February can be a bleak prospect in terms of European weather. But with school half-term holidays falling in the middle of the month, parents have the opportunity to whisk their children to a destination where the sun shines in earnest.
This may cause crowded beaches in popular places, but with the Caribbean at its hottest and driest, there is plenty of scope for travellers without offspring to find their own escape zone. Here’s where to go for some last-minute winter sun.
For temperatures 19-24ºC
In truth, there isn’t a month when the Canary Islands don’t serve as a warm-weather escape zone, and February is part of this. Even if the second month of the year “only” delivers the low Twenties Celsius, this is good enough at a time when the UK is shivering at a considerably lower temperature. The Costa Adeje, on the west coast of the island, revels in a more multi-starred style of accommodation than the bargain bedrooms found in south-westerly Playa de las Americas - and if you want to sunbathe your way through at least one week of the winter in comfort, this may be the place.
Do it: A seven-night half-board stay at the five-star GF Gran Costa Adeje, flying from Manchester on February 17, starts at £1,085 per person, via Last Minute (0871 277 1070; lastminute.com).
Florida’s most party-centric city never needs an excuse to stay out late, and the bars and restaurants of South Beach will be in full swing if you choose to visit in February. However, the advantage of the second month of the year is that while the Spring Break rush – which turns the metropolis into one giant mass of whooping college students – is yet to materialise, the temperature gauge is still nicely slotted into the Twenties Celsius.
Do it: A seven-night getaway to the five-star Eden Roc Miami, flying from Heathrow on February 17, costs from £2,188 per person, through Virgin Holidays (0344 472 9646; virginholidays.co.uk).
Continental Europe does not serve up too many hotspots in February - at least, not on the continental mainland - but Spain’s most southerly province is a decent bet. Head there at the end of February, and 20C days are possible.
Annie Bennett, our expert on the region, suggests exploring the Costa Tropical, in the province of Granada - a coastline of coves and Moorish watchtowers.
“A quirk of climate means that dense groves of mangos, avocados, custard apples, bananas and other exotic crops flank the Mediterranean,” she writes. “The protection of the Sierra Nevada and the warm winds blowing over from north Africa create a subtropical microclimate, with 320 days of sunshine a year and mild temperatures even in winter.”
Do it: Motril is the biggest resort on the Costa Tropical. A seven-night stay at the four-star Elba Motril Beach Resort, flying from Luton to Malaga on February 17, starts at £356 a head, with Love Holidays (01234 975 975; loveholidays.com).
For temperatures 25-29ºC
4. St Lucia
St Lucia is one of the Caribbean’s most coveted destinations – and with good reason. Its west coast is home to some of the planet’s loveliest beaches, including the golden strip of Anse Chastanet – while the twin volcanic bluffs of Gros and Petit Piton offer hiking and climbing challenges, as well as wonderful photos. All of this is served up in temperatures which cling to the upper twenties Celsius, not least in the dry season of December-May.
Do it: A seven-night all-inclusive getaway to the five-star Cap Maison resort costs from £2,359 per person, including flights, via Tropical Sky (01342 395 263; tropicalsky.co.uk).
5. St Kitts & Nevis
With its smaller companion Nevis, St Kitts is a Caribbean “Little and Large” act. The bigger island has an intriguing south-coast capital in Basseterre, and a sandy crescent on its southern tip in the form of Turtle Beach. Its friend across the tiny channel of The Narrows is just as enticing, its charm visible on Nisbet and Oualie Beaches.
Neither island rouses itself to wild nightlife. You might argue that they are all the better for it.
Do it: A seven-night escape to the three-star Oualie Beach Resort on Nevis, flying from Gatwick (via Antigua) on February 24, costs from £1,943 per person via British Airways Holidays (0344 493 0787; ba.com/holidays).
There is no disguising the fact that America’s mid-Pacific archipelago requires quite a journey from the UK - as well as an 11-hour slug of jetlag once you arrive. But there are few better cures for such time difference than the soft sands of Waikiki Beach – the sunshine strip which adorns the southern edge of the state capital Honolulu, on Oahu. And the sight of the volcanic titans Kilauea and Mauna Loa, on the “Big Island”, is sure to awaken the senses.
Do it: Bon Voyage (0800 316 3012; bon-voyage.co.uk) sells a 14-night “Hawaii Island-Hopping Holiday” that touches down on Oahu, Maui and the Big Island. From £4,995 per person, with flights.
Neither as grandstanding as Dubai, nor as grand as Abu Dhabi, Oman is the calmer cousin of the Arabian Peninsula. But it should not be underestimated as a possibility for winter sun. Both Zighy Bay and Sur are alluring places for beach escapes; Muscat is a city of underappreciated culture and sophistication.
Do it: Steppes Travel (01285 880 980; steppestravel.com) sells a 10-day “Luxury Holiday to Oman” which begins in the museums of Muscat, and concludes on a lounger at the Six Senses resort on Zighy Bay. From £10,295 a head (flights extra).
Four hours of south-westerly flying time will carry you all the way from the UK to the beaches of Tenerife or Gran Canaria. But add a further two airborne hours to your journey, and you can touch down on the sunnier sands of Cape Verde. The West African archipelago has witnessed a considerable improvement in the quality of its accommodation in the last decade, and is now a thoroughly reliable destination for winter warmth.
Do it: A seven-night holiday to the five-star Hilton Cabo Verde Resort on the island of Sal, flying from Birmingham on February 16, costs from £1,655 per person, via Cape Verde Experience (01489 866 969; capeverde.co.uk).
For temperatures 30ºC+
Let’s deal in statistics. Some 1,192 islets and coral outcrops – stretched across 26 atolls and 35,000 square miles of water – make up this archipelago nation in the Indian Ocean. Very few of these soft shards veer away from the template – golden sands, swaying palm trees, azure shallows. If you want variety of terrain, do not visit the Maldives. If you want temperatures in the thirties Celsius and unrestrained beach luxury, you have chosen well.
Do it: A seven-night holiday to the five-star Anantara Kihavah Maldives Resort costs from £4,000 per person, with flights, via Scott Dunn (020 3733 4841; scottdunn.com).
This feted slice of sand and sunshine is a continental junction box – officially African in that it is part of Tanzania, seductively Middle Eastern in the mercantile heritage of Stone Town (which was once the capital of Oman), temptingly tropical in the way the Indian Ocean laps at its sides. Of course, this clash of cultures only makes Zanzibar more exotic – and the weather is largely reliable, flirting with the thirties Celsius as February dawns.
Do it: The “Masala Beach Holiday” dispensed by Expert Africa (020 3405 6666; expertafrica.com) cools its boots in two locations - amid the history and life of Stone Town; in the north of the island at the Kilindi luxury beach resort. The break costs from £6,260 per person in February, including flights.