Chasing Sunshine: 10 Tropical Destinations to Thaw Out This February
Chasing Sunshine: 10 Tropical Destinations to Thaw Out This February - Island Life in the Bahamas
With over 700 islands and cays, the Bahamas is a water lover's paradise. From world-class scuba diving and snorkeling to uncrowded beaches and turquoise waters, this island nation invites travelers to soak up the laid-back vibes.
One of the top draws of the Bahamas is the incredible marine life encounters. Swim with pods of dolphins in their natural habitat, get up close with nurse sharks and stingrays, or snorkel colorful reefs teeming with tropical fish. The island of Bimini is known as the big game fishing capital of the world, where anglers can hook marlin, tuna and mahi mahi. For divers, exploring underwater shipwrecks and lava tunnels are bucket list adventures.
Of course, you can't visit the Bahamas without lounging on stunning stretches of powdery white sand. Rent a golf cart or scooter and make your way from one secluded beach to the next on the less-developed islands like Eleuthera, Cat Island or Andros. Find your own private paradise away from the crowds. The Exuma Cays offer some of the best beaches, like Thunderball Grotto where James Bond filmed and Staniel Cay with its famous swimming pigs.
While Nassau on New Providence island offers a lively city vibe, true island life is found on the Out Islands where you can immerse yourself in local culture. Try traditional Bahamian cuisine like conch fritters, cracked conch and peas n' rice. Visit craft markets to watch artisans create handmade straw goods. Join festive Junkanoo parades and watch locals dressed in colorful costumes dance to the beat of goatskin drums.
Hop between the islands by ferry, mail boat or puddle jumper flights. Rent a vacation home and really live like a local. Shop for fresh fish and tropical fruits at seaside shacks. Spend the day exploring tiny fishing villages. Chat with the locals to get insider tips. Time seems to move slower here, inviting you to lose track of the days.
Through the turquoise shallows, you may spot a shark fin or sea turtle gliding by. Pelicans dive for fish while frigate birds soar overhead. At night, stargaze as the Milky Way lights up the sky. The Bahamas offers a wealth of natural beauty both above and below the water.
With such a diversity of ecosystems from mangrove forests to coral reefs, the Bahamas creates the ultimate island playground. Kayak through lush wetlands, hike to breathtaking ocean vistas, or charter a sailboat to secluded cays. Outdoor adventurers will find endless possibilities across the archipelago. And with Bahamas travel requirements now eased, Americans can visit with just a negative COVID test.
What else is in this post?
- Chasing Sunshine: 10 Tropical Destinations to Thaw Out This February - Island Life in the Bahamas
- Chasing Sunshine: 10 Tropical Destinations to Thaw Out This February - Beach Bumming in Belize
- Chasing Sunshine: 10 Tropical Destinations to Thaw Out This February - Jungles and Wildlife of Costa Rica
- Chasing Sunshine: 10 Tropical Destinations to Thaw Out This February - Snorkeling Paradise in the Maldives
- Chasing Sunshine: 10 Tropical Destinations to Thaw Out This February - Luxury and Relaxation in Bali
- Chasing Sunshine: 10 Tropical Destinations to Thaw Out This February - Adventure and Surfing in Fiji
- Chasing Sunshine: 10 Tropical Destinations to Thaw Out This February - Charming Coastal Towns of Portugal
- Chasing Sunshine: 10 Tropical Destinations to Thaw Out This February - Cultural Treasures of Cambodia
Chasing Sunshine: 10 Tropical Destinations to Thaw Out This February - Beach Bumming in Belize
With some of the best beaches in Central America, Belize is a tropical paradise for travelers seeking that laid-back, barefoot vibe. Swaying palms, powdery sand, warm azure waters—this is the place to truly disconnect and soak up some rays in a hammock.
Up north, Ambergris Caye has over 25 miles of beaches to explore. San Pedro is the main town, with a funky, colorful Caribbean vibe. Wander barefoot on the beach, stopping to chat with friendly locals. Golf carts are the main mode of transportation here, so cruise from beach to beach along the sandy roads.
A favorite is Secret Beach, surrounded by mangroves and only accessed by boat. Bring a picnic lunch and snorkel gear to swim with nurse sharks and stingrays. Or take a short flight to the outer islands like Caye Caulker, with beaches so secluded you may not see another soul. Rent a bicycle and pedal from one end of the island to the other.
