Looking to go on vacation? Dreaming of a warm destination with sandy beaches and bright sunshine? Instead of jetting off to Turks and Caicos or Aruba, check out these breath taking Carribean locations that don’t get nearly enough recognition for their beauty and vacation potential. Each boasting stunning beaches and palm trees swaying lazily in the warm tropical breeze, these islands will steal your heart and provide you with the relaxation and peace you need to rejuvenate after a long few months of work. Don’t forget your sunhat, sandals and bathing suit!
1. Saint Kitts and Nevis
Saint Kitts and Nevis is a two island country in the West Indes. It is the smallest sovereign state in the Western Hemisphere and takes only two hours to drive around the entire country. It is jam packed with history such as the Brimestone Hill Fortress built in the 1400’s and Romney Manor that is now filled with beautiful local souvenirs to bring home to your loved ones. You can stay at the local Timothy’s Beach Resort or play it safe by booking a room at the Marriott.
Made up of five insanely beautiful islands, Guadeloupe is a French country known for it’s well maintained islands, superior diving conditions and jaw dropping sunsets. It has one of France’s National Parks which is protected by UNESCO as a Biosphere Reserve and is classified as one of the top ten most beautiful bays in the world. With a combination of Creole and French cuisine, guests are never disappointed with their meals. With an inter-island boat system, you can visit all five islands and stay at a beautiful hotel or two, like the Hotel Le Bois Joli or La Toubana Hotel.
Monserrat is one of the most under rated and unknown locations in the Caribbean for vacationers. Two thirds of the island was completely destroyed by a volcano which erupted from 1995-2004. With the portion of the island that is left, it is stunning, beautiful and filled with culture and life. Hotels are extremely well priced, and if you are curious to learn about the history of the volcano, with the permission of local police, you and a tour guide are able to go see the “Exclusion Zone” where the volcano erupted.
Not to be mistaken with Dominican Republic, Dominica is a paradise all on it’s own. There is 750 square kilometres of stunning land that is waiting to be explored. Don’t miss Champagne Reef where you can snorkel and see beautiful kinds of fish. It is called the Champagne Reef because the water is bubbly, much like champagne! With Horseback riding on the beach and delicious local food made for you on the spot, Dominica cannot be missed! If your looking for a place to stay, check out the luxurious Rosalie Bay Resort. If you travel in between the months of March and October, you will be able to see baby turtles hatching on the black sand beaches.
A mountainous and sandy island, Martinique is a French island filled with Bamboo Forests, Waterfalls, once in a life time snorkelling opportunities and so much more. Many of the locals prefer to rent out apartments instead of allowing massive hotels to be built on the beach. Because of this, Martinique helps you experience the Caribbean in a non-commercialized setting that will take your breath away.
Anguilla is the luxurious option for those wanting to spend a little extra on their relaxing vacation. Find yourself at a busy beach? Not to worry. Travel 15 minutes down the road and you’ll find yourself the only ones on the next beach. Locals here are extremely kind and welcoming to tourists and want to involve them in their day to day traditions and life. The best way to experience this island is by staying at a luxury resort, hitting up Venus Spa and getting a mixed drink at a local beach bar. This island will truly rejuvenate your body, mind and soul.
Where to begin? Grenada is one stunning location that you will definitely want to put on your bucket list. Grenada is known for it’s vast farms that grown Nutmeg, and you can visit many historic sites that also produce Rum. Don’t forget to go on a jungle adventure to swim under waterfalls and then take a dive into the deep ocean to visit the Underwater Sculpture Park created by locals to assist with growing coral reefs. With a Sandals Resort on site, Grenada has everything you need for a vacation and so much more.
It’s January. The holiday season has passed. The snow is piling ever higher and a wicked wind blows out of the north, bringing with it polar vortexes and wind chill factors enough to freeze your face in a matter of minutes. The nights are long and the days are frigid, even if they are sunny. You need to escape…but where? Try one of these 8 locations on for size, traveler, and get your bags packed for some nicer weather.
Mexico is the giant of Central American tourism, offering both cheap resort tourism for snowbirds and spring breakers, offering up opportunities to explore jungles, ancient Aztec ruins and contemporary Mayan culture, but Belize has many of the same qualities, but with fewer tourists. Lying along the Caribbean Sea, Belize is quite a bit smaller than the neighboring countries of Mexico and Guatemala, both in terms of area and population. In recent years, Belize has become a popular alternative for those looking to escape the droves of tourists in Mexico. Although Belize can cost a little more, it offers opportunities for travelers to explore extensive coral reefs, jungle and wildlife reserves and Mayan ruins. Belize is home to the largest cave system in Central America, if you’re up for some subterranean adventure. January averages temperatures of 24°C (75°F) and is part of the dry season, meaning you can expect sunshine.
7. Costa Rica
Costa Rica has been something of an anomaly in Central America; it has been democratically stable whereas other countries have faced upheaval and dictatorships, and Costa Rica has been pushing a green agenda to take care of its natural resources. The country aims to become carbon-neutral by 2021 and has even been named the greenest country in the world. For that reason, Costa Rica has become Latin America’s go-to for ecotourism, with a special focus on green tourism. Costa Rica’s most famous natural landscape is the cloud forests, tropical rainforests formed in the heights of the Cordillera mountains that traverse the country, and it’s marine ecosystems as the country is bordered by both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. The country comprises less than 1% of the world’s landmass, but contains 5% of its biodiversity. January is dry season and average temperatures are about 27°C.
Just 29 kilometers north of the coast of Venezuela, in the Caribbean Sea, lies the island-nation of Aruba. Aruba is an interesting island: it forms part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and its citizens are Dutch. Aruba’s climate has helped its tourism industry as the island lies outside Hurricane Alley and experiences a dry climate, producing reliably warm, sunny weather year-round. The interior of the island features hilly terrain and desert-like scrublands dotted with cacti, while the south and western shores have white, sandy beaches that are relatively sheltered from the ocean. Although Aruba doesn’t celebrate its National Day until March, January 25 is the celebration of the birthday of Betico Croes, a proponent of Aruban independence and considered by some to be the “father” of Aruba as an independent state.
