50 Warm-Weather Winter Escapes

As winter's icy grip sets in, these alluring desert oases and tropical hot spots heat up.

By Liz Weiss, Staff Writer |Nov. 28, 2017, at 3:18 p.m.

50 Warm-Weather Winter Escapes

Slideshow

Discover classic and little-known locales to ease seasonal doldrums this winter.

Beach Chairs

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When drab skies, frosty temperatures and the onset of the seasonal slump get the best of us, there's no better time to skip town for a sunny locale. Whether you're searching for a convenient, close-to-home retreat or a far-flung, off-the-radar hot spot, we tapped industry experts to direct you to 50 top getaways where you can swap snow, sleet and ice for swaying palms, sunshine and surf. Grab your shades and pack your bags for these warm-weather destinations.

Patagonia

Patagonia

Woman hiking in Torres del Paine National Park, Magallanes Region, Chile, South America

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Wind-swept landscapes, magnificent natural gems – from icy glaciers to beautiful fjords to the dramatic peaks of Torres del Paine National Park – and heart-pounding adventures draw thrill-seekers to Patagonia's enchanting frontier. December through February (the summer season in Patagonia) ushers in mild weather, temperatures in the 50s and low 60s, and ideal conditions for exploration. For superlative accommodations, consider Explora, which offers an ideal launching pad with daily excursions such as guided horseback riding, trekking the epic W circuit and wildlife-viewing expeditions (keep your eyes peeled for guanacos, which closely resemble llamas).

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Buildings in Abu Dhabi.

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With its mix of ornate mosques, sand dunes and tranquil oases, Abu Dhabi appeals to those looking for a more relaxing alternative to splashier Dubai. "Dubai and Abu Dhabi are safe, clean, warm – temps are in the high 70s and low 80s in winter – and beach-lined," says Wendy Perrin, founder and editor of travel-planning site WendyPerrin.com. If you're itching to embrace the area's sublime desert scenery in comfort, book a four-wheel-drive excursion or camel ride over dunes before cooling off in Al Ain Oasis, a 3,000-acre retreat known for its palm plantations. You'll also want to carve out some time to tour the opulent Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, which showcases a blend of three architectural styles and Islamic dynasties.

Auckland, New Zealand

Auckland, New Zealand

Auckland from Devonport, New Zealand (more than 3 logos)

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December to February marks Auckland's summer travel season, translating to vibrant festivals, warm temperatures and a beautiful display of pink and red pohutukawa trees along the coast. Take advantage of the prime 50- to 70-degree temperatures as you embrace the City of Sails' passion for boating and explore can't-miss natural attractions such as Takapuna Beach and Rangitoto Island. A less-trodden alternative to sister Aussie destinations Sydney and Melbourne, Auckland offers a variety of urban thrills, adrenaline-pumping activities and a thriving culinary scene. To soak in surreal landscapes, visit the legendary Waitomo Glowworm Caves or admire the "Lord of the Rings" backdrops at the Hobbiton Movie Set.

Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

View of resort on ocean at night, Cabo San Lucas, BCS, Mexico

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If you're longing for a laid-back tropical retreat, visit Cabo San Lucas along the southern edge of the Baja peninsula. Lazing along the shores of Playa Solmar, admiring the iconic Land's End rock formations and perfecting your golf swing might be the perfect antidote to the winter blues. You'll find plenty of high-end resorts in "the Corridor," the 18-mile area between San José del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas, not to mention still-perfect weather conditions with daily highs in the mid-70s from December to March. Breaks from surfing along the Baja peninsula or delighting in tacos at local haunts like Mariscos El Torito can be spent unwinding at luxury retreats like the Resort at Pedregal.

Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town, South Africa

Aerial view of Cape Town, with Green Point and Sea Point, Table Mountain, Signal Hill, Lion's Head, Devil's Peak, South Africa

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Cosmopolitan cultural scenes. Captivating beaches. Lovely vineyards. Legendary Table Mountain. Welcome to Cape Town, where you'll find awe-inspiring natural scenery at every turn. Visit between December to March (summer in the Southern Hemisphere), and you'll be rewarded with ideal conditions for exploring can't-miss attractions such as Clifton Beach and Robben Island. Aside from comfortable temperatures in the mid- to high 70s, foodies, adventurers, history buffs and culture vultures will all appreciate the city's diverse gems, from the Greenmarket Square to the District Six Museum to the charming African penguins at Boulders Beach. Wrap up your visit with a trip to nearby Constantia Valley or Stellenbosch to savor top-notch wine in beautiful surroundings.

