From the Shore to the Summit

Whether you choose mountains or beaches (or both) for your winter vacation, our travel guide has you covered.

When winter comes around, do you dream of sunny seascapes or mountain vistas? Surfboards or snowboards? Sandals or hiking boots? Whether you’re looking for a tropical retreat or a glacial getaway this season, our travel guide ensures you have plenty of options for your trip—including the option to have it all.

Test the Waters

GRACE BAY BEACH, TURKS AND CAICOS

Grace Bay Beach owes its pristine shoreline and calm waters to the Turks and Caicos barrier reef, which protects the area from harsh waves and pollution. You’ll find this undisturbed oasis on the northeast coast of Providenciales, an island known for water sports. Whether you parasail above the crystal-clear ocean, snorkel in nearby Bight Reef, or explore the region’s wetlands via stand-up paddleboard, aquatic activities are arguably the best way to experience Grace Bay. But feel free to take it easy: Grace Bay has plenty of hotels, restaurants, and shops. Stay: Wymara Resort and Villas

Learn How to Hang Ten

FOLLY BEACH, SOUTH CAROLINA

Located 12 miles south of downtown Charleston, this laid-back beach town boasts some of the best surfing on the East Coast. Winter’s cooler temps and heavier winds bring bigger waves ideal for surfing—just don’t forget your wetsuit. (Pro tip: Equipment rentals and lessons are available at several waterfront places, including McKevlin’s Surf Shop.) Year-round fishing makes Folly Beach Pier an angler’s paradise. At Pier 101 Restaurant & Bar, you can enjoy live music and mai tais out on the patio. After a long day at the beach, head to one of the watering holes or seafood joints along Center Street, the town’s main drag. Stay: Beachside Boutique Inn

Escape to the Emerald Coast

ROSEMARY BEACH, FLORIDA

This coastal community is one of many beach towns sprinkled along the Florida Panhandle’s Scenic Highway 30A, but artfully arranged neighborhoods and stunning architecture make Rosemary Beach stand out. Browse boutiques and galleries in the town square, play lawn games in one of the area’s countless greenspaces, bike the network of pathways and boardwalks that connect the town’s candy-colored cottages, and sink your toes into the sugar-white sand that borders the Gulf Coast’s signature blue-green water. Stay: The Pearl

Feel the Caribbean Cool

NEGRIL, JAMAICA

This town in western Jamaica boasts rainbow-hued shops and eateries near rugged cliffs, but its most famous attraction may be buzzy Seven Mile Beach. There, you’ll find crystal clear waters and white sand stretching for miles and miles—maybe not exactly seven, but who’s counting? Book a glass-bottom boat tour to see that beautiful water and pristine coastline from a different angle. Stay: Skylark Negril Beach Resort

Uncover a Hidden Gem

TODOS SANTOS, MEXICO

In 2006, this small village was designated one of Mexico’s “Pueblos Mágicos,” a program that honors some of the country’s most beautiful towns for their historical and cultural significance. The quaint landscape of Todos Santos is a welcome reprieve from the sleek resorts of neighboring Los Cabos. Cactus-lined desert roads give way to cobblestone streets in town, where you’ll find tiny art galleries and historic haciendas. Playa Cerritos is the go-to beach for swimming and surfing, while Punta Lobos is better for beachcombing and sunbathing. Stay: Hotel San Cristóbal

Soar Through the Skies

COEUR D’ALENE, IDAHO

Silver Mountain Resort operates the longest gondola ride in North America and maintains 73 trails for skiing and snowboarding. And when winter arrives in North Idaho, so does the American bald eagle, as the majestic birds of prey migrate to feed on salmon in Wolf Lodge Bay. In December and January, book a ride through Lake Coeur d’Alene Cruises to see this spectacle up close. Stay: Silver Mountain Resort

Revel in the Rockies

FORT COLLINS, COLORADO

Using Fort Collins as a base camp, plan your winter hiking trip to the Rockies. The season’s heavy snowfall shuts down the western portion of the park, but low-elevation trails on the eastern edge remain open. Just north of Moraine Park, Upper Beaver Meadows Trail is geared toward beginners, while Deer Mountain Trail is recommended for advanced alpinists. The hike to Gem Lake is more moderate, with unencumbered views of Estes Park and the Continental Divide. Stay: The Armstrong Hotel