Want to get further afield and go trans-Atlantic for January? Check out Cyprus. Located south of Turkey, Cyprus has the warmest winters—and indeed, the warmest climate—in the Mediterranean European Union. Snow is only possible in the Troodos mountains, while most coastal locations experience pleasant 16–17°C weather throughout January. It may not be beach weather, exactly, but it is certainly warmer than some climates—and with almost 200 sunshine hours for the month on average, Cyprus can be a reprieve from the long, dark nights of more northern locations. Cyprus has a rich history, stretching from Greek to Byzantine to Ottoman empires, and many traditions to explore. Music, art and cuisine are all integral experiences for visitors. Not looking to escape winter? The Troodos mountains provide a great skiing experience, an excellent alternative to the busy Alps of western Europe.
The island of Grenada and six smaller islands, located at the southern end of the chain known as the Grenadines, form the country of Grenada. Another southern Caribbean destination, Grenada is known as the “Island of Spice,” because it is one of the world’s largest exporters of nutmeg and mace. The island is cooled by the trade winds during the dry season. Beach tourism is centered on the capital of St. George in the southwest, while Saint David and Saint John parishes have witnessed the growth of eco-conscious tourism in recent years. Grenada has many idyllic beaches along its coasts, the Grand Anse Beach in St. George, a 3-kilometer long strip of white, sandy beach, is considered one of the finest in the world. Another major natural attraction is the island’s abundance of waterfalls, including the Annandale Falls, Mt. Carmel and Seven Sisters.
3. Canary Islands
Although part of Spain, the Canary Islands have a much different climate than most of the country. Temperatures average about 20°C on most of the islands in the chain, and January generally sees relatively little precipitation. Santa Cruz is the wettest island at this time of year, receiving, on average, about 1.25 inches of rainfall. The Canary Islands have plenty to recommend them aside from sunshine and warm temperatures. La Palma is home to cloud forests, similar to the forests of Costa Rica. Most of the islands, including Tenerife and Gran Canaria, feature black sand beaches. Tenerife’s nightlife at Playa de las Americas is legendary. Tourism is a well-developed industry and the island’s function almost like a Caribbean getaway for most of Europe. Perhaps the best part is that getting here won’t cost much more than flying to some Caribbean destinations.
This island in the Lesser Antilles has earned itself a reputation as a more exclusive and chi-chi getaway in the southern Caribbean. This is somewhat true: trips to Barbados are usually more pricey compared to places like Mexico and Dominican Republic. The dry season runs from December to May, and gentle breezes keep the island’s temperatures more moderate than some of its neighbors. The western and south shores are popular for beach tourism, while surfers would do well to visit the Atlantic coast, where tumbling waves make for ideal surfing conditions. The country’s coral reefs provide ample opportunity for diving and snorkeling. Another popular activity is shopping, as there are several shopping districts in the south of the island, many of them offering duty-free shopping. Golf and helicopter rides are also popular tourist activities.
About 65 kilometers north of the Venezuelan coast, you’ll find the island of Curacao. Along with Saint Maarten and Aruba, the island is part of the Dutch Caribbean and forms a part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Until 2010, it was known as the “island territory of Curacao,” one of five such territories in the former Netherlands Antilles. The island has a tropical Savannah climate and January marks the start of the dry season. The temperature hovers around 25°C and less than two inches of rain falls during the month. Curacao has been less reliant on tourism than other Caribbean islands, although it is popular with divers and snorkelers. Many coral reefs can be reached without a boat and the island’s southern coast features calm waters and numerous small beaches. If you’re looking for a less-frequented getaway, skip Aruba and spring for Curacao.
With over 70 per cent of the Earth’s surface covered in water and billions of years of world history, it’s no wonder that our planet’s oceans, seas and lakes hold some of the most fascinating attractions (both natural and man-made) that can be found on the planet. For those looking to flex their adventure muscles and temporarily leave behind the security of solid ground, here are 6 human contributions so fascinating, they’re worth taking the plunge for:
6. Yonaguni Monument, Okinawa
Found off the coast of Yonaguni, the southernmost of Japan’s Ryukyu Islands, not much has been confirmed about the origins of the enormous rock formation. Containing step-like features, scientists dispute whether the “monument” is natural or man-made, and several theories have cropped up encompassing everything from monolithic construction to government conspiracy. Nevertheless, the site remains a popular destination for divers, providing a unique opportunity to stand on a massive underwater structure and witness an abundance of marine life brought on by the strong Yonaguni current.
5. Museo Subacuatico de Arte, Cancun
Created in 2009, the Museo Subacuatico de Arte (MUSA) is the largest underwater attraction of its kind, now consisting of 500 life-size sculptures meant to showcase the relationship between art and environmental science. Founded by the Director of the National Marine Park, the President of the Cancun Nautical Association and an English sculptor, this unique museum, while being extremely cool, serves two very important ecological purposes: to divert traffic from the increasingly over-crowded waters of the Cancun-Isla Mujeres Marine Park and to facilitate the recovery of the area’s resources by providing an alternate complex reef structure safe for marine life colonization. The site of the underwater museum is both snorkel and scuba friendly, divided into 2 sections of differing depth. The Salon Nizuc is only 4 meters deep and is viewable via snorkeling only, while the 8-meter deep Salon Manchones allows for a much more up-close and personal experience for divers (and snorkelers if they so choose).
4. Truk Lagoon, Micronesia
This remote mid-ocean location found about 1800 km off the coast of New Guinea gained international media attention after its 1969 exploration by French oceanographer Jacques Cousteau. The lagoon and its surrounding 125 square km landmass served as the primary Japanese military base in the South Pacific during the Second World War, a fact that has remained unforgettable by the vast amount of largely preserved sunken ships that can be found throughout the area. Despite essentially being a Japanese military burial ground (human remains can still be seen in some of the wrecks), the site has become a popular scuba diving destination, providing a unique insight to the lives (and deaths) of those killed during the February 1944 allied attack known as Operation Hailstone. Today, divers can see ship decks littered with human objects, holds with remnants of weapons, military vehicles and artifacts and, what many consider to be most interesting, the remains of submarine I-169 Shinohara, a vessel involved in the 1941 attack of Pearl Harbor.
