the best quality of life of any city in the country.

Stay at: One of the Oasis private apartments or villas, which come with a concierge service and can house up to ten people, from £160-£3,800 a night depending on size (www.oasisfloripa.com; tel: +1 631 731 1677).

Costa Navarino, GREECE
This is virgin Ionian seaside territory; a stretch of gorgeous coastline in Messinia in the southwest Peloponnese flanked by olive groves and the cinematic Navarino Dunes.

Until recently there was absolutely nothing here. The first resort to open was the Romanos, a contemporary-themed Luxury Collection property that welcomed its first guests in May. Another Westin Resort followed and a Banyan Tree is on the way for 2012.

Next to arrive will be eco-luxe developments at Navarino Bay and Navarino Hills: luxury homes and golfing that will teeter at the very top of the market. With a holistic approach to luxury and little else in the area to mar the fivestar ambience, this dramatic sweep of Greek coastline looks set to be the Mediterranean beach destination par excellence for the new decade and beyond.

Stay at: The Romanos, Navarino Dunes, Costa Navarino, Messinia, 24001 Greece from £320 a night (www.romanoscostanavarino.com).


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