Soak up the sun in these tropical winter destinations
Don’t let plummeting temperatures get you down — chase the sunshine and recharge your energy levels at these wonderfully warm winter destinations. | By Paul Oswell | December 2, 2022 (Updated September 13, 2023)
Freezing weather and the long to-do lists that come with the holiday season can wear you down. This year, make rest and relaxation the number one item on your list by getting away from it all. Fortunately, there are numerous sun-drenched destinations waiting for you without crowds, obligations or stress this winter. Here are our suggestions for a refreshing holiday getaway that’s full of fun and sun:
Classic Cancun: Rediscover what makes this town a popular vacation spot without the crush of the high-season crowds
Alluring Anguilla: Immerse yourself in the glamour and gourmet dining of the Caribbean — complete with some of the region’s finest beaches
Magnificent Maui: Gaze out over the ocean as you sip a cocktail or set out on one the island’s pristine golf courses
Winter is the ideal time to visit Cancun, one of Mexico’s most popular destinations. Without the high-season crowds, you can luxuriate in the warm weather and relative calm and truly appreciate Cancun’s many endearing qualities. There’s a lesser-known – yet more authentic – side to this popular tourist destination that can be enjoyed in the quieter months.
Head to downtown Cancun (El Centro) and explore the restaurants serving regional specialties. Among the best is Labna, where classic Yucatan cuisine is enjoyed in a quiet courtyard. Try the lime soup (sopa de lima), grilled pork marinated in oranges (poc chuc) or the egg-stuffed tortillas (papadzules) topped with a creamy pumpkin seed sauce.
Cancun beaches, too, have a very different ambiance in the winter months. Playa Delfines is particularly idyllic, with few developments to spoil the stunning Gulf of Mexico views. A private yacht charter is the best way to see the coast and scenic highlights such as Isla Mujeres, whether you’re fishing or lying back with a cocktail while admiring the sunset.
Waldorf Astoria Cancun enjoys a prime setting between downtown Cancun and Puerto Morelos, set on its own stretch of flawless sands. Private balconies and soaking tubs await you, as does the decadent spa with 21 treatment rooms. Get into the holiday spirit with a festive meal at Chaya, Waldorf Astoria Cancun's heirloom kitchen focused on the power of fresh produce, or enjoy classical music presentations across the property to further evoke the joy of the season.
Anguilla, West Indies
Winter is the season when the A-list decamp to the Caribbean. The blissful conditions on the small island of Anguilla should be enough to tempt you to join them on your next sun-seeking vacation. The island enjoys unspoiled scenery and despite its relatively small size, boasts more than 30 golden beaches to explore.
Visit any one of Anguilla's 33 beaches and look out at the calming Caribbean sea, and you'll immediately notice a sense of space and tranquility. Even on the most popular beaches, such as Shoal Bay Beach, it's hard to imagine a more picture-perfect stretch of sand, and the waters are a deep azure. The view is especially wonderful when you happen to be taking it in from your gorgeous suite at Zemi Beach House, LXR Hotels & Resorts.
Meads Bay Beach is not only a scenic haven, it’s also a short drive (3 minutes to be exact) from West End Village, one of the island’s best dining neighborhoods. That's where you'll find Blanchards Restaurant, considered one of Anguilla’s most beloved restaurants since it opened in 1994. The bright, airy dining room has regulars coming back time and again for crispy braised pork shank, sesame-crusted sea bass and signature bread pudding.
Fine dining is also on the menu at Stone, the flagship restaurant at Zemi Beach House. Serving locally sourced, sea-to-table cuisine inspired by seasonal ingredients, Stone combines Eastern and Caribbean flavors in dishes like wasabi lobster and miso black cod. Over the holiday season, the resort will host exclusive events across the property, including special a la carte menus elevated by the chef's bespoke wine pairings.
There’s never really a bad time of year to visit Maui, but it's a particularly enticing destination in winter. Wailea is one of the island’s most picturesque corners, famed for its five crescent-shaped beaches and elite golf courses. The ocean views are sensational, and without the summer crowds, it feels like a personalized paradise.
Bask in the natural wonder of Wailea Beach, which is regularly featured on best beaches in America lists. You can also take to the unbelievably crystal blue waters at Ulua Beach Park, a haven for snorkelers and scuba divers alike. Practice your swing and lose track of time at one of the 54 holes of championship golf that await you on the greens of Wailea Blue, Wailea Gold and Wailea Emerald courses — though you might find it hard to go back to your regular fairways after experiencing these beauties.
In downtown Wailea, cross off your holiday shopping lists and browse designer fashion at The Shops at Wailea, where boutiques include Bottega Veneta, Prada, Tourneau, Gucci and Louis Vuitton. Take a retail break for fresh seafood, including poke tacos and lobster deviled eggs, culinary cocktails, live local music and spectacular views at Monkeypod Kitchen.
Grand Wailea, A Waldorf Astoria Resort has equally breathtaking panoramas, with suites and villas secluded amid 40 acres of lush tropical landscape. Enhance your getaway with a relaxing treatment at Kilolani, the resort’s new holistic-focused spa, where you can choose from innovative services that combine Hawaiian concepts and intricate wellness practices.
Winter sun is never far away, and escaping to any of these alluring warm destinations during the annual holiday rush will do wonders for your energy levels and general wellbeing. Find inspiration and rejuvenate as you wander along serene stretches of sand, and let that warm sun work its magic.
Paul Oswell is an award-winning travel writer and has reported from all seven continents for dozens of internationally known publications. He is based in New Orleans and is the author of “The Bucket List North America: 1,000 Adventures Big and Small” and the editor of an online travel magazine.