The Big Island, Hawaii

The Big Island, Hawaii

Hawaii, Big Island, Golden Orange Sunset Mauna Kea Summit With Hualalai Mountain Distant Background Tallest 32, 000 Feet From Underwater Base

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Combine a dose of awe-inspiring natural scenery – black-sand beaches, fiery lava deserts, snow-capped mountains and lush tropical jungles – with near-perfect temperatures in the 60s and 70s, and it's easy to see the Big Island's appeal. The Big Island also attracts nature lovers with its unique topography. "The best winter window for deals is early January, from right after the New Year’s rush until Martin Luther King Jr. Day," Perrin says. On the upside, there are still plenty of wallet-friendly rates. Currently, there are four-star hotels available in January and February for under $200 in Kona, says Clem Bason, CEO of goSeek, a site focused on surfacing hidden hotel discounts.

Siem Reap, Cambodia

Siem Reap, Cambodia

Angkor Night Market

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You might closely associate Siem Reap with Angkor Wat, the legendary complex for 11th- and 12th-century Buddhist temples from the Khmer Empire. But there's much more to embrace in this city in northwestern Cambodia than the graceful spires at the UNESCO World Heritage site. You can check out the lively Angkor Night Market, pick up souvenirs such as silk and handicrafts at the Old Market and delight in delectable culinary staples, such as lok lok (a beef stir-fry) and fish amok (a curried dish). Plus, you'll avoid the rainy season by visiting between December and March. Still, you should expect temperatures to soar into the 80s and low 90s, so arrive prepared with sunscreen.

Los Angeles

Los Angeles

Dramatic sky over Los Angeles.

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La-La Land doesn't only razzle-dazzle visitors with its bewitching Hollywood backdrops and cache of attractions for film buffs, from Paramount Pictures Studios to Universal Studios Hollywood. The City of Angels also appeals to jetsetters clamoring for a quick, sunny break with mild temperatures in the 60s, picturesque beaches (don't miss the Santa Monica Pier or Zuma Beach in nearby Malibu) and world-renowned cultural attractions, from the Getty Center to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. When you're not relaxing in a cabana along a palm-fringed pool, shop around Venice's Abbot Kinney or Rodeo Drive, grab a bite at Grand Central Market or hike through Griffith Park or Runyon Canyon.

Bora Bora

Bora Bora

Over water bungalows with steps into green lagoon

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It's easy to swoon over Bora Bora – from its enchanting coral gardens to its enticing overwater bungalows to its picture-perfect lagoon. Apart from its romantic appeal, this tucked-away French Polynesian paradise is the place to catch up on some much-needed R & R with its sun-drenched landscapes and tropical scenery. Days here can be spent admiring the colorful marine life at the Bora Bora Lagoonarium, swimming in the warm waters at Matira Beach or exploring the breathtaking Mount Otemanu – an extinct volcano set in the heart of the island. However, you might be hard-pressed to slip away from your stilted overwater bungalow, such as those at the Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora.

Madeira, Portugal

Madeira, Portugal

The beautiful fishing village of Camara de Lobos on the portugese Island of Madeira in warm evening sunshine light.

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This underrated Portuguese island enchants visitors with its rocky beaches, arresting cliffs, tropical surroundings and wine-producing regions. Easily accessible from Lisbon, Madeira also offers opportunities for dolphin and whale watching, comfortable year-round conditions (temperatures drop into the 60s in winter) and plenty of alluring hiking trails zig-zagging through the countryside. Here, you can take a scenery-packed road trip winding past hair-bending twists facing the Atlantic, savor local wines or Poncha – a native liquor – and check out the area's unique flora and fauna at lovely gardens. What's more, Madiera goes all-out for the winter holidays with the world's largest New Year's Day fireworks spectacle, along with a vibrant Carnival celebration in February.

St. Lucia

St. Lucia

St. Lucia's Twin Pitons framed by flowers

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With its lush rainforest, spellbinding Piton Mountains and palm tree-laden sands, St. Lucia attracts beach lovers and romance seekers alike. Though December to April marks the high season, with balmy weather and temperatures in the comfortable mid-70s and mid-80s, St. Lucia offers a tempting tropical escape. For snorkeling and diving, venture to Anse Chastanet, and for beachside lounging, windsurfing and water skiing, head to Reduit Beach, which also offers an ideal home base for exploring the 44-acre Pigeon Island National Park. Carve out some time for exploring the Soufrière area to snap photos of the Pitons and Mount Soufrière. Finish your days at top-notch resorts such as Jade Mountain and Capella Marigot Bay Resort and Marina.

Vietnam

Vietnam

Beautiful Sunset over Downtown Saigon - the biggest city in Vietnam

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Want to venture further afield to a far-flung tropical destination? Visit Vietnam's idyllic southern coast, where you'll find unspoiled beaches, tucked-away bays and lavish accommodations. Before hitting the beach, make Ho Chi Minh your home base, where you should make time for admiring authentic markets, storied temples and can't-miss attractions, like the Jade Emperor Pagoda, the Deck, a legendary riverside dining venue (Au Parc is another must-try eatery) and Mieu Noi, a floating temple known for its bright statues. After checking out the highlights, slip away to Doc Let, a secluded beach, or Nha Trang for gorgeous sands. November to February marks an ideal time to visit to avoid monsoon season.

