Northern hemisphere winter sun escapes

Suzanne King

Travel writer and editor

As nights draw in and temperatures drop, travel editor Suzanne King checks out holiday hotspots for Northern Hemisphere travellers who fancy a fix of winter sun without breaking the bank

Los Cabos, Mexico

Los Cabos Mexico winter sun escapes

Celebs have been soaking up the winter sun in Los Cabos for decades now – pretty much any A-lister you care to name will have jetted in at some point to escape the chillier north. You can see why: here on the southern tip of Baja California, the coastline is a postcard-worthy mix of beautiful sandy beaches and photogenic rock formations, and winter is the perfect time for marine wildlife spotting in the Sea of Cortez. Los Cabos is known for its high-end resorts but you don’t have to arrive in a private jet or superyacht to stay here – regular flights are plentiful, and between arty, laidback San Jose del Cabo, hard-partying Cabo San Lucas and The Corridor (the coastal strip that links the two), there are enough accommodation choices to cater to all kinds of budgets.


One of Cabo’s newest arrivals, JW Marriott Los Cabos Beach Resort & Spa is on the coast just to the east of San Jose and was recently named one of the area’s best value resorts by Travel + Leisure magazine.

Puerto Rico, Caribbean

San Juan Puerto Rico winter sun escapes

If all you want from a winter sun break is to fly and flop on the sand, within reaching distance of a rum punch, Puerto Rico can deliver the goods. The weather’s reliably warm, the beaches glorious and the self-proclaimed ‘rum capital of the world’ (and birthplace of the Piña Colada) isn’t short of bartenders who know their way around a tropical cocktail or two. The island also offers more incentive than most to peel yourself off the sun lounger once in a while. The old city of San Juan has beautifully preserved Spanish colonial architecture, an impressive seafront fortress and excellent restaurants, while inland you can discover the dramatic limestone caverns of Rio Camuy or take a hike through the jungle of El Yunque, keeping your eyes peeled for tree frogs, parrots and cooling waterfall pools.


Practically on the beach in Isla Verde, the San Juan Water Beach Club Hotel has 80 bright, contemporary bedrooms and a cool little rooftop deck with pool, bar, sun loungers and ocean views.

Phuket, Thailand

Phuket Thailand winter sun escapes

There’s a very good reason Phuket became a backpacker favourite back in the 1970s: it’s a gloriously lush tropical island blessed with the kind of silver-sanded beaches holiday brochure dreams are made of. Several decades later, there’s no pretending it’s a secret hideaway – but the upside of its never-ending popularity is an abundance of attractive resorts, where you can unwind in Instagram-worthy surroundings without spending a fortune. Leave it until December or January and you’ll be in peak season, paying top dollar. Go in October or early November and you’ll enjoy much better value at the same swish lodgings. Yes, it’s the tail end of the rainy season – but the temperatures are still tropical, the views still glorious and there’s still plenty of sunshine in between the showers.


Industrial chic meets traditional Thai design at The Slate, the handiwork of famed resort architect Bill Bensley. Result: one very stylish (and attractively priced) place to stay, set just back from pretty Nai Yang beach, on the island’s north-west coast.

Marrakech, Morocco

Marrakech Morocco winter sun escapes

From wintry northern Europe, it’s just a few hours’ flight down to Marrakech, where you’re instantly immersed in an altogether more exotic, vibrant world, with warmer weather to boot. The city’s souks are famously chaotic and colourful, an atmospheric melee of sights and sounds, from the ringing hammers and firework sparks of ironmongers at work to market traders showing off their wares on stalls piled high with ceramics, lanterns, spices, dainty tea glasses and pointy-toed leather slippers. Every night the central square, Djemaa el Fna, transforms into a photogenic pageant of snake charmers, belly dancers, acrobats and musicians, while food stalls fill the air with the smells of grilled meats and thick, spicy soups. The grey, grizzly streets of London, Paris or Berlin never felt further away…


Converted from two traditional houses, Dar les Cigognes is an elegant boutique hotel, with an excellent reputation for food, 11 bedrooms set around a pair of courtyards, and a lovely rooftop terrace filled with potted plants and flowers.

Lanzarote, Canary Islands

Lanzarote Canary Islands winter sun escapes

Lanzarote (where winter daytime temperatures rarely dip below 20˚C) is a revelation to those who expect it to be all high-rise resorts. Most of its tourist facilities are contained within three main centres – Puerto del Carmen (the liveliest), Costa Teguise (popular with families) and Playa Blanca (a bit more low key) – but outside those areas, large swathes of the island remain remarkably untouched. Discover a dramatic, otherworldly landscape, with curious formations, huge volcanic caverns and the world’s weirdest looking vineyards. There are pristine whitewashed villages; off-the-beaten track beaches still untouched by developers and tiny waterfront restaurants serving up great fresh fish to a soothing soundtrack of waves crashing onto rocks.


In Playa Blanca, on the south coast, Hotel Hesperia Playa Dorada has a good location roughly halfway between the marina to the east and the resort centre to the west. It also has six pools to lounge around, should the very short stroll to the beach feel just too taxing.

If it’s a beach you’re after, grab your sun lounger and sunglasses to kick back on one of the best secret beaches the world over.

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