The 5 Best Islands to Visit This Winter
No, not the city in Spain. I’m talking about the hidden gem of the Caribbean Islands: Grenada.
Tucked into the South Caribbean Sea, between Trinidad and Tobago and the Grenadines, Grenada is part of the volcanic Lesser Antilles island chain.
Where to Stay on Grenada
All of the resorts along Grand Anse Beach are the most popular places to stay for visitors to Grenada. But you can also find cozy Airbnbs in the more local areas if you’re looking to get even further off the beaten track.
What to do on Grenada
Grenada is known as the Spice Island of the Caribbean. You can smell the scent of cinnamon and nutmeg on the island’s breezes.
From nutmeg syrups to nutmeg soaps, Grenadian life revolves around the spices they grow here. Guided tours will take you through the rainforests and inside centuries-old spice plantations and cacao farms.
What’s a Caribbean island without its perfect white sand beaches? Grenada is no exception. And off the land, Grenada was home to one of the first underwater sculpture parks. Scuba diving or snorkeling to see this other-worldly attraction is a must-do.
On Sundays, be sure to catch a boat over to Hog Island and learn how to “lime” (relax!) with the locals at Roger’s Beach Bar, the only establishment on this tiny island, a stone’s throw off the coast of Grenada.
Dining on Grenada
Many good restaurants can be found on The Carenage, a waterside boardwalk in the capital of St George’s. The menu features local favorites like fish Rotis, lobster rolls, and Oil Downs, a traditional meat-and-veg stew. You’ll also find delicious hot sauce served alongside the perfectly-spiced dishes.
How to Get to Grenada
You can fly directly to Grenada from Miami, New York, Atlanta, and Charlotte.
2. Cape Verde
Cape Verde is made up of 10 unique islands off the coast of Senegal in Western Africa. Depending on the island, you’ll find volcanos, mountain villages, a kite-surfing mecca, and no matter where you go, live music being performed by the locals.
Don’t be surprised to be greeted with a friendly “No Stress.” Cape Verdeans live by this phrase, using it to say hello and you’re welcome, among many other uses.
What to do on Cape Verde
I wasn’t expecting to find Cape Verde’s stunning, neon-blue beaches in the middle of the Pacific. While many visitors come to these islands for the notorious kite-surfing opportunities, the islands are also home to mountainous hikes, vibrant nightlife, and leisurely beaches.
You can visit the salt flats or head to one of the turquoise, natural pools with underwater caves.
If you’re up for a volcanic adventure, try climbing Pico do Fogo; at 9,000 feet, it’s the highest peak on all the islands.
Dining on Cape Verde
Any of the beachside bars or restaurants on Cape Verde are bound to be full of music. Melodies are constantly blending together on the wind here, typically from the instruments and voices of local musicians. Combined with the fresh seafood, life here is about as “no stress” as it gets. (Just don’t drink too much Grogue, Cape Verdean’s alcohol of choice).
How to Get to Cape Verde
You can fly direct from Boston with TACV, the national airline of Cape Verde.
TAP Portugal also offers flights with connections in Lisbon. You can even book the legs separately if you want to spend time visiting Portugal’s capital city.
With over 200 inhabited islands, there are plenty of Greek getaways that are off-the-radar. Thassos just happens to be my favorite.
If you looked down on Thassos from above, you’d see a near-perfect circle of gentle hills covered in lush greenery. Surrounding it, the brilliant blue waters of the North Aegean Sea meet golden sand beaches and marble cliffs.
Dining on Thassos
Family-run tavernas dot the island where they whip up traditional greek dishes, heavy on the freshly caught seafood and Thassian olive oil.
The people of Thassos consider the olive tree to be a sacred blessing. None of it is wasted. The olives are eaten in salads or turned into olive oil. They use the leaves to feed the livestock and animals. And they burn the wood to keep themselves warm during the winter (it can snow on Thassos!).