Fiji

Fiji

Blue Lagoon, Nacula island, Yasawa island group, Fiji, South Pacific

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Fiji's postcard-worthy beaches, cerulean waters and magnificent coral reefs are the stuff of dreams. And while the chain of 300 isles is a year-round tropical hideaway, with near-perfect temperatures in the 80s and fascinating marine life, in winter you can combat the cold-weather blues with invigorating outdoor activities and a change of scenery. Take a hike in Taveuni to meander past a waterfall and charming villages, scuba dive or swim near Beqa island and explore bright fish and corals or try your hand at surfing near Tavarua. For more relaxing pursuits, horseback ride or laze along the soft khaki-colored Natadola Beach on Viti Levu, before retreating to a romantic resort like Likuliku lagoon Resort or Turtle Island.

Belize

Belize

Belize reef.

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In winter – Belize's dry season – you can expect optimal exploration conditions and balmy temperatures in the high 60s and 80s. Marvel at keel-billed toucans, jaguars and howler monkeys at the Belize Zoo, check out the magnificent ecosystems and unspoiled coral at the Great Blue Hole along the Belize Barrier Reef and visit storied Mayan ruins, such as Altun Ha and Lamanai. When you need a break, visit Ambergris Caye or Placencia Peninsula, a beach town with palm-fringed sands and nature reserves. For an eco-minded retreat, stay at Chaa Creek, an ecolodge along the Macal River that offers plenty of diversions, from guided hikes along the Rainforest Medicine Trail to forays to Mayan temples to canoe trips.

The Maldives

The Maldives

Tropical Island and lagoon, Maldives, Indian Ocean

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White sands, luminous lagoons, unspoiled coral reefs and private villas offer the perfect formula for a relaxing retreat. Escape to the Maldives' chain of 26 atolls and 1,190 isles, located roughly 500 miles southwest of Sri Lanka between Africa and Indonesia, where you can admire colorful reefs in warm, crystal-clear waters. The dry season lasts from December to April, translating to enviable conditions for snorkeling and temperatures in the comfortable mid-80s. After admiring your photogenic surroundings, you can steal away to a picturesque overwater bungalow at a world-class resort. Consider splurging for a memorable stay at Maafushivaru Resort or the Centara Grand Island Resort & Spa Maldives.

Destin, Florida

Destin, Florida

"Golf resort in Destin, Florida"

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Often overshadowed by Miami and Ft. Lauderdale, Florida's Gulf Coast is an ideal place to embrace "wide, soft, white-sand beaches," Perrin says. Even better, you can often score low-priced flights into Tampa, Perrin adds, noting it's an easy road trip to the sugary beaches of Clearwater or Siesta Key. "You'll find that same soft, white-quartz sand along Florida's Panhandle, too," she adds, highlighting the beaches in the Destin and Fort Walton Beach area. While daily temperatures drops can dip into the 60s from December to May, if you don't mind milder conditions, you can embrace quality time outdoors deep-sea fishing, golfing and strolling along aquamarine waves at Henderson Beach State Park.

Amalfi Coast, Italy

Amalfi Coast, Italy

View of colourful homes in Positano, Italy.

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Jaw-dropping coastlines, pastel villages and lovely gardens are just a few allures of the Amalfi Coast. And while you won't see temperatures in the 70s and 80s in winter, if you don't mind mild conditions and highs in the 50s, you'll be rewarded with off-season prices and dwindling crowds from December to February. Shop for handmade ceramics and admire the graceful domed churches in Positano and Praiano, take in the dramatic views from Villa Rufolo in Ravello and cap off your adventure with memorable meals and glasses of limoncello. Just keep in mind that many cafés in Positano close for the winter season (with the exception of the winter holidays), so consider making Sorrento or Salerno your home base.

Nicaragua

Nicaragua

A silhouetted surfer walks down a beach in Nicaragua on sunset during a balmy June afternoon with mountains and ocean in the background. Lots of copy space.

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When you think of Nicaragua, colonial towns, cobblestone streets and world-class surfing spots may not come to mind. But here's a secret: Nicaragua is an outdoor adventure-seeker's paradise. Venture to Granada to admire striking architecture, from pastel-colored buildings capped with clay tile roofs to an elaborate neoclassical-style cathedral. Here, you'll also find colonial-style shops and eateries and charming boutiques and cafés like Espressionista, a popular coffee hangout. If you're craving more activity, explore the nearby Peninsula de Asese to lounge along powdery sands or the Volcán Mombacho, where you can stretch your legs along scenic trails or visit a butterfly garden.

The Canary Islands

The Canary Islands

Village at Atlantic ocean. La Gomera island. Canary islands.

