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13 Sunny-Weather Getaways That Aren’t Florida

We love Florida as much as the next Disney fanatic, but there are other spots to explore for sun, sand, and gorgeous weather.

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Tranquil beach scene. Exotic tropical beach landscape for background or wallpaper. Design of summer vacation holiday concept.icemanphotos/Shutterstock

Escape the cold!

It’s that time of the year when you’re not sure how you can get through another few months of sub-zero temperatures, slushy sidewalks, and dark days. Translation: It’s time for a sunny-weather getaway. And while Florida may be your go-to, there are plenty of other affordable choices that aren’t as crowded and are just as lovely—maybe even lovelier.

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Sunrise at Akumal beach, paradise bay at Riviera Maya, caribbean coast of MexicoSimon Dannhauer/Shutterstock

Riviera Maya

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Enter the gated Mayakoba community in Riviera Maya, where there’s sand, surf, and sustainability. The Fairmont Mayakoba was actually the first property of its kind in the region to preserve and promote indigenous wildlife and culture. While there, you can take an ecology boat tour, visit the rare, stingless Melipona beecheii bees (cultivated by the Maya more than 3,000 years ago), go snorkeling in the clear blue water, and simply chill. If you have a few extra vacation days, you should also explore these other stunning spots along Mexico’s Pacific coast.

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Beautiful clear turquoise water near rocks and cliffs in Negril Jamaica. Caribbean paradise island and water at the seaside with a blue sky and nice day lightmbrand85/Shutterstock

Negril, Jamaica

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This is the place to go if you simply want to relax. The beaches are absolutely perfect, the water is the ideal temperature, and there are tons of all-inclusive resorts, including Couples Negril, so you don’t have to plan a meal or think about, well, anything. But if you do decide to rise from your cabana, try snorkeling, go scuba diving, or take a glass-bottom boat tour—there are so many species of beautiful fish here, and you won’t want to miss this experience.

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New Orleans, Louisiana, USA at Jackson Square and St. Louis Cathedral.Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

New Orleans

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It’s always a good time to visit New Orleans! (Well, it may be a bit too hot and sticky in August, but otherwise, it’s always good.) There are hurricanes to drink, cemeteries to explore, blues to hear, tarot cards to read, oysters to eat…we could go on, but you get the idea. This is simply a fun vacay for travelers of any age. In fact, New Orleans made our list of the 30 must-see places around the United States to take your kids before they fly the coop. No, it’s not your typical beach holiday, but you’ll still return refreshed and happy, which is the whole point, right? You can stay smack in the middle of the French Quarter, of course, or just a short distance away from it all at a hotel like Lyric in the Central Business District.

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Jungle beach in Costa Rica at sunset, Manuel Antonio ParkMatt Tilghman/Shutterstock

Costa Rica

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The rain forests, the coffee, the monkeys, the beaches! We can’t get enough of Costa Rica. There are so many activities, you could seriously spend all year here. On the flip side, you could plant yourself on one of its stunning beaches and rise only to snag another coconut water (fresh from the coconut, obviously). Once you’ve gotten to Costa Rica, the rest is a bargain: It’s inexpensive to stay, to eat, and to play here. La Ramona Charming Hotel is a great option near Tamarindo Beach, or you could find a spot near Utiva Beach, which made our list of 10 beaches that are actually better in winter.

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SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS, USA - SEP 29: Section of the famous Riverwalk on September 29, 2014 in San Antonio, Texas. A bustling place with many restaurants and bars.f11photo/Shutterstock

San Antonio, Texas

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Head to this major city in Texas, where you’ll get out of the cold and have plenty to do. Take a River Walk cruise, wander through the Alamo, stroll in the Japanese Tea Gardens, visit the famous zoo, take a wine tour, and check out the Guinness World Records Museum (a must-see). But the best part about San Antonio may be that there really is something for everyone—from the thrill seekers (take the kids to Morgan’s Wonderland and Morgan’s Inspiration Island) to the culture questers (the Witte Museum and the San Fernando de Bexar Cathedral are wonderful). It’s as much fun for families as it is for honeymooners. In addition to San Antonio, here are some other affordable U.S. cities to add to your bucket list.

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Sunset sailboat cruise on Charleston South Carolina HarborRobert Donovan/Shutterstock

Charleston, South Carolina

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It’s all about the cobblestone streets, the pastels, and the horse-drawn carriages here. Whether you’re drawn to Charleston because of Bravo’s Southern Charm (no judgment here) or because of its elegant, old-fashioned, historic beauty, this is a fantastic choice any time of year. In December and January, temperatures reach 60, so it’s pleasant walking weather. Stay in the historic district neighborhood to be close to the shops, the South Carolina Aquarium, and tons of restaurants. Must-eats in Charleston include fresh oysters, barbecue, and lobster rolls. (Yum!) No matter where you travel, make sure you know the one food you have to try in every state.