3. Underwater Post Office, Vanuatu
For anyone who feels as though they have sent snail mail from every possible place on earth, this one is for you. Found in the waters of Hideaway Island in Vanuatu, the Underwater Post Office provides visitors with the chance to write a post card on dry land and then dive 3 meters to mail them, resulting in a truly unique postal experience. Opened for business in 2003, the official office consists of a small structure with a counter that houses postal workers during opening hours and a tiny yellow mailbox for after-hours postage. The site is accessible to both divers and snorkelers and open hours are advertised by a raised flag visible form the island’s beach.
2. Christ of the Abyss, Key Largo
One of three bronze statues (all cast from the same mold) created by sculptor Guido Galletti, the Christ of the Abyss statue found in Key Largo, Florida was gifted to the Underwater Society of America in 1962. The extremely popular scuba diving attraction is found about 25 feet deep in the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, and is weighed down by a 9-ton concrete base. A replica of the original (which is found in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of San Frottuoso, Italy), the statue stands 8.5 feet tall and depicts Christ offering a blessing of peace, with his face and arms raised upward. Aside from this world-famous attraction, this site also offers exceptional snorkeling and scuba diving for its expansive coral and marine life.
1. Grenada Underwater Sculpture Park, Grenada
Opened to the public in 2006 by British sculptor Jason deClaires Taylor, the Grenada Underwater Sculpture Park (also known as the Molinere Underwater Sculpture Park) is the first contemporary art collection in the world to be found completely under water. The park’s goal is to unite the area’s inhabitants with the marine world that surrounds them, and consists of several exhibits of human forms created from casts of the local population. Divers can check out several installations, such as Grace Reef (a collection of statues depicting a local woman lying on the sea floor), The Unstill Life (a take on the classic “still life” using everyday objects), and the probably most recognizable Vicissitudes (a circle of children facing outwards and holding hands). Since it’s opening, the park has added exhibits by several other sculptors and continues to grow as one of the most popular diving sites in the region.
When the temperatures drop in the Northern hemisphere people tend to flock down south to get a little escape from the winter’s chill. One of the easiest places to find the sunshine we seek is the Caribbean, with so many choices available to us depending on the experience we’re looking for. When we think Caribbean vacation, the popular places like Cuba, Dominican Republic, Jamaica and The Bahamas tend to come to mind first. Or the slightly more adventurous may think of the resort laden islands of Saint Lucia, Barbados and Turks and Caicos. These destinations, while popular for good reason are not your only choice in the vast expanse of the Caribbean Sea. Here are 7 lesser-known, hidden gem islands that are definitely worth checking out the next time the Caribbean is beckoning.
The island of Guadeloupe is actually an overseas region of France and has a total population of 403,750 as of 2014. While commonly referred to as one island, Guadeloupe is actually two islands, Basse-Terre to the west and Grande-Terre to the east. These 2 are separated by a narrow strait and crossed by bridges. Part of the French West Indies, the official language spoken is French, though almost everyone also speaks Antillean Creole. The currency used throughout Guadeloupe it the Euro, give that this island is part of the European Union. There’s tons to see and do on these islands, including swimming in hot springs, climbing an active volcano and visiting the many parks and historic sites throughout Guadeloupe. The winter months of January, February and March are an excellent time to visit this Caribbean destination as average rainfall is at its lowest.
You may be familiar with Barbuda from hearing it mentioned alongside its more popular sister island Antigua. Together the two make up the twin-island country that lies between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. Those looking for a quite piece of island paradise will enjoy the island of Barbuda and it’s small, relaxed charm. The island is pretty tiny and only hosts a population of about 1,600 but the beaches are simply breathtaking. The only town on the island, Codrington is where you’ll find most of the island’s residents as well as the public airport. With only a handful of accommodations available, you won’t have to sift through pages of resorts before deciding where to stay. If quiet reflection in a world of untouched beauty sounds enticing, Barbuda is the paradise you seek.
The slogan of the island country of Grenada is ‘The spice of the Caribbean’ and that’s not just a clever tagline either. The nickname is due to the fact that Grenada is one of the world’s largest producers and exporters of Nutmeg and Mace crops. It’s also the largest in the string of islands known as the Grenadines, with a total population of 110,000. Grand Anse Beach is world famous for its 2 mile stretch of soft white sand and calm waters, or if you’re looking for more seclusion and less crowds, visit any of La Sagesse, Bathway or Levera Beaches. If waterfalls are your thing, you’ll love the 4 falls that can be found throughout the island and beg to be jumped in. Annandale Falls is only a short drive from the capital city of St. Georges and has a paved pathway leading to the falls. It’s the perfect place for a hike and a picnic by the falls.
This next island is another half of a larger picture. Tobago is the smaller sister island to Trinidad and together they form The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. Fun fact: Tobago was the filming location for the classic Walt Disney film ‘Swiss Family Robinson’. This island is a divers paradise with some of the best dive spots in all of the Caribbean and 3 underwater shipwrecks around the shores which make for some awesome marine life exploration. Despite being the smaller of the country’s islands with a population of around 62,000, visitors to Tobago will have no problem finding an abundance of hotels, bars, restaurants, shopping, golf and many more activities. Oh and of course no shortage of beautiful beaches as well.
Another overseas region of France, the island of Martinique, like Guadeloupe is part of the EU and its currency is the Euro. It is the third largest island in the region of The Lesser Antilles with a total population of 386,486 as of 2013. With little other trade and industry, tourism plays an important part in this Caribbean island’s economy and it’s estimated that 7% of the population and 16% of all businesses are in the tourism sector. There’s no shortage of exciting things to see and do around the island, like taking a trip up Mount Pelée, a 1,397 meter high volcano that marks the highest peak in all of Martinique. As a result of the historic volcanic activity in the island’s north end, there are several grey and black sand beaches to be found, but if you head down south you’ll find the fine white sand you’d expect in the Caribbean at beautiful beaches like Les Salines.
