Suffering from cabin fever this winter? Here’s a look at the top 5 places we’d spend this winter if we were planning an escape.
When blustery winds and gray days fill the extended forecast, we can’t say we blame you for wanting to escape somewhere warm and sunny. The great news is that there are many destinations that boast beautiful days, unforgettable sunsets, and clear skies year round.
1. Costa Rica
Costa Rica is an incredible place to visit any time of year, but winter can be especially welcoming. This lush landscape, framed by the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Caribbean Sea to the east, can become quite humid in the warmer summer months. And while the country, which is situated close to the Equator, has a year round tropical climate, the winter months often bring slightly cooler temperatures, less humidity, and nearly no rain, making it an enjoyable destination for outdoor exploration.
Spending time in nature is exactly what Costa Rica is all about. A thick, green jungle environment sits in the shadow of the iconic Arenal Volcano. The smoky volcanic summits around the country aren’t the only thing competing for your attention though. In addition to white stand beaches with emerald colored water, Costa Rica is also home to one of the most diverse flora, fauna, and wildlife populations in the world. Visiting Costa Rica during the drier, cooler winter months allows travelers to spend more time outside admiring the country’s indigenous plants and animals.
Getting into Costa Rica is fairly simple, too. American passports are needed, but stays under 90 days in length do not require an additional Visa. And while the official language is Spanish, most tourist areas have fluent English speakers and are able to accept US dollars.
2. Spain & Portugal
If a cultural vacation rich in food, wine, and rugged beauty sounds appealing, consider a winter trip to Spain and Portugal. By focusing your travel on the south of Spain and coastal Portugal you can expect to find clear skies and mild temperatures on most winter days. In fact, Portugal is renowned for warm winters with some of the best Mediterranean sunshine found in the Madiero Archipelago. And winter is generally considered low season for tourists visiting Europe, which means fewer crowds, better values, and the rare opportunity to experience Europe from a local’s perspective.
In Portugal you can enjoy highlight activities including wine tasting in Porto, exploring the lively capital of Lisbon, or admiring the dramatic cliffs of Madeira and Azores. In Spain, take advantage of fewer crowds at popular tourist attractions like Madrid’s famous Prado Museum, Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia Church, or the Alhambra Palace (pictured above) in Grenada; all of which are fully functioning in the winter and months and at times feel deserted without the crows of tourists! And what’s better than visiting Europe’s most iconic sites alongside its locals? To view our award-winning guided tours of Spain & Portugal, click here.
3. The Hawaiian Islands
Chances are Hawaii isn’t a destination you’ve considered visiting on a guided tour, especially in winter. But we think the cooler months back home offer the perfect time to pack up and head to the Aloha State for an expertly planned, island hopping adventure.
The winter months in Hawaii are just grand. Because the Islands are located at the edge of a tropical zone, the temperature doesn’t vary much over the course of the year. That means you can plan on temperatures of about 80°F no matter when you travel! You should also note that it rains somewhere on the island every day of the year, though the rainiest season is November- March. The good news is that it these showers are typically over quickly and rainfall for more than 3 days in a row is rare. Travelers will have the best chances of enjoying sunny, dry weather on the “leeward” side of the mountains, the side of the Islands’ that’s sheltered from winds.
Humpback whale watching is at its best in the winter. During this time, four to six thousand majestic creatures can be spotted migrating past the Hawaiian Islands. If you’re lucky, you may even spot a whale breaching, that is completely clearing the water with its 40 ton body.
Other perks of saying “Aloha” in the winter? If you surf, or even if you just enjoy watching others surf, you’ll find ideal conditions in the winter months. Those massive waves found at north facing beaches (we’re talking up to 20 foot swells!) draw the most prestigious surf competitions in the world to Hawaii every year, and most of them take place in winter. A well-timed trip gives you a good shot at seeing some of the world’s best surfers in action.
If an island hopping adventure to Mauaii, the Big Island, Oahu and Kauai sounds appealing, be sure to check out the Hawaii Four Islands Adventure. This exciting 13-day trip offers the perfect mix of history, culture and natural beauty, with highlights including a special visit to Pearl Harbor. Best of all, you don’t have to do any planning!
Feeling worldly? Forget the shortlist destinations and head to South America—where Peru makes the list of our top five winter escapes. Another gem positioned near the Equator, Peru marks its year in two seasons: wet and dry. Winter travel to Peru places you in the country during their “summer” season (remember that the southern hemisphere experiences opposite seasons). This is also their “rainy season,” when mountain roads can become impassable and leave certain parts of the country unavailable for exploration. But that’s exactly why you should plan a winter trip to Peru.
The country is divided into three distinct zones: the coast, the highlands, and the jungle. The areas offer distinctly different experiences by season, especially in the winter months of the northern hemisphere. The coast, for example, is actually hot and dry during the months of December- April, with temperatures nearing a comfortable 80°F. The warm weather along Peru’s coastline is contrasted by areas in the popular highland region, where temperatures top out in the mid-sixties with abundant rainfall. However rainfall also means fewer visitors and those dreaming of exploring ancient Machu Picchu without the massive crowds will enjoy just that in the winter months. To learn more about vacation ideas to South America, click here.
5. Australia & New Zealand
Australia and New Zealand offer an unforgettable winter escape down under. Why? Like Peru, it’s summer down under during the winter months. That means you’re in for a real treat if you’re seeking out hot, dry, and sunny days, not to mention plenty of fascinating opportunities for exploration.
The good news is that inland Australia’s intense summer heat scares many tourists away, so you’re likely to encounter fewer crowds and better values. For those considering a winter trip, visits to the Australian cities of Cairns, Melbourne and Sydney top our list. Places not to miss in New Zealand include the cities of Auckland, Queenstown and Christchurch, plus a number of natural highlights in between them.
If encountering the region’s icons, such as Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, the Sydney Opera House, or world famed Bondi Beach or New Zealand’s natural fjords, volcanic peaks, and incredible geothermal spas are your purpose for travel, you’re likely to experience the perfect trip. Sound exciting? Click here to view our guided tours to Australia & New Zealand.
Plan your Escape
Traveling during the low season of winter offers many advantages – from great weather and fewer crowds to better values across the board. Considering a getaway? Let our Travel Specialists organize the perfect vacation experience from start to finish.
What’s your ideal winter getaway? Tell us in the comments below!