Getaway Guide: 10 Best Beaches To Visit This Winter (Part 1)

by Miles Jackson

Fall might just be kicking in, but we all know winter is just around the corner. Does the thought of bundling up to stay warm give you moody blues? Well, warming up is easy thanks to my favorite 10 best beaches to visit this winter. This is part one of a two-part series exploring some of my favorite beaches in the world for a winter getaway. You can find part two here

Hop on a flight to one of these beautiful destination beaches and you could be posting selfies from the warm tropical sands to your friends and family freezing back home.

My 10 best beaches to visit this winter includes relaxing beaches that (in most cases) won’t break the travel budget. In this post, I’ll cover the Caribbean, Atlantic, and Gulf beaches.

Each beach is a picturesque destination that features clear waters, clean sandy beaches and great hotel options. As a bonus, many of my destination suggestions offer more than one beach for the same locale.

Who’s ready to start planning their winter escape? Now is the time.

From East to West: My 10 Best Beaches To Visit This Winter

10 Best Beaches to Visit in January

I can’t rate these 10 best beaches on a scale. So, let me take them geographically and cover them from east to west. We’ll start in the Caribbean in this post and work our way across the International Dateline ending up somewhere in Thailand in Part 2.

Here’s hoping you find your way to one or more of my 10 best beaches to visit in winter, or whenever you can manage. If you love the beach as much as me, then you will adore these sand and sea destinations!

Caribbean, Atlantic & Gulf Beaches
Top 10 Beaches to Visit in January

Wyndham Grand Rio Mar (Image – Wyndham)

Playa las Picuas, Puerto Rico

When I think of Puerto Rico, two worlds come to mind. There’s the over-crowded scene of San Juan’s beaches (Atlantic, Isla Verde Beach and Ocean Beach.) If you want to escape that on your winter beach vacation, beach-goers will be rewarded if they travel east. Head to the town of Luquillo where the serene beaches of Playa las Picuas, Rio Mar and Luquillo are found.

Playa las Picuas is really an undiscovered gem of the three beaches in the Luquillo area of Puerto Rico. There are several resort properties here.

Palm Beach Aruba Top 10 Beaches to Visit in January

Casa del Mar Beach Resort is a condo hotel property which also has a lot of Airbnb listings. Wyndham has two properties along the adjacent beach.

This is a beautiful beach and every time I have gone it has been very sparsely occupied. The waters can be a bit rough, but you can walk a very far distance along pristine sands. There are no public facilities, nor lifeguards, so swim at your own risk. Caution: waves can get pretty large which may be fun for adults and older kids, perhaps treacherous for younger kids.

Luquillo is a favorite among the local residents and for good reason. It’s a large curved sandy beach with great calm waters for swimming. You will find local gifts and lots of vendor selling food, snacks, coconuts, ice cream and fruits. It’s a great destination for a family enjoying their winter break in the warm waters. Technically, it’s the Atlantic Ocean, but you’re still on an island in the sunny Caribbean. If you truly must swim in the Caribbean, head to the southern shore. Puerto Rico’s southern beaches frame the northern boundaries of the Caribbean Sea.

Resort Recommendation: Wyndham Grand Rio Mar Puerto Rico Golf & Beach Resort with a full range of activities, restaurants, bars and entertainment. There’s even a casino on-site. The Wyndham is the only resort on the island to offer two 18 hole championship golf courses. The Ocean Course offers spectacular views of the sea as you enjoy a round, while the River Course delivers a serene beauty sculptured with many water hazards.

How To Get There: San Juan’s (SJU) airport is an easy 30 minute drive from this beach scene. The airport is served by all major US airlines and dozens of international carriers. Rent a car; it’s easy and affordable.

Flights are usually cheap from many US gateways and fairly short, in most cases.

I’ll head a bit south of Puerto Rico for my next recommendation…

Palm Beach, Aruba

Palm Beach Aruba Top 10 Beaches to Visit in January Playa Linda Beach Resort Holiday Inn

Palm Beach, Aruba (Image: Miles Jackson)

Located along the northwest coast, Palm Beach is the life of Aruba’s party scene, and my pick for the best place to stay in Aruba for fantastic ambiance, great dining choices, a long clean sandy beach and astonishing sunsets. It offers casinos and very powdery sand as well as calm waters. That makes this beach a fun and safe haven for swimmers and snorkelers. Palm Beach is the most popular tourist destination in Aruba.