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Whether you want to soak in on the rays along the beach, traipse through a national park or break out of your comfort zone with windsurfing or surfing, the Canaries offer a prime tropical escape with mild weather (temperatures linger in the 60s and 70s from December to February) and superlative coastlines. Consider making Tenerife, the largest isle in the seven-island archipelago, your home base. Here, you can people-watch at Santa Cruz de Tenerife, the isle's bustling urban center, before exploring the surreal lava- and volcano-laden Teide National Park or lounging along Alcala Beach. For more seclusion, check out Gran Canaria's Playa de Maspalomas, where you'll find rolling sand dunes.

Costa Rica

Costa Rica

High angle view of crater emitting smoke at sunset, Poas volcano, Costa Rica

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If you're looking to get the best value this winter, set your sights on international hot spots. "Most currencies, including the U.S. dollar, stretch far in Central America," Perrin says, adding "in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, January and February are dry season, which means warm temps and little rain, but the landscapes are still lush and green." Nature lovers can take their pick from exploring turquoise waters, lush jungles and cloud-covered rainforests. Meanwhile, sun-seekers can stretch out along Nicoya Peninsula's palm-lined coastline or try their hand at surfing. For more adrenaline-pumping pursuits, hike along the 5,000-foot Arenal Volcano. If you're still yearning for wildlife-viewing opportunities, look out for howler monkeys, jaguars and tapirs at Corcovado National Park.

Seychelles

Seychelles

Sunrise framed by palm trees and rock formations

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Postcard-worthy beaches, bright blue waters, gently swaying palms. Seychelles' dreamy shorelines and escape-it-all, far-off setting lures romance-seekers and nature enthusiasts alike. A chain of 115 isles, Seychelles archipelago is gorgeous at any time of year. December to March is the rainy season, but temperatures stay in the balmy 70s and 80s, yielding ideal conditions for sunbathing and wildlife-viewing. While you would be hard-pressed to find a lackluster vantage point, Anse Source d'Argent and Anse Georgette are ideal destinations for soaking in the spectacular national scenery. For a stay to remember, retreat to the Raffles Praslin Seychelles or Sainte Anne Resort & Spa. Seeking more wildlife? Visit the Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve, which boasts black parrots, chameleons and unique coco-de-mer trees.

Miami

Miami

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If you're clamoring to trade sleet and snow for sun-drenched beaches, tall palms and ideal temperatures with daily highs in the 70s, Miami offers an ideal escape. Combine a dose of R & R on the art deco-lined shores of South Beach with cultural exploration in Little Havana and Wynwood. Art lovers will also gravitate to the annual Art Basel Miami Beach and will want to tour the Design District. Foodies will also want to check out the South Beach Wine & Food Festival in February. And for jetsetters simply looking to kick back and embrace the coastal scenery, there are plenty of opulent resorts to check out, from 1 Hotel South Beach to The Setai, Miami Beach.

Phuket, Thailand

Phuket, Thailand

Wooded bridge pier between sunset in Phuket.

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Pristine beaches, lush forest-filled landscapes and superlative resorts are top draws for venturing to Phuket for a much-needed reboot this winter. You can spend your days touring Buddhist attractions (the Big Buddha is a must), unwinding at Nai Harn Beach and indulging in replenishing spa treatments. For spellbinding views framed by the Andaman Sea, venture to Karon View Point and the Phromthep Cape. For more active pursuits, venture to Khao Phra Thaeo National Park, which offers ample wildlife, including monkeys and langurs in a lush rainforest. When you need a break, savor a memorable meal at the Kan Eang @Pier or Blue Elephant or catch up on R & R at the Banyan Tree Phuket.

Phoenix

Phoenix

Phoenix Arizona with its downtown lit by the last rays of sun at the dusk.

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Desert scenery, stylish shops, world-class resorts and a thriving art scene are a few draws for making the winter pilgrimage to the Valley of the Sun. But the main enticement for visiting between November and April are the comfortable temperatures in the 60s, 70s and 80s. After boutique-strolling in Scottsdale, work up a sweat hiking Camelback Mountain or visit the Desert Botanical Garden, which boasts scenic trails like the Harriet K. Maxwell Desert Wildflower Loop Trail. Afterward, get pampered at the Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort & Spa, where you can indulge in decadent treatments and retreat to the Zen meditation garden – the perfect cure for any lingering post-holiday stress.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Dubai Marina in the evening

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In Dubai, you can blend beach breaks "with desert adventures such as sunset camel rides, dune bashing and wildlife safaris," Perrin says. Yearning for more activity? You can also enjoy shredding powder at Ski Dubai, an indoor ski resort inside a shopping mall, Perrin adds. Even better, "Dubai has so many flights and hotel rooms that there are almost always deals," Perrin says, adding that from the end of December through January, you can check out the Dubai Shopping Festival, with vibrant events across the city and major savings on designer electronics and clothing. After getting your shopping fix, stroll along Jumeirah Beach, pick up some souvenirs at an authentic Gold Souk market and snap photos of the iconic Burj Khalifa.

