Beating Those Winter Blues: The 5 Best Warm-Weather Destinations, Ranked

January. If the very word brings thoughts of shivers, grey skies and slushy snow you’re not alone. Winter has its deserving place in our hearts but let’s be honest, after the holidays are said and done it seems to overstay its welcome. While your walks to and from class may now consist of clunky snow boots and oversized parkas, the promise of warm breezes and tan skin are just around the corner!  With that being said, here is a ranked list of the best warm-weather destinations that I’ve been, either to inspire your travel plans or maybe just to act as some momentary relief from the bitter cold. Either way, someone put in a work order for some sunshine because we are in need.

5. Roatán, Honduras

Upon first arrival to this quaint island off the northern coast of mainland Honduras, the local culture is enough to pull anyone in with its carefree, fun-loving vibe.  Natives situate themselves near tourist destinations playing steel drums and dancing to the beat.  The island just recently acquired many modern amenities, (some parts of the island only received electricity in the early 90’s) so many of the policies/laws that we take for granted in the United States simply don’t exist. For instance, narrow dirt roads bustle with traffic traveling in every which direction, on every which side of the road! 

Although the way of life on this mere 49 square mile island is largely different from U.S. customs, the Caribbean nature of this paradise will leave you in awe. Between the trees, I could see through to the deep, blue ocean as I stood on a small square platform in the jungle while on a ziplining excursion. It is clear to see that the locals love to share the wonders of their home, bringing this tropical getaway in at #5 on my list.

4. Castaway Cay, Bahamas

Being Disney’s private island within the chain of islands that make up the Bahamas, the only way to access this mixture of white sands and turquoise surf is through a Disney cruise!  Even being over 100 miles from the Florida coast, Castaway Cay still manages to utilize all the magic of Disney. For example, the “The Black Pearl,” a.k.a. the original ship from the Pirates of the Carribbean series, once floated along the island’s shore after the movies’ completion.

 

In addition to breathtaking views typical of Bahamian landscapes, the island boasts all-inclusive dining, playgrounds at sea and multiple types of beach rentals. Also, since the island is reserved for the passengers on board of the ship, there is little to no “fighting for a good spot” on the beach. Disney often either begins or ends its voyages with a stop at this port, making it memorable either as the kick-off to the vacation of a lifetime or the sweet ending to many memories made, earning it a #4 slot on my list.  

3. Cozumel, Mexico

Cozumel is an island that has a very special place in my heart. After having been there 3 times over the course of my life, I have a variety of perspectives on this place!  From 7 to 18 years old, I’ve never walked away from Cozumel with a bad experience, only rejuvenated and with a renewed love for Mexican culture. 

Within this friendly community, whether they be cab drivers or bartenders, people will gladly ask you questions or talk about their home country.  San Miguel, the largest town on the island, has local cuisine, artisans, and storekeepers, combining to always provide something to do or see. 

If you are feeling adventurous and decide to book a snorkeling excursion on a catamaran, it gets that much better.  The local workers play music and serve drinks as they cruise out to one of the island’s reefs where you can swim out into open water, looking down on the variety of tropical fish and coral that reside here. Cozumel will always be a nostalgic place for me and I can’t wait to go back soon— it has definitely earned its place in my top 5, coming in at #3.

2. Grand Cayman 

If there was any one place that looked exactly like those Pinterest pictures of “paradise,” it’s this one. South of Cuba, Grand Cayman Island nestles itself in the middle of the Caribbean Ocean.  After arriving here on a cruise, my family and I took a boat ride across the bay to a quiet, little island that embodied “on island time” in mind, body and soul. With fresh local fish and white, sandy beaches, this experience was like no other. 

One memory that particularly stands out was seeing Cayman money.  Now maybe this is my inner child coming out, but bringing home a Cayman dollar was a highlight of that vacation.  Being a British territory, the dollar here is blue with Queen Elizabeth II surrounded by fish and sparkly orange coral (way cooler than ours!). Gorgeous place and gorgeous money? I’ll take both, please! 

All joking aside, if you are looking for a vacation spot that completely takes you away from the hustle and bustle of civilization, this is the place, earning it a #2 spot.

And coming in at #1…

1. Saint Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands

Saint Thomas is by far the most gorgeous place I have ever seen. It is one thing to look out and see blue water and palm trees, but it’s another entirely to look out and see sprawling mountainsides blotted with lush greenery, the soft gold glow of homes, and crisp, white sailboats dotting turquoise water. 

We took a boat out to the open water with locals playing Bob Marley while people basked in the Caribbean sun. After arriving at a reef, we made our way out to snorkel—except this was different than any time before. The water here was much deeper, but something about it wasn’t scary, maybe because out of the deepest parts I saw huge slow-moving sea turtles coming into focus. What better way to spend a day then bringing your middle school life science movies to life?

If I someday become one of those people on House Hunters International that quits their job and moves across the ocean to some exotic location, this would be my place. My memories of this island are some of the most vivid that I’ll ever have and a place that I would whole-heartedly recommend to anyone, so whoop! there it (#1) is!

While it may seem like warm weather will never come around again, winter shall not defeat us! The light is quite literally at the end of the tunnel, and we will be back to making those summer memories in no time. If you live in the dreaded mini-tundra of the Midwest, I hope this gave you a little escape, no matter how small, and inspired you to travel, learn new things and get your vitamin-D while you’re at it! 

Image Credit: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, Img 6 (personal photo), 7, 8, 910