The days are shortening and before you know it the holidays are over and the winter blues set in. And that's when we all want to just fly south and kick up our heels for a week or so. And of course there are the all-inclusive resorts - easy no-brainer holidays. But what if you would like to do something different, an active trip perhaps, or a cultural or natural discovery of a sunny island or country?
Here are our top picks for great quick winter getaways that are NOT all-inclusives.
Mexico Real Food Adventure 9 days from CA$2370 Rated: easy to moderate, 2 out of 5 Get an authentic taste of Mexico on this journey through some of the country’s most famous culinary regions. Meander through Oaxaca’s aromatic markets; take to the streets of Puebla to sample some the city’s local specialties; indulge in fresh seafood on the beach; and take to the streets of Mexico City on a taco crawl. Sounds yummy - take me there!
Mexico Sailing & Whale Watching Expedition 7 days from CA$2520 Rated: easy to moderate, 2 out of 5 The Sea of Cortez, off Baja's coast, is visited by every year by thousands of migrating whales and this expedition is a chance to see these majestic mammals in the wild. When you're not watching these breaching beauties, spend your days snorkelling in the clear blue waters, hiking the rocky coastlines, swimming with sea lions and exploring inland lagoons as your boat hops from island to island. I'd like a whale of a time - take me there!
Playa del Carmen to Mexico City 9 days from CA$2090 Rated: easy to moderate, 2 out of 5 The modern rubs up against the ancient in Mexico, and you’ll get to experience both contemporary and historic attractions in this tour. Begin with the sun-drenched beaches of Playa del Carmen and travel through colourful, colonial towns like San Cristobal de las Casas on your way to the buzzing metropolis that is Mexico City. Wonder at the grand ancient ruins of Teotihuacan and discover the culinary paradise of Oaxaca. Take me to Mexico's heartland
Cycle Cuba: West 7 days from CA$1507 Rated: moderate, 3 out of 5 Discover laid-back Cuba on two wheels. Travel the colourful streets of Havana, along dusty roads past farms and tobacco plantations in Vinales, beside vintage cars and horse-drawn carriages and get a taste of Cuba beyond the rum and cigar scene. Swim in clear blue waters, explore Che Guevara’s former HQ and cool off in bubbling river pools. Soak up the best of Cuba as you traverse this fascinating country. Ride on! Take me to Cuba!
Cuba Sailing Adventure 9 days from CA$1865 Rated: easy to moderate, 2 out of 5 Spend eight unforgettable days sailing through the island paradise of Cuba. After being captivated by Havana, venture offshore on a yacht for a Cuban encounter few people get to experience. Take in an array of natural wonders and get up-close to marine- and wildlife, uncover untouched islands, swim & snorkel in crystal-clear waters and spend days soaking up the chilled out vibe of Cuba. Put the wind in my sails - take me there!
Beautiful Cuba 8 days from CA$1582 Rated: easy to moderate, 2 out of 5 Enjoy a relaxing week-long adventure while immersing yourself in the history, culture and natural beauty of Cuba. Wander through Havana’s colonial architecture, soak up the clear mountain air among Soroa’s vibrant orchards, relax on vast white beaches and admire Trinidad’s unrivalled ambience. From old cars to fragrant cigars and with plenty of salsa in between, this trip has it all. Show me something revolutionary!
Sailing the British Virgin Islands 7 days from CA$1234 Rated: average, 3 out of 5 Among the world’s most popular sailing destinations, laid-back and low-key, the BVIs are flat-out gorgeous to sail and explore. Hop aboard our state-of-the-art catamaran and discover secluded coves, impossibly beautiful snorkelling spots, and breathtaking islands virtually untouched by humans. Take me to the BVI!
Land of Belize 8 days from CA$1300 Rated: easy to moderate, 2 out of 5 Discover the natural wonders and rich cultural history of Belize, a country full of lush jungle, spectacular ruins, long sandy beaches and first-class underwater attractions – and on this trip you’ll sample them all. Belizimo - take me there!
Best of Nicaragua 9 days from CA$1550 Rated: easy to moderate, 2 out of 5 Visit Ometepe Island, a lush, rainforest-filled island formed by two volcanoes that rose from Lake Nicaragua. Learn about Nicaragua’s past in bohemian Leon, stroll the colonial streets of Granada, then head to Nicaragua’s Pacific coast for sun, surf and laid-back vibes. Experience it all on this nine-day adventure.
Costa Rica Experience 9 days from CA$1242 Rated: easy to moderate, 2 out of 5 Opportunities for nature-based adventures abound, beaches on both coasts are in exceptional nick and with Costa Ricans widely regarded as some of the world’s friendliest people, this is one country you must see.
Costa Rica: Raft, Snorkel & Kayak 8 days from CA$1933 Rated: moderate, 3 out of 5 Take an active trip through one of the world's greenest countries. Raft down the Pacuare River for a night in a rainforest lodge. Snorkel in the company of turtles and reef sharks, cycle along the Caribbean and paddle through Tortuguero National Park in search of monkeys, toucans and jaguars. Costa Rica is a country where adventure-seekers thrive.
Best of Panama
8 days from CA$968
Rated: light, 2 out of 5
This eight-day trip opens the lid on the natural splendour of this overlooked gem of a country, giving travellers the chance to hike cloud forests, snorkel the Caribbean, and even discover where that delicious morning cup of joe comes from at a coffee plantation. Panama is spectacular - take me there!
Cafe Colombia 9 days from CA$2555 Rated: moderate, 3 out of 5 Head into the serene highlands of Colombia's famed coffee region and learn how to roast the perfect blend. Be beguiled by charming Salento and get acquainted with the sophisticated air and raucous nightlife of Medellin. Then trade the country's lush interior for its coast in oh-so-romantic Cartagena – the perfect end to this exceptional Colombian adventure.
Highlights of Haiti 10 days from CA$2663 Rated: light, 2 out of 5 There is a place in the Caribbean where the tourists don't go; a tropical, rugged place of waterfalls, secret caves, and mountains that scrape the sky. It's a place of bold flavours, intoxicating music, mischievous gods, and colourful art; where the only thing stronger than the rum is the spirit of the people who live there. It's a place where only true travellers go; a place for the brave and the curious. The name of that place? Haiti.
Best of Jamaica
8 days from CA$2210
Rated: easy, 1 out of 5
So much more than the homeland of reggae superstar Bob Marley, Jamaica is a land of white sand beaches, native cuisine, an artistic culture and an Africa-centred religion that for many is a way of life. See and hear Rastafari culture, rest in the waters of a waterfall, and swim the azure blue waters. From an authentic Jamaican cooking class to a traditional dinner with Montego Bay locals, this trip will provide plenty of proof Jamaica's truly the Home of All Right.
Dominica, Guadeloupe & St.Lucia: Windward Isles and French Antilles 12 days from CA$5130 Rated moderate For those who traditionally associate the West Indies with sun, sea and sand, this exploration of three very different Caribbean islands will surprise and delight. St Lucia's Pitons provide a dramatic backdrop to its beaches and trails, while on Guadeloupe and Dominica we hike through rainforest and discover spectacular waterfalls. Along the way we have the opportunity to swim and snorkel in the warm Caribbean waters. Take me to the French Antilles