Hack the beach weekend

By Harriet Cooper

Photograph by Andrew Power/Getty Images

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Updated January 2024

Who says you can’t finish work on a Friday, jet off for a dose of sun, sea and glamour, and be back in the office 48 hours later? Harriet Cooper gives the lowdown on three European seaside breaks which will make for great water cooler chat on Monday.

The Algarve

With its golden beaches, pretty whitewashed villages, fresh seafood and sleek five-star hotels, sun-kissed southern Portugal has everything you could wish for on a beach weekend away.

Make your escape

You’ll need to slope off a little early from work (just remember to bring back a nice present for your boss) but catching a late afternoon flight from London Gatwick will put you in Faro at the civilised time for dinner.

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If it’s a beach holiday you’re after, then you can’t go wrong when your hotel sits above the longest beach in Portugal. The idyllic Pine Cliffs Resort sits in evergreen splendour, just a 30-minute drive from Faro Airport. A lift lowers guests down the cliffs to the golden sands of Praia da Falésia, where there’s a beach restaurant – but if you’d rather prepare your own Algarve gastronomy, you can take cookery lessons at the on-site cookery school, Mimo Algarve. Whether you choose to stay in the Hotel, or in one of its Ocean Suites or Residences, you’re in good hands: they’re all part of the well-respected Luxury Collection.

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  • Maré at Pine Cliffs, the resort’s beachside restaurant. © Pine Cliffs Resort.

    Beachside bites

    There are plenty of restaurants to choose from at Pine Cliffs Resort. Dine on the sand at Maré. The hotel’s lovely beach restaurant is open seasonally. Book flights from London to Faro, plus a seven-night stay at Pine Cliffs Resort from:£503 pp

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Don’t miss

Fancy seeing the sea life frolicking in their natural habitats? Why not opt for one of the range of  excursions on offer which can be booked such as taking a boat ride with a marine biologist to answer any questions.

Drink up

Head to the pretty whitewashed village of Salema – its main road is lined with fishermen’s houses, some of which are now bars and restaurants that spill out onto the beach. Take a seat on the sun-drenched terrace and enjoy one of the
many seafood restaurants around forming the perfect spot to enjoy a cool glass of local vinho verde.

Head to the pretty whitewashed village of Salema – its main road is lined with fishermen’s houses, some of which are now bars and restaurants that spill out onto the beach. Take a seat on the sun-drenched terrace and enjoy one of the many seafood restaurants around forming the perfect spot to enjoy a cool glass of local vinho verde.


Spend a balmy evening at the Michelin-starred Vila Joya in Albufeira – the only restaurant in Portugal to make the top 50 in San Pellegrino’s World’s Best Restaurants list. It’s pricey and there’s a dress code, but sitting on the terrace, surrounded by flickering candles, eating exquisite food with the sound of the waves below is perfection.

Bring it back

The Portuguese have ceramics down to a fine art and the town of Porches is where you’ll find the best workshops, such as Porches Pottery.

Homeward bound

You want to be fresh as a daisy at work, so Sunday’s 18:00 flight from Faro is a great option – you’ll land at London Gatwick at 20:40, giving you plenty of time to catch up on your beauty sleep (you’ll even be able to squeeze in a long Portuguese lunch before you leave).

Ibiza, Spain

It has long been a byword for hedonism, but the picturesque White Isle isn’t all about partying hard. There’s a cooler, more laid-back side, too – you just need to know where to look...

Make your escape

In the summer months, what more civilized way to end your working week than by catching British Airways’ 20:35 flight from London Gatwick? You’ll touch down at 23:55, but this is Ibiza time, so the party is only just getting started.

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A ten-minute drive from the airport, Hotel Torre del Mar is on the quieter stretch of fashionable Playa d’en Bossa, making it a peaceful haven from the island’s vibrant nightlife. Interiors are minimalist, there’s a spa, two pools and free WiFi.

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Don’t miss

The water temperature can reach 26°C in summer, so by day, the focus is the beach. Take the 30-minute ferry crossing to the neighbouring – and very relaxed – island of Formentera (buy tickets from Ibiza Town port). By night, it’s all about the beats. Superclubs Pacha and Ushuaia are on your doorstep, look out for their summer line-ups, which include sets from the world’s best DJs and settings that include a pool, a sophisticated light show and performers on podiums. The best way to get tickets is to buy in advance, before your holiday.

