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Top 5 beaches for 2012

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From the deserted sands of a private island off the coast of Cambodia to the glamour of Uruguay's hottest beach resort, we pick the sandy spots you need to know about this year...

Song Saa island, Cambodia

The hottest beach right now is the one where hardly anyone has been, and Song Saa Private Island on the coast of Cambodia fits that description perfectly. While the scars left by the Khmer Rogue are still visible elsewhere in the country, this island paradise off the southern coast of the country is peaceful and relaxing. Unlike some of the other resorts that are opening up on pristine stretches of sand up and down Cambodia and neighbouring Vietnam, Song Saa isn't just about style – the owners' sustainability and conservation programmes benefit not just guests and the environment but the local population too. Villas cost from US$735 (about £480) per person per night

Book it here: songsaa.com

Vamizi, Mozambique

Our favourite African beach can be found off the coast of Mozambique: Vamizi, a conservation project on an island in the Quirimbas archipelago, is home to 12 spacious villas, a lodge where guests gather for drinks at sunset, and a finely powdered white-sand beach that is like no other. The island's setting on the shores of the Indian Ocean is idyllic, and nearby Neptune's Arm is considered one of the world's best dive sites. Villas start at US$590 (about £385) per person per night

Book it here: vamizi.com

Menorca

This year, we're heading to Menorca for a European beach holiday. The Balearic sister island of Ibiza and Mallorca may be less famous and it certainly lacks its neighbours' fancy hotels, but its beautiful interior (the whole island is a UNESCO-protected biosphere reserve) and relaxing pace makes it irresistible for a week-long beach break. We look forward to spending our nights at Ca Na Xini (rooms from €140 – about £115 – per night) and our days at the stunning Cala Macarella beach on the south coast.

Book it here: canaxini.com

Punta del Este, Uruguay

We're already planning our 2012 winter-sun escapes: come November, we'll be heading to Punta del Este – Uruguay's glitzy beach resort – to revel in sunshine and Côte d'Azur-like glamour. We'll stay at the local outpost of stylish Brazilian hotel chain Fasano, the Fasano Punta del Este (rooms from US$500 – about £327 – per night), which is located in the hills a 15-minute drive from town.

Book it here: laspiedrasfasano.com

Tulum, Mexico

Tulum, on Mexico's Yucatan Pensinsula, still defines boho-chic beach holidays and the place to go for a lazy break with a bit of culture and excellent food thrown in for good measure. We'll be heading there for some early spring sun in order to stay in one of the Papaya Playa Project's pop-up eco-cabañas before they close down in early May. From $25-$675 (£17-£440) per night

Book it here: papayaplayaproject.com/wordpress

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