Where to Escape Winter Without Your Passport

By Natalia Kvitek,

Dreading the onslaught of the winter blues? We’ve handpicked some destinations that can be reached with nothing more than a pair of flipflops and some sunscreen in your handbag–no passport required. These US winter beach destinations offer up the perfect cold weather escape–clear skies, warm weather and crystal clear turquoise waters reminiscent of far flung destinations. Who needs Bali when you’ve got these incredible places right at home in the USA?

Where To Escape Winter

Destin | Rincon | Kailua | Sanibel | Laguna Beach | Marco Island | Catalina Island | St.Thomas

Fishing Village Charm

DESTIN, FLORIDA

Destin Florida

An evening stroll along the waves in Destin. Photo by Luca Sartoni CC BY

Average Winter Temperature: 62°F

Best Beach: Beasley Park Beach

Destin may have once been a sleepy fishing village but these days this vacation spot allures visitors with its bright white sand, made of pure Appalachian quartz, which actually stays cool in the heat and gives the water its trademark emerald hue. There are plenty of opportunities for deep-sea fishing, snorkeling and scuba diving — or you can just take the route of a beach bum and work on reaching new levels of relaxation. Whether you’re bringing your entire family, or just having a romantic rendez-vous,  staying at the Hilton Sandestin Golf Resort & Spa means that everybody can be occupied with a long list of activities including chowing down at one of the four onsite restaurants, children’s programs, stand-up paddleboarding or golfing. 

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Crystal Clear Waves

RINCON, PUERTO RICO

Puerto Rico vacation

Puerto Rico beckons for exotic adventures. Photo by perspepic CC BY

Average Winter Temperature: 84°F 

Best Beach: Balneario de Rincón

Winter in Puerto Rico looks pretty good for those looking to escape the cold: with temperatures rarely shuffling below 83 degrees, leave your passport at home and head to Rincón to sweat it out. The West Coast of Puerto Rico is known for its clear blue water and its popularity with surfers, with swells ranging from beginner appropriate to pro. The area boasts over 12 white sand beaches, many family-friendly and teaming with enough sea-glass and seashells to occupy even the most hyper of children (or adults!) Check out the Rincon Of The Seas Grand Caribbean for a lovely hotel, steps away from the sea with direct beach access, a swimming pool with bar and lush tropical landscaping.

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Domestic Paradise

KAILUA, HAWAII

Kailua beach

Colors that barely even look real in Kailua. Photo by Tak CC BY

Average Winter Temperature: 78°F

Best Beach: Kailua Beach Park

Looking to inject your winter blues with a burst of color? Head to Kailua, Hawaii, to experience one of the finest US winter beach destinations  Three miles of velvety soft white sands meets gentle waves and warm azure waters. This is a little slice of (domestic) paradise and is slowly proving increasingly popular with tourists, including the Obama family. Swimming or kayaking out to the three islands that lay just half a mile offshore is one of the more popular local activities, as is indulging in a shaved ice at Island Snow, who count Barack himself as a loyal customer. Stay at the Paradise Beach resort, which looks onto both the Koolau Mountains and the sparkling Kaneohe Bay. They also offer free kayak and snorkel equipment rental so that you can make the most of the water — temperature under the sea rarely goes below 77 even during the winter!

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Treasure Hunt For Seashells

SANIBEL, FLORIDA

Sanibel beach

Sanibel’s only draw isn’t its seashells. Photo by Fort Myers CC BY

Average Winter Temperature: 72°F

Best Beach: Bowman’s Beach

Dig your feet into the white sands of Sanibel and enjoy the view: pastel sunsets descend over coconut palms and the warm and calm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The real draw of Sanibel, and particularly Bowman’s beach, is the multitude of seashells which litter its beaches. For the real treasure (tulip and whelk shells), you might have to dig into waist deep waters but there is bounty to be had for all. Almost as plentiful as seashells are the 70 golf courses which surround Sanibel. Spoil yourself with a stay at the quaintly nostalgic Seaside Inn with beachfront access and complimentary breakfast every morning.

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Play SoCal Beach Bum

LAGUNA BEACH, CALIFORNIA

Laguna Beach winter vacation

Millionaire homes and emerald water at Laguna Beach. Photo by Kevin Herrera CC BY

Average Winter Temperature: 68°F

Best Beach: Thousand Steps Beach

The miles of stunning California coastline are the big draw to Laguna Beach, made famous by the eponymous TV show featuring some spoiled local teenagers. Winter here is relatively crowd-free with Thousand Steps beach gloriously emptied. The town has some incredible wining-and-dining spots thanks to its proximity to the liquid gold of the Napa and Sonoma Valleys. Stop into the Laguna Canyon Winery for a taste of some red and whites before tucking into some of the foodie-centric restaurants like seafood-heavy Slapfish. When night falls, head to your room at the Seaside Laguna Inn & Suites, which is only 40 steps from the beach.  

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A Quiet & Clean Respite

MARCO ISLAND, FLORIDA

marco Island winter escape

Find seashell treasure at Marco Island. Photo by krystalchu CC BY

Average Winter Temperature: 70°F

Best Beach: Tigertail Beach

Marco Island is a quiet respite on the Gulf of Mexico for those looking to catch some Zzzs on miles of pristine beach with sand as soft as flour. While the city itself is hardly bumping with a welcome lack of nightclubs and casinos, visitors to Marco Island are attracted by its sleepy nature. The climate here remains tropical well into the depths of winter with lush tropical foliage hiding many natural delights. You’re just a short ride from the Everglades if you’ve got a hankering to do some kayaking or airboating. If you just want to stay put and relax, head to Tigertail beach, situated on a calm lagoon, perfect for little or nervous swimmers, as well as catching sight of nesting shorebirds. Stay at the Olde Marco Island Inn & Suites, complete with a pool and gardens and short distance from beaches and dinning options. 

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Pure Coastline & Dramatic Views

CATALINA ISLAND, CALIFORNIA

Catalina Island California

Miles of ocean front on Santa Catalina Island. Photo by Anthony Jarvis CC BY

Average Winter Temperature: 65°F

Best Beach: Decanso Beach

Catalina Island, 22 miles off the coast of southern California, could very well be located off the Mediterranean coast of Europe. This craggy rock island is dominated by rented golf carts and slews of tourists in the summer, but come winter you’ll be left to explore its quaint corners and stunning cliffs without running the risk of photobombing someone else’s selfie. The island’s waters are crystal clear and teem with wildlife, making it popular with divers and snorkelers. The Catalina Island Conservancy owns 88% of the island, which has preserved its natural flora and fauna for you to enjoy. The stylish Pavilion Hotel, located in picturesque Avalon, offers free breakfast and wine in the evenings with ocean views and is just 14 short steps to the beach.

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A Cocktail Of USA & Caribbean Flavors

ST.THOMAS, US VIRGIN ISLANDS

US Virgin Islands beaches

Tropical temperatures call at the US Virgin Islands. Photo by Matt Wade CC BY

Average Winter Temperature: 79°F
Best Beach: Magens Bay

Albeit its tiny size (just 32 square miles) St.Thomas on the US Virgin Islands packs a punch for its picturesque holiday atmosphere. You won’t feel as far away from America while still on US soil as you will here. Kayak through quiet mangrove lagoons, charter a yacht and play millionaire or just sunbathe, basking in the glow of the tropical sun on Magens Bay beach, widely considered to be one of the most beautiful in the world. Stay at the lovely Mafolie hotel which has one of the most stunning views from the whole island. Due to the small size of the island, you’re never more than a couple of miles from wherever you want to go! 

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