It’s cold, the sun struggles to brighten the sky most days and spring still feels far away. The urge to fly south and swap the grey northern hemisphere for a distant island basking in the sun is strong. Indulge your travel fantasies and check out these top islands for winter sun which prove dazzling beaches, warm waters and dining outside are possible even in the coldest months.
This is the laid back Caribbean island of your dreams- where tracks through lush vegetation lead to low-key rum bars on impossibly beautiful beaches. Part of the British Virgin Islands, this 8 square mile, curvaceous shaped isle reminded explorers of a reclining woman on the horizon and so ‘Fat Virgin’ she became. The main draw here is the national park on the south western tip of the island otherwise known as The Baths. Here you’ll find massive granite boulders (we’re talking the size of houses) creating secret rock pools and channels on a classically Caribbean beach. Although this spot is popular you can follow the steps and rope handrails until you find your own sheltered pool to bathe and snorkel the day away. It never feels like winter here with a steady tropical climate- highs are between 79 and 87 degrees F, and the lows never dip below the mid-60s.
Mallorca is a quintessential Mediterranean experience with a touch of the bohemian artist vibe still going strong from the 70s. Although you won’t find tropical weather here in the winter months, the island enjoys a mild weather where it’s still possible to wear a t-shirt for tapas and a beer on the beach. Head into the hills to discover villages of warm honey-colored stone villas surrounded by bougainvillea, vineyards and cypress trees. Deia is a fairy tale-like village surrounded by a natural amphitheater of mountains that has attracted artists for decades. The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and David Bowie have all holidayed here, drawn to the natural beauty and slow pace of life. Winter doesn’t stop the supply of incredibly fresh seafood on the island which can be eaten overlooking the glistening coastline as the sun sets.
Powdery white sand, swaying palm trees, turquoise sea - Mauritius is the idyllic tropical escape we all picture on a cold winter’s night. Located in the Indian Ocean, adrift from the coast of Madagascar, Mauritius still offers the opportunity to discover hidden coves and hike through wild rain-forest away from overly touristy resorts. Snorkel with dolphins above coral reef in the morning and hike to extinct volcanoes in the afternoon, with a stop off at Chamarel ‘the land of seven colors’, 600 million year old volcanic lava dyed in seven different hues. Or charter a catamaran and head to the tiny islets off the east coast to dive in lagoons and explore the tropical reefs.
Caye Caulker, Belize
Caye Caulker's motto is ‘Go Slow’ and even if you stroll leisurely along this 5 mile coral island the locals will ask why you’re rushing. For such a small place there is more to do than just kick back and sip rum, although no one’s saying that’s a bad plan. If cocktails are your thing, head to The Split, the iconic lounge and swimming spot where you can snorkel to an umbrella shaded table for refreshments. With just three streets it’s impossible to miss the street food stalls selling grilled lobster, conch fritters and coconut rice. For more active travelers the island is right next to the second largest reef in the world and boats will take you to snorkel with stingrays, sharks, and the famous Belizean manatee. Being close to the equator Belize maintains tropical temperatures all year round and the winter is dry season so the perfect time to visit.
Although part of Europe you won’t find winter weather on this Portuguese isle, situated off the western coast of Morocco. The sub tropical climate means it rarely gets colder than 70F and you’ll only need a jacket for cooler evenings. Formed by ancient volcanoes, Madeira is geographically stunning. Steep, dramatic mountains drop suddenly onto black sand beaches and into the frothing Atlantic. Hiking is a major attraction here and finding trails is easy- old irrigation channels called levadas, many carved by hand hundreds of years ago, snake through spectacular mountains, passing through tunnels and close to heart-stopping cliff edges. Calm down your adrenaline later with a glass of the famous Poncha, a sugar cane and honey brandy flavored with lemon or orange peel - locals say it is the perfect winter drink as it is full of vitamin C!
Even researching and planning your next trip can brighten up the dark days of midwinter, so keep exploring and keep curious. The good news is whatever time of year it is, it’s always sunny somewhere!