10 Best short-haul beach destinations to visit in 2021

For many of us, an annual beach holiday feels like a necessity – a moment of calm and respite from our otherwise hectic lives. Most of us missed out on our beach holiday in 2020, which is why we’re looking ahead to 2021 and planning our top beach destinations for that all import week (or two) in the sun. Whether you enjoy powdery sand, rugged coastlines or bustling beachside towns – we have the perfect beach destinations for all, plus the best hotels to stay in when you’re there. Now is the ideal time to book in our incredible Black November Sale, where you can book ahead for your 2021 beach holiday.

1. Croatia

Crikvenica. Image: Getty

Exponentially gaining popularity over the past few years, Croatia is now the go-to beach destination for European travellers seeking sun, sea and delicious food. With its vast rugged coastline and offshore islands, Croatia offers something for every style of holiday; be it kicking-back on the beach with a fruity cocktail in hand, or an intrepid city stay complete with port-side glamour and elegance. Often overlooked for the livelier spots in the south, Crikvenica in northern Croatia is a delightful coastal municipality developed on a Roman settlement. If you’re looking for coastal charm, then Novigrad to the west and the island of Krk with its sandy beaches sound like the ultimate places for you. For peaceful beachside bliss, head to the sundrenched south and explore Vodice; a coastal town perfect for family holidays. Check out Male Vrijule Beach which is ideal for kids. Read our guide to the best beaches and swim spots in Croatia for more information and to plan your trip.

Where to stay in Croatia:

Miramare Hotel Crikvenica

Hotel Vinotel Gospoja, Vrbnik

Hotel Nautica, Novigrad

Hotel Olympia Sky, Vodice

2. Monaco

Monaco. Image: Getty

While it might be known for the Grand Prix and its famous clientele, Monaco is, in fact, a delightful location for a short beach break to soak up some sun. Fancy a taste of the high life for less? How about a trip to Monte Carlo where you can live out all your James Bond fantasies in the world-class casinos, and sip on a martini as you take in the gorgeous sights of the port below. If horticulture is a passion of yours, you’ll be pleased to learn that Monaco has taken pride in cultivating some gorgeous gardens for you to peruse in its surrounding area. While you’re here, be sure to check out the Japanese Garden, The Casino Gardens and the Exotic Garden of Monaco which sits high up into the cliffs.

Where to stay in Monaco:

Fairmont Monte Carlo, Monaco

3. Greece – Kos, Rhodes & Crete

Elounda, Crete. Image: Getty

Greece is a beloved destination for most beach-enthusiasts and with its numerous islands, roaring sunsets and fulfilling food, its no wonder we keep going back again and again. The Dodecanese islands of Kos and Rhodes make for a fantastic two week holiday since they are easily accessible from one to the other via ferry. For fantastic local information and insights, read our secret guide to Rhodes and Kos. If a livelier holiday is on the cards, we suggest a beach holiday to Crete, the largest of the Greek islands. From incredible archaeological treasures in Heraklion to the charming Old-Town life in Chania to the sun-soaked beaches in Lasithi, Crete has it all.

Where to stay in Greece:

Sheraton Rhodes Resort, Rhodes

Cayo Exclusive Resort & Spa, Greek Islands

Cosmopolitan Hotel & Spa, Katerini

Michelangelo Resort & Spa, Greek Islands

Vathi Cove Luxury Resort & Spa, Thassos

4. Montenegro

Kotor. Image: Getty

Nestled in the Balkans in southeast Europe lies a tiny but oh-so-beautiful country with so much to offer. Montenegro is on our up-and-coming watch list as we think it will be a top destination for future travel. One of the best ways to experience Montenegro (and its neighbour Croatia) is via boat. Could there be anything more dreamy than a sailing trip around these stunning coastal gems, complete with crystalline turquoise waters? If you’re looking for breathtaking natural beauty, not much will compare to Kotor. Complete with Roman, Byzantine, Renaissance and Baroque palaces, castles and cathedrals it’s a fairytale land set amongst a tranquil natural backdrop of mountains and sea. On the contrary, Budva is now a sprightly metropolis and the centre of Montenegro’s tourism trade. Complete with festivals, bars, nightclubs and its own mini offshore island – it’s a fantastic destination to enjoy a little of everything.

Where to stay in Montenegro:

The Chedi Lustica Bay, Tivat

5. Dubai

Jumeirah Beach & Skyscrapers. Image: Getty

The glamorous and elegant Dubai is a sure-fire way to experience sun and great weather year-round. In Dubai, you have the option to enjoy city life as well as beachside bliss on the same holiday. Experience the local culture through the ornate mosques and architecture of the old town in Al Fahidi, and marvel at the modern world-famous attractions such as the fountains, impressive malls and eye-popping skyscrapers. Plus, dine on some of the most exquisite food in the world’s most exclusive and highly-regarded restaurants. If you plan on travelling around Dubai and want to find out the top things to see and do, you can read our guide from Dubai to Muscat, an Arabian road trip adventure.