The small island of Anguilla lies directly north of Saint Martin in the Caribbean Sea. It is actually a British overseas territory and as such, visitors will notice that cars drive on the left side of the roads. The total population of the island is approximately 13,500 which drives home it’s small size compared to some of the other islands mentioned in this list. None the less, there are still countless activities and opportunities for fun in Anguilla. The beaches are truly something to behold with the Travel Channel even going so far as to call this destination “number one in the world for best overall beaches.” There’s 33 beaches in total and over 12 miles of powder white sand lining the inviting turquoise waters. And because of the lesser-known nature of Anguilla, these beaches are uncrowded and unspoiled.
Don’t confuse the number one island on our list with similar sounding countries like the Dominican Republic, the beautiful island of Dominica is a country all its own. This piece of paradise located in the southern portion of the Caribbean Sea between Martinique and Guadeloupe is dubbed as “the nature island”. One visit here will show you how it’s numerous waterfalls, springs, rivers and expansive rainforest with unique flora and fauna have earned it such a title. The island is also home to the world’s second largest hot spring, Boiling Lake which is located in Morne Trois Pitons National Park on the islands southern end. This nature-lovers paradise never ceases to amaze visitors with its endless unspoiled natural beauty.
You might be wondering why you would ever want to visit some of the smallest countries in the world, other than to just get that passport stamp and bragging rights. But the fact of the matter is what these small countries lack in size they make up for in amazing things to see and do. Discover the smallest country in the world that is home to the largest Catholic Church and 5 million visitors a year. Discover a country that is still ruled by a royal family that sit atop a mountain in their castle. Find out why some of the smallest island countries are once in a lifetime opportunities to visit and why most travelers prefer to spend their time on these islands underwater. Tag along as we explore the world’s 10 smallest countries worth visiting.
10. Vatican City
Coming in at .2 square miles this is the smallest country on our list but the most visited with over 5 million people visiting every year. Vatican City is unique that it is a city within a city, a walled enclave within Rome and an internationally recognized independent state. Housing the largest Catholic Church in the world; St. Peter’s Basilica and one of the best collections of artistic masterpieces in the world; this small but mighty country is a must visit. Did we mention that along with the 800 people who live here, the Pope just happens to reside in this tiny country?
Entrance to the Basilica is free and here you will find Peter’s tomb and famous works of art such as Michelangelo’s Pieta. The Vatican museum is overflowing with art and history and is often best seen with a guided tour as it can be quite overwhelming. Here you will also find the Sistine chapel which is famous for the painted ceiling frescoes that depict the story of creation and the story of Noah. There are many hotels and B&B’s located just a short walk from the Vatican City and most visitors pair their visit here with a few days in Rome. A beautiful country with years of history behind it is our first choice for the smallest country worth visiting.
Known as the playground for the rich and famous Monaco is only .7 square miles yet is home to over 32,000 residents! Located along the French Riviera this glitzy and glamorous state is home to yacht owners, superstars and billionaires. Besides the opportunity to visit amongst the wealthiest, there are so many reasons to visit this beautiful tiny country. Among them include great weather, world-famous restaurants and nightclubs, the Grand Prix Formula 1 race, the world’s most famous casino and exclusive shopping.
You will have to reach deep into your pockets to visit this country though, even on the off-season hotel rates are astoundingly high. Hotel de Paris is the oldest and most famous luxury hotel in the country and offers a private beach, thermal spa and a restaurant run by the very famous Alain Ducasse. Visit one of the five casinos, attend a show at the prestigious Opera or simply gaze at the very expensive but very beautiful cars that line the streets. Visitors should head to the Old City which offers cobblestone streets, picturesque cafes and the Prince’s Palace. Whether you can afford to stay a few days in this charming country or simply take a day trip here; it is one small country worth visiting that’s for sure.
Sandwiched between Switzerland and Austria is the world’s sixth smallest country rich in beauty and mountains. Liechtensteinis the last remnant of the Holy Roman Empire and is still ruled to this very day by the Liechtenstein family that lives in the castle on the hill. Although this country doesn’t look like more than a dot on the map, there is plenty to see and do here in this laid back relaxing atmosphere.
Visit during the winter for some excellent intermediate skiing on Malbun and return to a place where the hills aren’t overcrowded and only a handful of chalets and hotels grace the hillside. Catch a glimpse of the historical and imposing castle Schloss Vaduz where the royal family if often spotted skiing in and out of. In the summer there are a bountiful number of hiking and cycling trails that offer spectacular views of cliffs, villages and the lush green forests. In fact you can cycle from Switzerland to Austria through this country in just a few short hours. We suggest spending at least a few days here exploring the beauty, friendly locals, vineyards, and village-side mountains.
7. St. Kitts and Nevis
This two island nation in the West Indies makes up 104 square miles but is packed with history, activities, beaches and mountains. This is an island that once survived on the tobacco, indigo and sugar industry but has since made tourism its main source of life. Visitors that travel here often have a yearning to explore, to get off the beaten path and discover the secrets that await them.
Amongst the cruise ships that dock here, the luxury hotels and the private jet terminal are natural reminders of what this island once was. Travel along the scenic railway that was designed to transport sugar cane or head to Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park; a UNESCO World Heritage Site that offers excellent views as it sits atop a volcanic peak. St. Kitts offers a bustling nightlife, adrenaline pumping activities such as zip lining and is the bigger of the two islands. On the other hand if you want peace and quiet Nevis offers a handful of gorgeous beaches and a quaint capital city. It is easy to see why this small country begs to be explored and can take multiple visits to understand all it has to offer.
A trip to the Maldives is a once in a lifetime opportunity. This country is comprised of 26 coral atolls that contain 200 inhabited islands and 80 islands with tourist resorts. Visiting a resort here means your own private beach only shared with other guests of that resort. From budget guesthouse rooms to over the water bungalows with plasma TV’s to personal butlers this country is perfect for any type of traveler. Islands offer different luxuries but all have one thing in common; the opportunity to discover an amazing underwater world.
