Mia Resort, Nha Trang, Vietnam

Nha Trang has been voted one of the ten best beach destinations in the world, with year-round warm waters and long stretches of sand. Mia Resort is the ideal place to enjoy this sunny part of central Vietnam. Just outside the main city, this seaside hotel is accessible yet blissfully isolated. A daily complimentary shuttle takes guests to and from town for city exploring though most prefer to take advantage of the idyllic Mia sanctuary.

After a hellish 11-hour train journey we were more than relieved to pull up to the Mia entrance. The staff at the front desk were warm and welcoming and my stressful day instantly became a distant memory. A no-fuss check-in was complete within seconds and we were whisked away to room 507, a peaceful cliff villa.

With 70 rooms, of varying sizes, and more multi-bedroom villas on the way, Mia is a popular and burgeoning resort. A recent refresh of all rooms has brightened the décor with splashes of colour and pattern without complicating the chic simplicity of the design. Our room was the perfect holiday home, extremely comfortable with indulgent touches. A giant four-poster bed was topped with stripy pillows and surrounded by elegant drapes. The furnishings blend in appropriately with the rugged natural backdrop, particularly charming are the rustic stone wall and wooden details.

The spacious bathroom was a refuge for relaxation, with a grand granite bathtub, indoor and outdoor showers and own brand toiletries. I adored the cornflower blue linen dressing gowns, made especially for Mia by designer Gary Fell. On the private terrace there was a spectacular infinity splash pool, a sheltered lounge area with a hammock, and deck chairs for soaking up the tropical rays.

I was happy just enjoying the villa, but when hunger struck I eventually ventured out for some sustenance. Breakfast is served at Sandals, a breezy open plan dining area with views of the ocean. The endless array of Vietnamese and Continental dishes was a little overwhelming, and there is the a la carte menu to choose from too! After a round of exotic fruits and pastries I opted for the homemade orange and cinnamon infused pancakes with almond crumble, balsamic marinated strawberries and rosemary honey – a creative and tasty morning treat.

Leave time to experience the impressive Xanh Spa, a magical cliff edge pavilion for pampering. A 45-minute relaxing body massage is all you need to get your body into holiday mode. The therapists are intuitive and kind, kneading away at tense knots and warming the muscles with nourishing essential oils.

With warm weather year round Nha Trang is a great place to escape Europe’s chilly winters. Mia translates to sugarcane, a local Vietnamese crop, and everything about this beachside resort is sweet, from the devoted staff to the superb facilities and accommodation.

More information and book a room at Mia Resort here.

The Best of Port Douglas, Australia

Much of Australia’s East Coast seems to exist purely for tourists with tacky design and fast food outlets lining the streets. Port Douglas is different, a charming seaside town with a laid-back vibe, boutique shops and independent restaurants (such as Harrisons restaurant and Origin Espresso cafe).

There are a few lovely hotels in the area, though I recommend staying at the characterful and unique Artist’s Treehouse. This quirky three-bedroom house was once the home of Tina and Matt Gonsalves, and their gorgeous art collection still adorns the walls. You will find everything you need here and more, from cooking and washing facilities to the collection of interesting books, games and DVDs. This creative sanctuary provided the perfect home for my three days in Port Douglas, and it was a refreshing break from hotels and hostels. The couple also have a few other properties in the area, all eclectically decorated and available to rent from Airbnb or directly.

Port Douglas is the best base for Great Barrier Reef exploring. After extensive research I decided to take the ‘Outer Reef Cruise’ with Quicksilver. It is a 90- minute journey to the Agincourt ribbon reefs where Quicksilver have a spacious reef activity platform. From here you can snorkel, dive or see the underwater world from the comfort of their semi-submersible boat. This location is an optimum place to see the colourful coral, tropical fish and, if you are lucky, you might even spot reef sharks, turtles and stingrays. A buffet lunch and snorkeling equipment are provided.

For a bit of pampering head to QT, the town’s most stylish hotel. I enjoyed a blissfully relaxing custom facial at their spa. My therapist Tara used a range of the soothing Uspa products to deeply cleanse and moisturise my sun-worn skin. As she used the vitamin C rich lotions I could feel my skin tingle, and the radiant effects were clearly visible after the treatment. QT is also popular with guests and locals for its Bazaar buffet brunch. Order a freshly made omelette or waffles, or just enjoy the comprehensive exotic fruit and cereal selection.

Many tourists visiting Port Douglas will fly in and out of nearby Cairns. If you find yourself with a day or two here, dine at Tamarind for upmarket Thai cuisine, sample the award-winning coffee at Blackbird (order a ‘magic’) and try the delicious organic lunch dishes at Noa.

I recommend hiring a car in Cairns and driving to Port Douglas along the Captain Cook Highway for one of Australia’s best coastal drives. It takes just an hour, but you may like to stop for photos at Palm Cove on the way. A rental car will also give you the freedom to venture out for the day from Port Douglas to see some of the stunning local sights. Mossman Gorge is an important and beautiful area, famous for its ancient rainforest and Aboriginal history. A little further North is spectacular Cape Tribulation, where Daintree National Park meets the Great Barrier Reef. Spend a day exploring the rainforest and beaches, and be sure to stop off for a homemade cooling snack at Daintree Ice-cream Company.

