Sometimes winter weather can be too much to handle. While we’re busy shoveling snow and trying to keep warm, Central and South America are reveling in sunshine. So, if you’ve had your winter fill of mittens and mufflers, why not plan a winter getaway where sandcastles replace snowmen and the chill of the season melts away in the sunshine?

Resort Relaxation in Mexico

Arriving in Puerto Vallarta before the Spring Break hordes lets you enjoy what the sparkling port city has to offer before the city gets mobbed by young partiers. There are different beaches for everyone, whether you want to sun, watch wildlife, or snorkel. Trying to get some peace and quiet? Explore the rest of the Bay of Banderas to get the same ocean without the touristy atmosphere.

Snorkeling in Belize

The beaches of San Pedro on Ambergris Caye are not so much sand-worthy as swim-worthy. The specialty here is not sunning but snorkeling; plenty of dive companies will take you to their “secret” spots. On land, peaceful days can be spent exploring lagoons, low sand ridges, and mangrove swamps.

Catching Waves in Costa Rica

Puerto Viejo offers a Costa Rican getaway for surfers, snorkelers, and offbeat explorers. Surfers love the waves generated seasonally from November to April, though more conservative visitors can rent boogie boards, kayaks, and snorkeling gear. Black, coral, and grey sand beaches extend for miles south of town, while areas inland sport wildlife refuges and horseback riding. Those interested in ecotourism can participate in special tours at the Keköldi Indigenous Reserve close by.

Beach Party in Brazil

With hundreds of miles of sand and sea between Belém in the north and Rio Grande do Sul to the south, it should be no surprise that Brazil has an extensive list of best beaches. Urban, hip, island, and isolated beaches parade down the Brazilian coastline, making a perfect getaway possible for every traveler. If you want to avoid the crowds (and peak rates), be sure to schedule around Rio de Janeiro’s Carnaval.

Uncharted Shoals in Chile

Adventurous travelers can visit Chile’s Isla Robinson Crusoe, one of the islands in the Juan Fernandez Archipelago. Unmarred by large settlements, it is the perfect place to imagine life marooned on an (almost) deserted island. Most of the archipelago falls within a national park, and the surrounding waters are protected (and so very quiet).