  • Pick up some Portuguese ceramic souvenirs from Porches Pottery in the Algarve

    Portuguese pottery

    Look out for some of the world’s most colourful and exquisite pottery here in Faro. If you’re after something authentic, then look out for Galo de Barcelos – the Portuguese rooster that is a symbol of honesty, integrity and trust especially in ceramic form.

    Find things to do in Faro
  • Tuck into tasty Italian food at La Oliva, Ibiza

    Try it for yourself…

    Set among the ancient cobblestones of Dalt Vila in Ibiza is the perfect dinner spot – La Olivia. Booking is essential.

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  • The pretty cliffside village of Positano, Italy

    Did you know… ?

    Legend has it that Positano is named after Poseidon, god of the sea. The ancient Greeks and Phoenicians used the beach town as stop on their voyages to the west. Fly from London to Naples (where you can reach Positano) from:

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Drink up

The cool crowd hang out at Ibiza’s beach clubs, where the vibe is easy-going, the music chilled and the rosé is always on ice. Cotton Beach Club in Cala Tarida is worth the 30-minute cab ride. Reserve a sunbed on the white sand beach – like most places you pay by row, with the first row being the most expensive – and watch the sun go down as the beautiful people party.


The winding cobbled streets of Dalt Vila (the older part of Ibiza Town and a UNESCO World Heritage site) come alive in the early evening. La Oliva is situated on one of the town’s most animated squares. Book an outdoor table and watch the street performers as you tuck into the Italian fare.

Bring it back

Head to one of Ibiza’s hippy markets, which offer a rainbow-hued collection of handmade clothing, jewellery, textiles and artifacts. One of the biggest is the colourful Las Dalias, which takes place on Saturdays in San Carlos – everyone from Bob Marley to Led Zeppelin has been. Go early to avoid the crowds.

Homeward bound

It’s time to pack up your new kaftans and hop on an early evening flight to either Gatwick or Heathrow, landing you home in time for supper and an early night. The perfect antidote to a wild weekend in Ibiza.

The Amalfi Coast, Italy

Feasting al fresco, Camparis at sunset, dancing in natural caves… it’s little wonder that this stretch of beguiling coastline in southern Italy is a favourite of sunseekers.

Make your escape

Book a half day (go on, it’s Friday) and catch the afternoon British Airways flight from London Gatwick, which arrives in Naples in good time for dinner. You will have missed the last ferry, so hop on a train at the main station to Sorrento – it takes between 45 to 90 minutes, depending on the train. Either way, you’ll get there in time for a glass of something chilled before savouring your delicious dinner.

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The Grand Hotel Capodimonte is nestled in the hillside above Sorrento and offers stunning vistas of the Bay of Naples and Mount Vesuvius. Rooms are spacious, the lush terraced gardens are dotted with olive and lemon trees, and there are five cascading swimming pools.

Book a stay at Grand Hotel Capodimonte

Don’t miss

Sorrento is known as the gateway to the Amalfi Coast for good reason. During the summer season, buses and ferries depart regularly to the many small beaches and picturesque cliffside villages, such as Positano, known for its pastel-coloured buildings, vertiginous cobbled streets and bustling marina. Or take the 30-minute boat journey to Capri and visit the Blue Grotto, where sunlight illuminates the sea cave a brilliant blue.

Drink up

One of the most renowned clubs on this stretch of coastline, Africana, is a 30-minute cab ride from Sorrento. Set within natural caves at sea level in the village of Praiano, everyone from Jackie Kennedy to Rudolf Nureyev has let their hair down here.


For a gloriously lazy lunch, take the ten-minute boat ride from Positano (look for the fishing boat with a huge red fish on the mast) to a shack on Laurito Beach. This is the family-run Da Adolfo where you can feast on mozzarella di bufala, handmade pasta and grilled catch of the day before sleeping it all off on a nearby sunbed.

Bring it back

Make space in your suitcase for the local liqueur limoncello, which is made with fresh lemons; or splurge on a pair of Positano’s famed leather sandals or some colourful ceramics, most of which are made in the nearby town of Vietri sul Mare.

Homeward bound

British Airways flies back from Naples early Sunday night, arriving back in London Gatwick before a very reasonable 9pm – meaning you won’t be propping your eyes open with matchsticks come Monday morning.