15 of the Best Warm Weather Destinations to Escape the Cold


By Melissa Klurman, Reader's Digest

The weather outside might be freezing at home, but that doesn’t mean you have to spend the winter shivering. Instead, grab your bathing suit and sunscreen and head to these sunny spots that offer the best warm-weather getaways for every interest.

The best island scenery: St Lucia


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It’s hard to beat St. Lucia for stunning outdoor scenery. The scenic Pitons Mountains are so unique they’re a UNESCO World Heritage Site, there are pillowy white beaches, one of the world’s only drive-in volcanoes, natural sulfur springs, not to mention lush rainforests and waterfalls. At the intersection of the Caribbean Sea and Rodney Bay’s stunning coastline lies The Landings Resort & Spa. Waterfront balconies here provide picture-perfect views of the sapphire water and twin volcanic Pitons spires at every turn; take in the views from the sea on a Hobie Cat, sea kayak, or stand-up paddleboard, or get a gorgeous glimpse of the neighboring city of Soufrière on a catamaran sailboat. Find out 13 more active volcanoes you can actually visit.

The best sunrises: Maui, Hawaii


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Just in time for the chilly winter season, Southwest is launching nonstop flights from the West Coast straight to the tropical heart of Maui, where the year-round sunshine means you can be spending your time searching for sea turtles on a snorkeling trip instead of shoveling snow in one quick flight. The beaches here are beautiful, but don’t miss the opportunity to head 10,000 feet up into the clouds at Haleakala National Park, whose name literally means “house of the sun,” for spectacular sunrise views at the precipice of a dormant volcano, it’s well worth the early wake up to start your warm-weather getaway with the first rays of the sun. Discover all the reasons Maui is really the best island in Hawaii.

The best city beaches: San Juan, Puerto Rico


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Being able to relax on a warm sandy beach in the middle of the winter is obviously a dream getaway, but not everyone wants their sand and surf to be hidden in a remote corner of an island. Instead, head to the sizzling city nightlife of San Juan, where the streets of chic Condado back right into the palm trees and lapping waves of the Atlantic beaches. Top chefs, stylish hotels, bars, clubs, and shops are all just steps away from the tropical beaches. And since Puerto Rico is a United States Commonwealth, it’s one of the easiest islands in the Caribbean to visit since you won’t need a passport, have to change money, or even worry about your cell phone working. Puerto Rico is also one of the best tropical vacations you can take without leaving the United States.

The best swimming holes: Riviera Maya, Mexico


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What’s better than diving into the salty sea? Submerging in the crystal clear and salt-free waters of the naturally occurring limestone cenotes of the Riviera Maya and Yucatan Peninsula. Spend a sunny day exploring these natural cave pools filled cool filtered water that springs from the ground below and the lush palm forests that surround them. Then head back to the perfectly located Fairmont Mayakoba for comfortable rooms and modern Mexican cuisine.

The best sunset celebrations: Key West, Florida


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With direct flight routes launching this winter from East Coast hubs Newark and Philadelphia, Florida’s southernmost point has become an accessible warm getaway even if you don’t want to make the colorful drive from Miami. Once you arrive, you’ll feel like you’ve found a tropical island far away. Take the trolley to catch the highlights of historic Old Town, including Ernest Hemingway’s famed home, and then make plans to watch the spectacular pink and purple sunsets, which are so awe-inspiring they’re actually the centerpiece of a nightly celebration every evening in Mallory Square that starts revving up two hours before the sun goes down. And while Key West isn’t known for its beaches, sister resorts Casa Marina and The Reach are nestled along the island’s largest private beach and feature toes-in-the-sand dining and sand sculpting workshops. Don’t miss the most spectacular sunset from every state.

The best all-inclusives: Punta Cana, Dominican Republic


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Punta Cana’s beaches—among the best in the Caribbean—will fulfill all your warm weather dreams with turquoise waters, sugary sand, and miles of uninterrupted coastline. And you can enjoy all the sun and fun along the pristine sands of Bavaro Beach and beyond at one of the multitude of all-inclusive resorts that allow you to eat at an array of restaurants, indulge in tropical drinks, play on the beach and pool, be entertained at live shows, and stay in a plush hotel for one price. Traveling with kids? Consider the Grand Palladium Bavaro—it has the largest kids club space in the entire Caribbean with programs ranging from tots to teens.

