9 Places Where You Don’t Have to Choose Between the Beach and Mountains

See recent posts by Leon Beckenham

To recline on fine golden sand or explore scenic pine-scented forests? To discover colorful coral reefs or hike through lush tropical peaks? Sometimes, it’s hard to choose between the beach and the mountains for a vacation, but there is another way. We searched high and low for destinations that offer the best of both worlds. Below, check out our list of spots where you can swim in the ocean and hike a mountain on the same day.

Additional reporting by Megan Johnson

1. Majorca, Spain

Majorca, Spain
James Honeyball/Flickr

Set in the Spanish Mediterranean, Majorca, the largest of the Balearic Islands, is well known for its abundance of gorgeous beaches — a total of 262 lining the picturesque coastline. However, Majorca is also blessed with the Serra de Tramuntana, a majestic mountain range that spans the length of the northern side of the island. A mecca for hikers and cyclists, this mountain range features mile upon mile of pine forests, trails, and winding mountain roads, which are particularly popular with professional bikers training for the Tour de France. It has also been awarded World Heritage status by UNESCO, and is littered with charming villages where you can stop, refuel, and enjoy the spectacular views.

Where to Stay: Son Brull Hotel & Spa 

This hotel, located in a fully restored 18th–century monastery, offers historic accommodations with modern conveniences. There is an on-site restaurant and spa, all within the stunning backdrop of the mountains and beach. Choose from a variety of rooms, ranging from superior to suites with terraces.

2. St. Lucia

Private plunge pool at Jade Mountain Resort/Oyster
Private plunge pool at Jade Mountain Resort/Oyster

With its volcanic twin peaks — Petit Piton and Gros Piton — the Caribbean island of St. Lucia is one of the best places to combine a beach and mountain vacation. Walkers can navigate the elevated interior via numerous hiking trails that cut through thick forests teeming with tropical flora, fauna, and the occasional dramatic waterfall. Golden in the north and mostly silvery in the more volcanic south, the beaches here are typically fringed with palm trees and boast a jungle backdrop. That’s to say nothing of the crystal clear Caribbean water, which is perfect for exploring the island’s coral reefs.

Where to Stay: Jade Mountain Resort

This adults-only resort offers everything you need for the perfect St. Lucia getaway. Not only will you have stunning views, but every room has its own infinity pool. The sky deck is perfect for star gazing as well as taking in the vivid scenery surrounding the resort. Enjoy amenities like daily yoga, whirlpool tubs, and organic food- you won’t want to leave. The rooms are referred to as “sanctuaries”- and for good reason. Every room has its own unique design – all offering gorgeous views and the ultimate relaxation. 

3. Oahu, Hawaii

View from at The Kahala Hotel and Resort/Oyster
View from at The Kahala Hotel & Resort/Oyster

While visiting the Hawaiian island of Oahu, you won’t find yourself short on beaches for sunbathing, snorkeling, and surfing. The latter can be enjoyed in a number of spots, from Honolulu’s world famous Waikiki Beach to the more rugged, almost deserted stretches of sand on the west coast, where the turtles still outnumber the tourists. Travelers who prefer peaks to the Pacific are also in luck. A popular trek to higher ground is up the Koko Crater Trail — there over a thousand steps, but the views are worth the effort. Also worth a visit is the Honolulu Watershed Forest Reserve, which is part of the island’s Koolau mountain range, with hiking trails that lead to the legendary 150-foot Manoa Falls.

Where to Stay: The Kahala Hotel & Resort

Tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the island, the Kahala Hotel and Resort is a luxury beachfront property known for its impeccable service and stunning views. The resort offers a variety of room types, including oceanfront suites, bungalows, and villas, all designed to provide guests with a comfortable and relaxing stay. Guests can enjoy swimming in one of the resort’s multiple pools, golfing on the championship golf course, or relaxing on the beach.

4. Makarska, Croatia

Makarska Beach; Tony Hisgett/Flickr
Makarska Beach; Tony Hisgett/Flickr

The port town of Makarska is located on Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast — roughly halfway between the busier tourist hubs of Split and Dubrovnik. The town sits along what has been dubbed the Makarska Riviera, thanks to its many lovely pebble beaches that stretch for 38 miles along the Adriatic coastline. But it’s the dramatic rocky backdrop of Mount Biokovo that really steals the show. The mountain range provides a wealth of well-marked hiking and biking trails across its sea-facing slopes, and acts as a buffer from the harsher inland climate, making for more beach-friendly weather. This is especially useful given that many of the beaches are clothing-optional.

