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10 Beaches That Are Actually Better in Winter

There's no need to wait until next summer to stroll along soft sand beaches and swim in warm coastal waters. While the rest of the world is underneath a blanket of snow, enjoy an endless summer on a beach blanket at these wonderful sunny stretches of sand.

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Condado Beach, Puerto Rico

With more than 300 miles of coastline, Puerto Rico can offer up a unique stretch of sand almost every day of the year. Winter is an especially good time to visit when the weather is warm and sunny every day, the water calm, and the threat of fall storms has passed. Condado Beach in San Juan is one of the island’s most popular winter beaches, and since it’s just five minutes from the airport, it’s also one of the easiest to reach. The beach is an urban oasis with a full array of hotels, restaurants, and shops framing the turquoise sea and vanilla sand. The San Juan Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino is perfectly situated on the golden beach here, with chairside servers delivering pina coladas right to your lounger for an ideal San Juan beach day. Did you know that Puerto Rico was the most popular summer destination this year?

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Laguna Beach, California

Summer-like temps, warm water, and plenty of palm trees to get rid of your winter blues are all hallmarks of the postcard-perfect beaches of Laguna. Whether you want to surf the waves, take in the crisp California air on a hike, or relax with a book in hand, Laguna Beach is a perfect winter getaway. For a great Cali stay, check into the adults-only Hotel Joaquin tucked into Shaw’s Cove along the Pacific Ocean, which combines beachside access with gourmet dining, and tons of adventure with everything from boogie boards to kayaks, snorkels to surfboards available to use in the blue surf.

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Paradise Island, Bahamas

Although Hurricane Dorian left a string of destruction on some Bahamian islands, this popular island destination, which for many visitors is synonymous with the Bahamas, escaped the category 5 storm completely unscathed. And although it might not seem like it, this winter the perfect time to visit, says the tourism board, since the best way to support the Bahamas is to come and stay. Immerse yourself in the soft, white sand and deep blue surf this winter at gorgeous Cable Beach at the luxurious SLS Baha Mar.

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Captiva Island, Florida

Winter on Captiva Island means cloudless days, little-to-no traffic, empty beaches, and serious resort savings. The island is widely considered the shelling capital of the world, and from October to December, tides are at their lowest and the shells are on full display. Once a collection of fishing cottages, Tween Waters Island Resort & Spa offers pastel homes, seaside suites, and guest room accommodations on 13 beachfront acres. Guests can spend a day by the pool, on the resort’s private beach, or enjoy a complimentary bike rental and explore the island’s 25 miles of bike paths.

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Uvita Beach, Costa Rica

On Costa Rica’s southern pacific coast, called the Whale Coast, lies Playa Uvita (Uvita Beach), one of the best-known areas for spotting Northern humpback whales during their spectacular annual migration in the winter. Playa Uvita is also considered one of the coast’s most stunning beaches due to its beautiful landscape traversed with estuaries and mangroves. In addition to whale watching, travelers can enjoy a variety of beach activities including snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking, horseback riding, and sunbathing.

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Madeira, Portugal

The Madeira Islands, an archipelago 750 miles southwest of Lisbon in the Atlantic Ocean, has a nearly perfect climate, with the warmest winter weather in Europe. Ancient volcanic cliffs that rise dramatically from the sea dominate Madeira’s fascinating landscape, with beautiful flora and fauna that lead to comparisons of Madeira with Hawaii. Porto Santo is an idyllic island off the coast of sub-tropical Madeira offers golden sand beaches, deep blue waters, swaying palm trees, and rugged volcanic sandstone landscapes with almost no crowds in the quiet winter season.

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Maui, Hawaii

Say “aloha” to sunny days and nearly perfect weather all winter long on the golden beaches of Maui. For surfers, the winter months are when to come for the biggest swells and the best waves, especially along the east shores of Hana and the north shore near Pa’ia and Kanaha. Great beaches are just one of the reasons we think Maui is the best Hawaiian island.

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The Islands of Tahiti

When you picture a tropical paradise, the Islands of Tahiti, with its sugar sand, turquoise waters, palm trees, and overwater bungalows probably come to mind. If you’ve always wanted to visit this idyllic island, there’s good news: Winter temperatures hover in the 80s, perfect for lounging on the sand or diving in the crystal clear water and hotel prices tend to be lower in the winter, allowing travelers to snag the ultimate luxury overwater bungalow experience, for a fraction of the cost. The beaches on the islands offer everything from the smoothest white sand on Tahiti and Bora Bora to hidden pink sand beaches in Tikehau.

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St. Pete/Clearwater, Florida

Home to record-breaking 361 days of sunshine per year and some of the best beaches in the United States, St. Pete/Clearwater is an under-the-radar winter getaway that combines a funky Florida vibe with an artsy and authentic local experience. With low-cost flights into the Tampa International Airport and low hotel rates, St. Pete/Clearwater is the ideal warm-weather winter beach destination. The gentle Gulf waters and incredible white sand in Clearwater make it a beach haven, and at its northern end is Caladesi Island State Park, one of the Top 10 Best Beaches in the United States according to Dr. Beach and it makes our list of the 12 best beaches in the United States.

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St. Maarten/St. Martin

Lying in the crystal blue waters of the Eastern Caribbean, Dutch St. Maarten and French St. Martin share this stunning 37 square mile island where you basically get three foreign vacations all rolled into one: Dutch, French, and Caribbean. Best of all, the island offers 37 breathtaking white sand beaches where you can swim, sail, snorkel, kayak, or horseback ride all winter long in near-perfect weather. Looking for a one-stop shopping vacation? Check out these 12 best all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean. 

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Melissa Klurman
Melissa Klurman is an intrepid explorer and award-winning travel journalist with more than 25 years of experience. She covers topics ranging from family travel and Disney to honeymoons and romantic beaches and everything in between.