In Hopkins Village, you’ll find a 4-mile stretch of relaxed Garifuna culture and sandy beaches. Buy fresh lobster or lionfish from local fishermen and grill it over an open fire right on the beach. Take a drumming lesson or dance class to immerse yourself in Garifuna traditions carried on from Africa.
Further south, Placencia Peninsula offers 16 miles of beaches with glittering sand. Sidewalk cafes, beach bars, and laid-back hotels give it a quirky vibe. Hit the water for snorkeling, sailing, kitesurfing or paddleboarding. Stop for lunch at the funky Gecko Beach Bar, frequented by locals and expats.
At the tip of the peninsula, Laughing Bird Caye National Park protects the second largest reef in Belize. Snorkel through gardens of coral populated by angelfish, parrotfish, sea turtles and more. Paddle out by kayak or book a snorkel tour to fully experience this underwater world.
Offshore, the iconic Blue Hole Natural Monument is one of the top dive spots in the world. Measuring 1,000 feet across and 400 feet deep, experienced divers plunge into the inky blackness to explore cavernous swim-throughs and limestone stalactites. Whale sharks, hammerheads and manta rays have been spotted here on lucky days.
Chasing Sunshine: 10 Tropical Destinations to Thaw Out This February - Jungles and Wildlife of Costa Rica
Untamed wilderness still dominates much of Costa Rica, with steamy jungles and abundant wildlife bringing intrepid travelers nose to nose with Mother Nature. This compact country packs in remarkable biodiversity, making it a top destination for ecotourism and nature enthusiasts.
Descending through the lush cloud forest of Monteverde, the cool mist kissing your skin, it’s easy to imagine you’ve stepped into real-life Jurassic Park. Strange primeval bird calls ring out as you traverse hanging bridges suspended high in the canopy. This is a bird watcher’s paradise, with resplendent quetzals, three-wattled bellbirds and over 400 other avian species. Early morning guided treks reveal sloths, coatis, agoutis and howler monkeys among the strangler figs and giant ferns.
On the Osa Peninsula, Corcovado National Park shelters some of the last remaining old growth lowland rainforest in Central America. Jaguars hunt peccaries along hiking trails, while tapirs feed on fallen fruit. Follow expert guides to spot elusive wildlife. Baird’s tapirs take mud baths to cool off while collared peccaries travel in packs. With luck, you may glimpse endangered scarlet macaws or catch the shimmer of a golden orb spider’s web.
Tortuguero National Park draws travelers to observe sea turtles nesting on remote beaches. Under the cover of darkness, watch in awe as leatherback, hawksbill and green sea turtles come ashore to lay eggs. By daylight, explore mangrove forests and waterways teeming with caiman, iguanas, monkeys and sloths.
On the Pacific Coast, Manuel Antonio National Park rewards visitors with a perfect combination of wildlife, rainforest and beaches. Follow in the footsteps of squirrel and capuchin monkeys scrambling high in the canopy. Peek at sloths napping in cecropia trees or freshwater crocodiles lurking in lagoons as you trek through the forest. Cool off with a swim at an idyllic palm-lined beach, scanning for humpback whales.
Chasing Sunshine: 10 Tropical Destinations to Thaw Out This February - Snorkeling Paradise in the Maldives
With endless stretches of beach and a turquoise lagoon, the Maldives is like being castaway on your own private slice of paradise. This far-flung island nation is made up of over 1,100 coral islands, and it’s this stunning geography that makes the Maldives a snorkeler’s nirvana. Ringed by vibrant reefs and teeming with tropical fish, the Maldives offers underwater encounters that feel like swimming in an aquarium.
The best snorkeling in the Maldives can be found right off the shores of your resort. Simply slip on a mask and fins and you’ll be greeted by schools of butterflyfish and angelfish darting under the waves. Look for blue-spotted stingrays buried in the sand and green sea turtles grazing on seagrass. Moray eels peek out of coral crevices as parrotfish munch on algae-covered rocks.
Snorkelers can also spot manta rays and whale sharks when the currents sweep through. At Hanifaru Bay in Baa Atoll, hundreds of graceful manta rays soar through the plankton-rich waters from May to November each year. Local operators lead guided tours to encounter these majestic creatures up close. Thila Kandu in South Ari Atoll is another hotspot where whale sharks frequent from December to April. Drift snorkeling with a massive spotted whale shark is an incredible bucket list experience.
Of course, the kaleidoscopic coral reefs are the real stars in the Maldives. Named a UNESCO biosphere reserve, the Baa Atoll alone has over 30 individual reefs formed from over 5,000 years of coral growth. The outer reef slopes plunge dramatically from 16 feet to well over 300 feet, allowing snorkelers to float weightlessly over these vertical walls. Watch closely for eagle rays and white tip reef sharks patrolling the reef.
