No doubt about it, the pandemic changed the way many people approach travel.
Despite the complications of Covid and frequent flight cancellations, many travelers have reprioritized and are looking for that once-in-a lifetime vacation, according to an American Express (AXP) - Get American Express Company Report travel survey from February. The survey found that 55% of respondents want to book a once-in-a-lifetime vacation this year, and 74% are willing to book a trip for 2022 even if they might have to cancel or modify it later.
Travelers are more focused on engaging in positive practices, including wellness activities, giving back to communities and protecting the environment, the survey found.
The sunny destinations on this list aren’t just for basking or laying on the beach. There’s also beautiful sunsets over turquoise waters, rays of light emanating from the clouds over a sleepy volcano, or dappled sunlight through the trees of the rainforest.
Whether you like the beach, diving, water sports or hiking, exploring historic sites and ancient ruins, visiting landmarks, relaxing in a thermal spa, learning about the local culture, viewing wildlife or shopping and dining, these destinations offer a range of activities that can satisfy just about everyone for that once-in-a-lifetime escape.
Travel booking site Tripadvisor chooses its top destinations based on the quantity and quality of traveler reviews and ratings for destinations on their site, gathered over a 12-month period.
Here are their 25 top places for sun seekers.
1. Cancun, Mexico
Cancun is well known for its golf, shopping, dining and entertainment, and it’s not just a party town, it also has a number of family-oriented resorts.
Besides its world-famous beaches, Cancun is a gateway to the tropical climate of the Yucatan Peninsula and the ruins of the Mayan civilization, including Chichen Itza.
Just off the coast of Cancun is Isla Mujeres, a popular vacation spot. Playa Norte, with its soft, white sand, palm trees and blue water is considered one of the best beaches in all of Mexico.
2. Bali, Indonesia
Bali is a province of Indonesia, and a popular spot for tourists and digital nomads. It’s magical blend of culture, people, nature, activities, weather, culinary delights and nightlife with a range of lodgings from low-budget to high-end luxury.
Bali offers action and adventure, beautiful landscapes, temples and religious sites, animal and activity parks, golf, surfing and traditional villages.
3. Crete, Greece
The largest and most populous of the Greek islands, Crete has both beautiful beaches and ancient ruins. The picturesque town of Chania, shown here, is one of the oldest cities in the world. Known for its Venetian harbor, its old port, narrow shopping streets and waterfront restaurants, Chania has an archaeological museum with artifacts dating back 5,000 years, a Byzantine museum, a maritime museum and a historical archives museum. The town was built on the site of ancient Kidonia, mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey.
On the southwestern side of Crete is Elafonissi Beach. Its white sand has pink hues, the clear water is shallow, warm and good for small children.
>> See: The World's Best Beaches
4. Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
The resort at the very southern tip of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula is great for beaches, water sports and its lively night scene.
The Sierra de la Laguna mountain range seems to end dramatically in the water at Cabo San Lucas, with rock formations jutting from the blue just off the coast where the Gulf of California meets the Pacific Ocean. You can take a boat ride out to see El Arco, where the rocks form a natural arch.
5. Playa del Carmen, Mexico
In Mexico’s state of Quintana Roo on the Caribbean, Playa del Carmen features beaches of sugary white sand, good for swimming and water sports, with plenty of tourist amenities and resorts.
6. Dominican Republic
The diverse Caribbean island is two hours from Miami and less than four hours from New York by air. It’s a lush tropical island paradise with nearly 1,000 miles of coastline, and ample beaches, nightlife, resorts and opportunities for dining, recreation and eco-tourism. Bavaro Beach in Punta Cana offers white sand, clear water and palm trees, backed by shops, bars, restaurants, hotels and a casino.
A popular day trip in the Dominican Republic is Puerto Plata, where you can ride a cable car up Mount Isabel de Torres.
7. Mallorca, Balearic Islands, Spain
This island in the Mediterranean Sea just off the southeast coast of Spain has beaches, mountains, fishing villages and, of course, delicious food.
The Mallorca Cathedral, a Gothic cathedral with additional work by the architect Antonio Gaudi in the early 20th century, is built over the city walls of Palma de Mallorca's old town.
8. Hurghada, Egypt
This busy resort town is popular among European visitors for its water sports, nightlife and entertainment. Stretching along Egypt’s Red Sea coast, Hurghada has numerous dive shops, thanks to its coral reefs. The old town has traditional markets great for shopping.
9. Tenerife, Canary Islands
Tenerife, the largest of the Canary Islands, is dominated by the 12,198-foot Mount Teide, an active volcano considered among the world’s deadliest, thanks to its proximity to a fairly large population. One of its most devastating recent eruptions was in 1706, when the town of Garachico was completely destroyed. Its last eruption was 1909.
Today, the volcano and its surroundings comprise Teide National Park. Tenerife is also known for its many beaches, resorts and annual Carnaval de Santa Cruz.
