In the dead of winter, the short daylight hours, bitter cold, and gray skies can become monotonous. But for those willing to travel, sunshine and balmy weather are always just a drive (or plane ride) away.
Whether you want to dip your toes in one of the world’s most popular black sand beaches, watch the manatees play in lagoon waters, or immerse yourself in a cultural center, we’ve found a warm, sunny spot for you.
Americans can pack their swimsuits and leave their passports at home while visiting these 5 beach destinations.
San Juan, Puerto Rico
San Juan was a fortified city 500 years ago, and today, it is Puerto Rico’s cultural center. This U.S. territory offers 270 miles of coastline, warm temperatures, and approximately 300 beaches to locals and tourists. Explore the coves, snorkel in San Juan’s clear water, or watch the manatees playing in Condado Lagoon.
After you dry off from a day spent at the beach, head into the city to enjoy the culture of the city. San Juan is the oldest European-founded city in the Americas and has preserved the historic architecture and cobblestone streets for that Old World feel.
The fort, Fuerte San Felipe del Morro, Saint Christopher’s Castle, and San Juan Baptista Cathedral are also worth a visit.
Foodies can sample traditional dishes such as mofongo, fried alcapurrias, Puerto Rican tamales or pasteles, or roast pork, and then finish a meal off with a pina colada.
Whether you are looking for a capital of culture, or just some winter fun in the sun, San Juan, Puerto Rico is worth putting on your travel map. This popular destination also gets the top spot on U.S.A Today’s 10 Best Beach Destinations list.
Big Island, Hawaii
On Big Island, Hawaii, you can enjoy balmy outdoor weather even in the winter months. The temperatures here see highs of up to 80 degrees and rarely drop below the mid-60s.
Also, you get to skip the summer humidity–and crowds!
The Big Island is known for its stunning views and some of the best rainbows in Hawaii. Head around to Punaluu Beach and visit the turtles that live on its striking black sand.
Or, tour the famous Kona coffee farms and enjoy a gourmet cuppa as you take in the views.
The weather, year-round activities, and unique beauty make Big Island a perfect winter destination to escape the cold.
Since Hawaii is America’s 50th state, U.S. citizens don’t need a passport to enjoy this gorgeous beach destination.
St. Simons Island, Georgia
St. Simons Island is the largest barrier island in the Golden Isles.
This island is just an hour away from Savannah, Georgia so the winter months are often chillier than more tropical locations. However, from January to March, you still can expect to enjoy mild 60-degree weather.
In fact, the winter months are a perfect time to enjoy the island without the crowds. You can birdwatch at East Beach and Gould’s Inlet, rent a beach cruiser to tour the island, bike the trails, or play golf at the picturesque King and Prince Golf Course.
From Labor Day until Memorial Day the beaches are open to pets. So you can enjoy the waves and white sands of St Simons Island with your furry friend at your side.
St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands
The winter months are the best for visiting the U.S. Virgin Island of St. Thomas. From December to May temperatures reach the 80s and humidity is low. Also, there is very little rain during this season to dampen your vacation plans.
On St. Thomas, you can observe endangered green sea turtles while snorkeling or relaxing on the sands on Honeymoon Beach. At the top of St. Peter Mountain, you can take in the sights from Magens Bay to Puerto Rico.
This winter beach destination is perfect for enjoying the waves, sand, and sunshine without the crowds. It is one of the best spots in the Caribbean for family fun.
Anna Maria Island, Florida
Anna Maria Island is a popular vacation spot for national and international tourists alike.
This sunny spot with its white Florida beaches offers tropical foliage and old-fashioned charm.
You can enjoy nature and watch the dolphins and manatees play without high-rise condos and fast-foods spoiling the views.
Anna Maria is still untouched by mass tourism and allows you to unwind in the winter sun and enjoy the unbeatable views in peace and quiet.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com
Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.