The Maldives are for the traveler that wants to discover the underwater life; for the diver or snorkeler who longs to be in the water and is happy to curl up on the beach in between dives. From baby sharks to manta rays to thousands of colorful fish to wrecks to huge coral walls to massive caves, the opportunities are endless as to what you might see in these extremely warm waters. The white sand beaches, crystal blue waters and the choice of accommodations make this country worth every penny it costs to visit.
A global leader in protecting marine ecosystems; Palau or as it’s often known as Belau, is a group of 250 islands in the Micronesia area of Oceania. It is no surprise then that most visitors who come here prefer to spend their time underwater scuba diving. Home to famous sites such as The Blue Corner, German Channel and Blue Holes; a visitor could dive the same spot everyday and each time have a unique experience. Teeming with sharks, giant clams, coral reefs, blue holes, caves, tunnels, unique sea creatures and an abundance of colorful fish this is the ultimate underwater playground. Make sure to snorkel in the sting-less jellyfish lake located in this country for an unforgettable experience.
On land visitors will delight in the exotic birds, breathtaking flora, and diversity of the islands. From the salt water crocodiles that can be found in the mangrove swamps to the rock islands that boast lush green jungle covering jagged limestone to the orchids that sprout everywhere -there is no shortage of beauty to be found. A range of accommodations from budget to luxury along with a number of restaurant choices and even a local brewery makes this country worth visiting.
Known as the Spice Island Grenada is home to exotic plants, flowers and an abundance of spice trees and is a major source of producing nutmeg, cloves, ginger, cinnamon, and cocoa. Combine that with the lush green tropical rainforests, towering waterfalls, cascading rivers and breathtaking mountain lakes and you may never want to leave here. Coming in at 133 square miles this is one of the larger small countries on our list that is definitely worth spending your vacation time on.
Visitors will delight in the number of local fairs, festivals and markets that take place and one should head to the fishing village of Gouyave on Fridays for an absolutely authentic local experience complete with fresh seafood, live music and a lot of late night partying. White sand beaches, colorful hillside towns, the first underwater statue museum, rum distillery tours and activities such as river tubing and hiking will all likely be a part of your travels here. From luxury hotels to small guesthouses and plenty of eateries around the island; one should head to this undiscovered country for the ultimate getaway before anyone else finds out about this gem.
The second largest country on our list coming in at 180 square miles is located between France and Spain and is known for having the best skiing in the Pyrenees. For this reason alone any travelers that are looking to hit the slopes should pack their bags immediately and head to Andorra. Over the last few years the ski resorts have invested millions of dollars to ramp up restaurants, chairlifts, gondolas, snow-making machines and anything and everything ski related. What awaits you in this country is some serious ski time.
The country’s capital and only town is loaded with some 2000 shops which attract a number of visitors each year and also contribute to the somewhat bad reputation this country gets as a “fuming traffic jam”. Visitors should head outside the town to discover narrow valleys, breathtaking mountains and villages that dot the countryside. Hikers will be in paradise in the warmer months with plenty of trails ranging from beginner to expert with plenty of guided hikes available as well. Discover a rugged landscape with beautiful architecture surrounding you as you ski or hike some of the greatest mountains located in this small but mighty country.
A small island country located in between Tonga and the Cook Islands, Niue is small in stature but big on adventure. The best way to explore this small country is to have an open mind and let the opportunities come to you. The dense tropical forests cover most of the island with caves and limestone arches making up the remainder and dozens of walking paths allow visitors to explore the untouched beauty. You won’t find any beaches here as the shoreline is steep and rocky with coral reefs to explore instead.
Offering one of the most spectacular and extensive cave systems in the South Pacific, a popular activity is exploring these caves and the swimming pools that are often hidden within them. Swimming with whales, dolphins, sea turtles, and going on an unga (coconut crab) hunt are all reasons why this small country deserves a serious visit. Being able top hike through the rainforest with no fear of poisonous plants or animals is just one of the bonuses in this country. Spend time here and arrive as a visitor and leave as a friend as the local population welcomes you with open arms.
Our last remarkable small country worth visiting is extremely rich in history; not to mention beautiful and friendly. Malta is often described as an open-air museum with its fortresses, temples set on sea cliffs, walled cities and underground tunnels. From the 17th-century capital of Valletta that is built on a plateau and offers superior views of the sea to the underground necropolis; The Hal Saflieni Hypogeum this country is full of surprises. Wind your way through the different townships in the country to discover something new at every turn.
A lot of visitors choose to sail along the coasts as the scenic caves, sunsets and coastline offer stunning views from the water. Malta is also home to numerous note-worthy festivals that draw visitors from all over the world. The beautiful beaches and clear waters provide tranquility and relaxation and many visitors like to try their hand at diving. Underwater divers can catch glimpses of rocky reefs, caves and an abundance of marine life in the warmer months. Malta is truly the perfect country to visit for the historian, explorer or anyone looking to do something different on their travels.
Tired of spending your holiday season slaving over a hot oven trying to get the turkey cooked just right? Are you tired of shoveling snow and wearing winter boots all season long? Are you ready for a bit of relaxation and sunshine over the holidays? How does sunshine, ocean breezes, and barbecues sound? This season choose to trade in your turkey for a beach barbecue, your shovel for a snorkel and your boots for a bathing suit. Keep the Christmas spirit alive with twinkling lights, visits to Santa, magical live shows and Christmas parades. Explore some of the most gorgeous countries, islands and cities in the world that offer unique holiday seasons and escape with us as we give you the 12 best warm weather escapes for the holidays.
1. Grand Cayman
White sand, a sparkling blue ocean and palm trees swaying in the cool breeze doesn’t exactly shout Christmas but don’t fret; there are plenty of Christmas activities and traditions in Grand Cayman. Visiting over the holiday season requires booking early into one of the many villas, resorts, hotels or condos. From luxury hotels to beach houses there is no shortage of great places to stay here. The culinary capital of the Caribbean boasts fabulous restaurants with award-winning chefs. But if you really want to experience Christmas here, read on.
