Updated: Sep 28
Winter is upon us in much of North America, Europe and Russia. The cool, crisp air is sometimes inviting after a hot, humid summer, but once the snow, slush, ice and frigid temperature sets in, most of us want to get away to the beach for an ultimate beach vacation to swim in azure colored oceans and stroll upon pearly white sands.
There are literally thousands of destinations to hit up to find a great beach vacation this year but some are gaining notoriety, both positive and negative, so we will show you where you will find the best beach vacations this year in all-inclusive resorts. We'll also show you how to save a lot of money on your next beach vacation and how and when to book.
If you’re looking to book your trip to the Caribbean, Mexico or Florida the general rule of thumb is to book two to four weeks in advance if you want the best deal, Steve Sintra, KAYAK Canada Manager, said.
“Travelling during December is one of the most expensive months to fly, but if you’re set on travelling during the holidays, avoid flying on Dec. 22,” Sintra said. “Our historical data shows it was the most expensive travel day both domestic and international last year.”
“Though there are always last-minute sales on vacation packages, this can be highly unpredictable and make planning your travel challenging,” he says. “If possible, be flexible on your check-in and check-out dates. Sometimes you may find great deals if you are able to be open to different check-in dates.”
Booking a trip in December means airfare and hotel's will charge a premium. Flying and reserving an all-inclusive deal after January 7th means you will probably save between 20-40%.
Avoid travel around mid to end of February as holiday destinations seem to be booked up by those in Universities. Likewise avoid March Break as prices tend to rise 30-50%.
Now that you know when to travel and when to book your beach vacation let us look at the destinations that will give you the most bang for you buck:
Playa Del Carmen, Mexico
We all heard the travel advisories for Mexico, but vacationers are still flocking to the area to indulge in Mexican culture, experience the new theme parks and soak up the hot sun on stunning beaches. There are many options in this area from independent houses and condos to rent to luxurious 5-star resort hotels. Here you will also find amazing food and culture. There are some amazing excursions, tours and activities in this area from ancient Mayan sites to eco-parks. Prices for this area on the low-side due to the bad-press of cartel violence, but the area is safe as long as you exhibit caution.
The Baths, British Virgin Islands
This is a unique and stunning beach in the British Virgin Islands. Flights can be a little more expensive then other popular destinations, but the value here is in the amazing landscape. Hotels are also on the more expensive side as well as food options, but check out the video below to see what you will be immersed in:
Huntington Beach, California
Huntington Beach is known as Surf City USA is located in Southern California between Los Angeles and San Diego with three airports near Huntington Beach. Surf City USA 10 miles of wide-open sandy beaches makes it a paradise for families, couples, dogs, and surfers. The endless summer weather offers both relaxation and outdoor activities year-round. Some visitors favorites include: biking, bonfire pits, kayaking, and of course the iconic Huntington Beach Pier spanning 1,850 feet in length. Our pier sits in the heart of Huntington Beach and allows visitors to experience the breathtaking views amidst the sounds of crashing waves and the ocean breeze. Here you will find an iconic American beach with average costs for hotels and food. Your airfare will be much cheaper and there are endless activities in this area as we have noted below:
Negril is a small town in western Jamaica. It’s known for its miles of sandy beaches on shallow bays with calm, turquoise waters and amazing sunsets. Seven Mile Beach, particularly the portion overlooking Long Bay, is lined with bars, restaurants and resorts, many of them all-inclusive. Long Bay opens onto a lagoon protected by coral reefs and is a snorkeling and scuba-diving destination. Prices of Negril resorts is slightly higher, as are the flights to and from Jamaica, but this island offers up a unique culture. There are plenty of great hotels to stay in Negril and some amazing beach activities.
Cayo Coco, Cuba
Cayo Coco is named after the white ibis which is locally called coco bird. This beach destination is mostly renowned for its pristine white sand beaches stretching for miles, its calm and shallow crystal-clear waters, and for its quiet away-from-it-all atmosphere and natural surroundings. Cayo Coco and the other nearby cayos are uninhabited, only tourism infrastructures are found on these islands. The cost of a beach vacation in Cuba is much lower than other options but there are some drawbacks including dated architecture and upkeep as well as a limited amount of food options. Cayo Coco will offer up some of the best beaches in the Caribbean and is a good option for the budget conscious. Activities in this part of Cuba are also lacking due to the environmental protections of the Cuban government and the lack of infrastructure. However, if you are looking for a very inexpensive all-inclusive vacation where you want to relax at a resort, Cayo Coco may be your best option.
Montego Bay, Jamaica
Montego Bay and the general area have been in the news recently due to the increased violence in the parishes. Of course, this negative press means that vacationers may be looking at other places to consider their sun vacation. But if you use common sense and caution, you have nothing to worry about. The area is generally safe and prices at hotels have dipped in recent years. Flights, however, seem to be on the higher end, but Jamaica will offer you up culture and night-life like no other.
Mission Beach, San Diego
Mission Beach is San Diego’s lively take on the classic boardwalk beach town with nearly two miles of oceanfront boardwalk, numerous rental shops and Belmont Park, a boardwalk amusement park, featuring the Giant Dipper Roller Coaster, originally built in 1925. There are a host of activities for the whole family to enjoy including biking, beach volleyball, boogie boarding, surfing, whale watching, sport fishing and scuba diving. A short walk across Mission Beach’s main thoroughfare leads you to the calm waters of Mission Bay, home to SeaWorld San Diego and the largest aquatic park of its kind, surrounded by grassy parks, playgrounds, picnic tables and miles of paved sidewalks. Hotels in the area are above average in cost, but you can find great deals if you simply look inland. Flights to San Diego are on the low-end. Activities in this area are plentiful as are the attractions and theme parks. Check out our San Diego Destination Guide for more information.
