20 Warm Winter Getaways for Families That Won’t Break the Bank
Pack your bathing suit and take your family to one of these easy-to-reach sunny destinations around the globe that are as easy on your wallet as the warm sun is on your skin.
Located on marvelous Maui’s west coast, Kaanapali has it all: Fabulous beaches, exceptional snorkeling, gorgeous scenery, and plenty of kid-friendly places to eat and play (plus flights to Hawaii are cheaper than ever). It’s also where you’ll find a number of full-service vacation rental condominiums, right on the beach that allows you to spread out with the family and make some meals in your own kitchen—a money-and-time saver. For full-service accommodations with a friendly price, the Kaanapali Hotel should be your number one choice. The longest standing hotel in Kaanapali, it has a prime location on the golden Pacific sands and offers complimentary Hawaiian activities for the whole family, including pineapple cutting, printmaking, and ukulele lessons; plus kids get points and prizes for joining in the fun diversions.
Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
The beaches here will fulfill all your warm weather dreams with warm turquoise waters, pillowy sand, and miles of uninterrupted coastline. Flanking the beach like a row of starfish are a multitude of family-friendly all-inclusive resorts; the good news about the number of properties is that they provide competition both in amenities and pricing. The bad news is you’ll need to choose one from a large number of options. The brand new Grand Reserve at Paradisus Palma Real offers luxurious swim-up suites, 14 restaurants and bars, full-service spa, a kid’s club, and aqua adventure park, and access to Blue Flag rated Bavaro Beach, all from $354 per night, all-inclusive and grand opening packages include free airport transportation and complimentary in-room champagne, too. Find out the best family beaches you need to visit.
Located in the south-east Caribbean, this island offers a mix of great beaches and family adventures, such as exploring caves, pirate ship cruises, and swimming with turtles. Take advantage of great rates for air and hotel packages from Jet Blue, which offers nonstop flights from multiple East Coast cities. One property to consider that caters to families is Mango Bay Hotel which has one-bedroom apartments and activities including water-skiing, paddle boarding, kayaking, Hobiecat sailing, pedal-boating, and snorkeling for ages 4 and up. If you have teens, check out the Tamarind resort, which offers stand-up paddleboard lessons, teens-only shopping excursions, an island-inspired teen spa day, and even an aerial cinematography class!
South Walton, Florida
The sugar white sand beaches of South Walton, Florida offer plenty of kid-friendly activities, plus a healthy dose of adventure, culture, and beach relaxation that adults will love too. South Walton’s 16 beach neighborhoods are so picture perfect that they served as the backdrop for The Truman Show. The whole 26-mile stretch of beaches are magnificent, but Seaside and it’s surrounding beaches of Seagrove, Watercolor, and Grayton Beach are especially family friendly. Families looking for space to spread out can take advantage of more than 300 rentals available throughout the beach towns, including a number of large, multi-bedroom rentals that feature amenities ranging from pools to game rooms to outdoor kitchens.
As an extra draw, South Walton is in the process of developing an artificial reef, with four snorkeling reefs just off the coast of Grayton Beach, and nine scuba reefs further out to sea. The town is opening The Underwater Museum of Art, North America’s first underwater permanent sculpture park in 2018. Here are the best Florida beaches locals want to keep a secret.
Playa Del Carmen, Mexico
With a pedestrian-friendly downtown with plenty of inexpensive spots to eat, drink, and shop, this tourist-friendly town about an hour south of Cancun is a great fit for families who like to explore outside a resort, but still want to have hotel amenities nearby. For a local day trip, the ruins of Tulum are just 30 minutes away, where you can cool off with a free dip in the warm Caribbean sea below the ancient citadel (always a kid pleaser), and don’t miss the frozen paletas (ice pops) from vendors in flavors from avocado to watermelon, for about a buck. Stay at the new Ventus at Marina El Cid, an all-inclusive resort with rooms starting at $119 a night including all dining and beverages.
M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E! Yes, Anaheim is where you’ll find America’s favorite mouse, but the sunny SoCal destination also offers warm weather and a great base to explore the rest of the southern West Coast’s family-friendly activities. US News & World Report ranked Anaheim #2 in Best Winter Family Vacation Destinations for its access to theme parks and attractions, including Disneyland Park and Disney’s California Adventure, Knott’s Berry Farm in nearby Buena Park, Legoland in Carlsbad and the San Diego Zoo in San Diego, and Universal Studios and much more in Los Angeles. Hotels here offer affordable hotel packages to get travelers to stay in Anaheim as their Southern California base; for example, the Anaheim Marriott offers a Discover Disneyland Package that includes guest room, free parking, free shuttle to Disneyland, and a $100 Disney gift card per paid night starting at $239 per room, per night. Here are 14 ways to save serious money on your trip to the magical kingdom.
