Save money and explore the beauty of Cyprus with an all-inclusive deal and a hire car, says Claire Spreadbury

Whya Napa?

During the flight, Rosie, my eight-year-old, keeps calling this place Whya Napa, and I can't help but snigger. Why indeed, would any family take their kids to the garage music capital of the late-Nineties? Surely all Ayia Napa is good for is stag parties and Inbetweeners-style holidays?

If you head into town, that's exactly what you'll see; pavements weighed down with cheesy bars, bustling restaurants and tat shops (though I have it on good authority from Rosie that the massive, inflatable pink flamingos hanging from most of them are high-quality goods), with the odd bank, strip club and fast-food joint thrown in for good measure.

Drive a little further out, however, and you'll find palm-tree-lined roads, rusty red soil and beautiful beaches.

With the uncertainty of Brexit, opting for an all-inclusive package at a decent resort is an economical holiday solution. And with Ayia Napa sitting on the glorious southeast coastline of Cyprus, it's a surprisingly good base.

We're staying at Thomas Cook's Sunwing Sandy Bay, a four-star resort with all the pools (six different areas), restaurants (two and a snack bar) and mini golf a family of four could ever need. It's even spent a bit of time in the limelight, as the backdrop of Channel 4's The Secret Life Of Five Year Olds On Holiday.

My children, Rosie and five-year-old Poppy, are in heaven the second they walk into the big white lobby and are greeted by Lolli and Bernie (a giant giraffe and bear), who pop up at the pool for cuddles and high-fives, and even host daily 20-minute pool parties for enthusiastic tots and tweens.

In the all-white family apartments (there are 360 rooms in total), there's a bedroom with a small terrace, massive shower, fridge freezer and some simple cooking equipment, and an L-shaped sofa which, weirdly, is what the kids sleep on.

Fino is the main restaurant, where you can fill up on the buffet. They cater for kids, vegetarians and various allergies too, which is a godsend when your dairy-intolerant daughter only has eyes for the ice-cream machine. There's also an a la carte menu and you can eat in Andrea's Kitchen, which is easily our favourite restaurant. There's a BBQ on Tuesdays, offering up a great selection of grilled meat and veggies, plus salads and healthier kids' options.

The (free) wine is also pretty good, as is the local Keo beer. And if you get a chance, sup on a small glass of Commandaria - a Cypriot dessert wine (George, the duty manager, tells me Richard the Lionheart called it 'the wine of kings'). It's perfect with a slab of cheese, which - let's be honest - is always the best dessert option at the buffet.

Four things to do with the family in Ayia Napa

1. Become a pirate on the Black Pearl

We set sail from Ayia Napa Harbour for what can only be described as a daily family booze cruise on the big Black Pearl ship.

Downstairs, it's all dark wood, comfy booths and a well-stocked bar, serving parents beer and mojitos from 10.30am (not us, obviously...). Upstairs is where the fun happens, with a slightly squiffy-looking Captain Jack Sparrow and his Russian sidekick, Hector Barbossa, entertaining the kids.

The best bit is stopping for a swim in the beautiful Blue Lagoon. There are buoyancy aids, so little ones can hop into the turquoise sea for a cooling dip, whether they've mastered their front crawl or not.

How much: E100 (£88) for a family of four (food is included, drinks are extra - book through the hotel, it's a bit dearer online).

2. Explore Cyprus on a Daktari Jeep Safari

If you only do one excursion while you're here, make it this one.

Eight of us pile into our tour guide George Michael's (no, really) Jeep - which can seat up to 12 - and find out all about Cyprus, including its amazing food (we stop frequently to see and sniff fig, walnut, pecan nut, lemon, almond and prickly pear trees). According to George, the best fish and chips in all of Cyprus can be found in the British army base (but available to holidaymakers) in Akrotiri and Dhekelia, while Masalas in Larnaca is the tastiest Indian restaurant.

The kids erupt into a mass of giggles as our bums leap from seats and we bump along the dusty, rocky track, the imposing Troodos Mountains watching our every move.

Pomegranate and peppercorn trees are growing at the side of the road as we make our way to Myllomeris - one of four waterfalls in these mountains. This one apparently has the longest drop, of around 12 metres.

Come in June, George tells us, and you can feast on the cherry trees that grow up here. In season for just five weeks, they taste delicious and cost about E4/£3.50 for a kilo from local sellers.

How much: E75 (£65) for adults, E50 (£45) for children. The tour lasts most of the day and can be booked through the hotel.

3. Hire a car and discover secluded beaches

For quieter days, take a hire car and drive along the coast road. Taking a left out of the hotel and driving for around 10 minutes, we find a section of Louma Beach to have to ourselves.

There's nothing here, just clear sea and a bit of thick, grainy sand littered with broken shells, and a makeshift hut. It's a welcome gear change from the resort, where instead of busy crowds, all I can hear is the sound of my children chattering as they build a sandcastle, the tide swooshing and the warm breeze wafting in my ears.

A little further on is Ayia Thekla Beach, with sunbeds lined up in a crescent shape and crystal-clear waters calling you in for a swim. There are people here, but it's still a lot less busy than the likes of Nissi Beach, closest to Ayia Napa.

Taking a 20-minute drive in the other direction, you can follow the coast road to Konnos Bay, another beautifully quiet spot, where the odd speedboat moors. Set yourself up on the giant, pockmarked rocks and take it in turns to clamber into the turquoise waters, or climb the steps up the hill and hire a lounger for just E2/£1.70. Cold drinks, ice cream and snacks are available from the bar, and there are a couple of restaurants for hungry swimmers too.

How much: Car hire prices start from E37 (£32) a day - book through your resort rep, either before your trip or when you get there.

4. Watch a dazzling sun set

Taking a minute to watch the sunset is a must on holiday. On our last night, we climb up the hill from the sand by our hotel (it's 300m away from the main part of Nissi Beach), which takes around 10 minutes. The ground is spiky, like cake mixture that's set solid, and although it's an easy climb, it's hard to walk in sandals. It feels a bit like we're on the moon.

The sea whooshes up against the sides and the red, blobby sun starts to dip. Dance tunes blare in the background, reminding us of what Ayia Napa is really known for - but, I have to say, it's a pretty good base for a family escape too.

How to get there

Thomas Cook (; 0844 412 5970) offers seven nights in a family one-bedroom apartment at Sunwing Sandy Bay on an all-inclusive basis from £2,449 per family, based on two adults and two children sharing, and flying from London Gatwick on May 9, 2018. Flights also available from Belfast, Birmingham, Cardiff, East Midlands, Newcastle and London Stansted.