By Randy Yagi

The cold, gloomy winter season may still be weeks away but it might be a good time to start planning for warm weather vacation. Across the country, there are obvious spots to consider, such as Phoenix, Key West and Honolulu. But why take a vacation stateside when there are so many other fabulous sun drenched destinations all over the world? For just a few suggestions, here are five of the best vacation spots for people who simply hate the cold weather that envelopes much of the U.S. during the winter months.

Australia

The Land Down Under may be one of the world’s most remote countries, but that will never deter throngs of travelers from visiting during the winter months. After all, Australia’s summer occurs from December to February, which translates into an abundance of warm weather fun amid balmy temperatures averaging 86 degrees. On the other hand, because it’s the high season, airfare and hotels will be higher and there will be larger crowds all across this magnificent island-continent. Yet despite all this, there is a wealth of things to do and places to see, including Bondi Beach and the Sydney Opera House in Sydney Harbour, viewing the nightly Penguin Parades on Phillips Island and a fascinating underwater excursion to the beloved Great Barrier Reef, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World and the largest living thing on Earth. Not surprisingly, many of Australia’s biggest events and festivals occur during the high season, such as the spectacular New Year’s Eve fireworks show over Sydney Harbour, the famed Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne known as the Grand Slam of Asia/Pacific, Sydney Festival and the enormous Adelaide Fringe Festival, billed as the world’s second largest arts festival and the largest in the Southern Hemisphere. While accommodations will be higher during America’s winter months, Australia offers a wide range of lodging options to meet anyone’s budget, including dozens of outstanding hostels, mid-ranged hotels and of course, luxury resorts like Shangri-La Hotel Sydney, the Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley, Stamford Plaza Brisbane and the majestic Hotel Windsor Melbourne, described as Australia’s Most Cherished Grand Hotel.

Related: Best Coral Reefs To Visit In The World

Mexico

With world-class beaches, little or no rain and summerlike weather, Mexico has long been one of the most attractive winter vacation destinations. In fact, it may just be the best time of the year to stay in amazing resort cities like Cancun and Playa del Carmen in the Yucatan Peninsula and Cabo San Lucas in Baja California. While one of the most expensive times of the year to vacation is between Christmas and New Year’s, it’s still quite possible to find excellent bargains over the winter season, even at phenomenal luxury resorts like the Ritz-Carlton Cancun, Banyan Tree Mayakoba and the ultra-luxurious Pueblo Bonito Pacifica Golf Resort & Spa, which recently unveiled its fabulous “new resort in a resort”, The Towers at Pacifica. Regardless of the choice of accommodations, there is a wealth of outdoor activities and attractions to enjoy in Mexico, including snorkeling to the Cancun Underwater Museum, an excursion to the Mayan ruins in Tulum, swimming in one of the fascinating cenote swimming holes and an unforgettable visit to Chichen Itza, one of the New7 Wonders of the World and a celebrated UNESCO World Heritage Site. Of course, there are several other places to visit in Mexico for a winter vacation, such as Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico City, San Miguel de Allende, named Travel+Leisure’s 2017 Top City in the World and Guadalajara, the country’s second largest city with several architectural treasures, including Teatro Degollado, Hospicio Cabañas and the magnificent Guadalajara Cathedral.

