As the Fall season draws to a close and it gets closer to winter in the northern hemisphere, many of us are starting to think of where to go to escape those chilly months. Sure, skiing and playing in the snow is fun…but only to a certain extent! Soon our bodies will be aching for a getaway. While Fall is one of our favorite seasons of the year for traveling for many reasons, the primary reason for traveling in the winter is to seek sunshine and warmth. So we asked some of our fellow “travel nuts” to tell us where their favorite travel destination to escape the cold.
My all-time favorite winter escape is Hawaii. More specifically, the island of Kauai, where if I were going this winter I would book into a condo now at Hanalei Colony Resort in the north. I can see the sunrises and sunsets in my mind’s eye, and can feel the sand between my toes and that wonderful warm ocean water embracing my skin. This low-key resort is unplugged–no TVs or telephones–so if you turn off your personal device, you can really clear out your head. I might consider driving a few miles into town for some shave ice or fresh fish, but then again I might be content with just walking a few steps over to the resort’s ocean-front restaurant for a Blue Crush cocktail. Ahhhh.
The Canary Islands
The Canary Islands are a budget friendly place to escape the European winter, particularly Gran Canaria for LGBT travellers. It’s a destination which receives sunshine and good weather, pretty much throughout the year.
Gran Canaria has always been a beacon of tolerance whilst in the olden days, mainland Spain used to have an extremely hostile conservative attitude led by the Catholic Church. The Canary Islands were a popular place to exile people who broke social rules and thought differently.
During the harsh, repressive Franco years, Gran Canaria was too far away from the mainland to bother with, so they turned a blind eye to homosexuality there. From the 1960s, tourism really started to take off, attracting more and more foreigners and therefore even more tolerant attitudes. Today, the island is a playground for LGBT travellers.
El Nido, Philippines
Looking to escape winter? I get it, I’m originally from Wisconsin where winter hangs around for months. One of my favorite winter escapes is to El Nido Palawan in the Philippines, an added bonus is the Philippines is super affordable. There is beach camping, 3 star rooms, and even over the water bungalows in El Nido so no matter your budget there’s something for you. During the day soak up the sun on boat heading out on a day trip to some of the most gorgeous islands in the world. Then head back to town for sunset on the beach drinking 50 cent rum and cokes! I guarantee you the Filipino people have no idea what snow is!
Siem Reap, Cambodia
Cambodia knows no winter. If anything, it is actually almost unbearably hot, all the time. Sure enough, sweating and melting in the sun (or even in the shade) are all part of the experience. Yet, it is a fantastic place to explore, with beautiful nature, stunning archeological sites, ancient cultures, delicious food and friendly, welcoming locals. Besides, it is so cheap to travel around Cambodia that even the smallest budget can go a long way: I spent a few weeks between Siem Reap and Battambang last winter, and on a regular day I’d spend as little as $10 USD between accommodation and food, which means that if I felt like splurging I only had to stretch my budget to $25 USD at most. If planning to spend the winter there, be prepared to having to wash your clothes every single day as they get soaked with sweat, and to drink copious amounts of water to stay hydrated in the heat.
Sunny days, waves and culture. Bali is the perfect destination if you want to beat the winter blues and escape to a warm paradise. When the temperature drops on the north hemisphere it is time to book a flight to the most famous destination in Indonesia, and enjoy the dry season in Bali (May to September). But it’s not only the good weather that makes people from all over the world travel to Bali, the surf paradise is also the address of a unique Hindu culture, volcanoes, endless rice paddies and finger licking food. We went to Bali looking for surf and beach, but ended up discovering a whole world of stunning nature and local experiences that you only can have in the Island of Gods. Ok, we know that flights may be a little expensive depending from where you are flying out, but once you land in Bali you will see that the best things in life are free: sun, sea and friendly smiles.
San Diego, California
A secret most people don’t realize is one of the best times to visit the California Coast is in the winter. It’s quieter and still absolutely beautiful. San Diego is a perfect winter spot to get away from the cold as most of the year it hangs around 75 degrees and in California, our waters are actually warmest in November & December.
Since it’s no longer tourists season room rates drop and you can still explore the beaches, go paddle boarding, eat your way through Little Italy or the fish tacos and California burritos, tour the breweries, and go to the San Diego Zoo. As much as San Diego is seen as a summer beach city you can enjoy most all of its attractions year round.
