Show Me The Sunny!
March 25, 2016 4:58 AM   Subscribe

I just survived my first Northern European winter. I am originally from the Gulf Coast US. I need some heat. Where should I go?

I am a Hot Weather Person. Husband and I are ready for some sunny beach time, ASAP. If we were still in the US we'd head for the Caribbean, but now we are living in Amsterdam. Where can we go for scuba or snorkeling, lazy hot days un the sun, low-touristy, but with charm. Bonus points for hiking.

We are aiming for sometime in May. We'd love to see the Calanques in Cassis, and maybe a side trip to Corsica, but I am worried that May will be too cold for swimming to be enjoyable. We have also thought about Croatia, but I have no idea of where to go. Husband has always wanted to go to Greece so that's an option too (I've been and would love to go back). The Maldives would be awesome but it's a long-ass plane ride, wheras other EU locations would be cheaper, easier and more convenient for us.

Mainly I am wondering if there is some place I'm not considering, or if you have any recommendations for the places we've already considered. We prefer quite beaches with local flavor to resorts and hustle bustle.
posted by Brittanie to Travel & Transportation (10 answers total)
Malta? Seychelles?
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 5:07 AM on March 25, 2016

Fuertoventura and the other Canary Islands are the classic Hot Weather destination for sun-starved Europeans.

Usually I'd suggest Tunesia but that comes with its own issues at the moment. Turkey in May is probably too cold for you (no, you don't need to go to a resort & the Turkish Med coast is so beautiful.)
posted by kariebookish at 5:19 AM on March 25, 2016

I'm not sure it will be hot enough for you in May, but Monterosso al Mare in the Cinque Terre is lovely. From Schiphol you can fly to Pisa or Geno and then take the train.
posted by neushoorn at 5:37 AM on March 25, 2016

Sicily is great in May!
posted by ubiquity at 6:55 AM on March 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

I've never been, but I've heard good things about Cape Verde.
posted by HandfulOfDust at 7:05 AM on March 25, 2016

Portugal is wonderful and cheap.
posted by humboldt32 at 10:27 AM on March 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

I presume you'll be wearing neoprene suits for diving? Because the Mediterranean in May is not really hot enough to swim comfortably.

Can you take your trip in June?
posted by gakiko at 1:18 PM on March 25, 2016

Another vote for Canary Islands or Maldives or just fly to the Caribbean. The Med in May is going to be waaaay colder than you expect coming from the Gulf Coast. Especially the eastern Med, which gets a lot of snow melt. Remember you are currently surrounded by people who think low to mid 50s are perfectly acceptable ocean temperatures for swimming and 85 degrees in the shade is meltingly hot.
posted by fshgrl at 8:59 PM on March 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

Suddenly I remembered the Red Sea. Egypt is probably not so safe, but both Israel and Jordan are perfectly safe for American visitors.
The facilities there are a bit bleak IMO, but the diving and the nearby archeological sites (which having hiking options) are awesome and so is the food. You might want to research were you feel most comfortable - Jordan is less touristy because people conflate it with all the conflict areas in the region, which also means it's cheap, once you are there. But you can only have wine with your lunch in international hotels. Even in Israel, tourism is down, but there are local tourists and the whole lay-out is a bit more commercial. I'd imagine there are charter trips to Eilat from the Netherlands.
Maybe go to Eilat for beach-time and diving because it's simple and western in many ways, and then while you are there, make a 2-day trip to Petra, where you hike up to the tomb of Aron. Crossing the border is time-consuming, but not scary. Petra and it's bedouin inhabitants are magical and the view from the mountains over the Jordan valley is strangely compelling, even for this atheist.
posted by mumimor at 6:46 AM on March 26, 2016

Just to chime in regarding diving out of Amsterdam at this time of year, I'd also recommend the Canaries: specifically El Hierro, which has a well-protected marine reserve that's full of life. The rest of the island is lovely, too, and it gets a fraction of the tourists that the bigger islands get. This is at least partly because it's a bit harder to get to: you'll probably have to fly to Tenerife and get the ferry from there, which might unfortunately mean at least one overnight stay on Tenerife itself, depending on the flight schedules from Amsterdam. Some Tenerife car-rental agencies will allow you to take your car off-island, but I'd check in advance.

You can also get good (and very, very easy) diving on Lanzarote but it's a lot more built up than El Hierro. The national park is stunning. El Golfo, on the west coast, is a nice little village, but all of the beaches and the good diving (and most of the accommodation and the tourists) are on the south of the island around Puerto del Carmen.

I can't recommend Tenerife for diving, sadly: the shallower waters have been almost completely picked clean by an invasive species of spiny urchin that also pack a very nasty sting (although it's a good place to see big pelagics if you're willing to take the gamble). However, if you manage to get away from the absolute hell-hole of the south of the island, there is some really excellent hiking in Teide National Park.

I would probably leave the Mediterranean until later in the year, as suggested above, but as a rule of thumb the diving is better the farther west you go. (Go to Turkey for everything but the diving!) The Illes Medes on the Costa Brava (another marine reserve) have good diving, so you could consider staying somewhere near (but emphatically not in) L'Estartit: Torroella de MontgrĂ­ has a nice old town, for example, or you could just base yourselves in Girona and drive farther. There's also supposed to be really good hiking in the mountains from castle to castle but I haven't done it myself.

Malta and Gozo have very good diving too. I don't want to deter you, but you should be aware (if you aren't already) of the Maltese authorities' controversial approach to criminal liability with respect to recreational diving (I'm referring to the now resolved Stephen Martin case); speaking personally, as an instructor I'm staying away until the situation becomes clearer.

Happy to recommend specific dive centres over MeMail, but I'll leave it at that.
posted by Zeinab Badawi's Twenty Hotels at 8:11 AM on March 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

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