“An Ocean Breeze Puts a Mind at Ease”
Winter vacation destinations… Recharge the Soul!
By – Ocean Malandra, journalist and travel writer, who divides his time between Northern California and South America. His work has appeared in everything from Business Insider and USA Today to Vice and High Times. Ocean is also a member of the International Travel Writer’s Alliance, the Cusco Writer’s Guild and the South America Explorer’s Club.
Heading south for the winter is not just for the birds. It’s a proven fact that escaping cold weather for a bit of sunshine and tropical warmth can dramatically uplift your spirits and put a spring back in your step. But not all beach destinations are created the same. Instead of just lounging around on the sand this year, consider going somewhere where there is some cultural to soak up as well. Warming the body as well as soul is the best winter medicine we can think of, so here are five brief recommendations that combine beach time and cultural or artistic immersion into a winter break to remember for a lifetime. We’ve included links, in case you want to gather more info on a particular destination!
Trinidad & Tobago Vacation
This dual island nation is known for it’s postcard perfect white sand beaches and lush rain-forest interior. But it also offers attractions like a diversity of tropical bird species (especially hummingbirds) and a fun musical culture that simply cannot be found anywhere else. For those looking for an instant immersion into the party, consider coming during carnival.
Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago
Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago takes place this year on February 24th & 25th (and the week leading up). Brightly costumed processions of dancers sweating to soca and calypso music flood the streets and joy and laughter fills the air. The event is famous for participants’ adorned in colorful costumes and exuberant celebration and dancing. There are numerous cultural events tied to carnival as well, all leading up to the huge street parade on the 24th & 25th; a once in a lifetime experience.
From the lush mountains to the rainforests and Savannahs, Trinidad & Tobago is home to 400+ species of birds, 600+ kinds of butterflies and 2500 forms of plan life. The large diversity of species and eco systems is like no other place on earth
To be close to the action we recommend Trinidad, while Tobago is for those who want to be able to slip away from the crowds when it’s time to chill.
Vacation to San Juan, Puerto Rico ***
Founded in 1521, Old San Juan is a gorgeously preserved ancient Colonial city that sits right on the shores of the turquoise blue Caribbean ocean. Visitors might have a hard time tearing themselves away from its shops and restaurant lined cobblestone streets to hit the beach but the truth is they really don’t have to.
Beaches like Balneario El Escambrón, a swath of golden sand backed by the shimmering sea, lie just outside of Old San Juan and can be enjoyed right after sightseeing and learning about the city’s fascinating history.
We recommend staying right in Old San Juan or on nearby Condado, which also sports a pleasant seafront lined with beaches.
*** On January 7th Puerto Rico experienced an earthquake. As of this writing, all major hotels and airports are open. Puerto Rico is within an area that is prone to earthquakes
St. Petersburg, Florida
With an average temperature of 72 degrees (Jan-Mar) St. Petersburg Florida weather is something that should draw you in if you reside in a cold neck of the woods. St. Petersburg is nicknamed the “Sunshine City” for a reason. With powdered sugar white sand beaches just outside of town on the Gulf Coast, it should already be on the radar for snow birds who want a bit of tropical paradise during the winter season. But St. Petersburg also has a strong artistic side. From the surreal art of the Salvador Dali museum and the Museum of Fine Arts to the mural lined streets of downtown, the city will inspire you with its creative offerings.
Beach bums should head straight to the Clearwater beach area, while those who want to be able to step out on the town instantly might want to consider grabbing a room in historic downtown St. Pete.
Anyone who has seen “The Shawshank Redemption” is already familiar with the paradisaical beaches of Zihuatenejo – its where Tim Robbin’s character dreamed of ending up in the movie. Located on a small bay that traps the otherwise stormy waters of the Pacific Ocean and renders them calm and clear, this sleepy fishing village turned resort town for those-in-the-know is one of the top beach towns on Mexico’s Pacific Coast. Besides visiting the magic waters of Playa Las Gatas and other local swathes of sand, Zihua is also a bit of a culinary mecca. Snacking on ceviche and other traditional delights made from scratch and freshly caught fish soon becomes many visitors favorite pastime.
We recommend booking one of the waterfront hotels just outside of Zihuatenejo that ring the beautiful little bay, you will be in walking distance to both beaches and the town itself.
Widely considered the most beautiful city in South America, Cartagena also happens to be perched right on the Caribbean coastline and therefore is just a stone’s throw from Cartagena Colombia beaches; a little more hectic & crowded then the other locations, but none the less beautiful. More beach options are a quick drive or boat ride away. With a legendary dining scene and friendly locals who have taken the art of throwing a fiesta to unparalleled levels, the city itself offers enough entertainment to last for weeks. But right on the city harbor small boats ready to whisk you away to Baru Island, home to beaches like Playa Blanca, giving you the opportunity to recover in a truly tranquil and tropical setting.
A historic hotel right in the center of the city is the best way to stay in Cartagena, although a beach bungalow break for a night or two might also be in order.