Some resorts, like Soneva Fushi and Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru, host resident marine biologists to educate guests and lead guided snorkel safaris. They’ll bring you to little-known reefs bursting with nurse sharks and sea turtles. Learn to identify the different coral and fish species, and discover hidden critters like ghost pipefish camouflaged in crinoids. Conservation-focused resorts like Milaidhoo Island even have their own coral nurseries. Here, guests can help replant broken coral fragments to encourage new growth.
Chasing Sunshine: 10 Tropical Destinations to Thaw Out This February - Luxury and Relaxation in Bali
Bali has become synonymous with serenity and luxury, drawing travelers from across the globe in search of blissful beach escapes and pampering hideaways nestled in the lush jungle interior. For stressed-out urbanites, a holiday in Bali offers the promise of complete renewal through rituals passed down over generations. Sink back into TIMELESS traditions perfected over centuries in this island paradise.
From cliffside villas with private infinity pools to cutting-edge spas harnessing the healing powers of nature, Bali spoils its guests with sublime indulgences. Five-star beachfront resorts like the St. Regis Bali and Six Senses Uluwatu immerse you in barefoot luxury, with private plunge pools, 24-hour butlers and unlimited spa treatments. State-of-the-art wellness centers like COMO Shambhala pair ancient Balinese healing with Western therapies to revitalize both body and mind.
For the ultimate digital detox, Alila Manggis and Alila Ubud both offer Silent Retreat experiences rooted in centuries-old meditation techniques. Removing all distractions allows you to truly unplug and reconnect with your soul. Bliss out with hours of uninterrupted "me time" filled with yoga, sound baths and healing energy work. You'll return home feeling spiritually refreshed.
From soothing flower baths to rejuvenating volcanic clay wraps, Balinese spas incorporate LOCAL elements into indulgent treatments designed to pamper your body. At Como Shambhala, nutrients absorbed through a medicinal BOREH wrap boost circulation and rid the body of toxins. Frangipani-infused oils used in Four Seasons' signature Jepun Treatments relax muscles while lifting your mood. Indulge in these sensory experiences offered nowhere else on earth.
For Balinese royalty, beauty rituals also played an important cultural role in preparing young women for marriage. Learn the secrets behind Lulur, an elaborate exfoliating treatment using turmeric, herbs and yoghurt during a Traditional Beauty Ritual at Mandapa resort. Dating back to the 17th century, this pampering experience leaves skin smooth and radiant.
Of course, no true Balinese spa experience would be complete without a signature massage. Nothing relieves stress quite like the flowing , rhythmic strokes of a traditional Balinese massage. The signature Sodashi treatment at Four Seasons Sayan incorporates stretching, long strokes and acupressure to release muscle tension. COMO Shambhala's signature massage eases jet lag with gentle hands-on energy work through marma point therapy. You'll drift away in bliss.
Chasing Sunshine: 10 Tropical Destinations to Thaw Out This February - Adventure and Surfing in Fiji
Blessed with consistent waves, warm water and that island vibe, Fiji offers an idyllic surfing escape for wave riders of all levels. From once-in-a-lifetime tubes to mellow beginner breaks, you’ll find your perfect wave across Fiji’s many islands.
The surf mecca of Tavarua Island exclusively hosts up to 36 surfers in dorm-style lodging who commune together to score the best barrels. The skilled local boatmen study the winds and tides to determine where waves will be firing on any given day. Tavarua’s Restaurants break dishes out the island’s heaviest tubes, shooting surfers through aquamarine caverns. The wave jackpots on a good south swell, bending and barreling across the reef. Claustrophobia sets in as you race through the tube, not knowing which way is up. It’s a challenging break that’s considered a rite of passage for expert surfers.
Fiji’s Coral Coast offers hotel-based surf camps for all levels, from complete newbies to advanced surfers. Located right on the sand at Uprising Beach Resort, you’ll score empty waves right out front with plenty of space to progress. Their professional coaches analyze your technique and develop a personalized training program so you’ll be hanging ten in no time.
Further west, the Sigatoka sand dunes create a perfect beginner's playground with gentle whitewash to practice popping up and cruising across the face of the wave. Surf instructors will demo proper stance, paddling and catching unbroken waves in the three to four foot swell. Riding your first green wave while watching a fiery Fijian sunset is a memory that will stay with you for life.
