3. Belize
This Central American up-and-comer-about the size of Massachusetts-is packed with potential. The tiny English-speaking country fronts the Caribbean Sea and offers sunny, warm weather all winter long and loads of adventuresome and exciting travel opportunities. Case in point: the longest continuous barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere borders the coast of Belize making the waters here outstanding for snorkeling and diving. Offshore atolls and sandy reef shelves are home to baby sharks, massive stingrays, eels, and lots of colorful marine life. Inland, the Maya Mountains are swathed in thick rainforests with thousands of streams and rivers cascading down-ideal for jungle treks and nature-lovin' tours. Also not far offshore are dozens of islands, called cayes, which make for great day trips or secluded stays; Ambergris Caye and Isla Bonita are among the most developed, boasting chic restaurants and resorts, while Caye Caulker remains more laid-back and remote. Nature buffs will also love the Swallow Caye Wildlife Sanctuary-just a few miles east of Belize City-which protects over 7000 acres of sea and mangrove; local guides bring visitors by boat to survey the abundant wildlife.