While the rest of the world is buried beneath sheets of snow and ice, many of the best beach vacations can be found blanketed in nothing but sunshine and warm breezes.
There’s no need to wait until summer to step your toes into soft sand and warm water along the coast. While the rest of the world is buried beneath sheets of snow and ice, many of the best beach destinations can be found blanketed in nothing but sunshine and warm breezes. Swap the blues of winter with the azure shores of our 15 favorite sunny beach destinations.
Top Picks for You
WHERE: Island of Hawaii, Hawaii
Why Go: During the winter months the temperature on Hawaii’s youngest and largest island barely dips below 70 degrees at night, with daytime temperatures averaging in the low 80s. Winter is the season for humpback whale watching, just one of the many other options for passing the day leisurely on the beach after snorkeling with sea turtles along Kahalu’u Beach or hiking to the nearby Kona Cloud Forest Sanctuary.
Where to Stay: The Four Seasons Resort Hualalai is a natural paradise along the Kona-Kohala Coast, where more than 865 acres encompass the award-winning golf course, spa, accommodations, and restaurants on the property. Hualalai is where many of the nation’s top athletes come to train for the Iron Man competition, and the resort’s state-of-the-art fitness facility always has something creative going on with their daily classes.
Why Go: Although Pensacola Beach residents may pull out winter coats when temperatures dip below 60 in this beach destination, the mild weather and sunny days are just the right temperature for thawing out from the snow up north. Hike up around Fort Pickens, kayak in the bay, or grab a wetsuit for snorkeling off the protected shorelines of Gulf Islands National Seashore.
Where to Stay: Stick close to the shore by booking a room at the Hilton Pensacola Beach Hotel. The 275-room hotel is located directly on the beach and features an indoor heated pool as well as two outdoor pools (one is heated) and an outdoor hot tub.
WHERE: Cayman Islands
Why Go: The largest of the Cayman Islands, Grand Cayman boasts year-round temperatures in the 80s and is home to one of the most famous beaches in the Caribbean, Seven Mile Beach. During winter this crescent-shaped beach hosts some of the island’s most popular events, like Eric Ripert’s Cayman Cookout.
Where to Stay: Grand Cayman has become best known for its signature blend of ethereal luxury and down-to-earth hospitality, and the Kimpton Seafire Resort and Spa seamlessly captures both qualities within its 266-room complex. The resort sits directly on Seven Mile Beach, where its open-air architecture makes good use of the soft Cayman breeze.
Related: Things to Do in the Cayman Islands
Why Go: While tourists crowd the beaches of Belize’s popular Placencia and Hopkins beaches to the north, Punta Gorda sits quietly in the southern portion of the country with 85-degree weather and secluded shorelines. A fishing village by trade, guests can venture out for catch-and-release fly fishing trips, lounge on the beach, explore the waterfalls in Rio Blanco National Park, or wander peacefully through the low-trafficked Mayan ruins at Lubaantun.
Where to Stay: Set in the heart of the rainforest, the Copal Tree Lodge a Muy’Ono resort, is a luxury eco-resort with a heart for preserving the land on which it resides. Nearly 70 percent of the food served at the lodge is organically produced on the farm, and that includes chocolate, vegetables, fruit, chicken, eggs, and more. Copal Tree Lodge also donates a portion of each stay to a local charity and is an active participant in Pack for a Purpose.
St. Martin and St. Maarten
WHERE: St. Martin and St. Maarten
Why Go: There are at least 37 reasons at any given time to visit St. Martin, more if you count the 300 restaurants that have turned St. Martin/St. Maarten into the culinary capital of the Caribbean. The island is half Dutch and half French, where 37 white sand beaches transcend borders between the two countries that call this one island home.
Where to Stay: Made up of 83 rooms and suites and 8 separate four-bedroom villas, Belmond’s La Samanna resort is equally popular for its pristine beachfront location and luxury spa offerings as it is for its highly celebrated restaurant L’Oursin.
WHERE: Oahu, Hawaii
Why Go: Winter is the best time for catching surf along the shores of this capital city, or catching just a glimpse at the pro surfers that fill the waters during any of the winter surf competitions held each year in Honolulu. The city’s breathtaking scenery and cosmopolitan atmosphere attract a diverse crowd, where Diamond Head hikers and Waikiki beach loungers can all end up around a bowl of poke at Ahi Assassins Fish Co.
Where to Stay: Recently renovated, The Laylow, an Autograph Collection, is Waikiki’s answer to trendy accommodations and traditional Hawaiian hospitality. Mid-century modern designs and floral wallpaper give the hotel a fresh feel for visitors in town during the winter season.
Why Go: Despite its ominous nickname as “Land’s End” (earned due to its proximity to the southern tip of California), Los Cabos is as warm and inviting during winter as it is any time of year. The destination is made up of two main towns, Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo, where each offers a mix of luxury accommodations and plenty of room to play both on and off the beach. Cruise alongside gray whales while they’re in the area between December and April on a boat ride to El Arco, the arch-shaped rock formation where the Sea of Cortes meets the Pacific Ocean.
Where to Stay: Four restaurants, a movie theatre, and a rooftop bar are only a portion of the upscale offerings at the recently renovated Viceroy Los Cabos. This 192-room hotel sits in the Zona Hotelera district of San Jose del Cabo, where its dramatic courtyard looks out over the main pool and onto the sea beyond.
Related: Things to Do in Los Cabos
WHERE: French Polynesia
Why Go: Although all flights and ships enter through Viatape, few visitors stay in the main village for more than a few hours before venturing off to one of the many motu (small islands) that make up this Polynesian paradise. Most of the motu are occupied by individual resorts, and the top accommodations will feature a view of Bora Bora’s famous Mount Otemanu. Get your bearings with a jet ski tour of the islands with Moana Adventure Tours before heading out to snorkel and swim with colorful fish, stingrays, and reef sharks.
