Affordable island getaways you can take this winter


It seems there are two types of people in the world: There are those who, every January or February, escape the harsh winter by fleeing to a tropical paradise, and there are those who look on enviously at these snowbirds, wishing they could enjoy a bit of the tropics themselves.

Fortunately, this distinction is shrinking rapidly. Tropical getaways are hugely popular during the coldest months of the year, but no longer are these vacations prohibitively expensive, restricted only to the most well-to-do travelers. In fact, with a little patience, tenacity and inside knowledge, it's perfectly possible to plan a sunny sojourn of your own this winter when the mercury really starts to drop.

The weather may be getting colder, but once you read up on these affordable Caribbean vacations, you'll want to put away your parka and bust out your swimsuit.

Good news: Even if you're pinching pennies, you can still treat yourself to a tropical vacation this winter.Good news: Even if you're pinching pennies, you can still treat yourself to a tropical vacation this winter.

Cancun, Mexico
This go-to vacation hotspot in Mexico is popular among the college spring break crowd, but don't let that turn you off to what could be a sunny and cost-effective wintertime retreat. In fact, if anything, the city's popularity among college students is, a testament to how easily you can plan a killer vacation on the cheap. Cancun's reputation as a party haven is well-earned, both in terms of its offerings to high-energy travelers and its affordability.

If you don't have a specific agenda beyond "getting out of the cold," Cancun is a great destination. While it boasts a substantial tourist population, especially in the winter, there is no shortage of restaurants, bars and clubs, so you won't lack for anything to do. As an added bonus, you won't have to worry about blowing your whole vacation budget before you even get to the resort. Cancun is one of the most popular Caribbean destinations, and so inexpensive flights are easy to find from nearly every major urban airport. Price of Travel noted that you can find round-trip flights for around $350 depending on your point of origin. If you're willing to find accommodation a few blocks' walk from the beach, you may even be able to find hotels for as cheap as $35 a night.

Dominican Republic
Cancun may boast superior accessibility and cost-effectiveness, but if you aren't too keen on rubbing elbows with spring breakers or are itching for a proper island getaway, the Dominican Republic can be just what you're looking for. Punta Cana and Puerto Plata are the country's most famous vacation spots, but if you know where to look, you can enjoy just as satisfying a vacation without the associated cost.

According to USA Today, the Samana Peninsula, located between Punta Cana and Puerto Plata, is a popular vacation spot among the Dominican locals. The source indicated that it's a spot brimming with natural beauty. If pristine coastlines are more your speed than cheap drinks, Samana Peninsula may be your best bet. Visitors can take guided horse tours through the region's mountains, witnessing stunning scenery including ocean vistas, mountainsides and even the 120-foot El Limon waterfall. Making your way to the Dominican won't break the bank, either. USA Today pointed out that round-trip flights can go for around $400, depending on your origin and the time of your trip.

"As Americans, we have our own sunny paradise right in our proverbial back yard."

Puerto Rico
When we think of getaways to tropical island resorts, we tend to think of them as international affairs. It can be easy, therefore, to forget that as Americans, we have our own sunny paradise right in our proverbial back yard.

There's a lot to recommend Puerto Rico, not least being its accessibility to U.S.-based travelers. Located off the coast of Florida, the island is a quick three-hour hop from continental airports. Even better, because Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, you won't have to worry about travel documents or currency exchanges.

But Puerto Rico has its own attractions and draws. Whether you're an adventure-seeker or a bedraggled 9-to-5er looking for a few days' getaway, Puerto Rico can offer you something. The island features both large, 20-foot waves for surfers and calm white sand beaches for those who prefer a more low-key experience. Visitors will also have access to an impressive array of stunning geographical features, from the El Yunque jungle to the caves of Parque de las Cavernas del Ro Camuy. U.S. News & World Report indicated that average temperatures in January and February range between 71 and 84 degrees Fahrenheit, making it a great option for escaping the winter chill on the cheap.

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