Where to stay in Dubai:

Oaks Ibn Battuta Gate Dubai, UAE

6. Balearic Islands – Mallorca

Calo des Moro. Image: Getty

Mallorca might have once been known as the place for all-night partying, but this Balaeric beauty deserves so much more credit. From its pristine beaches to the rugged and splendid natural beauty of the UNESCO World Heritage Sierra de Tramuntana mountain range, to the old-town charm and of course the mouthwatering local food, Mallorca is as diverse as it is welcoming. We highly suggest hiring a car for your Mallorcan adventure and heading to the farthest points south on the island where the beaches of Calo Des Marmols and Calo des Moro appear somewhat untouched and are perfect for a day lazing on the warm sand. We’ve rounded up more of Mallorca’s hidden gems for you to uncover. Also known as a place for wellness retreats and relaxation, read our guide to Mallorca’s wellness scene if you plan on recentering your chi.

Where to stay in Mallorca:

Maritim Hotel Galatzó, Spain

GPRO Valparaiso Palace Hotel & Spa, Spain

7. The Canary Islands – Lanzarote & Fuerteventura

Corralejo, Fuerteventura. Image: Getty

The sun-drenched Canary Islands float off the coast of North Africa and while they are volcanic islands, their beaches are surprisingly covered in golden sand. Although it may be hard to drag yourself away from your luxury hotel and pool, we highly recommend hiring a car and exploring these island beauties. In Lanzarote, take a trip to Timanfaya National Park where enormous volcanic eruptions that took place around 300 years ago carved out an impressive new landscape, and Cueva de los Verdes, one of the longest volcanic caves in the world.  While volcanic activity in Fuerteventura is very much dormant, the island is lively in other ways. It’s the perfect place to go hiking, cycling, and to try your hand at a whole host of water sports. We highly recommend taking a trip to Cofete beach; a 15-kilometre wild and rugged stretch of remote beach within the Jandia Natural Park (be warned, many hire car companies won’t insure you for this off-road route).

Where to stay in The Canary Islands:

Bahiazul Villas & Club, Canary Islands

Secrets Lanzarote Resort & Spa, Spain

Dreams Lanzarote Playa Dorada Resort & Spa, Spain

8. Portugal – Algarve

Albufeira. Image: Getty

Portugal’s Algarve region is the ideal place for a holiday in the sun. The Algarve is comprised of 16 municipalities with some of the most popular and well-known being Albufeira, Faro and Lagos. While these are certainly all spectacular in their own right, we would be amiss not to pay tribute to some of the neighbouring areas; such as Monchique, where the green rolling hills are a welcome and cool escape from the scorching beaches below; and quaint and charming Tavira with its fields of orange trees, glorious empty beaches, ornate churches and medieval castle that offers panoramic views of the surrounding countryside and vast open sea.

Where to stay in the Algarve:

Hilton Vilamoura As Cascatas Golf Resort & Spa, Portugal

9. Spain – Malaga

Mijas. Image: iStock

Colourful, vibrant, warm and full of life; these are just a few of the ways you can describe Spain’s southernmost autonomous region. If you’re interested in learning about its unofficial capital, you can find out more in our guide to Seville, including the best spots for tasty and authentic tapas. For those whose sole purpose of holidaying here is to hit the beaches, then Malaga is your target. While Marbella is known for flashy beach clubs and shiny yacht parties, there are plenty of alternatives when seeking sun, such as Mijas; a small municipality located on the coast with beautiful white houses dotted on the cliff edge and calm, relaxing beaches. With almost year-round sunshine, the Costa del Sol is aptly named and the ideal spot for some sunbathing.

Where to stay in Malaga:

Higueron Hotel Málaga Curio Collection by Hilton, Spain

10. Italy – Livorno & Sardinia

Stagno di Notteri, Sardinia. Image: Getty

Beaches may not be the first things that come to mind when thinking about Tuscany, since its Renaissance architecture, art and wine regions often steal the glory. However, the port city of Livorno is actually a fantastic place to be beside the sea and a lovely bolt-on to a trip to Florence or Cinque Terre. There is a small archipelago that floats off the coast where you will find the stunning island of Elba – for want of better words ‘an island paradise’. If you’re looking for your more traditional Italian beach destination then Sardinia could be the place for you. Home to outstanding beaches, you can also find archaeological remnants of the Neolithic civilization, remarkable mountainsides for rock climbing, sensational seafood and plenty of outdoor pursuits such as kayaking and canoeing. While there are hundreds of beaches to choose from in this Tyrrenhian Sea idyll, Port Giunco is as close to the Caribbean as you can get with its powder white sand and crystalline blue water – it’s heavenly.

Where to stay in Italy:

Grand Hotel Palazzo Livorno