Vacation Like an Olympian

LAKE PLACID, NEW YORK

Gold medal talent isn’t required to take advantage of the top-notch winter sport offerings at Lake Placid, the host of two Winter Olympics. With cold-weather activities galore and an Adirondack backdrop, attractions include snow bonfires, ice fishing, bobsledding, toboggan rides, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, dogsledding, and, of course, ice skating on Lake Placid itself. Stay: Lake Placid Lodge

Walk a Winter Wonderland

RENO, NEVADA

In the shadow of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, Reno can serve as a lively launching pad to explore the region’s many trails as well as the slopes around North Lake Tahoe. Hit the Hunter Creek trail in Reno’s high desert, or go snowshoeing to enjoy the area’s plush powder. North of Lake Tahoe, Mount Rose Trail offers one of the most scenic snowshoe hikes. In the Tahoe Meadows area, sledding and snowtubing are available on either side of Mount Rose Highway. Stay: Atlantis Casino Resort Spa

Climb to the Top of Texas

GUADALUPE MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK, TEXAS

About a two-hour drive east from El Paso, this stark but scenic desert area houses the world’s most extensive Permian fossil reef and Texas’ four tallest peaks. To reach Guadalupe Peak, the state’s highest point, trek through the conifer forests surrounding the Guadalupe Peak Trail until you hit the summit at 8,749 feet. Not a fan of heights? Explore the park’s Salt Basin Dunes. Camping is available—otherwise, your best hotel options are in El Paso. Stay: Hotel Indigo El Paso Downtown

Take to the Treetops

OROCOVIS, PUERTO RICO

Known as the heart of Puerto Rico, this small municipality sits amid the island’s Cordillera Central mountain range. Orocovis is home to four rivers and two lakes, including Lago de Matrullas, a popular kayaking spot. Visit the Doña Juana Waterfall before making the hourlong drive to Toro Verde Nature Adventure Park, which claims to operate the world’s longest zip line. From Toro Verde, the San Juan beaches of Condado and El Escambrón are about 40 miles away—as are the best hotel options. Stay: La Concha Resort

Navigate the Northwest

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON

A trip to Alki Beach Park promises views of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains, plus ample space for walking, cycling, skateboarding, or roller-skating along the beach’s paved pathway. Although tours aren’t offered in winter months, the Alki Point Lighthouse is still a can’t-miss historical sight and photo op. An hour outside Seattle, Snoqualmie Pass is known for snowboarding and skiing—both alpine and Nordic. A little farther west, Annette Lake Trail is prime terrain for snowshoeing. Stay: The Edgewater Hotel

Venture to a Volcano

PAHALA, HAWAII

Near the Island of Hawaii’s southern tip, this town provides easy access to a rare natural wonder. With a dark shoreline formed by lava particles, Punalu’u Beach is recognized as one of the world’s only black-sand beaches. Glimpse coconut palms and Hawaiian green sea turtles before heading northeast on Route 11, which will lead you to the main entrance of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Cruise along Crater Rim Drive for views of the active Kilauea volcano and the Kilauea Iki crater, and then enjoy an easy hike along the paved path of Devastation Trail, which passes through an area hit by the 1959 Kilauea Iki eruption. Stay: Sea Mountain

Soak Up the Coastline

LAGUNA BEACH, CALIFORNIA

The landscape of this posh Orange County community is marked by rocky bluffs, secluded coves, and craggy beaches. Close by, Crystal Cove State Park consists of 18 miles of hiking trails through the backcountry wilderness. Stay at the Montage Laguna Beach for access to the under-the-radar Treasure Island Beach, where you’ll find bays waiting to be explored. Stay: Montage Laguna Beach


Kiley Faulkner is a former associate editor of this magazine. Email her at kileynfaulkner@gmail.com.

Originally Published November 2019