Having worked in the travel industry for over 17 years, I feel very lucky to have visited some amazing places on photographic assignments and press trips, as well as some wonderful holidays and I’ve stayed in some very special hotels. In recognition of St Valentine’s Day I’d like to share with you the most romantic from my travels.
Coco Ocean Resort & Spa, Bijilo, The Gambia
The most luxurious of my top 5 is without doubt Coco Ocean on the shores of the Atlantic in West Africa.
The Moroccan themed architecture, with white domes shining brightly under the African sun, is stylish and elegant; the attentive staff that appear to outnumber the guests, the lovely beach side location, the excellent restaurants and the stylish interior design continuing the Moroccan theme in black and white with bright splashes of colour, all add up to make an extremely beautiful hotel.
The Spa here is superb; possibly the best I’ve ever experienced, so if you are looking for a place to be thoroughly pampered, look no further, than Coco Ocean. In particular one of the Beach Houses, each with a lovely terrace looking out over the ocean, would make the perfect luxurious hide away for two.
Tama Lodge, near Saly, Senegal
In neighbouring Senegal, I really loved the laid back atmosphere of Tama Lodge on a vast stretch of sandy beach, known as Petite Côte, between Mbour’s fishing port and the seaside resort of Saly. It’s the perfect place to literally kick off your shoes and unwind. With just 9 bedrooms, Tama Lodge is the ideal base for an exotic and relaxing break.
I particularly loved the Beach Lodges, where you can walk straight out onto the sand and the bathrooms are unusual but lovely. I’d highly recommend exploring the local area too though. Senegal is a colourful, vibrant and welcoming country.
Su Gologne, Sardinia, Italy
Nestled in the foothills of a land steeped in folklore, near the village of Oliena in central Sardinia, you’ll find the most charming hotel I’ve ever stayed in, Su Gologone. It clings to the hillside with secret patios and terraces at every turn and the rooms and twisting corridors are decorated in local fabrics and an extensive collection of Sardinian traditional dress – each village throughout the island has its own design of costume. The owners have paid real attention to every detail here.
The restaurant here is outstanding and one couple there told me that their friends come over from Rome, just to eat here.
It is only rated as a four star hotel but if it is good enough for the likes of Madonna and Richard Gere, than it is good enough for me!
A Merula, Calvi, Corsica, France
Rather than a hotel this particular choice is a collection of really lovely self-catering, apartments nestled among the beautiful landscaped, flower-filled grounds of A Merula in Calvi. Each one has been decorated with loving care, has its own private balcony or terrace overlooking the gardens and has all the facilities that you would need for a self-catering holiday. A Merula’s pool is lovely and when I stayed here we often had it to ourselves or just one or two other guests.
Walking through the grounds it feels as if you are deep in the Corsican countryside yet the heart of Calvi with its marina, filled with luxury yachts, and its beautiful sandy bay, is just a short stroll away. I love Calvi and I’ve visited it many times but this is, without doubt, my favourite place to stay for a romantic break for two.
Mandina Lodges, Makasutu Forest, The Gambia
Back to The Gambia, this is a hotel that I’ve written about fairly recently but it would be a crime to have left it out of this post so let me tell you more about the wonderful Mandina Lodges.
Hidden away from the main tourist area you’ll find this very special eco-resort. There are 4 Floating Lodges, that are reached by a wooden walkway through the mangroves. Each has a spacious double bedroom with a four-poster bed looking out over the bolon and an open-air, ensuite bathroom. A small verandah surrounds the lodge on three sides and there’s a small canopied seating area – the perfect place to sip your morning cuppa or to share a romantic cocktail as you watch a glorious African sunset. It was in one of these lodges that I was lucky enough to stay in last December and you can read about my experience here.
There is also a larger, Stilted Lodge on the river with a separate lounge, a second storey day room and a double bedroom with ensuite open-air bathroom. Four more, very stylish, Jungle Lodges are set back from the river with a superb roof terrace that has an additional four-poster double bed.
Lastly, the most recent addition is the Mangrove Lodge, a thatched lodge set on one level with a large bedroom and a private terrace with views across the mangroves and the forest.
Disclaimer: While I stayed at all of these hotels while working for Serenity Holidays, these are my own thoughts and honest opinions.