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With winter just around the corner, now is the time to plan a trip that will help break up all of those cold, dreary days. These sunny destinations around the world are sure to lift your spirits while allowing you to enjoy an unforgettable vacation. From Spain to Indonesia and beyond, these spots are sure to brighten your winter.
Located between the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic, Turks and Caicos is made up of about 100 islands and cays, home to pristine, white powdery sand beaches and impossibly clear turquoise waters. You’ll find what’s often named the world’s most beautiful beach, Grace Bay, on Providenciales Island at the north-western edge of the archipelago. It’s the perfect place to soak up the sun in between snorkeling through the shallow water where the vibrant reef is filled with abundant marine life. There are plenty of restaurants, shops, and luxury hotels, many of which offer to-die-for views too.
While it’s unlikely to be hot, you’ll find plenty of sun and temperatures that are typically in the low 70s in Baja during the winter. This is a great time to enjoy those postcard-perfect beaches at the edge of the Pacific, and the Sea of Cortez, renowned for its remarkably clear, azure waters that are ideal for swimming, diving, and snorkeling. There are mountains for hiking as well, and they’re filled with surprisingly lush greenery and waterfalls. Winter is also the time for baby sea turtle releases in Todos Santos, and close encounters with gray whales, known here as the “friendlies.”
The easternmost island in the Caribbean, Barbados is renowned for its postcard-perfect beaches, including both white and pink stretches framed by stunningly clear cerulean waters. It also draws many to experience its rich culture and culinary delights. In fact, it’s considered by many to be the region’s gastronomic capital. The cuisine is a true mixing pot of cultures with flavors that come from India, Portugal, and Africa as well as influences by British, Irish, and Creole fare. There are plenty of tropical touches thrown in too, with locals often using fresh ingredients like just-caught fish and homegrown herbs.
One of the most hassle-free destinations for Americans, San Diego is renowned for its sunny skies year-round. You’ll be able to take advantage of the soft sandy beaches to relax, swim, surf, or enjoy peaceful strolls. There are plenty of attractions in the area too, like the world-famous San Diego Zoo, and a fantastic food scene, including some of the best fish tacos you’ll find north of the Mexican border.
Costa Rica is a tropical paradise that’s sure to please the outdoor adventure and wildlife lover. It’s offers everything from world-class surfing to jungle hikes along with incredible natural beauty. It boasts a staggering five percent of the world’s biodiversity with Tortuguero the country’s answer to the Amazon rainforest. Surfers love the break at Salsa Brava in Puerto Viejo, while Playa Cocles is a great place to learn to surf or just relax. Soaring Arenal Volcano sits among lush rainforests home to wildlife like toucans, parrots, and tanagers.
Puerto Rico requires no passport as a U.S. territory but it offers a tropical, Caribbean island vibe with everything from a pink sandy beach on Isla Verde to historic landmarks and opportunities to salsa dance the night away in San Juan. Explore limestone caves, surf, snorkel, dive, and hike. There’s lots of delicious cuisine to fuel your exploits and world-class rum for those sundowner cocktails too.
Enjoy a tropical fantasy without the need for a passport by visiting St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands. It offers all the desirable features like soft white sand beaches with palm trees, stunning turquoise waters, abundant marine life and sunshine. Virgin Islands National Park covers two-thirds of the island, preserving miles and miles of shoreline and underwater reef habitats.
The Maldives is an island nation that’s one of the world’s top spots for a beach holiday filled with sunshine and striking white sandy beaches framed by pale blue waters. There are plenty of opportunities for world-class snorkeling and diving, and swimming with whale sharks, combined with a wealth of luxuries found in the many private island resorts. While most are secluded from the locals, many offer activities for a taste of Maldivian culture, such as cooking classes.
Stunning St. Lucia is characterized by its twin green peaks of the Pitons that rise over the brilliant blue of the Caribbean Sea. Not only are there many fabulous beachfront resorts, but there’s spectacular inland scenery, colorful towns, and rich Creole culture. If you’re looking for seclusion and outstanding snorkeling, Anse Chastanet is ideal with its unspoiled coral reef and diverse marine life.
Kauai is arguably the most romantic of all the Hawaiian Islands, home to more waterfalls than any other, as well as the brilliant gardens that gave it the nickname, “The Garden Island.” Even in the coolest month of January, daytime highs average in the upper 70s, while lows dip to a pleasant 65 degrees. Enjoy outdoor adventures like snorkeling, swimming, sailing, kayaking, and hiking, as well as glorious sunsets from beaches like Poipu with its luxurious sands making it an ideal place for tossing down a blanket and watching the sun go down over the ocean. Winter is also the perfect time for spotting humpback whales, so be sure to keep an eye out as you wait for the big show.