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A strip of Beaches Views around the Caribbean Island of Curacao in the Netherland AntillesGail Johnson/Shutterstock


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This is a true beach vacation—and it’s relatively easy to get here. There are tons of inexpensive flights from the United States to this Dutch island, which is located just off the Venezuelan coast. Once there, you’ll be treated to lush coral reefs, white-sand beaches, turquoise water, and many cool spots to explore if you can tear yourself away from the beach. Our fave is hiking through Christoffel National Park, which was once the home of three plantations. It now houses barn owls, white-tailed deer, and hundreds of species of plants. Also check out the Hato Caves, which were formed millions of years ago and now have spectacular limestone formations and statues. Don’t miss these other cheap beach vacations to take with your family.

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Tropical white sandy beach. Palm leaf roofed wooden pier with gazebo on the beach. Punta Cana, Dominican RepublicAleksandra H. Kossowska/Shutterstock

Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

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It’s a quick flight to tons of inexpensive all-inclusives. Choose from adults-only, family-focused, and many more. Punta Cana is one of the most sought-after Caribbean destinations not only because of its beaches, which are pristine, but also because of its prices. Even during the holidays, it’s significantly less expensive to go here for a fancy vacation than nearly anywhere else. While you might be wary of traveling to the Dominican Republic after 2019’s mysterious tourist deaths, the country’s tourism ministry has a new initiative aimed at making travel to the area safer, with a particular emphasis on food and beverage safety. Here are 5 more sunny Caribbean destinations to help you beat the winter blues.

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cityscape of Las Vegas from top view in Nevada, USA at sunsetf11photo/Shutterstock

Las Vegas, Nevada

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Why travel to Vegas in the winter? Because you know you’ll have a good time here—at any time of the year. There’s a pool if you want to relax, there’s gambling if you want to lose some dough, there are museums, stores, shows, buffets, high-end restaurants, fancy hotels, zip-lining, helicopters, and essentially anything you can imagine. The best news: Whatever happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas, of course. So be free, have fun, and try something new. If gambling’s not your thing, here are 13 things to do in Las Vegas that don’t involve casinos.

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seen from the top of a viewpoint of the Almunecar beach, in the Peñones of San Cristobal, Almuñecar, Granada, Andalucia, Spain.Munimara/Shutterstock

Granada, Nicaragua

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Go surfing in this ancient city, where the peak time to visit is between November and April before it gets ridiculously hot. Not a surfer? There are so many other things to do here. The Masaya Volcano is legendary, as you can drive to the top of this active volcano and actually look down inside the crater to see burning lava. If you need colorful Instagram photos (or even if you don’t), head into town to pose in front of all the colorful buildings and adorable coffee shops. A day trip to Apoyo Lagoon is also a must-do; it’s a massive crater lake located between volcanoes, so it’s always the perfect temperature. Nicaragua is one of the “dangerous” countries that are safer than you think.

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Beautiful day in Camps Bay in Cape town, South AfricaLMspencer/Shutterstock

Cape Town, South Africa

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It’s summer in South Africa now, so it’s the perfect time to visit. Splurge for your flight, and everything else will feel like pennies once you arrive. (Seriously, bring an extra bag for all the shopping you’ll do.) Make sure to book a safari early, as they tend to sell out during popular times, and definitely do a wine tour (or a few of them). Hiking and cycling are also popular activities. Stay at the Pepperclub Hotel, which is centrally located and within walking distance to bars, restaurants, and the center of Cape Town. The hotel will help arrange any tours or experiences you want to take while you’re in the area. Here are more of the most popular destinations in Africa.

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Exotic carribean shore of Puerto Rico Flamenco beach shorePhoto Spirit/Shutterstock

Playa Flamenco, Puerto Rico

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We have single-handedly decided that this is the best beach in the world, especially for children. The water is calm and clear, there’s a hill just on the horizon that makes it seem private, and the sand feels like powder. You’ll also be able to grab food like crab empanadas from nearby kiosks. Stay at the Fajardo Inn, which is close to the beach and has a beautiful pool for those days when you just want to sit poolside with a piña colada. Playa Flamenco is on the northwestern shore of Culebra Island, but you can take a ferry to San Juan (90 minutes) for a day trip. Don’t miss these other hot travel destinations to visit this winter.

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Angkol Beach at Kampot province, Kingdom of CambodiaAngkorVector/Shutterstock

Kep Province, Cambodia

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There’s a reason why backpackers like to go here: It’s cheap and it’s beautiful once you get off the plane. Peak season here is between November and August, and this is the best time to visit Kep Beach (white-sand beach with seafood to eat), Kep National Park (one of the best places to hike), Koh Tonsay (a rustic spot for swimming), and Rabbit Island (a beautiful, quiet island that’s great for picnics). We love the Veranda Natural Resort, which overlooks the Gulf of Thailand and Bokor Mountain. It feels like a retreat, since it has walkways made of stones and wood, and all the bungalows are completely private. This hotel also has a massive salt-water pool, and it’s close to the crab market, the beach, and Kep National Park. Before you hop on your next flight, though, make sure you know these 13 ways air travel will change in 2020.

Danielle Braff
Danielle Braff regularly covers travel, health and lifestyle for Reader's Digest. Her articles have also been published in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, Boston Globe and other publications. She has a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University, and a master's degree in musicology from Oxford University in England. Danielle is based in Chicago, where she lives with her husband and two children. See her recent articles at You can follow her on Facebook @Danielle.Karpinos, Twitter @daniellebraff, and Instagram at danikarp.