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6 Places to Escape Winter

Swap ice and cold for sand and sun

There's nothing more anti-winter than camping on a beach. (Courtesy Camp Cecil Luxury Tent)

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

Mexico

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.

Nelson

New Zealand

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.

San Diego

California

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.

Essaouira

Morocco

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.

Naples

Florida

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

Tanzania

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.

Filed To: Beaches / Music / Morocco / New Zealand / Tanzania / Camping / Florida / Mexico / Paddleboarding / San Diego
Nicolas Henderson/Creative Commons )

San Marcos, Texas

Billed as the world’s toughest canoe race, the Texas Water Safari, held each June, is a four-day, 260-mile jaunt from the headwaters of the San Marcos River northeast of San Antonio to the small shrimping town of Seadrift on the Gulf Coast. There’s no prize money—just bragging rights for the winner. Any boat without a motor is allowed, and you’ll have to carry your own equipment and overnight gear. Food and water are provided at aid stations along the way. Entry fees start at $175 and increase as race day approaches.

The Ring

the-ring-race.jpg
(Courtesy Quatro Hubbard)

Strasburg, Virginia

The Ring is a 71-mile trail running race in early September along the entire length of Virginia’s rough and rocky Massanutten Trail loop. To qualify, you need to have run a 50- or 100-mile race before the event and win a spot through the lottery system. Entry is free. Complete the run and you’ll become part of the tight-knit Fellowship of the Ring and be eligible for the Reverse Ring, which entails running the trail backwards in the middle of winter.

Plaza2Peak

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(David Silver)

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Each spring, competitors gather in Santa Fe’s historic plaza with a simple goal: be the first to reach 12,308-foot Deception Peak, 17 miles and 5,000 feet of elevation gain away. Competitors run or bike the first 15 miles to the local ski area before transitioning to their waiting ski-touring setups for the final push to the top. Time stops only when they’ve skied back down to the tailgate in the resort’s parking lot, which is funded by the modest entry fee of around $25. To add to the sufferfest, some participants sign up for the Expedition category, in which they strap their skis, skins, boots, and poles to their bikes for the long ride up. Start dates vary depending on snow conditions, but look for the event page to be posted on Facebook in late March or early April.