South Africa

If a new and exciting country is the desired part of the travel plan, then South Africa should be considered among the most coveted of all the world’s best wintertime destinations. Due to its location in the Southern Hemisphere’s subtropical zone, South Africa enjoys its warmest weather from December to January, with daytime temperatures averaging in the high 70s to low 80s, particularly along the southern and eastern coastal regions. While Johannesburg and Cape Town remain the most traveled destinations and deservedly so, with the latter recently named the world’s second best overseas city by Conde Nast Traveler, another notable coastal city has been described as the country’s best kept secret and is nicknamed “The Warmest Place to Be”. That city is Durban, the country’s third largest city and home to one of the world’s best surfing and dive sites, as well as one of the world’s largest aquariums and a completely breathtaking stretch of beachfront known as the Golden Mile, clearly the biggest attraction in the city. Located on the east coast of South Africa, Durban is graced with 320 days of sunshine annually and offers a host of outstanding places to stay, including the Hilton Durban, Suncoast Casino Hotel, Endless HorizonsOyster Box Hotel, TripAdvisor’s 2017 Best Hotel in South Africa in nearby Umhlanga Rocks and the Fairmont Zimbali Lodge, a bit further north in Zimbali. As for Cape Town, the country’s second most populous city is regarded as one of the world’s most beautiful cities and home to such renowned attractions as Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, the acclaimed beaches like Boulders, Camps Bay and Clifton and the must-see Table Mountain National Park, which is along with Kruger National Park in the northeast, is among the most popular attractions in the country. Among the suggested places to stay in Cape Town are the One&Only Cape Town, Twelve Apostles Hotel & Spa and the Cape Royale Luxury Hotel.

Thailand

There are a vast number of cities in Asia to visit, such as Beijing, Nanjing, Hong Kong and Macau in China, Tokyo and Kyoto in Japan and Seoul, South Korea among others. But for the warmest weather in Asia, amazing Thailand is often considered the single best destination to escape America’s chilly winter months. Located in both the Eastern and Northern Hemispheres in Southeast Asia, the captivating country nicknamed the Land of Smiles is renowned for its history and culture as well as its gorgeous beach resort properties, particularly on the islands of Koh Samui, Koh Chang and the most famous of all, Phuket. Although November through February is considered the cool season in Thailand, this means visitors will enjoy outdoor activities like cultural tours, cooking classes, snorkeling, sea cave kayaking and canoeing to James Bond Island, and all under temperatures averaging in the high 70s . Among the reasonably priced luxury resorts to stay in southern Thailand are Anantara Bophut Koh Samui, JW Marriott Phuket Resort & Spa and Pullman Phuket Arcadia Naithon Beach. The rest of Thailand should not be overlooked, particularly its greatest city, Bangkok with organized tours through top ranked operators like Local Alike and the capital city’s world famous attractions, including Wat Arun, Wat Pho, Wat Phra Kaew and most important of all, the Grand Palace, the official residence of King Maha Vajiralongkorn. Thailand’s northern capital of Chiang Mai should also not be overlooked, as it was ranked third among the 2017 World’s Top 15 Cities by Travel+Leisure, with impressive points of interest like Do Suthep, Wat Chedi Luang and Mae Sa Elephant Camp, the home of the largest collection of elephants in northern Thailand.

The Bahamas

One of the easiest international destinations to reach from the U.S. is the Bahamas, with its westernmost islands situated just 50 miles from Florida’s East Coast. Its close proximity to continental U.S. also makes it one of the best winter getaways for people who hate the cold, with temperatures typically between the mid 70s and mid 80s and a bevy of outstanding dining and lodging. Comprised of some 700 islands including 30 of which are inhabited and punctuated with white sandy beaches surrounded by turquoise-colored waters, the Bahamas offers several vacation spots, such as Freeport on Grand Bahama Island and Nassau/Paradise Island the capital city of this archipelago country on New Providence Island, world renowned for its impressive assemblage of luxury resorts, particularly on acclaimed Paradise Island, such as Sandals Royal Bahamian, Grand Hyatt Baha Mar, One&Only Ocean Club and the incomparable Atlantis Paradise Island Resort. The latter is a massive complex equally suited for both families with children and couples seeking romance, with several hotels to choose from, including the Five-Star Royal Towers, a mega-waterpark and the world’s largest open-air marine environment that’s home to 5,000 sea creatures representing 200 species. As the premier destination in the Bahamas, Paradise Island also offers a wide variety of other things to see and do, such as catamaran cruises, fishing charters, snorkeling the Ruins of Atlantis and relaxing on some of the world’s finest beaches and along with the main island, has been the setting for a number of well known movies, including the Beatles’ Help!, Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean 2, After the Sunset and the iconic James Bond film Thunderball.

Related: 5 Best Beaches In The Bahamas

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