Besides the 40 foot decorated Christmas tree and the parade of lights that sees boats cruise the harbor decorated with lights and decorations, you can also find Santa on this Island. Cruising around in his shorts and t-shirt, Santa can be found at his house (aka his boat) twice a week. If Christmas lights are what you are after during the holidays make sure to take the Christmas Light Tour which can be done by driving around the island or hopping on the bus to explore the many houses decorated in lights. Leave the cold, snow and pine trees behind and escape to this beautiful island where gorgeous weather and sparkling lights make this a very special Christmas.
2. St. Croix
You may not think about heading to the Virgin Islands for Christmas but with beautiful mountains, beaches, a rainforest, outstanding scuba diving and a month long Christmas Festival; it’s one of our favorite places to escape to over the holidays. From boutique hotels to villas right on the beach, from championship golf courses to 18th century forts to the best global dining options of the Islands; you won’t be bored here.
Make sure to head to St. Croix early enough in December to catch the Christmas Boat Parade where the boardwalk and streets are decked out in a Christmas theme. Watch as the parade of boats travel by; all seeming to top the next in decorations and lights. Stick around for the amazing fireworks display that happens after the parade. The annual St. Croix Christmas Festival or Carnival as it’s often called; is a month long festival that involves parades, live music events, local cuisine, arts and craft fairs and so much more. Every day/night of the week discover a different pageant, show or fair to explore. Stay throughout the first week of January to discover the infamous Three Kings Day Parade in which the adults strut down the street in costumes. Christmas is widely celebrated on this island and the sun, beach and gorgeous scenery make for the perfect holiday setting.
3. Cape Town, South Africa
Don’t spend your holidays shoveling snow, slaving over a hot kitchen stove or worrying about running out of eggnog. Instead head to beautiful Cape Town with its glorious beaches, abundance of cocktails and plethora of dining options with breathtaking views. Beautiful botanical gardens, South African penguins, exceptional wineries and your choice of accommodations including hostels, hotels, resorts and luxury 5-star resorts are just some the reasons you need to visit over the holidays.
Let’s talk about the Christmas festivities now. Christmas Markets start in early November and run all the way to Christmas offering everything from ceramics to home décor to one-of-a-kind crafts and gifts. Visit the brand new Christmas Village which includes Santa’s House, a Nativity Barn, Fantasyland and an Elves Clubhouse. Treat yourself to a traditional Christmas lunch or dinner at one of the many restaurants that offer up a turkey dinner with all the trimmings. Christmas lights, parades and free entertainment are prominent throughout Cape Town during the month of December. Bask in the sun, enjoy a traditional Christmas dinner and fall in love with the amazing city of Cape Town.
4. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Brilliant sunshine, silky sand and breathtaking ocean views make Rio de Janeiro the perfect city to visit over the holidays. Mountain tops that tower over wide white sand beaches with beach side restaurants offering delicious cuisine and some of the best accommodations in Brazil; Rio also offers spectacular Christmas festivities.
Take in the enormous floating Christmas tree that measures over 85 meters high and is set up on the Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon waters. Every year the tree takes on a different theme and is first lit up on December 1st and remains lit until January 6th. Furthermore the Christmas Lights in Rio are switched on the first of December. The lights and decorations cover the churches, store windows, city squares, palm trees and other huge buildings around the city. Reindeer, snowmen and Santa Claus decorations line the shop windows around town. Shopping centers ofter up seasonal product launches, skating rinks and extended shopping hours. The perfect combination of Christmas and sunshine puts Rio de Janeiro on our list of top holiday escapes.
Sun instead of snow, sun bathing instead of shoveling and a BBQ instead of a turkey dinner; sounds like Christmas in Australia. A multicultural country offering expansive landscapes, summer weather in December and bustling vibrant cities; Australia is a top choice for travelers when looking to escape somewhere warm for the holidays. Whether you choose to visit Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne or any of the coasts you can be assured Christmas festivities will be taking place.
From Christmas carols, to decorated Christmas trees and houses to candlelight services; Australia does Christmas right. A popular decoration in this neck of the woods is the Australian Christmas Bush; a native Australian tree with small green leaves and cream colored flowers that turn deep shiny red near Christmas time. Picnics of cold meats and cooked prawns and BBQ’s on the beach replace traditional turkey dinners and cold bubbly champagne replaces traditional eggnog. Since Christmas in Australia takes place in the middle of summer you really can’t go wrong visiting this continent during the holidays. Enjoy the holiday concerts each town puts on while you sit under the stars by candlelight and listen to the magical voices, or visit one of the many elaborate light displays you can find all over the country. Fabulous dining, breathtaking scenery and kangaroos instead of reindeer make Australia the perfect getaway during the holidays.
6. Puerto Rico
In a city more than 500 years old; culture, cuisine and jingle bells set to a salsa tune set the stage for one of the best vacations during the holiday season. Choose from historic hotels bathed in warm hues of color, luxury boutique villas and idyllic ocean views. Palm trees swaying in the ocean breeze, exotic flora and fauna and strolls through the rainforest make up the atmosphere of the beautiful island of Puerto Rico.
Christmas time is a special time here. Take part in an annual tradition and participate in masses held at dawn featuring the singing of Aguinaldo’s, which are Puerto Rican versions of Christmas Carols. Celebrate an authentic Puerto Rican Christmas on Christmas Eve where you will dine on the traditional dinner of roast pork, patties and rice and beans. Catch a live reenactment of the nativity scene at one of the Midnight Masses and embrace the local culture. Join in the tradition of shopping for a hand-carved wooden saint for your special someone. Puerto Rico: a perfect blend of laid back atmosphere, sunshine filled days and Christmas Spirit that will stick with you year round.
