The Hotel That Doesn’t Let You Check Out

Last year I changed my holiday routine. After years of adventurous travel to remote lands, travel has been an escape, an experience, something new and exciting. From bling bling hotels in the city (‘circular disco bath anyone? There’s room for six…’) to eco resorts accessible only by foot or helicopter, from private palaces to public houses, I have always sought something a little different.

The gorgeous Red Sea diving eco lodge. So hidden away that it took our driver four hours to find it in the dark. Photo: Red Sea Diving Safari

In fact when I talk about my ‘holiday routine’, I actually mean the routine of change every season. Last year I thought I’d try something really new however.

I booked to stay in a… *whisper it*… all inclusive hotel.

Please don’t click ‘close tab’ just yet. Bear with me. This was no ordinary hotel…

Photo: Hillside Beach Club

Hillside Beach Club is the ultimate hotel crowd pleaser. If the hotel were a person, it’d be the friend you’d put on the top of your dinner party list, the friend who all strangers immediately fall in love with, the friend makes you feel great about yourself, the friend who says ‘oh go on, have another glass of wine…’ the friend who makes you feel reckless like a child and sophisticated as an adult, the friend who makes you love those around you and who teaches you to love yourself as you are.

The resort is massive and yet nestled behind rock cliffs, down private beaches and within hidden forests it feels boutique. It is luxurious (cool design, oversized toiletries in the room, fabulous food), but is amazing value when you do the maths.

Photo: Hillside Beach Club

It has everything a child (or demanding parent) could possibly want or need – kids clubs, clean beaches, watersports, family sized rooms, a baby buffet and round the clock snacks. Oh, and a chocolate factory workshop.

Photo: Hillside Beach Club

At the same time it lures honeymooners with a serene Balinese spa hidden in the treetops, another more contemporary Turkish spa, two candlelit à la carte restaurants on the beachfront and wait for it… a silent beach.

Parents if you want your cake and to eat it, this is it. The silent beach is the icing on a very, very well iced cake. Spend time as a family, find your inner child on a kayak, do all the things with your kids that you never get time to at home – crafts, games, sandcastles on the beach.

And then book a babysitter, unplug your iPhone, switch off the laptop and retreat to the silent beach.

Photo: Hillside Beach Club

Making the switch from all out adventure to all-in is daunting. When you look at the resort map it is indeed a huge hotel. Yet despite its size, the majority of the guests somehow seemed to know each other. Not in a creepy timeshare cult way, just in a relaxed home from home manner.

Photo: Hillside Beach Club

Get chatting to a fellow guest and they will ask you, in a laid back Russian / Israeli / French / London accent which visit you are on. Tell them it’s your first visit and they will smile back knowingly.

The Sanda Nature Spa. Photo: Hillside Beach Club

For this is not a hotel you try as a one off. It is a club, a home from home that tempts you back again and again. I used to scoff at people who go back every year to the same place, including my father who enjoyed a cruise so much that he returned to his travel agent the next year and demanded not just the same cruise but the same week, the same boat and the exact same room.

Travel still means adventure, and as an expat the adventure never stops. When you’re living out of a suitcase, sometimes it’s nice to put that suitcase down somewhere familiar. I’m still looking into unusual escapes (‘yoga by the Kremlin, darling?’ ) but for our next holiday we’ll be going ‘home’ to Hillside.

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