13 Great Beaches for Winter Sun

Warm up this winter on some of the world’s best stretches of sand, from close-to-home shores to more exotic beach destinations around the globe.

A wooden deck around a small pool, with a sand dune in the background and a thatched roof across top of frame

Benguerra Island, off the coast of Mozambique, is known for its white-sand beaches and abundant marine life, including dugongs, marlins, and dolphins.

Photo by Michelle Heimerman

As winter temperatures drop and daylight hours shorten, it’s natural to start craving warmer climes. Luckily, those in need of a vitamin D boost have their pick of a whole host of fantastic beach destinations that either remain blissfully warm and sunny year-round or are currently in the throes of a Southern Hemisphere summer. Here, 13 of the world’s beaches that are particularly lovely from December through February.

Benguerra Island

Bazaruto Archipelago, Mozambique

The second-largest island in the Bazaruto Archipelago, off the coast of Mozambique, Benguerra Island is part of a national marine reserve where you’ll regularly encounter tiger sharks, manta rays, humpback whales, and Africa’s last viable population of dugongs, cousins of manatees. The biodiversity is so rich—everywhere from its inland lakes and gently sloping sand dunes to its seagrass beds and coral reefs—that the archipelago has been called the Galápagos of the Indian Ocean.

Onshore, expect a laid-back vibe at resorts like Kisawa Sanctuary, which made it onto our 2022 Stay List of best new hotels in the world. The resort sits on hundreds of acres of beach and coastal forest and features bungalows constructed with local timber and decorated with 3D printing, a method also used to create artificial coral for reef restoration in the area. While it’s tempting to sit back and enjoy the powdery sand here, Kisawa also partners with the Bazaruto Center for Scientific Studies, a nonprofit that offers guests the chance to help with research projects like tagging sharks and marlins.

A few volleyball players on the beach during sunset, with two small boats offshore

Sand volleyball is unsurprisingly a popular sport on Moreton Island, one of the biggest sand islands in the world.

Photo by Nicholas DeRenzo

Moreton Island

Queensland, Australia

Queensland is famed for its Great Barrier Reef, but right in Brisbane’s own backyard is an island destination that’s much more easily accessible and highly underrated: Moreton Island. Reachable by a 75-minute ferry ride from the city, it is the third-largest sand island in the world, a former whaling station that has been reimagined as an adventure destination and national park. It’s home to the highest coastal sand dune in the world, at more than 900 feet (sand-tobogganing down it is fun but not for the faint of heart), and ringed with beaches that are calm on the western side and surfable on the east.

By day, you can snorkel or “sea scooter” among the Tangalooma Wrecks, a collection of 15 sunken vessels that attract sea turtles, dugongs, and bottom-dwelling wobbegong sharks. By night, you can paddle over the wrecks in an illuminated kayak or wade out into the surf to hand-feed a habituated pod of wild dolphins. If you’re staying overnight at the Tangalooma Island Resort, stop into one of the beachside restaurants and look for Moreton Bay bugs, a species of slipper lobster that is a local favorite.

Overhead view of waves crashing between large boulders with two people in the surf

Rocky and rugged Punta Cometa is the southernmost point in the state of Oaxaca.

Courtesy of Ara CG on Unsplash


Oaxaca, Mexico

With beach-friendly temperatures all year, Mexico’s coast attracts its fair share of visitors in the winter. Avoid the crowds by going to the small coastal town of Mazunte, where three sandy beaches—Mermejita, Rinconcito, and San Agustinillo—are backed by thatched shacks selling seafood and cocktails.

This area is home to the National Mexican Turtle Center, where there’s an aquarium open to the public and baby turtles are released into the ocean. If you feel like getting active, hike out to the wild Punta Cometa headland for views back along the sand and a number of secluded coves. The rugged cape is Oaxaca’s southernmost point, and it’s a favorite place for watching migrating whales from clifftops or taking in the sunset.

A strip of jungle between two white-sand beaches, each lined with clear light blue waters

Get two vacations in one at Manuel Antonio Beach, where the sands border a national park.