10. Corsica, France
This laid-back French island is rich with history, beaches and beautiful scenery. Plage de Santa Giulia, a sheltered beach in southern Corsica with clear shallow waters is on TripAdvisor’s list the best beaches in the world. Bonifacio, a village on the southern tip of the island, features a lovely harbor on an inlet and a medieval citadel perched on the limestone cliffs above.
11. Rhodes, Greece
With everything from beach resorts to ancient ruins, Rhodes is one of the most popular destinations in Greece. It’s the largest of 12 Dodecanese islands and close to Turkey. The city of Rhodes is a well-preserved medieval city. Don’t miss the Acropolis of Lindos.
The Caribbean island has ideal weather and beautiful beaches. Aruba is a popular vacation destination with ample resorts, restaurants and activities to suit anyone, whether it’s hiking, water sports, or just chillin’ with a beer on the beach. Check out the pristine Eagle Beach, Aruba’s widest beach, where sea turtles nest.
13. Phuket, Thailand
Thailand’s largest island is known for its beaches, excellent diving and water sports. There’s plenty to explore at the island’s aquariums, gardens, and Buddhist temples.
14. Santorini, Greece
Santorini is one of the beautiful Cyclades islands with whitewashed buildings and blue domes that match the sky and azure waters of the Aegean Sea. Much of its landscape is formed by a volcanic eruption about 3,600 years ago. Water from the Aegean Sea rushed in, filling the void and forming what is now the 7.5-mile lagoon.
15. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Rio offers warm beaches exciting nightlife. The Brazilian city of over 6 million is both historic and modern and famous for its Christ the Redeemer statue, Carnival, rain forests, museums, gardens, stunning views, and of course, beaches, including Barra da Tijuca Beach, the longest beach in Brazil.
16. Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt
This resort town near the tip of the Sinai Peninsula is popular among divers for its diverse marine life, coral reefs and a wrecked British cargo ship that was sunk by the Germans in the Red Sea in 1941.
17. Oahu, Hawaii
The island of Oahu is home to Honolulu, Waikiki Beach, Diamond Head and Pearl Harbor. The third largest of the islands, but with the largest population, Oahu has great nightlife and shopping, and it’s a surfer’s paradise.
18. Goa, India
A former Portuguese colony until 1961, Goa still has preserved 17th-century Baroque-style Catholic churches. The state in western India has coastlines stretching along the Arabian Sea, and is known for its beaches.
Jamaica offers unique culture, welcoming people, diverse landscapes, good rum, the beat of reggae music and uniquely Jamaican nightlife. The Caribbean island has many all-inclusive resorts, great beaches, and beautiful forests for hiking.
20. La Fortuna de San Carlos, Costa Rica
A small town northwest of the capital of San José, La Fortuna de San Carlos is a gateway to Arenal Volcano National Park, which has not one, but two volcanoes. Arenal is still considered active, so you can’t climb it, but the national park has opportunities for hiking, waterfall rappelling and whitewater rafting. There are spas in La Fortuna fed by natural hot springs. Pictured is a red-eyed tree frog.
21. Sedona, Ariz.
The desert town of Sedona is a haven for anyone seeking outdoor adventure, natural beauty, or spiritual enrichment. Whether you hike or bike the 400-plus miles of trails, take a pottery class, visit the energy fields, relax in a spa, or look at the stars, you’ll be enraptured by the geological architecture of this desert oasis. Sedona is surrounded by 1.8 million acres of national forest land and has plentiful options for nurturing yourself through nature, recreation or creativity.
22. Praia Grande, Brazil
This was one of the first areas colonized by the Portuguese. Enjoy good food, long clean beaches, or take a flight in a hot air balloon in the national park. Praia Grande is one of 15 cities designated a ‘bathing resort’ in the state of Sao Paulo, a legal designation that garners it extra funds for promotion of tourism.
23. Orlando, Fla.
All your fantasies of Disney, dragons, dinosaurs, astronauts, resorts, spas, magical kingdoms, shopping, roller coasters and great dining are fulfilled here.
24. Campos Do Jordao, Brazil
Also in the state of Sao Paulo, the Swiss-style architecture here will make you think you landed somewhere in the Alps. In the region is a large state park, where the cool high-altitude pine forests and mountains offer refuge to a variety of birds and endangered animals, including pumas and ocelots.
25. Baños de Agua Santa, Ecuador
Baños de Agua Santa sits between the Andes and the Amazon Basin, and serves as a gateway to a small part of the Amazon rainforest and its diverse ecosystem. There are trails to the active volcano just eight miles away, and thanks to the volcano, there are thermal mineral pools.
Baños is not just spa treatments. For your adventurous side, you can go rock climbing, biking, canyoning, climb the volcano, see waterfalls or swing from a tree house.
Learn more about these destinations at Tripadvisor.