It’s February. Ugh. No really—Ugh.
Down coats and heavy sweaters lost their charm about a month ago, and your skin (and soul) are desperate for a little sun and humidity. All of the good winter holidays are over (Valentine’s Day, you barely count). A stiff michelada far away from snow and the seemingly cold AF political climate sounds pretty nice right now.
You could scratch your itch for warm sand and surf in Florida, if you can get past all the weird things that happen there, or stay stateside in SoCal which is even experiencing a colder than normal winter. But there’s something about going to a remote, barely crowded beach somewhere distant that has us daydreaming at our desks. Instead of hitting the same over-stuffed or over-priced beach towns year after year, we advise you to take your hard earned paycheck and head somewhere that doesn’t have a Senior Frogs.
We talked to budget travel master Matt Kepnes, founder of Nomadic Matt, about destinations around the world that offer more than just hangovers and bad sunburn.
CORAL BAY, AUSTRALIA
“One of my favorite out-of-the-way spots on Australia’s west coast, Coral Bay is famous for its proximity to the Ningaloo Reef,” says Matt Kepnes, founder of Nomadic Matt and author of Travel the World on $50 a Day. “You can literally swim from the beach to the reef.” Beautiful, welcoming locals and wallet-friendly prices don’t hurt Coral Bay’s appeal. “I love walking to the far end of the beach and letting the current carry me back to the town while I swim with turtles,” Kepnes says. “It’s magic.”
KO MUK, THAILAND
Located on the west coast of Thailand, this little island is a “perfect” paradise, Kepnes says. “It’s far off the tourist trail, very small, and has few services.” It’s also stunningly beautiful. “If you’re looking for that empty island oasis”—a place you and your girl can truly disconnect and recharge—“this is one of the best places you’ll ever find,” he says.
Kepnes says this “laid-back” beach town has started to attract young hippies and surfers who want something more authentic than the frat boy-crammed mega-resorts of Cancun and Cabo. If you’re interested in sunbathing, surfing, and sipping cocktails on the beach—as opposed to shots, shots, and SHOTS—this should be your next south-of-the-border stop.
PUNTA CANA, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
For East Coasters who only have time for a long weekend’s-worth of paradise, Punta Cana is only four hours away. There’s plentiful sun and surf. But the real draw here is the off-season golf, which is championship-caliber and reminiscent of Pebble Beach in its coastal beauty. If you and your buddies are looking to knock the winter rust off your sticks, this is your spot.
Located on the Pacific side of Panama, this town is famous for its surfing. “The water is bathtub warm and you can also do some great tuna fishing here,” Kepnes says. While it’s becoming more popular among expats and retirees, it still has the feel (and prices) of a hideaway.
JOSE IGNACIO, URUGUAY
Looking to rub elbows with British royalty or Hollywood starlets? Your best chance to do that on the cheap is probably on one of Uruguay’s stunning beaches. Your first stop should be Jose Ignacio, a relaxed town that’s home to one of the best seafood restaurants in the world, Parador La Huella. From Jose Ignacio, head north. You’ll never want to turn back.