Palm Springs, California

Palm Springs, California

Cities of Desert Hot Springs and Palm Springs. Traffic light trails belong Highway 74 at sunset on cloudy day.

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In winter, it's hard to resist a stress-free, sun-kissed escape in Southern California. Striking desert landscapes aside, Palm Springs boasts comfortable temperatures in the mid-40s to high 60s from December to March. If you're looking to splurge, consider booking a stay at the L'Horizon Resort & Spa, which boasts midcentury modern architecture, intimate surroundings and 25 tucked-away bungalows, along with decadent spa treatments such as deep-tissue massages and seaweed body wraps. After getting pampered, explore must-visit nearby attractions, including Joshua Tree National Park, the Coachella Valley Preserve and the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway.

St. Helena

St. Helena

Mountainous district of Sandy Bay on St Helena Island taken from Dianas Peak the highest point on the Island. Good example of the contrast between volcanic coastal terrain and the lush interior and the deep blue South Atlantic Ocean in background. Canon 5D MKII.

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You may not have heard of this this tiny, underrated 47-square-mile isle in the Atlantic Ocean. But here's a secret: This remote island located roughly 1,800 miles east of Brazil and 1,200 miles west of Africa's coastline is positioned to become a major hot spot, Perrin says. Why? You can now book a direct flight from Johannesburg, making the island's rugged landscapes, tropical climate, marine diversity and sand dunes within reach. You may also remember St. Helena from your history books: The British overseas territory is the destination where French emperor Napoleon was relegated. Consider checking into the Mantis St. Helena in Jamestown, an eco-minded contemporary hotel with easy access to top attractions.

Sydney

Sydney

Sydney Opera House and its Skyline with a reflection during Golden Hour, Sunrise, 2013

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From December to February, you can expect picture-perfect temperatures in the upper 70s, translating to ideal conditions for sunbathing, exploring legendary landmarks like the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge and museum hopping. "In Sydney and beyond you'll find beach weather and plenty of summertime festivals and harborside celebrations," Perrin says. Aside from a spectacular New Year's Eve fireworks display, there's the Sydney Festival in January, with colorful art installations, performances and music. Venture to Coogee Beach or Bondi Beach to catch some rays, snorkel and take picturesque strolls, or for urban allures embrace Sydney's cosmopolitan gems, like the Art Gallery of New South Wales or cutting-edge restaurants such as Spice I Am and Fred's.

Aruba

Aruba

A view of the main harbor on Aruba looking inland. This photo, from a cruise ship, looks down over the city and boats. Dutch province named Oranjestad, Aruba - beautiful Caribbean Island.


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While many Caribbean islands are still recovering from the aftershock of hurricanes Irma and Irene, Aruba has been left unhindered from the damage, tempting travelers to book a warm-weather getaway and help aid sister islands to boost the economy. On this enchanting Dutch Caribbean island, you'll find plenty of upscale resorts, pristine sands and coral reefs to explore. Unwind on Eagle Beach, admire impressive underwater creatures on a diving expedition from Pedernales Wreck or hike in Arikok National Park. For a budget-friendly retreat, consider checking into the Amsterdam Manor Beach Resort Aruba, which offers enticing packages. To splurge, retreat to the Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort, an adults-only boutique retreat with a variety of wellness offerings and indulgent spa treatments.

New Orleans

New Orleans

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The Big Easy is synonymous with year-round revelry, from its buzzing blues clubs to its riotous night clubs on Bourbon Street. And if you can swing it, there's no better time to experience the Crescent City's penchant for partying than Mardi Gras – the festival of the year. "In 2018 Carnival (also known as Mardi Gras) comes in early February and is celebrated with colorful parades and festivities in countries around the world," Perrin says. If you've already experienced the annual bead-tossing, parade-watching and Sazerac-swigging, consider planning a trip from December to January, when temperatures have dipped into the still-pleasant 60s, and you can comfortably explore must-see attractions like the Garden District and City Park before delighting in a powdery beignet.

Jamaica

Jamaica

Fishing canoes docked on a river in Jamaica

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"Not all Caribbean islands were impacted by hurricanes. St. Lucia, Barbados, Grenada, Antigua, Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao, Jamaica, Grand Cayman and St. Kitts and Nevis were relatively unscathed," Perrin says. Golden sands, turquoise waves, melodic reggae tunes and mouthwatering jerk chicken dishes aside, Jamaica offers an enticing, convenient and fuss-free tropical escape for American visitors with its versatile all-inclusive hotels and easy accessibility, with nonstop flights from hubs in the U.S. In Negril, consider stealing away to the Rockhouse Hotel, which boasts an award-winning spa, cliff-side accommodations, painting lessons and yoga classes, among other perks. When you're feeling recharged, explore Dunn's River Falls and Park or simply unwind along the powdery sands at Seven Mile Beach.

