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Top 5 Winter Sun Hidden Gems (shhh! don't tell)

There's a lot to be said for quitting the long dark nights and winter drizzle for a couple of weeks of paradise by the sea in a far flung land. There are the tried and tested winter sun destinations like Gran Canaria, Egypt, Tenerife that we all know and love, but what about if you want to escape  the tourist hordes? Here's our top 5 hidden winter sun gems. Lesser known they may be, but you'll get spectacular scenery, plenty of cultural interest, warm weather and the place pretty much to yourself. Have a read, but don't tell too many people!  

1. Mal Pais, Costa Rica

Where? Mal Pais (sometimes spelt Malpais) sits on the southern Nicoya Penninsula of Costa Rica, Central America. The surrounding area has grown massively as far as tourism's concerned, but this lovely coastal village with just a smattering of restaurants and  miles of unspoilt coastline has retained its charm. The vibrant surf scene of Santa Theresa to the north and the beautiful, 1,172 hectare Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve to the south, makes Mal Pais the perfect spot to unwind, yet close enough to the action should you crave a change of scenery. When? Dec-April  is the dry season, where the west coast of Costa Rica sees very little rain and high temperatures.  

2. Englishman's Bay, Tobago

Where? A veritable paradise on the northern shores of Tobago. Conjure up in your mind the ultimate idyllic tropical retreat, and you won't be far off Englishman's Bay. Palm fringed beach, coral reef, turquoise waters against a tropical rainforest background and a little restaurant and reachable by a dirt track. Brilliant for snorkelling and generally kicking back. This is one of the quietest and loveliest of Tobago's beaches. 45 minutes from livlier resorts. When? Jan-Mar are the driest, sunniest months and temperatures average 29 degrees.  

3. Mararikulam Beach, Kerala, India

Where? In the southern Kerala district lies the jaw-droppingly beautiful Mararikulam beach.  Possibly the least touristy area of Kerala, this quiet fishing village will give you an authentic sense of Kerala life.  A few miles away is the lakes and lagoons of  Alleppey, an area of spectacular natural beauty. When? Jan-Feb Although this is the winter season, the rainfall is at its lowest and it's still warm, around 28 degrees.

4. La Gomera, Canary Islands

Where? Think of the Canary Islands and chances are you think Gran Canaria, Tenerife, Lanzarote and maybe Fuerteventura. What a lot of winter sun-seekers don't realise is that there are a couple of lesser known islands that are much more laid back and unaffected by tourism. The volcanic island of La Gomera is the second smallest of the 7 main Canary Islands. This rugged,  laid back island is really popular with hikers and the dark sand beaches are quiet and relaxed. Head to the island's sunny south, which is known for long hours of sunshine, quiet fishing villages and banana plantations. When? The best time to head to La Gomera is Sep-Nov when temperatures average around 26 degrees.  

5. Ambergis Caye, Belize

Where? The largest of the hunderds of islands in the north of Belize. The barrier reef is home to some of the best diving and snorkelling in the world. The bustling, multicultural charm of the island's town, San Pedro, with its Mexican, Caribbean and colonial influences, along with the white sand beaches and outstanding diving make this the liveliest of our five, but still a beautiful place to chill out. When? Mar-May is the sunniest time to go.