Photographs just can’t capture the true magnificent beauty of Aitutaki, home to a brilliant azure lagoon filled with crystal clear, warm waters and renowned as one of the most stunning spots for snorkeling in the world. One Foot Island is an islet set inside the lagoon with a beach that’s been voted the best in all of Australia and the Pacific. This region also enjoys idyllic temperatures that hover around 80 degrees all year round. It’s no surprise it’s one of the world’s best honeymoon destinations.
Bali is fabulous any time of the year, but from December through February is its low season, so not only can you enjoy the sunshine in the winter, but you can expect to find much better deals on accommodations. While this is the rainier period, the rain comes in short bursts, with more than enough sun for lounging on those striking white sand beaches. Plus, diving is outstanding in December and January, with the opportunity to view more than twice as many marine species in the coral reefs than even in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. The waters here are teeming with gigantic mola-mola, striped wunderpus, and technicolor nudibranchs.
The Canary Islands enjoy winter temperatures in the mid-70 degree range, and also boast more than 900 miles of spectacular coastline. You can say goodbye to the winter blues, soaking up the sunshine on the beach, unwinding by the sea as well as enjoying the chance to sip some of the unique wines indigenous to the region. You may even want to enjoy some island hopping with a sailing excursion – there are multiple options from day tours to overnight excursions, or you could just head out on your own by taking the inter-island ferry.
Portugal’s Algarve Coast offers beaches for every taste, with everything from golden sands backed by red cliffs with pine trees to stretches hidden in coves with sea caves and rock formations, all framed by gorgeous azure waters. While winter is a bit too chilly for swimming with temperatures typically hovering around the low 60s Fahrenheit, it’s the perfect time to surf, just bring a wetsuit. Plus you’ll enjoy crowd-free walks among picturesque scenery and plenty of opportunities for al fresco dining on dishes like fresh-caught sea bass under cloudless, bright blue skies.
During the hottest months of the year, which are December, January, and February in Cape Town, and throughout the Southern Hemisphere, this city moves outdoors. It’s the dry season, which means you’ll be able to enjoy those warm temperatures, long days, and rain-free skies. Visit Boulder Beach for the chance to get up close to penguins in the wild, one of the few places in the world it’s possible, and while you’re there, take a refreshing dip in the water and enjoy a swim right alongside them. Be sure to venture up to Table Mountain for breathtaking views over the Cape, and head inland to experience this region’s increasingly popular wine country.
New Zealand, of course, is in the Southern Hemisphere, so you’ll be able to take advantage of their summer season during our winter. The Marlborough Sounds are an ideal area to spend time in, situated on the north end of the South Island, they’re renowned for their scenic blend of bush-clad hills and tranquil bays. You’ll find more than 50 reserves here, with a wide range of recreational opportunities from swimming, boating, and fishing to diving and kayaking on the water as well as hiking and mountain biking on land. Rent a kayak and explore the area’s picturesque waterways where curious seals and dolphins are likely to approach, or embark on a scenic trek through native forests along the Queen Charlotte Track.
This spectacular island lies in the Tasman Sea between Australia and New Zealand. It offers the chance to enjoy a destination that’s practically untouched by humans, with a tiny native population and only 400 tourists allowed to visit each year. The limit is in place to protect the jaw-dropping natural landscape of the island which is home to a beautiful crystal lagoon and coral reef.
With its wide, European-style boulevards, incredible cuisine, and exciting nightlife, Buenos Aires is a city unlike any other – especially during the summer, which falls during North America’s winter. In this season the nightlife doesn’t stop until the sun comes up, every single night of the week. There is literally nonstop fun, and it’s not uncommon to run into an impromptu tango show right on the streets. Enjoy strolling the pedestrian areas too, lined with a host of wine bars, cafes, and steakhouses that serve some of the world’s best chops.
Quickly becoming one of the most popular vacation destinations in South America, Colombia offers plenty when it comes to winter sun with the port city of Cartagena and Isla Barú with its beautiful white-sand beaches and coral reefs. Medellin, nicknamed the City of Eternal Spring, offers picturesque surrounding beauty, trendy cafes, and fantastic museums like the Museo de Antioquia. In the vibrant capital of Bogotá, which sits at nearly 9,000 feet above sea level, are scenic hikes and viewpoints all around.
The Rock Islands, which were spotlighted in “Survivor Palau,” are ancient relics of coral reefs that make up 300 islands in the Southern Lagoon of Palau. Most are uninhabited and are renowned for their unusual shape and fine, powdery sand beaches, but even more so for their jewel-like turquoise-hued lagoons. The islands also host the famous Jellyfish Lake, where millions of golden jellyfish live, harmless to humans, and a number of other surprises, like the Milky Way which is a bay filled with white limestone known for rejuvenating the skin.