7. Bali, Indonesia
An Indonesian paradise worthy of any postcard, no matter what time of the year. Imagine white sand beaches, lush tropical jungles, mischievous monkeys, and stunning coral ridges. Think of beachside villas, open air huts and small unique resorts that cater to every need possible. Despite the rains that often visit Bali in December; there’s plenty of sunshine and Christmas spirit that makes this destination a top escape for the holiday season.
Great fun, devotion, beach parties and celebrations sum up the essence of Christmas in Bali. Recognized as a national holiday in the country; hotels, shopping centers and resorts get in the spirit. Christmas lights and decorations are hung throughout, trees are in hotel lobbies decorated and lit, letters are delivered to Santa Claus and traditional Christmas lunches and dinners are served at a few different restaurants. Markets in Bali often run out of stock for Christmas gifts so we suggest shopping earlier rather than later. Beach parties throughout the night on Christmas Day, fireworks and special functions all help to make your holiday unforgettable in Bali.
You don’t have to go to the other end of the world to celebrate your holiday with sunshine, palm trees and ocean views. Head to the Islands of Hawaii where Christmas is celebrated with exuberant parades, lights and concerts throughout. Whether you are hiking up volcanoes, discovering the migration of the humpback whales, stand up paddle boarding with the sea turtles or attending a traditional Hawaiian Luau; this is the perfect spot to escape the cold weather and head to the tropics.
Christmas in Hawaii is celebrated with surfing Santa’s, reindeer being replaced with dolphins and Santa’s sled being replaced by canoes. In Honolulu a holiday spectacle is put on with a 50ft pine tree that is covered with shimmering lights, elaborate decorations and live entertainment. Dinner is often a traditional roast meat with all the accompaniments but instead of naps and blissful turkey coma’s; visitors to Hawaii will often head to the beach and join the locals in swimming, surfing and beach parties; where guitars, ukuleles and hula dancing is the norm. Surf, sand and a whole lot of Christmas spirit makes this the perfect escape for the holidays.
Untouched beauty, warm people, white sand beaches, sunken treasures and unspoilt landscapes makes Grenada a top destination for any time of the year. Travel here over the holidays to beat the cold weather blues, skip the shoveling and celebrate Christmas in a new and unique way. Discover an underwater sculpture park, cascading waterfalls and discover this breathtaking spice island.
Christmas brings special food and drink to the table in Grenada. Try the delicious black fruit cake that is baked and soaked with port wine and white rum and wash it down with a refreshing local ginger beer. Or get back to the traditional with a baked stuffed turkey or macaroni pie. Head to the Carriacou Parang Festival with free open-air concerts, cultural presentations and live entertainment. Christmas day tends to be traditional with the exchange of presents, displays of nativity scenes and visits from Santa Claus. Parang music is widely played all over the island incorporating steel pans, guitars, spoons and any other object to make the music friendly and warm. Indulge in the local flavors, explore sunken treasure sinks and escape the cold weather when you head to Grenada for your holiday vacation.
10. Los Angeles, California
Los Angeles knows how to do twinkly lights; they also know how to do luxury hotels, world-class shopping, award-winning restaurants and glorious sunshine. Although there is no “bad” time to visit LA we suggest taking your next trip here over the holiday season where Christmas is taken to a whole new level of fun. Enjoy the winter activities without the snow, the fabulous free shows and the hundreds of thousands of lights on display.
How about an afternoon of outdoor ice skating on one of many rinks throughout the city? Or head to Disneyland or Universal Studios where your favorite characters have indulged in the festive season. Watch as the Grinch and Whoville take over Universal Studios. Head down to the water to watch the festive boat parades where boats are covered with lights and decorations. The Griffith Park Christmas Lights feature tens of thousands of lights each year as the neighborhoods compete for best dressed. For a unique experience head to the zoo for the light show and reindeer romp. Any which way you turn in this city; the festivities will continue to amaze you. Ditch the winter boots, shovel and jackets and head to the city of angels for your warm weather escape.
11. The Philippines
This country has earned the distinction of having the longest Christmas celebration in the world. Starting in early September and running through January; this warm weather destination celebrates in style. Untouched beauty, white sand beaches, brilliant blue ocean, delicious local cuisine, unique accommodations and some of the world’s best snorkeling and scuba diving are just a few of the reasons you should plan on spending your holiday here. And did we happen to mention the amazing local people?
Christmas in the Philippines is a huge deal and expect plenty of dancing, food, music and festivities anywhere you go. Visit Policarpio Street where an entire neighborhood is dedicated to showcasing the best Christmas decorations and lights. Each neighbor tries to outdo the next and explore the House of Santa which showcases one of the largest displays of Santa’s in the world. Food stalls and bazaars line this incredible street from 6pm-midnight. The COD Christmas display is also worth a visit where a different theme takes stage every year. If you haven’t quite finished your shopping there are plenty of stores in the area to take advantage of; and of course they are all decked out in Christmas décor. A traditional Christmas feel in a country where the people are inviting, the weather is warm and the festivities last for months.
12. New Zealand
New Zealand is less about snow and sleighs and more about sun and backyard BBQ’s at Christmas time. Couple that with the amazingly friendly locals, striking landscapes, underground glowing caves, cascading waterfalls and emerald lakes and you may decide to spend every holiday “Down Under”. Celebrating Christmas in the middle of summer takes on new traditions in this country but don’t fret; we’ve got you covered on what to do to fit right in.
Traditional Christmas Dinner is replaced by either a traditional roast dinner that is cooked under the ground or fresh seafood or ham cooked outdoors on the BBQ. Relax under the shade of the Pohutukawa; New Zealand’s Christmas tree which boasts bright red blooms throughout December. Catch Santa Claus in his Speedo and sunglasses as he surfs the waves, canoes the waters delivering presents or sailing his boat. Maximum daylight hours at Christmas time allow locals and visitors plenty of time to enjoy the sun, sand, sports and relaxation that make up Christmas time in New Zealand.
Getting married is a very personal commitment that people share with their family and friends. Rather than celebrating with a large number of family members and friends in a local reception hall, many brides and grooms are opting to marry farther away from home. Destination weddings usually involve a smaller group of closest family members and friends and are an enjoyable and intimate experience for all involved.
