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When those long, dark, chilly days start to feel as if they’ll never end, it’s probably time to get some winter sun. Unfortunately, some of those sunny destinations can mean isolation in quarantine which can make the vacation seem like more of punishment than a fun getaway. By choosing wisely, whether selecting an escape closer to home or a tropical spot that requires at most a Covid test and vaccination certificate, you can enjoy that trip you’re craving without having to spend part of it staring at the walls of a hotel room.
As Covid travel restrictions can change quickly, be sure to check current requirements before booking.
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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.
NOTE: Those 16 or over must be fully vaccinated and an approved Covid test must be taken in the three days before arrival for all visitors 10 years of age or older.
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.
NOTE: To avoid quarantine, you’ll need to bring proof that you’re fully vaccinated and a negative Covid test taken within 48 hours for an antigen test or 72 hours for a PCR test.
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.
NOTE: If you’re fully vaccinated there’s no quarantine needed but you will need a PCR test that can be done up to five days prior to departure.
The Canary Islands have a mild climate all year long with winter temperatures in the mid-70s. Plus you’ll have over 900 miles of coastline and golden sands for soaking up the sun and saying goodbye to the winter blues. The weather will be perfect for exploring the volcanic landscapes and sightseeing too. You might even want to go island-hopping by taking a sailing excursion with plenty of options for day tours or riding the inter-island ferry.
NOTE: You’ll need to be fully vaccinated and have a negative Covid test taken within 48 hours if it’s an antigen test or 72 for a PCR test.
The Baja Peninsula offers pristine beaches, soaring rugged mountains, cactus-filled landscapes, and some of the best whale watching on the planet, along with plenty of winter sun and temperatures that typically range in the upper 70s to low 80s. If you base yourself in La Paz (about two hours north of Cabo), you’ll find stunning white sands contrasted by clear turquoise waters for snorkeling and access to the famous Baja lagoons where gray whales often bring their newborn calves right up to the boats to introduce them to their human visitors. In fact, Baja Sur Tours will pick you up right from your hotel for a full day’s adventure with breakfast and lunch included.
NOTE: While there are mask requirements, you won’t need to bring proof of vaccination or a Covid test to enter Mexico, just a health questionnaire that can be filled out on your smartphone.
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.
NOTE: A negative PCR Covid test is required to be taken no more than 96 hours before departure.
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.
NOTE: A negative Covid test must be taken with results received within three days of departure to the territory.
Of course, there’s no need for a passport if you’re an American visiting Hawaii, and Maui offers diverse landscapes along with some of the best beaches in the islands. While temperatures cool a bit during the winter, dropping from the upper 80s to the upper 70s, it’s an ideal destination for winter sun right in the U.S. – you’ll get the most sun by staying along the west or south coast.
NOTE: A negative Covid test is required within one day of boarding a flight to Hawaii.
One of the most hassle-free destinations for Americans, with no need to test or show proof of vaccination, San Diego is renowned for its sunny skies that are enjoyed 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.
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.
NOTE: Visitors are permitted to travel to Barbados with a negative Covid test done within one day prior to arrival.
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.
NOTE: Fully-vaccinated Americans can visit Colombia with no quarantine or testing.
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.
NOTE: There is no Covid test or quarantine required but unvaccinated visitors aged 18 and older must purchase a travel insurance policy with a duration equal to the period of stay in the country.
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.
NOTE: All visitors must show proof of a negative molecular Covid test that was taken within 48 hours prior to arrival.
Most of Ecuador is in the Southern Hemisphere which means you’ll be visiting during the country’s summer, enjoying plenty of warmth and sunshine. The biggest challenge is deciding which area to visit as it’s home to the Andes Mountains with stunning crater lakes like Laguna Cuicocha, the Amazon rainforest, and the Galapagos Islands. There are beautiful beaches along its Pacific coast too. Most visitors fly into Quito, the capital city, which is well worth spending a few days in with its magnificent gothic architecture.
NOTE: Fully vaccinated visitors aren’t required to take a Covid test to enter, but those who aren’t vaccinated will need to present a negative PCR or antigen test certificate issued 72 hours before arrival.