It’s perfect for those looking for a night out, but also this beachside community is ideal for families and travelers with small children. Shopping and food venues are numerous along the beach as well as along the street opposite the beach hotels. Oh, yeah, it’s got the best nightlife too!

If you want a more secluded place to enjoy the Aruba beach life, Arashi Beach is a quiet and secluded beach located just about 5 kilometers north. Still facing west, across the Gulf of Mexico, you’ll have a perfect perch for those colorful Aruban sunsets. At Arashi, you can enjoy all the benefits of paradise without the vast crowds. During January you probably will see locals surfing small waves very close to shore.

Hotel Recommendations: Visitors to Aruba will find the Hyatt, Holiday Inn and the Hilton situated right on Palm Beach in the heart of the action.

My top recommendation is the Hyatt Regency Aruba. You can maximize your World of Hyatt points earnings by  using the World of Hyatt credit card.

10 best beaches to visit this winter

Hyatt Regency Aruba

The Holiday Inn is the cheapest property of the three, in terms of paid rates, so the IHG Premier card comes in handy (offering 40x points per dollar spent.) The Holiday Inn also offers an all-inclusive package.

The Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort is another one of my favorites. Unfortunately, on my last visit they were remodeling, so I quickly transferred to the Hyatt. The pool complex at both the Hyatt and the Hilton are wonderful! All three hotels have a casino on-site.

How to Get There: Oranjestad (AUA) airport is about 11 kilometers south of Palm Beach and “hotel row.” The airport is served by the major US carriers, including Alaska, American, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest, Spirit and United.

Renting a car is easy, but I advise doing it ahead of time. There are many rental car companies trying to get your business as you walk towards the airports exit doors. Better to be set already than deal with these scams.

Taxis are abundant, just make sure you get one through the official taxi stand off the sidewalk of the airport; otherwise you will be taken for a ride; literally and figuratively!

Related: Complete List Of Current Hyatt Offers

South Beach, Miami, Florida

Miami South Beach Top 10 Beaches to Visit in January Cover

Florida annually fills itself with holiday tourists. But after the New Year, people pack up and head back north. South Beach has embraced that chic art deco look and the ambiance of a little Cuba for many visitors. Breakfast on the sidewalk of Ocean Drive is one of my favorite rituals when I’m soaking up the Florida sunshine.

South Beach and Miami are filled with things to do, offering a vibrant nightlife as well. Visitors will discover endless food tasting opportunities in an area that’s a melting pot of many nationalities.

There are some great hotels to be found right on Ocean Drive, across from the iconic beach known as South Beach.

Hotel Recommendations: I love that art deco look so I am a sucker for the nostalgic Hotel Breakwater South Beach as well as the The Villa Casa Casuarina. Both of these hotels front Ocean Drive and face the beach to the east.

Pro Tip: If you want to experience a one of a kind property that will put you in total awe while being pampered, I challenge you to spend a night at The Villa Casa Casuarina. The décor will leave you breathless and you’ll soon forget about those winter melancholies. So here’s the secret: it’s the former Versace Mansion that is now open to guests.

How to Get There: Miami and Fort Lauderdale airports are both convenient to South Beach. You might rent a car and take a drive up and down the oceanside boulevards. Uber is fairly affordable in South Florida and South Beach as well.

Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica

Costa Rica Manuel Antonio National Park Espadilla Top 10 Beaches to Visit in January

There are plenty of good reasons why Manuel Antonio is considered Costa Rica’s most popular beach. It’s found within the national park of the same name and home to glittering Pacific Ocean waters. Manuel Antonio also has families of playful monkeys, and a generous selection of luxury hotels poised precariously on the cliffs overlooking the sea. This makes it a must visit for nature lovers and pleasure-seekers alike. There are plenty of well-marked (and mapped) hiking trails around the area.

In spite of its popularity, you will never find the wide beach teeming with people — it’s sparsely populated with beach goers. You can opt for low-budget digs, or perhaps choose one of the modern hotels offering luxury and a pampered experience.