Key West, Florida

Key West, Florida

Famous passage to the beach - Key West.

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"You wouldn’t have thought it after the news coverage, but in general Key West is back in business for the winter," Bason says. However, normally hotel room prices tend to soar during the peak winter months, he explains. With that said, with a little digging, you can secure affordable round-trip flights from top hubs such as Chicago and Los Angeles and book a stay at a luxurious property. GoSeek currently shows the Playa Largo Resort and Spa for under $400 from December to February, he adds. Take advantage of the area's coastal surroundings with a kayak or snorkeling expedition, before strolling along Duval Street or people-watching and catching the sunset at Mallory Square.

The Galápagos, Ecuador

The Galápagos, Ecuador

Diver viewing endangered green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas agassisi), resting in reef, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador.

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The Galápagos archipelago of more than 120 rugged isles offers a year-round paradise for nature lovers and wildlife enthusiasts, but from December to May, temperatures linger in the 70s and 80s and animal-viewing is at its finest. When you're not retracing Darwin's steps at the Charles Darwin Research Station, enjoy a snorkeling or diving foray to admire multicolored fish and unspoiled waters or carve out some time to hike Sierra Negra, an active volcano on Isabela Island. And if you're still clamoring for more wildlife encounters, venture to El Chato Tortoise Reserve to admire the area's giant tortoises or head to San Cristóbal Island to spot sea lions lazing in the sun.

Kauai, Hawaii

Kauai, Hawaii

An aerial photo of Tunnels beach. Tunnels is located on Kauai's North Shore and is named after the 'tunnels' that snorkelers and divers can observe when navigating the reef.

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Picture Hawaii in winter and you might conjure images of lava-filled landscapes of the Big Island or the high-rise resorts and crowded sandy beaches of Waikiki on Oahu. But that's where Kauai – with its cascading waterfalls, lush hills and dramatic cliffs – sets itself apart. While the island offers a requisite "aloha" charm, its beautiful rugged valleys, captivating Na Pali Coast and beautiful hard-to-reach beaches and trails (soak in sublime scenery on the 11-mile Kalalau Trail) appeal to laid-back travelers with a zest for adventure. With balmy temperatures in the 60s and 70s from December to March, there's no bad time to visit – though you can expect to pay a steep price during this in-demand travel period.

South Padre Island, Texas

South Padre Island, Texas

The Queen Isabella Causeway (bridge) leads to South Padre Island, Texas at sunset.

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For a wallet-friendly, warm-weather escape, venture to South Padre Island, where you'll find striking beaches and dunes beckoning outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy kite surfing and windsurfing along the beach. "The hurricane somehow missed South Padre Island completely, and the area is in good shape," Bason explains. In January, you can snag three-and-a-half-star accommodations for less than $100 a night when you book through goSeek.com, he explains. With temperatures in the pleasant 50s and 60s, December to February is the perfect time to enjoy a picnic in Isla Blanca Park or meander on the serene Laguna Madre Nature Trail. After embracing the great outdoors, enjoy a refreshing craft beer at South Padre Brewing Co.

St. Kitts and Nevis

St. Kitts and Nevis

Travel, Landscape depicting Long Haul Beach, Nevis

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During the winter months St. Kitts and Nevis beckons to jetsetters craving laid-back vibes, coastal scenery, tropical sea breezes and warm temperatures lingering in the 80s. And fortunately, the nation wasn't impacted by hurricanes Irma and Maria, so hotels are open for business. December to April marks the high season, and though hotel rates tend to climb at this time of year, you'll be rewarded with the chance to catch Carnival celebrations in February. If you're looking for a luxurious retreat, consider splurging for a stay at the Four Seasons Resort Nevis along Pinney's Beach, which offers tennis courts, a golf course, a top-notch spa and superlative sea and mountain views.

Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

A girl touches a stingray while snorkeling in the Cayman Islands.

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If you're looking to escape the holiday frenzy, the Grand Cayman offers pristine sands, picturesque trails and world-renowned diving spots. A quick, easy escape from the U.S., the Cayman Islands also boast luxury hotels and plenty of hidden attractions beyond the fray at Seven Mile Beach, such as the iguana-filled Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park and the alluring Mastic Trail. Retreat to The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, along Seven Mile Beach, to kayak, snorkel and enjoy tee times at its Greg Norman-designed golf course, before hitting the spa. If you're craving more activity, explore St. James, venture to the pirate caves in Bodden Town or swim with stingrays at Stingray City.

