The Best Beach Vacation for Every Month of the Year
Here's a wonderful idea: Spend the year following the sun from tropical isle to island retreat with this guide to the best beaches across the globe.
With 365 palm-studded beaches, 83-degree average temperatures, and direct flights from the east coast, the sister islands of Antigua and Barbuda are an off-the-grid duo worth checking out in January. With one beach for each day of the year, sand and surf lovers will have their pick of places to swim, kayak, or paddleboard. Catch the free ferry to Prickly Pear Island for “I can’t believe I just saw that” snorkeling. No matter how beachgoers choose to spend their January in Antigua, they can guarantee that it will be spent in style if they stay at the island’s newest luxury hotel, Hodges Bay Resort & Spa. The first new resort built in three years (since the 2017 hurricanes), the $100 million property, which opened December 1, is already making its mark as a flagship development for Antigua with multiple pools, rooms and villas, and a perfect oceanside location.
February: Florida Keys
For a no-passport-required Caribbean vacation, the Florida Keys is the ultimate February travel destination featuring charming small towns, live music and entertainment, great shopping, and plenty of ocean and beach adventures. Because the island chain is bordered on the ocean side by a living coral reef, you get a natural barrier that prevents the development of traditional beaches. But the ones that are here offer warm water (think 70 degrees and up in February), plush sand, and plenty of fabulous swimming and snorkeling, especially at Florida State Parks such as Bahia Honda State Park in the lower keys and Fort Zachary Taylor in Key West.
Islamorada, about midway down the chain of the Florida Keys, offers amazing waterside lodging options including Cheeca Lodge & Spa, one of the island’s most iconic properties geared especially towards families. The waterside 214-room property has waterfront suites, public spaces, pools, and lush outdoor landscaping that perfectly capture the charm of the Florida Keys while showcasing the property’s rich history. These are the Florida beaches locals want to keep secret.
Realistically, the weather in Maui is good almost year-round, and the beaches here—ranging from jewel-like golden sands of Kaanapali to the black sands off the Hana Highway—offer a beach for every interest and mood. But March, the sweet spot between winter holidays and Easter break, offers better prices for the same sand. Plus, December through March is peak whale-watching season, when you can spy mighty humpbacks breaching from your lounge chair. Stay in the heart of the island’s exciting West Coast at the new Westin Nanea, an all-suites hotel right with an extensive cultural program and authentic Hawaiian design right on the sand of north Kaanapali. Here are all the reasons Maui is the best island in Hawaii.
The experts at Jacada Travel believe spring is the best time of year to experience the spectacularly scenic Maldives, the tropical nation southwest of Sri Lanka that is surrounded by the brilliant turquoise Indian Ocean. December through March is high season, but in April you’ll get great weather, with temperature ranges in the mid to high 80s. The islands are also less crowded with visitors, so there’s more room for you to take advantage of fun water activities like snorkeling, diving, and surfing. Snorkeling is especially good during this time of year—calmer waters make for excellent visibility. Guests see a variety of coral reefs with a number of marine ecosystems in and around them; watch for sea turtles, manta rays, mollusks, whale sharks, crabs, whales, and dolphins. For a luxe romantic retreat, stay in the overwater bungalows at Anantara Veli Maldives, where the aqua water is just feet from your door.
May: Galapagos Islands
May in the Galapagos is perfect for swimming and snorkeling at the area’s many beaches. You’ll arrive before the cooler temperatures, and crowds, of the peak June-through-August season. The unique island sanctuaries are filled with exotic wildlife, volcanic ruins and, of course, clear blue waters. The Bahia Gardner Beach on Espanola Island was named one of the best in the world thanks to its abundant animal life. Every night, sea turtles come to lay their eggs on magical Tortuga Bay on Santa Cruz Island. Marine iguanas, pelicans, flamingos, and sea lions inhabit the shores. Tortuga Bay is also known for surfing, snorkeling, and kayaking. For travelers looking to head to the sunny Galapagos Islands, Quasar Expeditions offers luxury cruises on their newly renovated yachts the M/V Evolution and M/Y Grace. Both yachts operate on seven-night itineraries, providing guests with special amenities while still giving the feeling of being on a true expedition.
June: The Algarve, Portugal
The best beach in all of Europe? According to “Best of Europe” magazine, that would be Carvoeiro Beach—in Portugal’s enchanting Algarve region, which boasts scenic fishing villages, charming seaside restaurants, hidden grottoes, and turquoise waters. The best time to visit? Early June, when the sun is shining. You’ll also avoid the scorching heat and droves of visitors of late summer. Stay at the Tivoli Carvoeiro Algarve Resort, a newly renovated hotel set right on the clifftop of Vale de Covo, which affords expansive views over the Atlantic Ocean and refreshing ocean breezes. Plus there’s an incredible pool with views over the sea and easy access to the beach. Extra bonus: Portugal offers amazing value for your money, with even the 5-star Tivoli offering rooms starting at less than $150 per night.