One of the most affordable islands in the Caribbean, Dutch Curaçao is a favorite respite from the damp and cold of Holland. And since visitors from Europe usually stay for one or two weeks, you’ll find lots of affordable family apartment and condo rentals on the island. The island is a secret favorite veteran travelers. Flights from most major North American hubs (including Miami, New York, and Toronto) are under $500, another selling point. Sunscape Curaçao is an all-inclusive resort with affordable prices for families. If you’re staying in a condo or apartment, the island recently launched an all-inclusive dine-around plan, where travelers have the opportunity to taste signature Curaçaoan dishes and try multiple restaurants for a fixed rate anywhere on the island, making it easy for families working with a budget to plan ahead for meal costs. These are the destinations that are better in the winter.
With a new aquarium (the largest in the Southwest), spring-training baseball, a zoo, and hotels with pools everywhere you look, “America’s Sunniest Metropolis” is a great family destination. Phoenix offers desert temperatures, rugged mountain scenery, and plenty to keep the whole family busy. Since it’s America’s sixth largest city, you’ll find plenty of direct flights here from around the country plus a full offering of inexpensive chain properties to stay at (the kind that kids—and parents, too—love for their free breakfasts, playgrounds, and pools). Outdoor adventures include hiking and biking, exploring the desert with Red Jeep Tours, and golf and tennis—just to name a few of the many warm-weather diversions on offer.
This Central American nation on the blue Caribbean Sea offers incredible adventures (whale shark swimming anyone?), no jet lag, and numerous direct flights. From Belize City, you can be on your way to the deep blue waters off Ambergris Caye or Placencia or a luxury eco-lodge deep in Maya Mountains in under an hour. In fact, with seven or eight nights, you can easily combine the beach and the rainforest jungle in one trip!
Sanibel and Captiva Islands, Florida
For free activities that kids love, this Florida destination can’t be beat: Dubbed the “shelling capitals of the world,” Sanibel and Captiva Islands have long been known as meccas for shell collectors. Thanks to the destination’s geography and the east-west orientation of the water, the waves catch incoming shells of all shapes, varieties, and colors. They arrive daily by the hundreds of thousands, many of them fully intact. For kids, it’s like trick-or-treat on the beach; for parents, it’s a free and safe activity that comes with built-in complimentary souvenirs. And of course, there’s the warm surf and sea location, and easy to reach location. Voted one of the best resorts in Southwest Florida, Pink Shell Beach Resort is offering a free fourth night throughout January, plus complimentary breakfast for two and added perks like free beach chair and umbrella rentals. Check out more warm weather destinations to escape the cold.
Paradise Island, Bahamas
We’ve got the skinny on the best-kept secret in the Caribbean: Paradise Island. Just adjacent to the waterpark fun of Atlantis, there’s great beach access and the same sunny Bahama skies as its glitzy neighbor, and it’s also where you’ll find Comfort Suites Paradise Island. A stay at this affordable lodging option by Choice Hotels provides complimentary access to Atlantis Resort for the whole family plus comes complete with free daily hot American buffet breakfast and free WiFi, plus newly renovated suites to complete the perfect Caribbean getaway, all starting at $150 in the middle of January, a fraction of what you’d pay to stay at Atlantis. These are the best beach destinations for every month of the year.
Koh Samui, Thailand
If you’re looking for the ultimate luxurious tropical island escape, without an upscale price tag, head to the warm turquoise waters of Thailand’s Koh Samui and its waterfalls, traditional pagodas, fishing village, and elephant sanctuary. You’ll also find the area’s newest luxury lodge, Avani+ Samui, with 58 chic villas right on a secluded bay. The resort has a plush spa, expansive pool, great restaurants offering local Thai cuisine and plenty of seafood, and a multitude of outdoor activities ranging from kayaking in the mangroves to beach volleyball. Best of all, special introductory rates start at just $104, an amazing bargain for a luxury property.
Coronado Island, San Diego
The sunny shores of San Diego and southern California are a breath of fresh (read, warm) air in the middle of winter. We especially love Coronado Island for its fabulous beach access and small-town feel complete with an ice cream parlor, retro diner, indie bookstore, and authentic Mexican restaurant all within easy walking distance of the golden beaches of the Pacific Ocean. While the historic Del Coronado is the best-known resort on the island, budget lovers should head just across the street to the Coronado Beach Resort, which offers spacious apartment-style accommodations with kitchens and separate bedrooms plus perks like bikes and access to pool and resort amenities all for around $180 a night, less than half of what you’d pay across the street.