Melbourne, Australia

Melbourne, Australia

Looking across the Yarra river from Southbank to the city of Melbourne

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Australia offers a variety of sun-drenched, stylish and cutting-edge cultural destinations, and Melbourne is certainly one of them, with its blend of heart-pounding activities, art tours and world-renowned restaurants (Attica is a stalwart). With temperatures lingering in mid- to upper 70s, December to February ushers in a prime time to explore city highlights and attend noteworthy events, including the White Night Festival in February, when colorful art exhibitions and installations illuminate the city's buildings starting at dusk. Other must-dos include snapping photos at the striking rock formations in Port Campbell National Park and exploring the National Gallery of Victoria. If you're a wine lover, consider tacking on a trip to the nearby Yarra Valley to delight in pinot noir and chardonnay varieties.

Santiago, Chile

Santiago, Chile

Santiago de Chile at sunset.

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Though often overshadowed by iconic South American destinations such as Buenos Aires and Rio, Santiago, with its mild 70- and 80-degree temperatures from December to March and world-class cultural attractions, merits a visit in its own right. Carve out some time to experience cosmopolitan gems in the Chilean capital, such as the staggering 65-story Gran Torre Santiago skyscraper and the Centro Cultural Gabriela Mistral, a flourishing cultural center. Then make your way to Santa Lucía Hill to snap photos of the area's lovely statues and fountain before museum hopping on Barrio Lastarria's charming cobbled streets or strolling through the boutique- and gallery-lined Bellavista neighborhood, where lit lovers can explore La Chascona, the former residence of beloved poet Pablo Neruda.

The Bahamas

The Bahamas

View of beach and ocean in Nassau, Bahamas.

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While some of the Bahamas were affected by the recent hurricanes, there are plenty of popular places that weren't impacted. And though the Atlantis hotels will cost you a pretty penny, you can still score a discount at top hotels such as the adults-only Hotel Riu Palace Paradise Island and the Graycliff Hotel & Restaurant and land low-priced flights into Nassau, Bason adds. If you're looking to spring for an upscale getaway, check into the Paradise Island's One&Only Ocean Club, where you can enjoy Michelin-starred dining at Dune Ocean Grill, beachfront yoga classes and a prime location on white-sand beaches. And though you might be hard-pressed to find a reason to leave your accommodations, the Bahamas offers plenty of powdery sands and duty-free shops to explore.

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka

Herd of elephants walking in a jungle river

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Sri Lanka, the beautiful tropical paradise in the Indian Ocean, might be having a moment thanks to its rebuilt infrastructure, Perrin says. Once forbidden to travelers because of a civil war, Sri Lanka's modern development translates to increased flights, hotels, restaurants and roads, "but not too much that the overbuilding and overcrowding has started," she explains. The island country brims with arresting beaches, lush rainforests and fascinating wildlife. You can spend your morning checking out an elephant sanctuary and your afternoon exploring storied temples or learning how to surf along the southern coast. Plus, Sri Lanka boasts mild, balmy temperatures year-round. "Go this winter, before everyone else discovers it," Perrin says.

Curaçao

Curaçao

Floating market, Punda, Willemstad, Curaçao

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With its Dutch colonial architecture, dramatic limestone cliffs, unspoiled coral reefs and warm waters, Curaçao offers a mix of everything. And thanks to its location outside of the hurricane belt, Curaçao wasn't devastated by Irma or Irene. Embrace the sun and splendor on Cas Abao Beach before admiring the cafes, shops and colorful architecture in Willemstad, the island's vibrant capital, or slipping away to a high-end hideaway like the Baoase Luxury Resort. Even better for East Coasters looking for a fuss-free winter break, there are quick, nonstop routes from major hubs along the East Coast.

Bermuda

Bermuda

A calm, tropical cove at sunrise

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As you explore Bermuda's coral-sand beaches, cerulean waters and flowing fairways, you'll feel a world away from the icy wind chills and puffy coats at home. With temperatures in the 70s and convenient flights from major airports along the East Coast, it's hard to pass up the chance to escape frigid conditions for beach lounging, spa pampering and boutique-strolling in Bermuda. If you're looking to splurge, check into the Hamilton Princess & Beach Club, A Fairmont Managed Hotel or Rosewood Bermuda, where you'll have access to the 18-hole Tucker's Point Golf Club, a private beach club and indulgent massages and body treatments at the spa.

Paracas, Peru

Paracas, Peru

Landscape in Paracas National Park Reserve, Pisco, Peru

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Rolling sand dunes, imposing cliffs and idyllic coastal villages are a few enticements of visiting Paracas, a lesser-known Peruvian retreat about 150 miles south of Lima. Consider staying at Hotel Paracas, where you can enjoy heart-pounding adventures and fun activities, from sandboarding to dune-side dinners. Craving more wildlife-viewing? Plan an excursion to the Ballestas Islands to spot Humboldt penguins, guano birds and sea lions. Afterward, relax on red-sand beaches, check out the 2,000-year-old geoglyphs known as the Nazca Lines or venture back to Paracas Village to enjoy a legendary Peruvian pisco sour.