Likuliku Lagoon Resort, Fiji

There is something special about Likuliku… the people, the calm exotic water, the remote luxury. I spent three days at this tropical paradise and felt truly at home thanks to the stunning but informal five star setting, and the genuine and friendly family of staff.

Your Likuliku experience will start at sea, as you transfer onto the hotel’s small boat and float towards the magical turquoise lagoon. The musicians greet guests on the jetty with a soulful welcome song before serving a cooling glass of chilled passionfruit iced tea. The check-in process is casual and quick so that your holiday can begin as soon as possible.

The resort opened in 2007 and is owned by a Fijian family. Most of the staff are from villages on the island which gives this hotel an authentic and happy Fijian feel. Likuliku is an adults only resort, and is particularly popular with honeymooners. Often couples who once holidayed at Likuliku start a family and then visit the sister property, Malolo Island Resort, on the same island.

There are 45 rooms, including Fiji’s picturesque, only overwater bures. The other rooms all open out onto the beach, and deluxe rooms include a private plunge pool. Carefully designed to replicate the look of a traditional Fijian village, the individual huts are made with natural materials and decorated with unique pieces of furniture and art from the South Pacific. The dark, warm, patterned wood in the bedrooms creates an inviting and cosy sanctuary to rest your head. The bathroom is indulgently large with a duo of sinks complete with personalised his-and-hers toiletries by Pure Fiji. There is a powerful rain shower inside and a second shower outdoors. In the living area an ice bucket with a bottle of champagne awaited our arrival and on the bed there were complimentary branded sarongs and a Likuliku survival kit of essentials (suncream, aftersun, natural insect repellant and lip balm).

The small Tatadra spa offers couples a chance for total relaxation with four treatment rooms looking out to the water. Choose a treatment to sooth sunburn, a brightening facial or a gentle aromatic massage using homemade oils. The softly spoken therapists will remedy any aches and pains, serve hot herbal tea, and encourage you to relax in the sea view lounge.

Fiji is not often praised for its culinary efforts, so I was extremely impressed to taste the superior food at Likuliku’s Fijiana restaurant. Australian Executive Chef, Shane Watson, was with the hotel when it opened and has recently returned to the kitchen. His food is creative and exciting, with a focus on flavour and he utilises any produce he can grow on the island.

As a guest on an isolated island, the options for mealtimes are limited, and so it makes sense that all food is inclusive in the room rate. I found myself looking forward to every meal, to taste Shane’s latest dishes. At breakfast I always indulged with light and fluffy, freshly made buttermilk pancakes with apple & vanilla compote, honeycomb and mascarpone, but the speciality mud crab omelette is also a must try. From the buffet there are numerous appetising treats to choose from including a make-your-own juice bar, assorted pastries and fresh young green coconut juice. Lunch plates were light and tasty, and the recipes often have an Asian twist. My favourite was the charcoal grilled chicken with green papaya, cherry tomatoes and toasted shallots.

There are two bars to choose from, but most guests choose to sit at the jetty to enjoy an evening cocktail, I recommend the refreshing coconut mojito. When the sun begins to set guests sit down for dinner under the stars. The mood is romantic and the staff ensure it always feels like an occasion. My most memorable dishes were: Chargrilled Beef Tenderloin with mushrooms and sauce bordelaise; rich and fragrant Pork Belly Red Curry; and Miso White Chocolate Panna cotta with poached rhubarb. All the ingredients are wonderfully fresh with premium meat, and fish straight out of the sea. Needless to say, it is impossible to eat badly at Likuliku. All meals are accompanied by talented live band playing affecting local tunes and lilting traditional songs.

The hotel is happy to organise activities and excursions within the resort or further afield. I had an unforgettable morning island hopping with Likuliku. The boat picked us up at 7am before zooming off into the sunrise. We visited nearby Modriki island, known best as the island where the Tom Hanks movie ‘Castaway’ was filmed. From 30 metres out we swam to the deserted beach and our dedicated guide Tasi climbed the coconut trees to gather our fresh breakfast. If you prefer to stay on site, take a medicine walk with Joe to learn about the natural remedies, or borrow a snorkeling kit and go out in the beautiful lagoon to see the colourful sealife, you may even spot a friendly reef shark.

Likuliku completely won over my heart. Unlike many Fiji island resorts, this hotel benefits from a quiet and calm lagoon, creating a tranquil and tidy beach. The luxurious offering is unpretentious and immersive, so guests will feel immediately distanced from all the constraints and stresses of normal life. In my opinion this is the perfect desert island to be stranded on.

Thoroughly Modern Milly travelled to Likuliku with South Sea Cruises ferry. Boats run three times a day to Malolo Island. (Between 55-120 minutes from Nadi, dependent on route).

More information and book a stay at Likuliku Lagoon here.