Swap ice and cold for sand and sun
Don’t get us wrong, we love winter. But sometimes you need a break from the frostbite-inducing temperatures and layers and layers of wool and down. Plan an escape to a warmer locale and the sunshine, clear trails, and empty beaches will give you the strength to make it through to spring.
Todos Santos overlooks the Pacific Ocean, on the western side of the Baja Peninsula. Visiting in winter means swimming with whale sharks, snorkeling with sea lions, and sipping mezcal on the beach, with a chance to spot humpback whales and hundreds of fish species. Fly into La Paz and reserve an oceanfront casita at Los Colibris (from $125). Through the hotel, you can book daylong guided hiking trips into the nearby Sierra de La Laguna range or overnight glamping trips in the Sea of Cortez on Espiritu Santo Island, a UNESCO World Heritage site that you’ll reach by boat.
A reminder: When it’s winter here, it’s summer in the Southern Hemisphere. Hop a flight to New Zealand for a complete seasonal shift. Abel Tasman National Park, on the northern edge of New Zealand’s South Island, is known for its multiday treks and golden beaches. Stay in one of three guest suites at the Split Apple Retreat (from $1,218) for access to isolated beaches, saltwater pools overlooking Tasman Bay, and five-course tasting dinners. Or sleep on a nearby sheep farm in the Honeywell Hut (from $140), built of reclaimed timber and with mountain biking out the door.
You’ll surf in a wetsuit midwinter in San Diego—the water can get chilly—but air temperatures hovering in the 60s mean you can run in a T-shirt and shorts. Head to this laid-back coastal city for surfing, hiking trails, and a thriving year-round triathlon training scene. The Kona Kai Resort (from $149) has a private marina, evening fire pits with s’mores fixings, and local bands on weekends. You can rent bikes, paddleboards, and sea kayaks directly from the hotel.
You’ll come to the charming seaside town of Essaouira, on Morocco’s Atlantic coast, for windsurfing, a legendary music scene, and seafood dinners with ocean views. Book through Naya Traveler and a savvy travel agent will arrange everything from private surf lessons to a camel ride on the beach. Or check out Explora Watersports for gear and guidance on everything from kitesurfing to stand-up paddleboarding. The big summer music festivals here draw thousands of people, but you’ll still find quality live music and fewer crowds during the winter months.
Retreat to the white-sand beaches of Naples, Florida, along the Gulf of Mexico, for sea kayaking, paddleboarding, and reading on the beach. LaPlaya Resort (from $529) offers a frostbite-relief package with discounted winter rates and a $50 nightly resort credit toward things like dinners on the beach and Himalayan salt-stone massage treatments. While there, you can take yoga and strength-training classes, charter a fishing boat, or have cocktails delivered to your beach chair.
Ruaha National Park
Head to southern Tanzania in January or February and you stand a good chance of having much of the place to yourself—most safari-bound tourists from Europe and North America drop in during summer holidays between June to September. Jabali Ridge (from $788 per night per person), a new safari lodge that opened in September inside Ruaha National Park, has eight high-end suites built into granite boulders, an infinity pool and spa, and three-course dinners under the stars.