Varadero, located on the 20km-long Hicacos Peninsula and is the largest area of resorts in the Caribbean with over 60 all-inclusive hotels to choose from, shops, water activities and poolside entertainment; though its trump card is its beach, an uninterrupted 20km stretch of blond sand that is undoubtedly one of the Caribbean's best. Flights and resorts are generally inexpensive here, but food quality may be lower than other resorts found around the Caribbean.
Cabarete Beach, Dominican Republic
Cabarete Beach is a an amazing beach with waves and surf that will please the adventurer. Go boogie boarding or kite surfing as the wind picks up and pushes large waves against the soft sand of Caberet Beach. Hotels are average price in this area and food and activities are plentiful. Recent negative and sensationalistic press has cautioned Americans from visiting the Dominican Republic, but there is no immediate threat. If you have concern, read out post Is it safe to travel to the Dominican Republic? If you are looking for a great all-inclusive resort see our review of Viva Wyndham Tangerine.
Punta Cana, Domincan Republic
Punta Cana offers up a host of all-inclusive hotels along picture perfect beaches. The area has less in terms of off-resort activities, but because of the sheer amount of hotels there is increased competition and you may find a great deal. Again, there is a lot of negative press about visiting the Dominican Republic, but I encourage you to read our blog post here. Punta Cana will offer you a perfect beach vacation with amazing resorts, great food and a lively culture.
Historic and picturesque, the Koloa district spans from Old Koloa Town to Kauai’s beautiful South Shore in Poipu. Koloa opened its first sugar mill in 1835 and set the precedent for commercial sugar production across the islands. The sugar era opened the door to a wave of immigrants that make up Hawaii’s multicultural population today. Poipu Beach is an amazing site that is laid back and truly Hawaiian. Hotel prices are elevated here as is flights and food, but this area of Hawaii is unique and offers a totally different beach vacation than the typical Caribbean resort areas.
Sugar Beach, St. Lucia
Surrounded by a pristine rainforest and on the site of an old sugar plantation, Sugar Beach is one of those dream beach vacations we all seem to have. It is luxurious and stunning with many having it as a bucket list option. The flights to St. Lucia are elevated and hotels seem to be on the very high-end. But keep in mind, this is the ultimate in beach vacations. The area offers up a very limited number of accommodations so book early if you plan on taking in this experience.
Corfu, an island off Greece’s northwest coast in the Ionian Sea, is defined by rugged mountains and a resort-studded shoreline. Its cultural heritage reflects years spent under Venetian, French and British rule before it was united with Greece in 1864. The area is a popular sun destination for Europeans and Russians alike. Flights and hotels are generally low but if you are travelling from North America, expect a premium on the long-haul flight.
Hvar Island, Croatia
Hvar, a Croatian island in the Adriatic Sea, is best known as a summer resort. Highlights of the port town Hvar include its 13th-century walls, a hilltop fortress and a main square anchored by the Renaissance-era Hvar Cathedral. The island also features beaches such as Dubovica and inland lavender fields. Boat excursions serve the nearby Pakleni Islands, which have secluded beaches and coves. For Europeans and Russians this is a unique, inexpensive sun destination, but for North Americans, expect to pay a lot more for the flight.
The Algarve is the beautiful southern coastline of Portugal blessed with stunning beaches, picturesque fishing towns and a glorious climate, all of which combine to create the perfect holiday destination. The Algarve is wonderfully varied, able to appeal to a wide cross-section of tourists; there are pristine beaches for families, water parks and theme parks for thrill-seekers, buzzing nightlife for partying and historic towns for cultural visitors. The region is very safe, hotels are of a high standard, English is widely spoken, and the Portuguese are welcoming and hospitable. The Algarve provides some of the best value for money in Europe, being the second least expensive holiday destination in Europe. Temperatures are not scorching in the winter months and offer a mild to warm climate.
Cayo Santa Maria, Cuba
Cayo Santa Maria is a small key, 10 miles long by 1.2 miles wide, off the northern coast of the main island of Cuba. The beaches here are stunning but there are a limited amount of accommodation options. Food is generally "OK" but not extraordinary. Some resorts may be in need of repair or are dated. Activities are plentiful and the landscape is beautiful. Prices are generally inexpensive as are flights. If you are looking for an amazing beach on a budget, Cayo Santa Maria in Cuba will not disappoint.
Bonaire Dutch Indies
Bonaire is a mecca for diving and snorkling as well as eco-tourism. This small island in the Carribean is a less travelled option. Flights are expensive and hotel choice is limited and on the high-end, but if you are into diving and sea-life, this sun destination is not to be missed. Bonaire has always been a worldwide leader in recognizing the important aspects and developments of sustainability as well as sustainable economic growth opportunities. Bonaire was the first Caribbean island to have a protected marine park, with protection of nature as a cornerstone of our sustainable tourism policies; the island’s economic development plan is built on sustainability and 40% of the island uses clean energy. Becoming a Blue Destination is aligned with Bonaire’s culture, history and the heritage of people who have embraced and protected the ocean for their livelihood. If you are looking for a eco-friendly beach destination - look no further.