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Say goodbye to cold rainy winter days, and ‘hello’ to a tropical paradise with a winter vacation! While winter is still a few months away, it’s time to get planning your mini break now while prices are decent and accommodation options are plentiful. There are tons of incredible places to visit over the winter period that are close to the equator and offer white sand beaches, turquoise waters, and hot sunshine. From Caribbean islands that were once home to pirates, through to stunning Thai beaches, here are the best tropical vacations for winter:
1. Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico
If you want to catch some winter rays without going too far afield, the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico is just the place for you. Experience an amazing new culture, explore Mayan ruins, indulge in the country’s incredible street food scene, and kick back on tropical Caribbean beaches — the Yucatan Peninsula is home to the best beaches in Mexico. Head to Isla Holbox, which is a Robinson-Crusoe-like island that has no roads. The only way you can get around this incredibly peaceful island is by bicycle or golf buggy. The sea is a vivid turquoise color and you can kick back at one of the beach bars or restaurants that lie to the side of the island. If beach resorts are more your thing, there are plenty of beach hotels in the nearby destinations of Playa del Carmen and Isla Mujeres.
2. Key West, Florida
You don’t need to leave home-turf to find tropical paradise! Key West, Florida, is home to tons of incredible tropical beaches, and the weather is perfectly warm in December and January, making it a popular destination for winter sun. Unwind with a frozen margarita on white sand beaches, go snorkeling in tropical waters, do some water sports, and leave any winter blues far behind.
3. Ko Phi Phi, Thailand
Head further afield to South East Asia for stunning beaches, spicy cuisine, and a relaxed pace of life. If you’re a Leonardo Dicaprio fan and you’ve seen the film The Beach, you’ll probably remember scenes of an incredible bay surrounded by limestone cliffs and perfectly blue waters. That beach is Maya Bay on the island of Ko Phi Phi in southern Thailand. It’s known as the most beautiful beach in Thailand and while you can’t set foot on the beach currently, you can take a boat tour around the island to see it with your own eyes. The rest of Ko Phi Phi island is home to equally stunning beaches — you’re going to be spoiled for choice. While there, you can also visit the jaw-dropping beaches of nearby Krabi, where you can find amazing spots for scuba diving as the area is known to have some of the best coral reefs in the world.
4. Cartagena, Colombia
Colombia’s Caribbean coast is absolutely sweltering in the winter and it’s a perfect vacation destination if you want to mix history with tropical beaches. Head to Cartagena, which is easily reached via a three-hour plane ride from Miami. Cartagena oozes everything you could want from a Caribbean city, with brightly colored Spanish colonial era houses, music wafting down the cobble-stone streets, and amazing restaurants. After soaking in the city’s atmosphere, head to the nearby tropical Rosario Islands, which are paradise-like islands with white sand beaches, turquoise waters, and incredible snorkeling opportunities.
5. Corn Islands, Nicaragua
Nicaragua’s Corn Islands are known for their amazing natural beauty. The islands, which are located in the heart of the Caribbean away from the Nicaraguan mainland, offer the most relaxing and genuinely authentic Caribbean experience you can find. The Corn Islands are made up of two islands, and in the 16th and 17th century, the islands were used as a refuge by pirates, who enjoyed the white sand beaches with a bottle of rum. So what’s stopping you doing the same? The slow way of life on the island will have you taking afternoon naps in a hammock, drinking fresh coconut water, and snorkeling alongside tropical fish. Most of the locals speak Creole English, and a bit of Spanish.
6. Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica
If you’re dreaming of a winter vacation in Costa Rica, look no further than the Manuel Antonio National Park. The park is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in Central America and it’s the point where the rainforest meets the sea, offering spectacular scenery. If you like spotting wildlife while relaxing on a tropical beach, this is the place for you.
7. Bali, Indonesia
Indonesia’s islands are a popular destination for those seeking winter sun. The island of Bali is the most popular of all, and from exploring inland jungles, to wildlife spotting or kicking back on a tropical beach, Bali offers the perfect tropical paradise. Bali is known for its luxury accommodation, with infinity pool villas and luxury beach huts on stilts being top choices for travelers.
8. San Juan, Puerto Rico
San Juan in Puerto Rico is an excellent vacation spot if you’re looking for somewhere fairly nearby with good weather in December and January. San Juan is home to long strips of Atlantic Coast beaches, bars, restaurants, and clubs. If you want a history fix, you can explore its cobbled-stone streets and Spanish colonial era buildings.
9. Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
Known for its beach resorts, the Dominican Republic is another great option for a tropical winter vacation. The island is best known as the first stopping point for Christopher Columbus when he traveled to the New World in 1492. As with many of the Caribbean islands, you can see Spanish colonial heritage, incredible white sand beaches, and stunning blue waters. Punta Cana is the most popular beach destination in the Dominican Republic as it’s home to Caribbean and Atlantic coast beaches, meaning visitors have the best of both worlds. Want to surf in the Atlantic, and then relax in the warm Caribbean waters? You can at Punta Cana! There’s also an impressive range of excellent beach resorts and hotels found here.