Saturday,  April 20, 2019  10:45 am

5 quick getaways to beat the winter blues

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  •   01-21-2019  9:58 am
  •   Christine Hogg & Blake Wolfe

5 quick getaways to beat the winter blues
Christine Hogg & Blake Wolfe

Blue Monday. 

Today is said to be the most depressing day of the year. A combination of frigid temperatures, turbulent weather, and post-holiday attitudes apparently all play a role in making the third Monday of the new year the worst day ever. While seasonal affective disorder is real, Blue Monday holds no scientific evidence as being anything more than a psychological marketing grab.

But despite that, we couldn't help but embrace the blue this Monday—into the waters of the Caribbean Sea, that is!

Here are five quick trips guaranteed to shake off any winter blues this year.


1) Barbados

Sugar, spice, and everything nice— down in Barbados, escape to the beach, or to the streets for a trip you won't soon forget. Famous for its rum scene, a rum punch or two while lying in the sand seems like a nice enough way to escape the snow.

Roughly five hours away from Toronto by flight, served directly by Air Canada and WestJet, Bridgetown is one of the most popular towns to visit on the island. 

Carlisle Bay, a small natural harbour located in the southwest region of Barbados, is home to six shipwreck dive sites, Browne’s Beach and a yacht club, making it the perfect spot for active travellers, or those looking to relax. 

Out on the streets, the foodie scene is alive and well. Just beyond the beach in Barbados is a sweet world of culinary delights and festivals, with something for every taste. A strong street food scene offers the best of Barbadian cuisine, comprised of African, Indian and British influences utilizing local ingredients. The national dish of cou-cou (a mixture of okra and cornmeal) and flying fish is readily available, with fishcakes and saltbread ranked a close second.

Guests looking for an upscale dining experience will also have plenty to enjoy as well: from hotel dining rooms to top-rated eateries, there’s no shortage of fine dining options in Barbados. 

And don't forget— Barbados is home to many distilleries including Mount Gay and St. Nicholas Abbey, and nothing caps off a trip to the island like a rum-tasting tour behind the scenes.


2) Florida Keys

Canadian Snowbirds already know the allure of Florida's beaches.

Located off of Florida’s southern coast, the Keys are comprised of dozens of coral islands stretching from Key Largo to Key West, connected by a series of overwater roadways; the Seven Mile Bridge, connecting Knight Key in the east and Little Duck Key in the west, was at one point among the longest bridges in the world.

Florida’s Everglades National Park is found to directly to the northwest, providing nature-lovers the opportunity to explore the park many trails and waterways, along with its famed biodiversity – alligators included!

Key Largo also offers some of the best diving in Florida, particularly at Elbow Reef, where a variety of coral and tropical fish can be found along with a series of shipwrecks for divers to explore. The Keys are also a hotspot for anglers of all skill levels looking for the challenge of ocean fishing.

Dubbed the Sportfishing Capital of the World, the island of Islamorada, in particular, promises a good catch for any fisherman. 

And, don't forget—this is where the infamous Key Lime pie was first served in the early 20th century, and those with a sweet tooth can enjoy a slice, as well as key-lime-flavoured everything, from honey to jellybeans.

Air Canada flies to the Keys from Toronto with connections, with a flight time of approximately five hours.

3) Martinique

Ah, Martinique, c'est magnifique!

Bringing “a little bit of France to the Caribbean," the island of Martinique offers a distinctly European vibe to travellers looking for a bit of Europe during their sun holiday. At just 1,128 square kilometres, Martinique offers travellers a varied topography, with lush mountains in the north and sandy beaches along the southern shores.

Martinique’s varied landscapes lend themselves to lots of different outdoor activities beyond the beach. The slopes of Mount Pelée on the island’s north end are the perfect spot for hiking, drawing plenty of eco-travel enthusiasts every year.

Notably, two-thirds of Martinique is protected parkland, where guests can take part in a wide range of adventures, including hiking along Martinique’s 27 well-marked trails, kayaking, and horseback riding.

Offering everything from rustic stays to private luxury villas, Martinique continues to add to its more than 6,000 hotel rooms. While there’s accommodations to suit all tastes, travellers seeking the traditional all-inclusive Caribbean resort experience should look elsewhere, as Martinique is notable for its lack of large commercial properties.

Currently, service to Martinique from Canada is offered by Air Canada, Air Transat and Norwegian Air, and is roughly a seven-hour flight.

4) Costa Rica

Pura vida, baby. Need we say more?

Just a quick five-hour flight from Toronto, served directly by Air Canada Rouge, travellers looking for an escape from the reality of winter can't go wrong in Costa Rica, where relaxation is a way of life. Travellers who fly into Liberia can enjoy the beaches of Playa Hermosa, Tamarindo, and Jaco along the country's Pacific coast. Those flying into San José, smack in the middle of the country, can take their pick for adventure on the Caribbean side or the Pacific side.

From spotting sloths and capuchins in Manuel Antonio National Park, to soaking up the sun on one of the country's famous black sand beaches; to breathing in the Cloud Forest in Monteverde, to soaking in natural hot springs formed by the runoff of the Arenal Volcano, the possibilities in this breathtaking land of rugged rainforest are endless.

Those up for an extreme adventure can even rent a car—the country is small enough that if you plan well, you can go from top to bottom in less than a week!

5)  Mexico

Let's go somewhere other than Cancun this time, shall we? San Cristóbal de las Casas, located in the province of Chiapas, Mexico, was designated one of Mexico’s “Pueblo Mágicos” (Magic Towns) in 2003. With its mountainous surroundings, San Cristóbal de las Casas has lots to offer outdoors enthusiasts. 

Established in 1528, the city retains much of its original layout, complete with a Spanish flair including red tile roofs and wrought-iron balconies overflowing with flowers.

Located 45 minutes outside of the city, Sumidero Canyon can be traversed by boat along the Grijalva River. In addition to sights such as five seasonal waterfalls (visible during the rainy season, approximately from July to October), visitors can also catch a glimpse of local wildlife including crocodiles and spider monkeys along the riverbank.

While San Cristóbal de las Casas might not be prime beachfront territory, on the border of Mexico and Guatemala, visitors will find Lagunas de Montebello National Park. Made up of 59 lakes, many of them are perfect for swimming or canoeing. Due to concentrations of various minerals, their waters range in colour from emerald and turquoise to dark green, purple and reddish black. 

Aeromexico, Delta, and American Airlines all fly directly from YYZ to TGZ (Tuxtla Gutierrez International Airport) in Chiapas, Mexico.

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