In honor of my Northeastern family and friends and my home of New York City, I wanted to put together a guide to the best beach getaways so you can escape the snow once flights are back up and running. Based on personal experience, a few of my favorites include:
1) Punta Cana
I luckily was able to avoid the snowpocalypse as I had been in Punta Cana and my flight home to NYC was cancelled. Not a bad place to be stuck. The flight is less than four hours, and the destination truly weaves resort paradise with responsible tourism and secluded nature experiences. The highlight experience for me was paddleboarding from the pristine Playa Blanca Beach — where I spent a lot of time enjoying PUNTACANA Resort & Club‘s water sports and annual Kite Fest Punta Cana — to the Punta Cana Ecological Reserve. You can hike into the tropical forest and enjoy trails littered with crystal clear freshwater lagoons, some approved for swimming. Across the street heading away from the beach, the Punta Cana Ecological Foundation has trails full of gardens and local conversation projects. At night, head to the beachfront Don Queco Cigar Bar for some local rum and cigar pairing under the stars.
2) Saint Lucia
Saint Lucia isn’t just great for beautiful beaches, but soft adventure and delicious cacao culture, with chocolate tours and unique desserts abounding (don’t miss the Chocolate Laboratory at Jade Mountain for tastings and classes). My homebase for the trip was Soufriere, a town located inside a volcano located inside a volcano, although you can only see the steaming grounds in certain areas. I personally opted for activities like ziplining over a cacao plantation at Mourne Coubaril Estate, hiking four miles round trip to summit Gros Piton, wandering the colorful Diamond Falls Botanical Gardens and ATVing over beaches with ATV Paradise Tours Saint Lucia — all highly recommended!
Trinidad and Tobago are sister islands with very different personalities. While Trinidad does have beach and nature offerings outside of the capital of Port of Spain, Tobago is the ideal choice for those seeking an idyllic beach getaway. Make sure to visit Pigeon Point, where you partake in watersports with the eco-minded Radical Sports on a beautiful white sand beach. I also recommend a bird-watching trip through the world’s oldest legally protected forest reserve (established April 13, 1776) and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Tobago Main Ridge Forest Reserve, a treat whether you’re into bird viewing or not.
4) The Big Island Of Hawaii
If you don’t want to use your passport, the Big Island of Hawaii is a great option — especially for an epic beach-filled Hawaii road trip. Volcanoes National Park is full of beaches, as well as volcanoes, local flora and fauna, and opportunities to take guided hikes and learn more about the local ecology and culture. Along with visiting local artisans like Volcano Winery (try the Macadamia Nut Honey Mead!) and Hamakua Mushrooms (organic and all natural), make sure to enjoy a dip in the geothermal hot springs of Ahalanui Park and swim with manta rays — one of the few places in the world you can do this — and take surf lessons in Kona. If you’re adventurous, partake in cliff jumping on Ali’i Drive at a place called “The End of the World.” Click here for your ultimate Hawaii road trip itinerary.
5) Cartagena/Tayrona National Park, Colombia
Colombia is really easy to get to, at least from New York City, and luckily experiences opposite seasons from the Northeast USA. While Cartagena has a tropical feel and some nice strips of coastline, the best beaches can be found by taking a weekend trip to Tayrona National Park. You can hike, horseback ride or boat to Cabo San Juan — the National Park’s most popular beach — and camp out in an aerial hammock overlooking the crystal waters. Hiking to other beaches is also part of the fun.
6) Cayman Islands Beyond Grand Cayman
I recently had the chance to visit the Cayman Islands, and what most wowed me was the ability to get away from mass tourism on Grand Cayman and head to the quiet and serene nearby islands of Little Cayman and Cayman Brac. If you’re into snorkeling or diving the islands are home to 365 official dive sites — one for every single day of the year. Make sure to dine on some local lionfish, an invasive species destroying local reefs and killing endemic fish that the islands have taken to culling, cooking and eating. It’s truly a meal you can feel good about.