Where to Stay: Hotel Osejava 

Nestled in Makarska, Croatia, Hotel Osejava is a boutique hotel boasting a beautiful harbor location. This intimate hotel offers stunning sea views and a relaxed atmosphere. Room options include double or twin rooms with partial sea views and suites with sofa beds and full sea views. Some rooms include private saunas. There is an on-site restaurant with outdoor seating.

5. Sabah, Borneo

Mount Kinabalu; HK.Colin/Flickr
Mount Kinabalu; HK.Colin/Flickr

Borneo is the world’s third-largest island, and the state of Sabah is home to Mount Kinabalu, Malaysia‘s highest peak, at over 13,000 feet. Sabah is one of only two Malaysian states on the island. Although relatively small, it packs a lot in, including incredible beaches, coral reefs, ancient rainforests, and Mount Kinabalu. Spend time lounging on remote and unspoiled beaches on the northern tip, diving off tiny uninhabited islands, taking boat trips down the river to witness native proboscis monkeys, trekking through the jungle to see orangutans, or climbing the peak of the mystical mountain.

Where to Stay: Hyatt Regency Kinabalu 

Located in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, Hyatt Regency Kinabalu is a luxurious hotel offering breathtaking views of the South China Sea or Mount Kinabalu. Guests can unwind in spacious rooms and suites, some featuring access to an exclusive Regency Club lounge. Beyond the rooms, amenities include a rooftop infinity pool, a pampering spa, and delicious international cuisine at the hotel’s various restaurants.

6. Harris, Scotland

Luskentyre Beach, Harris; Ross Crae/Flickr
Luskentyre Beach, Harris; Ross Crae/Flickr

Scotland is known for its mountainous Highlands, but believe it or not, it’s also home to some spectacular beaches — often with white sand, turquoise water, and even a palm tree here and there. It goes without saying that decent weather is far from guaranteed, even in the height of summer, but beaches are not just for sunbathing. This small country also has nearly 300 Munros — mountains over 3,000 feet. Some hikers aim to tick off the whole list, including Ben Nevis, the tallest mountain in the U.K. 

Backed by dunes and wildflowers, the Isle of Harris is home to breathtaking beaches and the highest mountain in the Outer Hebrides. If you catch the ferry to Harris from the Isle of Skye, you can mark off a dozen of the island’s aforementioned Munros.

Where to Stay: Uig Hotel

Located on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland, Uig Hotel is a family-run establishment boasting a traditional atmosphere and stunning coastal views. Rooms include comfortable twin rooms with en suite bathrooms, perfect for couples or solo travelers. They also feature family rooms that can accommodate up to 5 guests, ideal for larger families or groups. There is an on-site seafood restaurant, and a bar perfect for guests to unwind and enjoy the views.

7. Lofoten Islands, Norway

Reine, Lofoten, Norway. The village of Reine under a sunny, blue sky, with the typical rorbu houses. View from the top
Reine, Lofoten, Norway. The village of Reine under a sunny, blue sky, with the typical rorbu houses. View from the top. / dell | Adobe Stock

Norway may not be the first place you think of for a beach vacation, but the Lofoten Islands are known for their dramatic scenery, with jagged mountains, fjords, and beaches. It’s especially amazing to visit in the summer, when you can experience the midnight sun—when the sun does not set below the horizon, creating a magical atmosphere and allowing visitors to spend long days exploring the islands. 

The mountains jutting out from the sea create a stunning landscape. While dramatic, they are not overly tall (the highest in Lofoten is 3800 feet tall), making them perfect for hiking, as less experienced hikers can easily reach their peak. The Lofoten Islands are also a world-renowned rock climbing destination. The granite rock faces are known for their excellent quality and offer a variety of climbing routes for all skill levels.

The stunning beaches aren’t exactly sunbathing hot spots (the islands are north of the Arctic Circle). Still, they are beautiful nonetheless and make for an ideal backdrop for walks, kayaking, paddle boarding, or simply taking in the breathtaking scenery. 

Due to it’s northern location, summer is the best time to visit- it will still be pretty chilly but pleasant. 

Where to Stay: Reine Rorbuer

Perched amidst the dramatic scenery of Lofoten, Reine Rorbuer offers a unique stay in traditional Norwegian fishermen’s cabins, also known as rorbuer. Choose from cozy rorbuer cabins overlooking the water, perfect for couples or solo travelers. For larger groups or families, opt for the larger ‘brygge’ houses that can accommodate up to 10 guests.

8. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Copacabana Beach and Ipanema beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Copacabana Beach and Ipanema beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil / f11photo | Adobe Stock

Famous for its beaches, mountains, and, of course, the Christ the Redeemer statue, Rio de Janeiro is the perfect mix for your mountain/beach vacation. You can relax on the beaches of Copacabana or Ipanema or take a hike in Tijuca National Park, the largest urban forest in the world. 

The mountains in Rio are actually an extension of the Serra do Mar, a much larger mountain range running parallel to the Brazilian coast. The most recognizable peaks are Sugarloaf Mountain (Pão de Açúcar) and Corcovado Mountain (home to the Christ the Redeemer statue). Other peaks, like Tijuca Peak, Pedra da Gávea, and Pico dos Dois Irmãos (Peak of the Two Brothers), also offer stunning views and hiking opportunities. 

Hikers of all skill levels can find trails in the Rio Mountains. There’s something for everyone, from gentle paths with beautiful viewpoints to challenging climbs to the peaks. For adrenaline junkies, the granite peaks of Rio offer some excellent rock climbing opportunities. With varying difficulty levels, you can find challenging climbs or practice your skills on more moderate routes. Hiking or rock climbing not for you? You can still experience the wondrous views the mountain peaks have to offer thanks to a thrilling cable car ride on Sugarloaf Mountain that takes you up the mountainside, offering stunning views of the city and Guanabara Bay.

Encompassing a large portion of the mountains near Rio, Tijuca National Park is the largest urban forest in the world. This park is a haven for lush Atlantic rainforest, teeming with diverse plant and animal life. Hiking through the park allows you to experience this rich biodiversity firsthand.

The most famous beach in Rio, Copacabana, is a vast stretch of golden sand backed by the iconic promenade lined with black and white patterned tiles. Here, you can soak up the sun, people-watch, play beach volleyball, or sip on refreshing drinks from beach vendors. Neighboring Copacabana, Ipanema, offers a more sophisticated vibe. The beach is known for its trendy crowd, upscale bars and restaurants, and the iconic Ipanema Girl statue. Relax on the sand, try surfing, or join a beachside game of footvolley (a mix of soccer and volleyball). 

Where to Stay: Copacabana Palace

Facing Rio’s iconic Copacabana beach, the Copacabana Palace, a Belmond Hotel, is a luxurious Art Deco landmark since 1923. This legendary hotel offers 243 rooms and suites, some with ocean views, and boasts Michelin-starred dining, a spa, and an outdoor pool. A haven of tranquility steps from Rio’s vibrant energy, it’s also a place steeped in history and glamour.

9. Queenstown, New Zealand

Queenstown Panorama at golden hour, New Zealand, South Island. View from Queenstown Skyline, main attraction in the alpine city.
Queenstown Panorama at golden hour, New Zealand, South Island. View from Queenstown Skyline, main attraction in the alpine city. / Daniela Photography | Adobe Stock

While not on the ocean, Queenstown is a lake resort town on the southern tip of New Zealand’s South Island, the mountains on one side and Lake Wakatipu on the other creat beautiful scenery. 

The most prominent mountains around Queenstown are the Remarkables, offering skiing, hiking, and for those thrill-seekers, bungee jumping. Known as the “adventure capital of the world,” it’s no wonder bungee jumping is a prominent activity. The Kawarau Bridge Jump is a particularly popular bungee jumping spot. For those looking for something a bit calmer, the Queenstown Gondola is an exciting activity offering fantastic views, without having to take your feet off the ground.  

The lake beaches of Queenstown offer a refreshing fresh water dip on hot summer days, a place to relax, a spot for water sports- all with the backdrop of snowcapped mountains. For sport enthusiasts, kayaking and paddleboarding are popular activities along the shore. 

Where to Stay: The Rees Hotel and Luxury Apartments

Queenstown, New Zealand’s Rees Hotel and Luxury Apartments is a sophisticated escape on Lake Wakatipu’s shores. This 5-star property offers a variety of luxurious accommodations, from standard hotel rooms to multi-bedroom lakeside residences, all showcasing breathtaking lake and mountain views. Guests can expect exceptional service, a relaxing atmosphere, and easy access to Queenstown’s adventure activities and local charm.

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