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Top 10 Off The Beaten Path Sun Destinations For U.S. Travelers This Winter

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Want to chase waterfalls in Jamaica? Relax in the latest luxurious resort in Turks and Caicos? Discover hidden gems in Central America? Whatever your tastes, these sunny vacation destinations are the perfect choice for travelers looking to get a little off the beaten path this winter season. 

The amazing Magens bay beach in St. Thomas US virgin islands in the Caribbean sea

Antigua, Guatemala

Why not spend your next winter vacation exploring a new destination? Filled with history, good food, and nature escapes galore, Antigua in Guatemala has lots in store for travelers.

Winter months in Guatemala means the dry season, so you'll get sunny days and a warm-cool climate with highs of 75 degrees. With the Agua Volcano serving as a backdrop for the Old Town and the bright yellow Santa Catalina Arch, Antigua is arguably one of the most picturesque towns in Central America. Start your trip by spending a few days wandering the Old Town before heading out to explore the countryside.

Top things to do:

  • Lake Atitlan: An overnight trip to Guatemala's scenic Lake Atitlan is the perfect city escape.
  • Hike Volcano Pacaya: Hike a guide to summit the nearby Volcano Pacaya, and you'll be treated to some roasted marshmallow treats at the end.

Getting there: The best way to get to Antigua is to take a direct flight to Guatemala City and then take an airport taxi (make sure it's an official airport taxi; expect to pay around $40 USD one-way) to take you from the airport to Antigua, which is about 40 minutes away from the airport.

old town in Antigua, Guatemala cloudy mountain

Cartagena, Colombia

It's no secret that Cartagena is one of Colombia's hottest travel destinations, so take a trip here and find out what all the fuss is about (and be prepared to be impressed).

A city that offers a warm sea breeze and old town strolls, Cartagena is a destination for culture seekers. After checking out the museums and shops in Cartagena's Old Town, unwind and cure those winter blues with sunset mojitos and dancing the night away. It may just be what the doctor ordered. 

Top things to do:

  • Rooftop salsa class: Check out AirBnB experiences for this amazing salsa class in Cartagena's Getsemani neighborhood. 
  • Catamaran sailing tour to the Rosario Islands: An exhilarating city getaway.
two travelers sitting on the city wall for sunset in Cartagena, the Colombian national flag waving in the background

Aguadilla, Puerto Rico

Located in the northwest of Puerto Rico, Aguadilla is a great alternative to San Juan for travelers. Come here for a perfect winter getaway to experience some of Puerto Rico's best beaches and amazing water sports, all without having to leave the U.S. 

Top things to do:

  • Crash Boat beach: One of Puerto Rico's top beaches, this is a must-do.
  • Punta Borinquen Golf Club: Beautiful course with coastal views to boot.
Wood Fence at Aguadilla Beach Puerto Rico

Guanacaste, Costa Rica

Guanacaste is your answer to those looking for that dry heat during the winter months. Costa Rica‘s beaches, once rugged and undiscovered by tourism, are now bustling places. There is still some calm to be found along the north of the Guanacaste coast, where you'll be treated to the bold Pacific waves, peaceful beaches for those morning walks, and a unique tico way of life. 

Top things to do

  • Playa Samara: This chilled-out surf town is the perfect winter recluse if you want to learn to surf. 
  • Rincón de la Vieja Volcano National Park: Explore waterfalls, a lake, and gorgeous hiking trails. 
Two woman relaxing next to a waterfall.  Llanos de Cortes Waterfall in Bagaces, Guanacaste

Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic

Sure, we all know Punta Cana, but have you considered Puerto Plata for a winter escape? Located along the northern coast of the Dominican Republic, Puerto Plata you'll be treated to pristine and peaceful beaches where you can explore the city and get a sense of local life. Here, there are great hotels and resort options to choose from as well as tours to nearby attractions, so you can curate your winter vacation your way.

Top things to do:

  • Stroll the Malecon: Wander from Long Beach to Acapulco Beach.
  • Book a safari tour: A day trip for the whole family to see Puerto Plata's gorgeous landscape.
Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic Fort And Harbor

Mazatlan, Mexico

Get a little off the beaten path in Mexico and head to Mazatlan this winter, the perfect port city where you can mix play, luxury, and culture all under the Mexican sun. Mazatlan's 13 mile-long Malecon is great for wandering day or evening and taking in the Pacific breeze and the city views. For some luxury and relaxation, Mazatlan has a ton of budget-friendly boutique hotels where you can chill poolside or hit up the on-site spa. To take in some culture, Old Malecon is filled with historical buildings to explore on a sunny afternoon. 

Top things to do:

  • Parque Natural Faro Mazatlan: A free attraction,  you can hike up the highest lighthouse in the Americas and be rewarded with epic views.
  • Playa Brujas: Beautiful beach in the north of town for surfing and boogie boarding.
Mazatlan as seen from afar with a spectacular cliff line in the foreground

Ocho Rios, Jamaica

Ocho Rios is the adventure capital of Jamaica. It's for those you want to mix beach chilling and exciting excursions where you'll get your hands dirty and your heart full. Book a hotel by the beach for some relaxation and then plan excursions with some local guides to explore the countryside. And before you know it, you'll be planning your next trip back.

Top things to do:

Ocho Rios is the adventure capital of Jamaica. It's for those you want to mix beach chilling and exciting excursions where you'll get your hands dirty and your heart full. Book a hotel by the beach for some relaxation and then plan excursions with some local guides to explore the countryside. And before you know it, you'll be planning your next trip back.

Top things to do

Dunn's River Falls & Park: Beautiful waterfall just outside of town.

River tubing tour: There are so many tours in Ocho Rios that will take you on a tubing adventure down the White River. 

Ocho Rios Jamaica aerial view, yachts parked along the bay.

Turks and Caicos

For those who want to go beyond your basic resort vacation and try something new for their winter vacation. It has all the beauty that the Caribbean offers, plus that something more. Turks and Caicos has been working hard to boost tourism and there are so many more options for travelers. From gorgeous public beaches to resort islands to a weekly famous fish fry, there's so much to see and do.

Top things to do:

  • Catamaran sailing and snorkeling tour
  • Kiteboarding: Hit up Long Bay Beach for the perfect kiteboarding spot.
A girl paddles her kayak exploring in Turks and Caicos

Saint Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands

Another U.S. territory on this winter vacation list, Saint Thomas is a dream. You can visit without having to renew your passport, and it's an easy getaway from East Coast cities. In less than four hours from New England, you can be enjoying some warm winter sun without having to cross any international borders. 

Saint Thomas is world-renowned for its clear waters which make for ideal snorkeling opportunities, where you can strap on your snorkeling gear and discover what's under the sea.

Top things to do

  • Hit the beach: Chill out at Magens Bay for beautiful views, swimming, and kayaking.
  • Snorkeling: Secret Harbour and Brewers Bay are some of the best spots for snorkeling.

Trinidad and Tobago

A bungalow by a secluded beach perhaps? Trinidad and Tobago is the place to do it and a little more off the beaten path for a winter getaway. January is the perfect time to visit, as the temperatures are at a comfortable 85 degrees throughout the day. From all of the friendly people and affordable accommodation options, Trinidad and Tobago is a great choice for a laid-back Caribbean vacation.

Top things to do:

  • Pigeon Point Beach: One of Tobago's most popular beaches.
  • Tour of the Argyle Waterfalls: Hire a guide to help you navigate and get to know the local flora and fauna.
lifeguard station at the beach surrounded by palm trees in Trinidad and Tobago

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