July: Cape May, New Jersey
The East Coast’s beaches are often as scenic as their exotic Caribbean counterparts, but the season to visit them is much shorter; if you don’t go between July 4 and Labor Day, you can forget about dipping your toes in the water. So take advantage of the July sunshine to hit the sand in Victorian Cape May, America’s first beach resort. The golden sand here is perfect for sunning or strolling—you can even find diamonds (OK, Cape May diamonds, which are sparkling silica) while you walk along the shore. Bike along the coastline to reach the Cape May Lighthouse or take a whale watching trip out into the Atlantic Ocean. Base yourself at historic Congress Hall; the family-friendly property may have been there for two centuries, but it offers modern amenities like beach lounge chairs with waiter service, a pool with bar, and a farm-to-table cafe and restaurant. Check out these other super family-friendly Jersey Shore beaches.
August: St. Lucia
For unwinding in an exotic but accessible tropical paradise, look no further than St. Lucia. The island’s 20-year-old tourist industry is well-developed but not overdone; it has a fraction of the bustle and none of the hustle of its Caribbean neighbors. An easy flight from JFK on JetBlue, the lush island has an ideal balance of adventure and beach relaxation. Spend August satisfying your sweet tooth during St. Lucia’s Chocolate Heritage Month. The Caribbean island produces some of the world’s most sought-after chocolate (a third of which is used in treats made by Hershey’s). Base your chocolate-drenched beach stay at The Landings Resort and Spa where the 70 privately owned airy and luxurious one-, two-, and three-bedroom suites are elegantly appointed and have plenty of room for families.
August is also the month for coral spawning: The once a year happening is among nature’s most spectacular and rare performances. Guests staying at Anse Chastanet in St. Lucia at the end of August have the opportunity to witness this marvel as the natural wonder occurs right off the resort’s private beaches. St. Lucia is also one of our favorite warm-weather destinations to beat the cold.
Barcelona combines a cultural city and beach rolled into one; it’s just a short hop from the city’s center to Barceloneta Beach. Even though September is considered off-peak, that’s when temperatures can climb up to 80 degrees, making the waters perfect for swimming. The two-mile stretch of golden sand is considered one of the best beaches in Spain. Entrance is free, and there’s a wide range of amenities such as volleyball courts, beach tennis, lounge chairs, umbrellas, showers, and changing rooms. Barceloneta Beach is also along the Passeig Maritim, an almost mile-long promenade adjacent to the beach lined with shops and restaurants. At night the shores transform into a pulsing nightlife scene; many nightclubs and lounges are situated just steps away from the sand. Hotel Arts Barcelona is a luxurious retreat perched on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea and is one of the few hotels that are walking distance to the beach, or take in the views of the ocean from the hotel’s new infinity pool that seamlessly blends into the sea.
October: San Luis Obispo, California
For those looking for a weekend beach getaway or to cruise the California coast, try San Luis Obispo (SLO). It’s situated smack dab between L.A. and San Francisco and was once dubbed America’s Happiest City by Oprah herself. An ideal place to stay and play year-round, SLO really shines in October when the days are reliably sunny and visitors can spend a day at the beach, hike or bike a coastal trail, or visit sea otters in Morro Bay. Adults and kids alike can channel their inner child at The Kinney SLO; the 100-room boutique hotel and new social experience brand, located just down the street from Cal Poly University. Situated within a mile from downtown SLO’s favorite barbecue restaurants, bubblegum alley, and a weekly Farmer’s Market—and close to miles of California coastline—The Kinney is central for experiencing this beach town’s culture.
November: British Virgin Islands (BVI)
The British Virgin Islands are an ideal getaway for families since there’s a little bit of everything to keep everyone busy, says Family Traveller editor Hannah Freedman. Head here in early November to beat the holiday travel crowds. You can island hop to enjoy the unique feel each island offers. Stay at one of the villas at Scrub Island for an easy home base where you have plenty of space to spread out and relax as well as access to a full kitchen. Don’t miss exploring the iconic and stunning boulder formations and coves at The Baths on Virgin Gorda. Meanwhile, the island of Jost Van Dyke offers a fun array of casual bars and restaurants along its white-sand beaches. Take a hike at Sage National Park on Tortola for stunning views or head just off the coast of Anegada for the unique experience of seeing a massive island made out of mountains of conch shells. And of course, snorkeling, kayaking through mangroves, kite surfing, lounging under the Caribbean sun, and more are all options in this warm-weather beach paradise. Don’t miss these secret island escapes around the world.
December: Costa Rica
The beaches of Costa Rica are the perfect destination to wrap up the year, with secluded stretches of sand, incredible wildlife, watersports ranging from surfing to snorkeling to kayaking, all with sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean. The Santarena Hotel, scheduled to open in February 2019, is nestled in the peaceful, car-free community of Las Catalinas, a beach town located along the shores of the Pacific Ocean in the Guanacaste Province of northwest Costa Rica. A tropical oasis with a bohemian yet Cosmopolitan feel, the Santarena Hotel is home to 45 guest rooms offering sweeping views of the Pacific coast. Las Catalinas and Santarena are just steps away from Playa Dante, one of Guanacaste’s best beaches popular for swimming, paddle boarding, kayaking, and snorkeling. Next, make sure to add these amazing beaches to your bucket list ASAP.
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