Photo by Shutterstock

Manuel Antonio Beach

Costa Rica

Manuel Antonio Beach sits on the fringes of an eponymous protected forest, which is home to some of the country’s most exciting wildlife, including sloths, monkeys, armadillos, and toucans. White-sand beaches and rugged headlands butt up against crystal-blue waters, ideal for snorkeling and kayaking.

Don’t miss a sundowner at the nearby El Avión bar. It’s set inside an old Fairchild C-123 cargo plane 500 feet high in the hills beyond the beach, and it has the best views out across the forest toward the glittering coastline. It’s dry season in this part of Costa Rica from December through April—prime time for days lounging on the sands.

Aerial view of a horseshoe-shaped bay with blue-green water and palm trees on golden sand

Hulopoʻe Beach is a favorite for its teeming tide pools and charismatic spinner dolphins.

Photo by Russell deJetley/Shutterstock

Hulopoʻe Beach

Lānaʻi, Hawai‘i

A perfect swimming beach on the southern coast of Lānaʻi, Hulopoʻe is a pretty patch of yellow sand backed by leafy vegetation and flanked by rocky outcrops. When the tide is out, you’ll often find small hermit crabs, sea stars, limpets, and tiny fish in the pools that form between the volcanic rocks onshore. (It’s a protected site, so you’re not allowed to take any natural souvenirs with you.)

Come December, the waves are ideal for surfing or bodyboarding and the weather is dry and warm. The nearby Four Seasons Resort is the place to go for lunch, with several restaurants, including a Nobu outpost and the poolside Malibu Farm, which overlooks the bay.

A golden-sand beach, with wooden boardwalk cutting through center, short palm trees in planters, and umbrellas

Situated north of Dubai, less-visited Ras Al Khaimah is home to several golden-sand beaches with shells.

Photo by Siarhei Tsesliuk/Shutterstock

Ras Al Khaimah

United Arab Emirates

Skip the glitzy, expensive beaches of Dubai and head north to Ras Al Khaimah, a little-visited emirate that’s home to several beaches with golden sand and shells; it also has a slightly cooler climate than its neighbors, averaging 77 degrees throughout January.

You’ll find all-out luxury at the Waldorf Astoria, which has its own private beach. For something completely different, you can also camp on any of the public stretches of sand. For another kind of adventure, drive to the top of Jebel Jais, a mountain that spans the border of Ras Al Khaimah and Oman and includes the highest point in the United Arab Emirates. On a clear day, from up here in the Al Hajar mountains, you’ll often have views out to the Persian Gulf.

Beach with pale pink sand, blue skies, and a light blue water; a few people in distance

The beaches on Harbour Island get their pinkish hue from the shells of microscopic organisms called foraminifera.

Photo by Zoe Esteban/Shutterstock

Pink Sands Beach

The Bahamas

The sand at this beach on the eastern side of Harbour Island really is a striking pastel shade of pink, thanks to the remains of the foraminifera, microscopic organisms that wash up on the shore.

Temperatures in December and January average a comfortable 78 degrees, and the sand remains cool underfoot. Minimal rainfall at this time of year makes it perfect for long days spent sunbathing or partaking in more active pursuits, including horseback riding in the surf or snorkeling around nearby Man Island, which reveals an underwater world of octopuses and sea cucumbers.

Aerial view of a beach with blue green waters on the left, a strip of white sand in the center, and red dirt to the right

An aerial view of Australia’s thriving Ningaloo Reef that’s ripe for snorkeling and diving

Photo by Darkydoors/Shutterstock

Ningaloo Reef

Western Australia, Australia

It’s the height of summer in Australia from December through February, but the country’s west coast sees far fewer travelers gracing its shores than the east does. Ningaloo is the highlight of this wild coastline, with a thriving coral reef just offshore that’s ideal for diving and snorkeling.

Stay at the luxury campsite Sal Salis to the north, and spend your days lounging on the sand or out in the water. Don’t miss the opportunity to see turtle hatchlings wend their way into the surf from January through March. Farther inland, you can explore the Outback wilderness on guided walks.

A traditional boat with the sail tied up, on clear green-blue waters next to white sand under a cloudless blue sky

The Kenyan coast is known for its traditional Swahili dhow sailboats, which fishermen use to navigate through the reefs.