It does snow in Dubai but only indoors at the Ski Dubai Snow Park! Dubai has terrific weather over the winter – perfect for hanging out in the sunshine without it getting unbearably hot. Dubai has lots of activities that will keep both adults and children happy. For example there are several large waterparks, aquariums, traditional souks, mega malls and desert expeditions For the foodie, there are plenty of top-rated restaurants as well as lots of smaller places that serve food from all around world. Like pretty much everything it touches, Dubai redefines fun in the sunshine.
We escaped the winter in Poland last year by booking a cheap Ryanair flight to Cyprus! The weather on the island is consistently sunny and even December days can be spent basking in the sun. Cyprus is full of beautiful beaches and incredible sunsets year round, and there are even waterparks operating well into Fall. We love traveling in Cyprus because people are friendly, the weather is perfect, and costs are extremely affordable.
My favourite place to escape the cold winter months is easily Zipolite in Mexico. It’s a small town almost entirely on the beach, which – for bonus points – is a clothing optional beach. It’s always good fun, and people are so open and friendly. If you’re looking for loads of beach parties and people to hang around with, you’ll want to go around Christmas or New Years.
Much of the year, however, is nearly empty, making it a relaxing place to sway in a hammock sipping a beer, without a care in the world. Plus, they have all kinds of accommodation; pay high prices for the ritzy Nude Hotel, or camp out at one of the many beach front campgrounds on the cheap. And don’t worry – you don’t have to go nude to enjoy it, Zipolite welcomes everyone
Disney, Universal, and iDrive! Orlando, Florida makes for a fun winter getaway. Last January, Craig and I (Gemma) hit the rides at Universal Studios, danced with Minnie at Walt Disney World, and drank cocktails on International Drive with the bonus of pretty much having the parks to ourselves. One of the greatest things about visiting Orlando in January is that everyone else is at home. We made our way around both islands at Universal Studios TWICE and squeezed in time to dance to the Blues Brothers and swig Butterbeer at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Want to meet Mickey but short on cash? Check out how we tackled Orlando on a budget.
With clear water, coral sands and balmy temperatures, you can’t really go wrong with Grand Cayman if you are looking to escape cold winter weather. The availability of accommodations and eateries at various price points also means you can vacation frugally or splurge. My absolute favorite thing about Grand Cayman though is Seven Mile Beach. It may not be the most secluded beach in the world but at almost six miles long (yes, not actually seven), it is easy to find a spot of your own. As an added bonus, stay the whole day and you will be rewarded with a breathtaking sunset.
The best time to visit Phuket is during the Northern Hemisphere winter when the monsoon has past and you can expect beautiful weather which makes it an excellent destination for a winter break. There are many beach areas, towns and Thai culture to enjoy. Phuket has many different accommodation options which makes it suitable for all budgets and food and drinks are inexpensive. It’s a fun place to be and it’s easy to take it as easy or adventurous as you would like. You can stay in Patong with its rowdy nightlife or relax on nearly deserted Mai Khao beach. You are sure to find a vacation that you will love in Phuket.
Cancun and the Mayan Riviera in Mexico is our go-to place to escape the cold winter months. It’s a relatively easy and cheap flight from major cities in the U.S., and the temperature is always perfect during the winter months. Average daytime temperatures in Cancun in December hover around 75° F.
While everyone at home is battling freezing temperatures and scraping the ice off their windshields, you could be basking in the sunshine on the beach, drinking fruity cocktails and taking a dip in the ocean. There are so many things to do in Cancun, from indulging at all-inclusive resorts, to swimming with turtles in Isla Mujeres and checking out the ancient ruins near Tulum and Chichen Itza.
Singapore is a great place to escape the winter cold! I traveled to Singapore for just that reason a few years ago and was pleasantly surprised by just how much I loved it. I figured I would enjoy the island city-state but it ended up being one of my favorite places. With no shortage of hawker centers or culinary variety, a big part of my travels involved eating my way through the city. Fortunately, it’s easy to burn that off wandering around the waterfront promenade, window shopping and exploring the ethnic quarters. Singapore is very safe and not difficult to navigate so getting around is a breeze.
Penang is a state of Malaysia right up the North of the country where Georgetown, its capital city, is a UNESCO world heritage site.This colourful city is not only known for its creative energy but famous for its multicultural buildings as well as traditional delicacies. Also, not forgetting its diverse tropical abundance where you can find durians and nutmegs.
For graffiti art lovers, murals are found on almost every wall of Georgetown including the works of Lithuanian artist, Ernest Zacharevic. Exploring this city on foot guarantees surprises on every corner whether it’s good food, it’s historic charm or the mix of contemporary and traditional artwork- definitely worth a visit!