San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

Aerial View of San Miguel de Allende Church

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"There are lovely lesser-known pockets of Mexico – places with charming boutique resorts and gourmet cuisine – both along relatively undeveloped coastlines and inland in historic colonial cities," Perrin says. She highlights destinations in country's colonial interior like San Miguel de Allende as especially appealing. There, "you can find exquisitely restored haciendas, nearby cultural and archaeological sites and award-winning cuisine," she adds. Meander along San Miguel de Allende's narrow cobblestone streets to soak in its 500-year-old colonial charm, admire baroque architecture and pick up souvenirs at artisan shops, before taking a break at El Jardin, a central city plaza. Best of all, daily highs stay in the 70s and 80s in winter, yielding pleasant sightseeing conditions.

San Diego

San Diego

San Diego downtown skyline at sunrise with boat in harbor.

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San Diego's year-round sunshine, laid-back surf-town vibes and top-notch zoo make it a superlative getaway at any time of year, but in winter the city beckons to those looking to ease seasonal blues. After checking out must-visit attractions (read: Balboa Park and Coronado Beach), savor a craft beer at crowd-pleasing local haunts like Saint Archer Brewery Co. For more outdoor adventure, kayak at La Jolla Cove, try your hand at surfing at La Jolla Shores or catch a picture-perfect sunset at Sunset Cliffs. Round out your trip with a memorable meal at Oscars Mexican Seafood. And if you're on a budget, look for flights into Los Angeles, where you'll often find lower airfares, then rent a car and drive south, Perrin says.

Cartagena, Colombia

Cartagena, Colombia

San Pedro Claver Church

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An under-the-radar hideaway in South America, Cartagena is often passed over for popular destinations like Buenos Aires and Rio. But with a rising art scene, fashionable restaurants, colorful colonial architecture and storied cobblestone streets, Cartagena offers plenty of charms. Consider slipping away to the Hotel Casa San Agustin for beautiful, bougainvilla-draped surroundings or Tcherassi Hotel and Spa, a 250-year-old home-turned-hotel. When you're not meandering through the Bocagrande district or exploring the same beautiful colonial buildings and surreal landscapes that inspired Gabriel García Márquez's "Love in the Time of Cholera," take a break at a trendy restaurant such as Donjuan, La Perla or La Mulata.

St. Barts

St. Barts

Chairs on the beach

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"This might be the one winter you can afford to go to St. Barts, the chic French island that is one of the priciest in the Caribbean," Perrin says. "Its hotels are still recovering from Hurricane Irma, but many of its rental homes are in fine shape, and many of its beaches look as picture-postcard as they ever did," she adds. Days in St. Barts can be spend sunbathing and people-watching at Baie de St-Jean, popping into the high-end shops and admiring the charming cottages of Gustavia and kite-surfing at Grand Cul-de-Sac. When hunger sets in, grab a bite at La Gloriette or Maya's Restaurant, where you can take in commanding sea views and embrace the island's beautiful scenery.

Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro

Ipanema beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

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Rio's glittering white-sand beaches, tropical rainforests and world-renowned backdrops, from the 125-foot-tall Christ the Redeemer to Sugarloaf Mountain, need no introduction. And December to March (Brazil's summer) offers a prime time to experience the soothing sounds of samba, laze along the world-renowned Copacabana and Ipanema shorelines and mingle with gracious residents. "If New Orleans in February isn’t warm enough for you (temps are in the 50s and 60s), consider Brazil, which of course celebrates Carnaval most famously with legendary parades and street festivals in Rio," Perrin says. Another must-see even is Reveillon (or New Year's Eve), when millions of spectators flock to Copacabana to catch brilliant fireworks displays and lively samba and rock bands.

Singapore

Singapore

Garden by the Bay South, located near the Bayfront MRT station in Singapore.

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Thanks to its location near the equator, Singapore benefits from warm, balmy temperatures year-round with highs in the 80s. And though November to December ushers in higher precipitation than other times of year, you can check out exciting holiday festivals, including Chinese New Year in February. Apart from the festivity, there are plenty of city and natural attractions to pique your interest, from high-end department stores on Orchard Road to Gardens by the Bay, the 419-foot-long aerial walkway yielding sublime views of floral displays and 65- to 160-foot-tall "supertrees," or vertical gardens. For a stay to remember, retreat to the Marina Bay Sands Resort, which boasts a rooftop infinity pool and a prime location on Marina Bay.

Read More

Liz Weiss is a senior editor at U.S. News & World Report. With more than six years of experience covering the travel industry, Liz has covered a diverse set of topics to help readers make smarter travel decisions and plan better trips. In her current role, she edits a range of consumer-facing topics, including personal finance, retirement, health, wellness and education. Previously, Liz was the Travel Editor for Consumer Advice, where she wrote and edited features and slideshows and managed the En Route travel blog. She graduated with a bachelor's degree from George Washington University. You can follow Liz on Twitter, connect with her on LinkedIn or email her at eweiss@usnews.com.

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