Wine-lovers can seek out vinos of exceptional quality from private growers and producers around the island. The mountain village of Kazaviti, translating to “house of wine” in Greek, is the best place to go.
What to do on Thassos
Thassos is made for exploration. A drive around the outside of the island would take you about 2 hours, but you’ll be tempted to stop so frequently, it’ll likely take you the whole day.
The non-beach outdoor activities make Thassos a great winter getaway island. The hiking trails here will guide you through the green interior of the island, taking you to waterfalls, lakes, and stunning panoramic views from the highest points.
But what would a Greek island be without perfect beaches? Beaches here are pristine oases of solitude, even in the winter months.
There’s an Olive Oil Museum that’s open year-round and plenty of stunning monasteries and churches to explore.
Consider visiting Thassos for the Carnival season in February when they celebrate joyously with parades, parties, and special events all across the island.
How to Get to Thassos
Rent a car or take a bus to Kavala (about 2-3 hours) and then take a ferry.
Kavala does have its own airport. You can fly there from Dusseldorf and Athens.
The Philippines are quickly becoming a top tourist destination for honeymooners, beach-lovers, and dive-fanatics.
And for those who like a relaxing beach holiday, a few of the most popular islands are already a bit too crowded. Not Bantayan.
Where to stay on Bantayan
Located off the north coast of popular island Cebu, Bantayan is still the kind of place where you can find affordable beachfront accommodation and long stretches of sand all to yourself.
What to do on Bantayan
When you talk about Bantayan’s beaches you’re talking about the best of the Philippines, and therefore some of the best in the world. Which is important, because there isn’t a whole lot else to do here. Consider this one of the best islands to visit this winter for a do-nothing holiday.
From the still tropical waters to the slow pace of life, Bantayan is a place where you come to embrace the calm. Wake up to roosters crowing, hop on a bike, and set out to explore the island before the heat of the day. You won’t pass by a local who doesn’t greet you with a wave and a grin, and you’ll find plenty of opportunities to pull over and have a quick jump in your own private bit of warm ocean.
How to Get to Bantayan
After flying into Cebu, take a bus from Cebu City (approx. 4 hours) to the port of Hagnaya and then a 1-hour ferry to Bantayan. The ferries only run weather permitting, but there are nearby hotels in Hagnaya in case emergency accommodation is needed.
Curaçao is the ‘C’ of the southern Caribbean’s ABC islands. A mere 12° north of the equator (90 miles north of Venezuela), the average air temperature is 84° and the sea averages a lovely 82°.
Curaçao is an autonomous country within the Royal Dutch Kingdom. Like Grenada, it is located outside of the hurricane belt which makes it one of the best islands to visit this winter.
Where to stay on Curaçao
The island is a big resort destination and many travelers book flight and hotel packages to stay at the bigger resorts. These offer dining options, pools, private beaches, and more.
However, there are many alternative options for places to crash on Curaçao, including budget-friendly hostels and studio apartments in Willemstad, the capital.
What to do on Curaçao
Take a catamaran out to deserted Klein Curaçao (meaning “Little Curaçao” in Dutch) and spend the day on a private beach with beautiful snorkeling opportunities and an old shipwreck to explore.
UNESCO-protected Willemstad, the photogenic 17th-century capital, is a lovely city for walking around, with many souvenir shops and restaurants to check out. The colorful buildings here are a favorite of visitors.
Curaçao has over 35 beautiful beaches, many nestled in coves along the curving coastline, welcoming tourists to find their own private beach.
More things to do on Curaçao’s land and sea include:
- Over 70 dive spots on the island for scuba-lovers
- 3 golf courses
- Sea Aquarium
- Bike Tours
- Kas di Pal’i Maisha Museum
- Aloe Vera Plantation
- Spas and Yoga Centers
How to Get to Curaçao
The only direct flights to Curaçao are from New York and Miami. JetBlue offers affordable flights that fly direct from JFK. American Airlines and Aruba Airlines offer direct flights Curaçao from Miami.