This Central American charmer is getting ready to celebrate its 500th anniversary, so they’ve definitely had time to perfect the country’s infrastructure and hospitality. And there’s plenty of ways to enjoy the warm weather here; explore Panama’s rainforest by boat, tour the old city Casco Viejo; visit the Panama Canal; hike El Valle de Anton; or simply discover the country’s fascinating gastronomy. The Buenaventura Golf & Beach Resort resort just outside of Panama City showcases Panama’s rich culture with local art and architecture, cooking classes, and adventure excursions to the nearby rainforest and archaeological sites. Other highlights include a family-friendly Wildlife Center, spa, and kids club. Try it all out with the Endless Luxury package which includes all daily meals, open bar, and complimentary activities for just $199. Panama is also one of our favorite destinations for solo travel.
Gulf Shores, Alabama
For spring-like weather all winter long, head to this beach destination on the Gulf Coast where temperatures hover in the lovely low 70s. It’s the perfect temp to explore Gulf State Park’s sandy shores where unique nature highlights include guided eco-kayak tours of Lake Shelby and Sand Castle University, where “school” involves molding the coast’s sugar white sands into regal palaces (a sure-fire family pleaser). Another highlight? The new plush Lodge at Gulf State Park located right on the sands of Gulf State Park with direct access to the area’s 6,150 acres of unique outdoor experiences, including 28 miles of hiking and biking trails, and rates starting at just $91 per night.
San Juan, Puerto Rico
San Juan offers a unique combination of sun, city, and culture all within easy, and affordable, reach of the United States. And since Puerto Rico is a United States Commonwealth, it’s also one of the easiest islands in the Caribbean to visit since you won’t need a passport, have to change money, or even worry about your cell phone working. The streets of chic Condado back right into the palm trees and lapping waves of some of the most scenic tropical beaches in the Caribbean while also providing easy access to the cobblestone streets and historic attractions of Old San Juan. The DoubleTree by Hilton San Juan is located right in the heart of Condado and offers easy access to all of San Juan’s biggest attractions, from the ancient walls of El Morro Fortress to the popular foodie gathering space Lotte 23, from $189 per night. Puerto Rico is also one of the best tropical vacations you can take without leaving the United States.
Big Island, Hawaii
Now that Hawaii Island’s most popular attraction, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, has reopened and the lava flows have subsided, it’s a perfect time to visit the “Big Island” of Hawaii and explore the island’s fantastic scenery. Nestled atop the iconic lava rocks of the Kona Coast, Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa at Keauhou Bay overlooks Keauhou’s giant manta ray coastal feeding grounds and is minutes from Kona Coffee farms, a short drive from snorkeling in Kealakekua Bay, and is the closest resort to Volcanoes National Park. You can embrace island life in the oceanfront pool or snorkeling in the crystal bay with rates starting at $169 a night. Here are the top things you need to know before you book a Hawaiian vacation.
In the northern Baja Peninsula, Ensenada provides the quintessential coastal Mexico experience. Ramble along the coast visit attractions like La Bufadora, a natural marine geyser; the vibrant Ensenada fish market; beautiful San Miguel Beach; or Baja’s scenic wine country, Valle de Gaudalupe. Base your sunny adventures among the tropical gardens and swaying palm trees on the shores of Todos Santos Bay at the Hotel Coral & Marina whose rooms start at just $99 per night.
Camps Bay Beach, South Africa
This gorgeous tropical beach right in cosmopolitan Cape Town was recently named one of the 50 best beaches in the world by FlightNetwork. With views of iconic Table Mountain and incredible sunset views, the scenery is almost as spectacular as the beach bargains here. With an exchange rate of nearly 14 Rand to 1 U.S. dollar, it feels as though the entire city is on sale in Cape Town. You can dine on fresh seafood, sip local wines, and stay in city style all for a fraction of what you’d expect to pay in other cities; beachside accommodations start at around U.S. $100 per night.
South Padre Island, Texas
For nature and wildlife enthusiasts, South Padre Island provides an alluring blend of land and sea habitats to explore. This 34-mile long barrier reef island along Texas’ Gulf Coast is home to sandy beaches, miles of protected wetlands, and deep blue waters that all provide ample opportunity to view wildlife in its natural setting including dolphins, sea turtles, and more than 300 birds that call the island home. With a tropical feel, white sandy beaches, and blue waters, South Padre Island is also world-class, year-round Gulf of Mexico beach destination with hotel prices that start at around $55 a night in winter, even for TripAdvisor’s top-rated property, the Best Western Beachside Inn. Next, find out the best winter destination in each state.
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