On Viti Levu’s southern shore, Waidroka Bay attracts intermediate and advanced surfers with fun beach breaks and reliable waves. Surf camps like Action Fiji offer guidance on where to paddle out for the best waves based on your ability. Barreling lefts and workable rights keep you challenged. Surf guide services supply boards, transport and even capture photos of you shredding it.
Chasing Sunshine: 10 Tropical Destinations to Thaw Out This February - Charming Coastal Towns of Portugal
Portugal’s captivating coastline is dotted with picturesque villages that look like they're frozen in time. Wandering the narrow cobblestone lanes and sun-bleached houses, you'll slip back to a simpler era. From tiny fishing hamlets to historic fortified towns, Portugal's charming coastal settlements invite you to slow down and savor all of life's little pleasures.
In the Algarve region, Tavira’s whitewashed buildings and Roman ruins evoke the area's rich history spanning over seven centuries. Meander across seven bridges over the Gilão River, passing the Gothic Santa Maria Church. Nearby, the enticing aroma of fresh sardines sizzling on grills fills the air. Pull up a chair at Casa Simão and pair the catch of the day with a crisp vinho verde wine.
Further west, Lagos draws visitors to its dramatic coastal cliffs and grottos carved by the churning Atlantic. Learn of Henry the Navigator's Age of Discovery at the fortress and slave market. Take a boat tour to Ponta da Piedade to admire the sea caves and arches. The town buzzes with restaurants and nightlife after dark. Stop for a nightcap at Eddie's Bar where old fishermen's tales bring the past to life.
Up the coast, Cascais charms with its lively seaside promenade lined with outdoor cafes and pastry shops. Post up with a galão coffee overlooking the bay's small pleasure craft. The sound of seagulls and crashing waves clears your mind. Nearby, Cabo da Roca is continental Europe’s westernmost point. Watching the sunset here feels like you’re at the edge of the world.
In central Portugal, picture-perfect Obidos looks like a movie set enclosed within medieval walls. Lose yourself in the labyrinth of narrow lanes adorned with bursts of bougainvillea. Shop forlocal handicrafts and stop for a glass of ginginha, a cherry liqueur made from secret family recipes. Let Obidos sweep you into a fairy tale.
Further up the coast, Nazaré has become a mecca for daring surfers who tackle its massive waves. But it still retains the charm of a traditional fishing village, where weather-beaten fishermen mend nets beside brightly colored boats. Help hoist the day's catch and cook sardines over an open fire. This is where old Portugal still thrives.
Chasing Sunshine: 10 Tropical Destinations to Thaw Out This February - Cultural Treasures of Cambodia
From the temples of Angkor to enchanting villages on the Mekong, Cambodia offers travelers the chance to immerse themselves in a vibrant culture shaped by ancient traditions. Buddhism has been integral to Cambodian society for over 1,500 years, manifested in elaborate religious complexes, gilded statues and saffron-robed monks. The imperial Khmer era left an indelible mark with architectural masterpieces that continue to astound modern visitors. Beyond the temples, experiencing Cambodia’s thriving folk music, textiles, cuisine and villages connects you to the country's living heritage.
Wandering through the sprawling complex of Angkor Wat, the largest religious monument in the world, you’ll be awestruck by the scale and intricacy of the sandstone temples. Built in the early 12th century for King Suryavarman II, the structures integrate Hindu cosmology into the layout and bas-reliefs depicting Hindu tales and Khmer history. Visitors describe feeling a profound sense of wonder when they first glimpse the iconic lotus-shaped towers rising above the jungle canopy. Beyond Angkor Wat, discover timeworn temples like Bayon with its serene stone faces and jungle-strangled Ta Prohm where enormous kapok trees and silk-cotton grow from the ruins.
Music plays an integral role in Cambodia’s spiritual ceremonies and village life. Pinpeat orchestras perform for religious occasions, weddings and state functions, filling the air with hypnotic melodies from instruments like the xylophone-like roneat. During the annual Moon Festival, children take to the streets singing folk songs door-to-door in exchange for mooncakes and donations. Music also powers lively shadow puppet shows depicting scenes from the Ramayana epic.
In riverside villages, you can witness the creation of krama, the traditional checked scarves worn daily by Khmers. Made from hand-woven cotton or silk, each region has its own signature patterns and colors, with intricate motifs symbolizing nature, religion or mythology. Shop for krama to bring home a wearable souvenir. Or take a workshop to learn traditional weaving on a wooden loom.