The 15 Best Places to Travel in February
Tired of tranquil beaches with puny waves? February is big wave season on Oahu, and daredevils congregate around the North Shore to catch swells of up to 30 feet (hint: this kind of surfing is best left to the pros). While this makes for great photo opportunities, other travelers who like to be more hands-on might opt for a whale watching tour in Oahu's southern seas—during the month of February, you're likely to catch a glimpse of a majestic kohola, or humpback whale, making its annual migration.
Singapore City, Singapore
With monsoon season over, February marks the start of Singapore's travel season. Hotels tend to be less expensive around this time of year, with rates averaging $275 compared with rates in the fall, when they can creep upwards of $300. To top it off, Singapore is home to one of the biggest Chinese New Year celebrations in the world, which kicks off on February 16 with lantern-lined streets, colorful parade, and an excuse to sample all the seasonal treats at the city's famous hawker markets. In other words, come hungry.
February means summer in Australia, and the remote island of Tasmania boasts a landscape as diverse and impossibly beautiful as any you'll find Down Under, with rugged beaches, rolling farmland, and pristine rainforests. You might spend your trip watching the 600,000-acre coastline for Tasmanian devils and wallabies, or head to a few of the island's top luxury lodges, like Pumphouse Point, which is perched on a lake just over two hours from Hobart, for an unfiltered nature retreat.
Flights to Oman are often cheaper than a trip to Paris, with twice the mileage. And as far as seasons go, February offers a mild, Mediterranean-esque climate. Head to the mystical port city of Muscat, Oman's dreamy capital, which houses two 500-year-old Portuguese forts, a Royal Opera House, and a mosque with an impressive 164-foot dome. To dive deeper into the country's extraordinary scenery, drive two hours west of Muscat to stay in the ornate Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar, which nests 6,500-feet high in the mountains.
Los Cabos, Mexico
When snowbound Americans start gazing southward in search of a warm escape—someplace remote enough to spark your wanderlust, but still easy to get to—they usually end up in San José del Cabo. The laid-back coastal town, with its colonial buildings and dozens of art galleries, has just enough shops, restaurants, and bars to keep you amused. That's especially true at the upscale Vidanta Los Cabos, which this season is unveiling a new jungle-themed dayclub, cocktail bar, and two new restaurants. Who says the fun has to stop when the sun goes down?
Beaver Creek, Colorado
First-time skiers—or those who don't much care for the sport—have a reason to hit Beaver Creek this month. Smaller and more remote than Vail, this mountain town has increased its focus on non-ski activities. The Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch is allowing guests to admire the snow from inside, for example, by trying a 'Black Diamond Facial' at the spa, or sitting down to a private eight-course dinner in an original log cabin from the 1900s. At night, guests can strap on a pair of snowshoes for a guided stargazing tour. The Milky Way will look especially stunning against the backdrop of white, snowy mountains.
It's easier than ever to get to Antigua: the coral-ringed island that sits near the middle of the Caribbean chain. Extended air service means direct flights from John F. Kennedy International Airport in February start as low as $270 roundtrip (new routes from Toronto and Montreal have also launched with Sunwing Airlines). And unpredictable blizzards can't derail your entire vacation. Picture-perfect resorts like St. James Club, The Verandah Resort & Spa, and Pineapple Beach Club offer something called “Winter Storm Protection,” which automatically allows travelers to extend their hotel stay by the number of nights they missed due to flight delays caused by inclement weather.
Sicily is revered for its oranges and lemons, and come February, visitors to the island's western coast can witness the trademark fruits in full bloom. While it rarely snows in Sicily, temperatures can get a little chilly—but that doesn't stop visitors from enjoying the luxury private villas, trio of championship golf courses, and 43,000-square-foot spa at Verdura Resort, which is nestled between olive groves and rolling green hills. Meanwhile, winter is a festive time on the island, with both the Almond Blossom Festival as well as the Carnival of Sciacca, which has been recognized as the oldest festival in Sicily.
Key West, Florida
It's all about the water in Key West, and February offers the perfect balance of clear skies, calm water, and sunshine to justify a weekend hop down to one of Ernest Hemingway's favorite southerly hideouts. These days, tour operators and hotels are encouraging travelers to get out and explore the gorgeous marine ecosystems that surround the islands. At Oceans Edge Resort, on Stock Island, guests can dive right in with the dolphins and sea turtles, thanks to a comprehensive list of aquatic activities ranging from kayaking and paddleboard meditation to jetskiing and scuba diving.
Newport, Rhode Island
If you thought Newport, the former stomping ground of the Astors and the Vanderbilts, was only worth visiting in the summer, think again. The seaside town—known for its Gilded Age mansions and outdoor music performances—is perfect for cold weather getaways, particularly in mid-February. This is when the Newport Winter Festival brings the city to life with concerts, beach polo, and even a chili cook-off. When you're done exploring, settle in by the fire at the Grace Vanderbilt with a hot toddy and s'mores.
Salt Lake City, Utah
While summer is peak tourist season for Salt Lake City, winter is pleasantly laid-back. Sporty travelers will love the accessible (and plentiful) snowshoeing opportunities, as well as Utah Olympic Park, where they might spot Olympians like Ted Ligety or Sarah Hendrickson practicing on the slopes. Visitors in February can also head to an outdoor skating rink in the center of the city, before walking across the street for a hot cocktail at Copper Common (try the rum-infused Tiki Toddy). Even shopping is better in the cold—at City Creek Center, a retractable roof seals the mall in warmth, and the signature fountain shoots both fire as well as water.
It's always worth exploring a new part of the Mediterranean—a vast, sun-drenched region that spans 10 countries. In the middle of winter, your best bet might just be the island of Cyprus. Dotted with gorgeous beaches and a 1,000-year-old castle hewn out of rock, Cyprus receives an average of 320 sunny days per year. Of particular interest to Vitamin D-deficient travelers is Golden Beach: an unspoiled paradise with wide, sandy dunes and zero crowds.
When it comes to winter-themed festivals, nowhere sets the bar as high as the Harbin Ice Festival. The tradition of ice carving stretches all the way back to the Qing dynasty, when fishermen would extract ice from the Songhua River to carve lanterns. Each winter, local artists create an elaborate ‘frozen city,' with 150-foot-tall ice buildings lit up in dazzling colors. The event has even prompted specialized tours by companies like Intrepid Travel, which adds to the festivities with scheduled time for sledding, ice hockey, and ice mini golf.
New Orleans, Louisiana
With the 300th anniversary of New Orleans taking place in 2018, the usual shenanigans of Mardi Gras are sure to be even wilder this year. In addition to the parade (February 13), the tricentennial will feature a series of events, including a Chinese Opera and a ballet performance by an international company of 50 dancers. While you're in town, be sure to check out the NOPSI Hotel, a new boutique property located near the French Quarter with its own rooftop pool.
Manhattan Beach, California
Slightly south of Santa Monica, an even more laid-back vibe awaits at Manhattan Beach. The downtown strip is peppered with old-time family joints like the 24-hour diner, The Kettle. Meanwhile, the waterfront bike path remains a popular escape for locals and visitors in the less active months of winter. This season, Westdrift—a new luxury hotel with surfer-chic rooms and a nine-hole golf course—will give sun worshippers even more reason to frequent the coastal haven.