These great escapes are equal parts sun-drenched idyll and high-speed adrenaline rush.
Men's Fitness Editors 1 / 5
Right around mid-January, the cold can really get to a guy. Your early-morning gym trips are frozen and snowy, your commute is an exercise in slush-avoidance, and your New Year's resolutions look a lot less appealing than your bed and a bucket of cookie dough.
You could hibernate, but there's a better way: Get the hell out. Work out on a sun-drenched beach, trade your duvet for a hammock, and swap your (already stale) gym routine for a few bona-fide adventures. Here are four.
Nearly two-thirds of St. John is protected by Virgin Islands National Park, giving it a raw, undeveloped beauty that’s rare among its more populated Caribbean neighbors. Plus, its wild coast couldn’t be more perfect for an intro to beach-to-beach stand-up paddleboarding (SUP), as its dozens of calm-water bays protect novice paddlers from harsh trade winds while affording snorkel-clear views of the bright corals below.
THE ACTION: When you rent a SUP from Arawak Expeditions in Cruz Bay (arawakexp.com), they’ll give you a paddling primer, then load your 10-foot board onto an included car rack. From there, strike out on daytime missions, paddling from one secluded bay to the next, stopping to snorkel, explore empty beaches, or hike to deserted ruins. A good starter option is beginner-friendly Maho Bay to Francis Bay, then Mary Point.
LIVING IT UP: The secluded cottage at A House of Open Arms has a wraparound porch and outdoor shower overlooking Coral Bay. The Tourist Trap is a colorful roadside shack overlooking John’s Folly, with a killer blackened-fish sandwich.
ESSENTIAL CARRY-ON: Polarized sunglasses, like Revo’s sporty Crux N, will stave off harsh glare up to 99%.
GETTING THERE: Fly to St. Thomas; from Charlotte Amalie hop a ferry to St. John.
When you think of Jamaica, you think of white-sand beaches, Appleton rum, jerk chicken shacks, and reggae. It’s all true, but rising up behind the beaches are misty mountains and soaring ridges that are home to one of the most unique mountain biking scenes in the world, where singletrack has been carved from steep, centuries-old walking trails that link rural hill towns to the turquoise Caribbean.
THE ACTION: Join expat-owned Singletrack Jamaica (singletrackjamaica.com) for a heart-pounding rush, careening down trails like the 5,000-foot, 10.5-mile route from the summit of Blue Mountain Peak, where you’ll encounter roots, rocks, and rotten mangoes, not to mention goats, farmers, and little old ladies walking to church. Singletrack Jamaica worked with locals to develop trails, building flowy berms and jumps to enhance the ride. One of its personal favorites is “Pressure Drop,” a 1,000-foot descent with forever views that ends at an empty black-sand beach.
LIVING IT UP: Shackup at River Lodge, a rustic guesthouse converted from a 17th-century Spanish fort in Robin’s Bay. Scotchies, in nearby Ocho Rios, has the best jerk pork and chicken anywhere.
ESSENTIAL CARRY-ON: Singletrack Jamaica will set you up with a full-suspension bike, but you should bring your own lid, like a Troy Lee Designs A1.
GETTING THERE: Fly into Montego Bay; drive or shuttle to Ocho Rios.
Baja’s laid-back vibe, deserted beaches, and cheap tacos have been luring surfers south in winter for 50-plus years. While a lot has changed (see Spring Break in Cabo), the tiny fishing and farming village of El Pescadero—set beneath the lush Sierra de la Laguna mountains and between the legendary Los Cerritos and San Pedrito breaks—remains a sleepy outpost of authentic, old-school Baja desert and has a beach break that’s perfect for learning to surf off-grid.
THE ACTION: Just south of town, the sandy-bottomed beach break at Los Cerritos is great for beginners. If northwest swells are making the rocky point break fire, paddle out and try catching the fast, peaky wave while it lasts. But until you’re on firm enough footing, steer clear of the advanced point break north of town at Pedrito. On a day off, hire a local pangero fisherman to take you out in search of hard-fighting tuna, red snapper, and marlin, and grill them up later.
LIVING IT UP: There are a handful of surf camps in town, but the best is Rancho Pescadero, a breezy oceanfront inn that sources its food locally and provides free access to a quiver of surfboards.
Kauai’s remote Napali Coast is one of the most dramatic stretches of coastline in the world, with lush green cliffs rising as much as 4,000 feet from the rocky, crashing surf. At its heart is the Kalalau Valley, a remote Eden that was once farmed by native Hawaiians and is now only accessible via the Kalalau Trail. But this is no walk in the woods: The precipitous 11-mile (each way) route traverses five valleys and sheer rock faces, gaining 5,000 quad- burning feet.
THE ACTION: Pack enough camping gear for at least one night on the spectacularly isolated Kalalau Beach. Obtain a permit from the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources, then hit the trail at Ke’e Beach. Plan a full day of hiking in either direction. At Kalalau, pitch your tent on the beach, then cool off in the freshwater Kalalau Stream.
LIVING IT UP: Bookend your hike with some downtime in nearby Hanalei, a quaint surf town surrounded by mountains and set on a beautiful white-sand beach. Stay at Hanalei Surfboard House and catch live music at Tahiti Nui.
ESSENTIAL CARRY-ON: Hiking boots with aggressive tread, like La Sportiva’s Synthesis Mid GTX, are a must when warm winter rains turn the steep trail into a muddy, peanut-buttery Slip ’N Slide.
GETTING THERE: Fly to Lihue Airport, then drive one hour north to Ke’e Beach.