The best affordable luxury: Cartagena, Colombia


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Bargain lovers looking for a trendy warm weather getaway will want to put this South American sleeper at the top of their winter travel lists. The old port city boasts a 16th-century historic walled Old Town and Castillo San Felipe de Barajas, and there are non-stop flights from New York’s JFK. The new 5-star Conrad Cartagena in the Karibana District offers an affordable upscale retreat for a warm winter getaway with a dose of the city’s coastal Caribbean culture where you can relax at one of the resort’s four pools and private beach or play a round at the Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course.

The best girlfriend getaways: New Orleans


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New Orleans vibrant nightlife and live-music scenes make the “Big Easy” a great girl’s trip winter getaway (check out the Girl’s Trip movie if you don’t believe us). And even if your crew isn’t one to seek out the boozy Bourbon Street crawl, there’s plenty of amazing food to be discovered in the French Quarter, plenty of shopping and strolling in the Garden District, and warm weather cruises along the bayou, too. Check out these other great weekend getaways for girls trips.

The best natural wonders: Costa Rica


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This Central American paradise has designated more than 25 percent of the country to protect its natural wonders, with 28 national parks, reserves, and wildlife refuges for you to explore. A few warm winter highlights include Tortuguero National Park, which was created to protect endangered turtles; Poas Volcano National Park, home to one of the country’s largest and most active volcanoes; and Manuel Antonio National Park—considered Costa Rica’s crown jewel—which has both lush tropical rainforests and dazzling white sand beaches, not to mention three-toed sloths and white-faced Capuchin monkeys.

The best art scene: Miami Beach


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Winter in Miami Beach offers near perfect weather every day averaging 75 degrees, ideal for taking in the vibrant art scene in the bustling beach city. Stroll the galleries, check out the street art, visit the Bass Museum, and make plans to attend buzzy Art Basel which draws 4,000 artists to the city in December. Immerse yourself in art with a stay at the W South Beach which in addition to ocean views, pool, cabanas, and a full-service beach club boasts a multi-million-dollar art collection with pieces from legendary artists including Andy Warhol, Jean Michel Basquiat, and Julian Schnabel.

The best desert getaway: Coachella Valley, California


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The expansive desert around bustling Palm Springs offers an array of activities for you to enjoy under a cloudless, sun-filled sky. Play a round of golf at some of the top courses in the country, tailgate at a polo match, ride the biggest rotating tramcar in the world up to the chilly peak of the San Jacinto Mountains, explore the Seussian Joshua Tree National Park, or marvel at the canyons of the San Andreas Fault.

The best family fun: Phoenix


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With the largest aquarium in the Southwest, Cactus League spring-training baseball, two zoos, and hotels with pools everywhere you look, “America’s Sunniest Metropolis” is a perfect warm-weather getaway for families. Phoenix offers desert temperatures, rugged mountain scenery, hiking and biking, and golf and tennis—just to name a few of the many diversions to keep the whole family busy. Here are more of our favorite family warm-weather getaways.

The best underwater adventures: Grenada


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Underwater explorers will want to dive into the tri-island destination of Grenada, Carriacou, and Petite Martinique located in the eastern Caribbean just south of Barbados. The lush destination has an impressive 40 white sandy beaches, including world-famous Grand Anse Beach, 15 breathtaking waterfalls, four chocolate factories, three rum distilleries, and more than 30 unforgettable dive sites, including the largest shipwreck in the Caribbean and the world’s first underwater sculpture Park.

The best European island culture: St. Maarten/St. Martin


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Instead of visiting Europe in the gray winter months, head to this Caribbean island which offers two European getaways in one destination: The St. Martin half of the island is French-speaking and offers a bit of Francophile culture in the tropics, including delicious French island cuisine; head to the other side for the friendly Dutch St. Maarten known for its laidback sense of hospitality. High costs are often a large deterrent for many looking to book a family getaway over the holidays, but with a variety of affordable hotels such as Divi Little Bay, activity companies such as Rainforest Adventures (home to the world’s steepest zip line!), and more offering an array of discounts, a visit to The Friendly Island during the holiday season is sure to not break the bank. Don’t miss the 10 beaches with the clearest water in the world.

The best aquatic movie star-spotting: Clearwater, Florida


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If you want to meet a real movie star while also soaking up the sun, head to the Gulf shores of Clearwater, Florida. Here you can meet the stars of Dolphin Tale and Dolphin Tale 2, Winter and Hope, who are in residence full-time at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. The amazing dolphins will probably make you want to hit the waves yourself, which won’t be a problem since the beautiful white sand beaches here boast 361 days of sunshine per year. Next, don’t miss these destinations that are even better in the winter.

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