Where to Stay: The St. Regis Bora Bora has had its fair share of screen time—it was portrayed as the fictitious Eden Resort in the film Couples Retreat—but its cinematic views and melodramatic sunsets are all part of a regular day at this luxury resort. The resort is home to the largest overwater suite villas in the South Pacific and remarkable dining options, like Lagoon Restaurant by Jean-Georges where an extensive wine list and a glass-paneled floor above the resort’s shark sanctuary make for a truly memorable dining experience.
Why Go: Not only does Aruba hang out in the low 80s year-round, but the country’s location just outside of the southern hurricane belt means this island stays mostly dry even in the height of the Caribbean’s typically rainy winter season. Discover the cool waters within Aruba’s hidden natural pool “Conchi,” or venture out to the boulders of Arikok National Park, where ancient petroglyphs lurk in seaside caves.
Where to Stay: Situated on the alabaster sands of Palm Beach, the Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino’s 411 guestrooms offer modern and eco-friendly furnishings and amenities. Families love the spacious suites and the outdoor children’s pool while the adults-only Tradewinds Club wing of the hotel offers a boutique spin on Aruban serenity.
Related: Best Hotels in Aruba
WHERE: New South Wales, Australia
Why Go: Whale watching heats up during the winter months in this balmy New South Wales coastal town. Byron Bay is a surfer’s paradise from December through February (a.k.a. Australia’s summer) when the temperatures average around 80 degrees. Captain Cook Lookout is a must-visit while in the area but plan to spend the day as the lookout is located within Cape Byron State Conservation Area which is home to miles of walking trails and one of Australia’s most popular beaches.
Where to Stay: There’s never a dull moment at Elements of Byron, a 202-room design-centric resort with eight luxury freestanding villas and an endless array of complimentary onsite and offsite activities. The resort is located on a public beach, giving guests direct access to the famous Belongil Beach.
Turks and Caicos Islands
Why Go: This British-owned country is home to 40 islands, only eight of which are inhabited. Turks and Caicos is divided into two groups of islands, the Turks Islands (Grand Turk and Salt Cay) and the Caicos Islands (Providenciales, North Caicos, Middle Caicos, East Caicos, South Caicos, and West Caicos). Most visitors spend their days on the beaches surrounding Providenciales, but the Columbus National Marine Park off of Grand Turk is where divers go to explore the more than 40 dive sites of the area.
Where to Stay: The resort-within-a-resort concept at Grace Bay Club makes it an ideal choice for travelers of all demographics, where the super-luxury section, The Estate, is a favorite for couples seeking true Turks and Caicos tranquility.
Related: Best Hotels in Turks and Caicos
WHERE: Dominican Republic
Why Go: Winter golfing is no fun in mounds of snow, which is why so many golfers flock to Punta Cana each winter to take advantage of the city’s warm weather and award-winning courses, including the Jack Nicklaus-designed course at Punta Espada Golf Club. The beaches in this area are among the cleanest in the world, where 14 have earned the prestigious Blue Flag certification for sustainability and cleanliness.
Where to Stay: The Westin Puntacana Resort Club is located within the 15,000 acres of the Puntacana Resort and Club, with two championship golf courses and three miles of white sand beaches. The resort is also home to the Caribbean’s only Six Senses Spa, where spa treatments are customized for individuals, couples, teens, and even kids.
Why Go: December marks the beginning of the dry season in this coastal Thai city, where temperatures rarely drop below 80 degrees during the day. Craggy limestone cliffs looming in the distance among mangrove biomes and hundreds of offshore islands and fishing villages in the Andaman Sea. Take a nighttime sea kayaking journey through the hongs with John Gray Sea Canoe, or hop on a speedboat for a Bond-like race toward Phi Phi Island.
Where to Stay: Although the luxury is sophisticated and understated at Phulay Bay, a Ritz Carlton Reserve, the oversized king beds and bedroom-sized bathrooms are monumental both in size and opulence. Outstanding service is a given, where personal butlers transport guests around the manicured acreage of this beachside resort.
Why Go: Situated on the Gulf of Oman, Muscat’s mix of 16th-century Portuguese forts and high rise condos offer a juxtaposing skyline along the city’s golden beaches. Summer is hot in Muscat, but the winters are ideal for thawing out during days in the upper 70s. Deep-sea canyons and large amounts of giant sea turtles and small spinner dolphins make snorkeling and diving an adventure offshore, while the sights are just as colorful and enchanting on land at the Muttrah Souq, where locals come to buy fabric, goods, and jewelry.
Where to Stay: The luxury accommodations at Al Bustan Palace, a Ritz Carlton Hotel, are matched only by the resort’s famous Al Bustan Beach, where the beach remains the longest private beach in all of Oman.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines
Why Go: Although the harbors may be filled with yachts during the winter season, the beaches of St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) are refreshingly bare. January through May is the dry season on the islands, and it’s the best time to enjoy the serene seclusion of the SVG’s 32 islands and cays.
Where to Stay: The 115-acre private island of Petite St. Vincent offers 22 luxurious one-bedroom cottages and two-bedroom beach villas and uses a flag system to communicate throughout the resort in place of telephones and Wi-Fi for a truly unplugged vacation experience. The resort’s treetop spa, dive center, and water and land sports provide great ways to work up an appetite before heading to any of the two onsite restaurants for a meal of locally caught seafood and organic island-grown fruits and vegetables.