Active vacationers might book zip-lining or go for white water rafting excursions nearby. If you feel almost secluded with a large expanse of beach real estate to yourself enjoying a truly naturist landscape, then Manuel Antonio fits the description.

Espadilla Beach, a short walk just north from Manuel Antonio Beach has many hotels and the beach there is about 3.25 kilometers long. In comparison, Manuel Antonio Beach is a mere 0.4 km in length but very, very quiet.

Hotel Recommendation: For an Adults Only Resort, I recommend the Hotel Vela Bar, and it’s not just a bar in spite of the name. It includes a daily free breakfast buffet and it’s a short walk to Manuel Antonio and the beaches below. For a family-oriented vacation, I suggest you the Jungle Beach Hotel. Like the name suggests, it is situated right next to the jungle and the beaches. Guests can even watch monkeys playing from their room balconies. 

How to Get There: Manuel Antonio Beach is about 160 kilometers from Juan Santamaria International Airport, Costa Rica (SJO). The airport is served by more than two dozen airlines, including Alaska, American, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest, Spirit and United.

Rest Before or After: You might want to catch a night’s rest before or after your trip to Manual Antonio at a San Jose hotel. Plus, that extra day gives you some time to explores the capital city of Costa Rica. IHG offers several selections that will provide you the opportunity to rest, sight-see and still be close to the airport for your flight.

Related: Best-Ever IHG Premier Card Offer: 125,000 Points + First Year Bonus Earnings

Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Playa del Carmen Mexico Top 10 Beaches to Visit in January

This beach (just across the waters from Cozumel) is a popular beach destination year-round. It has grown in popularity as it developed as a result of the over-population of Cancun, its neighbor to the north along the Yucatán Peninsula’s Riviera Maya strip of Caribbean shoreline.

Play del Carmen known for its vast palm-lined beaches and gorgeous coral reefs. Quinta Avenida, a pedestrian walkway runs parallel to the beach, framed with shops, restaurants and nightspots ranging from laid-back bars to dance clubs.

If you’re seeking adventure through snorkeling or scuba, this is the spot. Divers will find the Great Maya Reef. Meanwhile, natural limestone sinkholes called cenotes allure visitors from around the world.

The beach offers all the standard fare —  banana boating, jet skiing, parasailing, sunbathing, swimming, and tubing. The Puerto Aventuras marina offers fishing and boating charters.

Golfers will enjoy the courses nearby. Those include the Jack Nicklaus-designed El Manglar Golf Club and Playacar Golf Club, which features a lot of water hazards. There are several others, even ones that feature greens right next to the beach. Another bonus treat at Playa del Carmen is the huge eco-archaeological park, Xcaret, which offers interactions with wildlife as well as hiking, horseback riding and traditional entertainment. Next door, Xplor park features zip lines plus an underground river that swimmers can enjoy.

Hotel Recommendation: Sandos Playacar is an all-inclusive property that is currently offering a free rental car for two days, with a bottle of water, snack and fruit for the journey with each reservation.

How to Get There: Cancun (CUN) airport is about 55 kilometers to the north of from Playa del Carmen. The airport is served by all the major airlines, including Alaska, American, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest, Spirit and United.

Here are your options for getting to Playa Del Carmen from the airport:

  1. Many all-inclusive resorts will have your transfers included.
  2. Rent a car.
  3. The bus.

This works best if you are traveling single, on a tighter budget, or have a hotel in Playa Del Carmen that you can easily walk to from the bus station. ADO (pronounced in Spanish AHH-DAY-OH) bus company services the airport on a regular basis and takes people to Cancun or Playa Del Carmen.

Pro Tip: Taxis to Playa Del Carmen (even Cancun’s Hotel Zone) are very expensive from the airport. So don’t plan on just hopping in a taxi unless you really want to pay a lot!

The Upshot

If you’re looking to escape the upcoming cold days and nights of winter’s wrath, there are a lot of beautiful beach destinations. I’ll be quick to admit that I’m a beach bum when the opportunity comes.

In part two, I’ll cover the five other beaches on the list located in Hawaii, Australia, and Southeast Asia.

Related: 3 Secret Island Beaches That You Can Visit with Points & Miles

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