Margaret River, Australia
Margaret River is a small wine region about 3h south of Perth, the world’s most isolated city and the capital of Western Australia.
What I love most about the region is the combination of rich culture, vibrant nature and wildlife (think jumping kangaroos and cows), the long coast with beautiful rugged and fine sand beaches where surfers share the waters with sharks, farm to table food and Australia’s most premium wineries, what else is there to need for the perfect getaway?
Most importantly, although the temperatures in the winter months may hit zero, their winter follows Southern Hemisphere so, when Europe and North America start to get really cold, Margaret River welcomes to the summer sunshine.
In November, don’t miss Margaret River Gourmet Escape, a three day wine and food festival that brings out the best the region has to offer with feasts in the forest where entire lambs are cooked in the pit fire, beach dinners in tepees and romantic cruise brunches.
Con Dao, Vietnam
Con Dao (precisely – Con Son island in the Con Dao archipelago), gets my vote for top place to escape the winter. Pretty sure this place has never seen snow. Even if some of the beaches are white as snow.
Con Dao is just at the right point of development. It has all the amenities you need without being overly crowded. We went there in January and often had beaches completely to ourselves. It’s a great place if you like diving, hiking, exploring remote islands by motorbike or simply hanging out on pristine beaches.
Don’t get scared off by the prices of the luxury resort on the island, there are plenty of affordable guest houses as well. Your main expenses will be a scooter rental – a must to get to the good beaches – and food, which is a bit pricier than on the mainland. But the beauty of Con Dao completely makes up for it!
My favorite place to escape the winter is beautiful Puerto Rico! For East Coasters in the US, it’s only a short 4 hour flight away, and it’s normally rather cheap if you go at an off-peak time – I’ve gotten tickets for as little as $250 roundtrip, perfect for budget travelers! There are beautiful beaches right in San Juan and even better ones if you have the time to head to Culebra or Vieques. Once you get to San Juan, you won’t be busting your budget. They use the US dollar, and prices are fairly similar to the mainland US, with plenty of delicious cheap eats in San Juan for as little as $10 USD. Hostels and Airbnbs offer excellent value all over the island. If you’re based in NYC, Boston, Ft. Lauderdale, or other JetBlue hubs, Puerto Rico is one of your best bets for a budget-friendly sunny winter getaway!
If you are looking for a great place to escape the winter months, we think you’ll find it in Costa Rica! Just when the weather gets cold and snowy in the Northern Hemisphere, Costa Rica enters into its dry sunny season. November and December are the best months to visit Costa Rica. Costa Rica’s wet season ends in late October, so by November-December the greenery around the country is still lush, the rains have gone away and the climate is absolutely perfect for enjoying the beach, trekking in rainforests or national parks, or going on any of the more adventurous activities around Costa Rica (think zip lining, canyoning, ATVs, horseback riding and more).
December and January are our favourite months of the year, as the country is full of festivals and celebrations leading up to Christmas and the New Year. But this is also considered to be high-season in Costa Rica, so if you plan on visiting during this time, make sure you reserve your accommodation ahead of time!
A trip to Jamaica mid-January is just the thing to cure those winter blues. With easy flights from most North American cities, the warm waters and cold beers in Montego Bay, Ocho Rios or Negril are not as far away as they may seem. To really get off the tourist track and even save some cash, head to the less visited South Coast. The small towns of Bluefields and Treasure Beach have exquisite sandy beaches, perfect for getting in that Caribbean without being surrounded by everybody else in the world. Day trips from the South Coast to waterfalls, hot springs, lunch at Little Ochie, jungles and crocodile safaris will keep you busy if you do feel like leaving the beach, but be sure to make it back for cocktail hour and that famous sunset!
Martinborough, New Zealand
The boutique wine region, Martinborough, New Zealand may be on the other side of the world but being as far away as possible is the best way to forget about winter back home right?
Bordered by the Rimutaka Ranges to the west, the ranges do a great job at ensuring the rain is unleashed there leaving Martinborough as one of the driest places in New Zealand year round.
The only glimpse of snow Martinborough ever gets? The odd sprinkling on a crispy winters morning on top of the Rimutaka Ranges. Snow is always beautiful from afar!
For those conscious of their budget, Martinborough caters for all. There’s a freedom campsite on the edge of town, you can eat cheap at weekly markets and hitchhiking is a norm.
Alternatively, you could find a private villa, drink bottles of perfectly aged wine while eating the best food from around NZ by top chefs.