It’s that time of year again. Snow bunnies are flocking to the frosty slopes, cozying up to warm fires, and basking in the wonderful chill of winter. For those of us who prefer hot sand to hot toddies, winter often has us scouring the Internet for cheap airfare and hotel deals to paradise. If you’re looking to escape winter’s chill, we have a few suggestions listed below that are relatively easy to reach from North America. Just pack your swimsuit, slap on the SPF, and saddle up for some fun in the sun.

Hawaii

West Coasters know that the Hawaiian Islands are just a hop, skip, and a jump away. Indulge in local delights like fresh poke, kalua pork, and perfectly sugared malasadas. Looking for island adventures? Take to the skies by paragliding over the valleys or skydiving above the North Shore. The water warmly welcomes swimmers, surfers, and snorkelers alike.

Red sand and blue waters await you on Maui

We suggest: Maui

While we hold a special place in our hearts for all of the Hawaiian Islands, we find ourselves drawn to Maui. It helps that the island is home to one of our favorite hotels in the world. The Grand Wailea resort is perfect for solo travelers, couples, and families alike. The young at heart will particularly enjoy the Wailea Canyon Activity Pool (complete with its very own water elevator) while the Botero Lounge offers some of the best mai tais on the islands.

Maui caters to outdoor, adventure, and foodie enthusiasts, but for us, the crown jewel of the island is the winding road to Hana and the red-sand beaches that await you at the end of the drive.

The Caribbean

For most East Coasters, the Caribbean islands are extremely accessible. White sandy beaches, stunning shades of crystal-clear water, and the laid-back island lifestyle beckon to those wishing to escape the winter chill of home. With over 7,000 individual islands to choose from, there’s bound to be one to suit your sunny style.

We suggest: Martinique

Slightly off the beaten path and often overlooked, this French island in the Antilles is perfect for those wanting a taste of France in the Caribbean. Enjoy fresh croissants and divine cheeses while soaking up Vitamin D on some of the prettiest beaches around.

The collision of French and Caribbean culture ensures a unique experience that you’ll be hard-pressed to find elsewhere. Say “au revoir” to the bitter cold of home and relax on one of the islands’ many beaches. Our favorite? The palm tree–laden sands of Les Salines in Sainte-Anne. 

One of Cozumel’s abundant beaches

Mexico

Head south of the border for tacos, tequila, and an abundance of sunshine. Is there a better combination out there? If all-inclusive resorts are your thing, you have plenty to choose from (like the stunning Cozumel Palace). However, for those who like to be at the helm of their trips, planning a trip to Mexico is a breeze.

We suggest: Cozumel

This island in the Yucatán is a great place to mix Mexican culture, cuisine, and customs. While a major port for cruise ships, the water also holds beautiful coral reefs and caverns perfect for divers and snorkelers. Those who want to take in more of the sights will enjoy the Mayan ruins of San Gervasio.

Viewfinder Tip: Cozumel has great markets for souvenir shopping. Be sure to haggle as prices for tourists are typically higher than what locals would pay.

Thailand

While traveling to Thailand might pull a few extra pennies out of your bank, even those on the smallest of budgets will be able to live reasonably once there. The country is very friendly on the wallet and an assortment of exotic islands ensure that you’ll be able to fully relax upon your arrival.

We suggest: Chiang Mai

Located on the northern part of mainland Thailand, what this city lacks in beaches, it makes up for in jungles and wildlife. One can still soak up the sun while volunteering with elephants (and pups), slurping up oodles of pad thai noodles, or simply relaxing at one of the many affordable boutique hotels.

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Zanzibar

We’re getting a little exotic up in here. The previous destinations (with the exception of Thailand) were all conveniently located for those residing in North America. We thought we’d throw in a wildcard. Zanzibar’s pristine beaches are unparalleled in their beauty. The beaches, coupled with friendly locals and the exotic mix of African and Arab influences, makes the island truly unique. Spend a few days wandering the colorful alleyways of Stone Town and sampling the exotic street food before setting off to the beach.

We suggest: Paje

Paje beach might be one of my favorite beaches in the world. It’s the perfect spot for those wanting to relax on calm shores or have the pristine setting to take up the sport of kite surfing. Paje encompasses the laid-back lifestyle of most islands. Be prepared to spend the majority of your time with your toes in the sand.

Where is your favorite place to escape winter’s chill?