Photo by Sarika Bansal

Diani Beach


Combine a winter sun-and-beach break with an unforgettable wildlife experience at Diani Beach. This slice of white sand, backed by palms and lapped by Indian Ocean waves, sees temperatures hover around the mid-80s throughout December and January. Adding to the picturesque setting are the camels strolling along the surf, the sand bars that emerge from the brilliant turquoise water at low tide, and the kitesurfers dotting the horizon.

Diani is also home to Colobus Conservation, where you can join a primate eco-tour to meet a habituated troop of vulnerable Angolan colobus monkeys as well as the cheeky Sykes’ and vervet monkeys that call these coastal forests home.

A curved beach with a thin strip of sand and a lagoon behind it, with a golden sunset low in the sky

Elephant Rock, at the edge of a surfer-friendly cove, offers memorable views of the sunset over Arugam Bay.

Photo by Shanti Hesse/Shutterstock

Arugam Bay Beach

Sri Lanka

November through March is a great time to visit Sri Lanka, but it can get crowded. Arugam Bay, on the southeast coast, is a far cry from the busier resorts on this teardrop-shaped island’s west side, which are packed at this time of year.

With its chilled, hammock-swinging vibe, excellent beachfront restaurants (don’t pass up the fish curries at Ranga’s Beach Hut), and superb surf, Arugam Bay is a wonderful place to get a taste of true Indian Ocean life. For true seclusion, visit Elephant Rock, a small outcrop at the edge of a cove that’s beloved by beginner surfers; there’s no road access here, so you’ll have to take a tuk-tuk and then either walk, wade, or scramble over the rocks. The sunset views are very much worth the effort.

An overhead shot of a white-sand beach with clear blue waters and green palm trees; one red-roofed building surrounded by plants

Come nightfall, the waters off Vaadhoo Beach erupt in a bioluminescent display.

Courtesy of Hamman Mohamed on Unsplash

Vaadhoo Island

Raa Atoll, Maldives

The Maldives is famous for its perfect beaches, all wispy white sands and light blue waters. But after the sun sets, some of the archipelago’s beaches take on a rather different look.

Vaadhoo Island is renowned for its nocturnal show of bioluminescent plankton, which means you can spend your days here enjoying the winter sun, sea, and sand and be mesmerized at night when the waves glow bright blue as they crash onto the shore. In these parts, that bioluminescent display is nicknamed the “Sea of Stars” for the way it mimics the brilliance of the night sky above.

Two women walking through white sand, with grass on either side, green umbrellas in the distance overlooking Gulf waters

Clearwater Beach offers access to the warm, calm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

Photo by Margaret.W/Shutterstock

Clearwater Beach


With highs regularly hitting 71 degrees in December and January, Clearwater Beach on Florida’s Gulf Coast offers all the sunshine and spectacularly white sand you could want, with the bonus of big-city vibes and lots of craft beer. More than 35 small-scale breweries in Clearwater and St. Petersburg make a fantastic ale trail.

Don’t miss a day out on the water spotting dolphins, or try your hand at deep-sea fishing. Sundowners are essential here: The westward-facing beach’s location on the Gulf of Mexico means that the fiery sunsets here are the stuff of dreams.

A golden-sand beach with palm trees and brown buildings with triangular roofs

In the middle of Senegal’s Petite Côte, Saly is a wonderful destination for families.

Photo by Shutterstock


La Petite Côte, Senegal

The 60-plus-mile-long stretch of white sand that makes up Senegal’s Petite Côte is blissfully quiet. Here, you’ll find small fishing towns and villages where Portuguese and French influences mix with the energetic West African culture, plus low-key holiday resorts popular with Europeans in the summer.

Saly is the center of the action, with plenty of beachfront hotels and resorts for all budgets (Le Lamantin is exceptional). It’s an excellent destination for families, thanks to an abundance of water sports, as well as the fascinating Île de Fadiouth—a curious island made almost entirely of shells—just off the coast.

This article originally appeared online in November 2018; it was updated on December 11, 2023, to include current information.

Lottie Gross is a travel writer based in Oxfordshire, England, who has spent the last four years exploring her home isles to become an expert on all things Britain. She has over a decade’s experience as a travel writer and has specialized in dog-friendly travel across the U.K. and Europe, penning various books on traveling with pets, including Dog-Friendly Weekends.
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