There are many exotic, remote, and breathtaking locales where couples can get hitched. The top 15 destination wedding spots in the world include:
There are many destination wedding locations in the Hawaiian Islands. The pristine beaches, exhilarating cliffs, and lush mountains make Hawaii a very popular place for weddings. A fee of $60 and photo IDs are all that are needed in the state.
Jamaica provides brides and grooms options of getting married on a white-sand beach or in the mountains. After staying on the island for 24 hours, couples can get married but they have to show their passports, copies of their birth certificates, and $50 for a marriage license.
3. South Africa
Perfect for couples who love outdoor adventures, an increasingly popular destination wedding location is South Africa. There are many beautiful spots to get married, including mountaintops and game reserves.
4. Costa Rica
Costa Rica provides brides and grooms with many destination wedding settings, including in the rain forest, a volcano or on the beach. Nature lovers and outdoor adventurers can have a wedding of a lifetime in Costa Rica.
5. Seychelles Islands
The Seychelles Islands are a great place for destination weddings. Large granite boulders can be found on the beaches in the Seychelles, making it unique. Hilltops overlooking ocean coves are options for couples.
The pink-sand beaches and clear waters puts Bermuda on this list. The island offers guests English charm. There are many activities for guests to participate in while in attendance.
The turquoise waters and white-sand beaches draw many couples to Mexico for their destination wedding. Mexico offers couples of all budgets options for their weddings, ranging from the most basic to extreme luxury.
8. Paris, France
Many consider Paris to be one of the most romantic cities in the world. The “City of Lights” has many landmarks where people like to exchange vows, including the Eiffel Tower, which is especially spectacular at night.
A year-round tropical paradise, couples can get married in temperate weather any time of year in Barbados. This West Indies island boasts beautiful beaches and warm oceans that are second to none. Unlike other caribbean destinations, there is a mild hurricane season in Barbados, making it even more desirable.
10. Tuscany, Italy
Riding through the vineyards in Tuscany can provide destination wedding goers with an unforgettable experience. The rolling hills provide for breathtaking scenery, while the rich culture and cuisine make for a satisfying stay in Italy.
For princesses and their knights in shining armor, Irish castles are perfect sites for their weddings. Castles on cliff-sides are ideal backdrops for a couple exchanging vows.
12. Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
Crystal-clear waters and powder-fine sand are a good combination for a destination wedding in Punta Cana. There are many wedding sites of varying sizes scattered throughout this caribbean paradise.
13. Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Amsterdam, also known as “the Venice of the North,” is a popular wedding locale for many couples. The meandering waterways, cobblestone streets, and arched bridges make Amsterdam a very romantic location. Getting married above the city’s canals is an option for the couple.
14. Phuket, Thailand
Many couples choose to get married in Phuket, amidst the majestic rock formations, golden beaches, and emerald coves. The happy couple and their guests can go on an elephant trek as part of their wedding activities.
15. St. George’s Grenada
Getting married on a private beach can be extremely memorable with very close family members and friends. A Spice Island, Grenada has some of the lushest isles in the caribbean.
One of the best ways to have a perfect wedding is to make it a destination wedding. This allows the guests to enjoy a beautiful vacation along with the wedding, and it allows the bride and groom to get a head start on their honeymoon. There are many wonderful wedding destinations around the world, but there is no region that is more perfect for a wedding than the Caribbean. Here is a look at the top ten destinations to have a Caribbean wedding.
Antigua is one of the most beautiful tropical islands in the world. For those looking to have an upper-crust wedding, this is the place to do it. It is home to some of the highest-end resorts in the Caribbean as well as many yacht clubs. There is room here for every price level, though. There are 365 beaches for visitors to choose from on Antigua, so the perfect beach wedding is a possibility for everyone who wants to get married here.
Jamaica is set up for tourists, and it, consequently, has a huge range of resorts for beautiful, tropical weddings. The fabulous energy of the island will ensure that the wedding turns into a success.
3. The Bahamas
This is a Caribbean wedding spot that every couple can be happy with. With more than 700 islands for them to choose from, it will be possible for every couple to find the wedding spot of their dreams in the Bahamas.
Visitors will find Barbados to be one of the most welcoming islands in the Caribbean. That makes it the perfect place to host a wedding. There are also lots of wonderful honeymoon resorts located on the island, which means the couple can have their nuptials and get started on the honeymoon without delay.
The white and black sands of Grenada make the perfect setting for a beach wedding with barefoot guests sporting huge smiles on their faces. Grenada is a paradise full of beautiful beaches, amazing scuba diving locations and a completely unspoiled landscape. The island offers one of the best getaways in the world, and couples will start their marriage off in an amazing way when they are wed in Grenada.
Aruba has something to offer for every style of wedding. It is home to some of the fanciest resorts in the Caribbean, but they are located in one small area of the island. That means couples looking for a secluded beach wedding will have lots of places to choose from on the island.
7. Puerto Rico
The island has fabulous beaches, great food and lots of resorts to make planning a wedding easy. This convenient location makes it easy for guests to come to this destination as well, which is a definite bonus.
8. Trinidad and Tobago
This is one of the most popular destinations for weddings in the Caribbean. It has quite a wedding industry built up and it is perhaps the easiest place legally to get married in the region. This country offers the best of both worlds. There are fancy resorts and an amazing nightlife, but there are also many secluded natural wonders to enjoy as well.
9. Dominican Republic
Like Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic makes for a convenient destination for wedding guests to make the trip. It is also full of lots of great resorts and beautiful beaches to hold a wedding. The island offers many charms for honeymooners as well, including some fantastic beaches, warm people and fabulous parties.
10. St. Lucia
The island of St. Lucia is home to some of the most extravagant resorts in the Caribbean, and they love to cater to weddings. They have everything necessary to create the perfect storybook wedding that both the couple and the guests will remember for the rest of their lives. Just remember that this extravagance does not come cheap.