Dreaming of a tropical getaway to escape the depths of winter? You’re certainly not alone.
Beach vacations are the most popular vacation style for U.S. travelers, with over 57% of travelers preferring a beach vacation over any other type of vacation.
However, you don’t have to travel far or even spend a lot of money to have your own warm-weather getaway. In fact, a cheap tropical vacation perfect for the whole family might be closer to home than you think. Whether your dream tropical getaway includes a beachfront resort vacation with a kids’ club or an off-the-beaten-path adventure getaway for making family memories together, these close-to-home destinations offer what you’re looking for and much more.
Belize is one of the most unique destinations in the Americas, a highlight for travelers looking to experience a mix of travel experiences in one unforgettable vacation. Located just south of Mexico on the Yucatán Peninsula, Belize is located in Central America, though it is much more similar to a Caribbean island in many ways. Home to lush tropical jungle, Mayan ruins, white-sand islets, and the second-largest reef in the entire world, Belize will surprise you with just how much it has to offer – all packed into a tiny country the size of Massachusetts.
You’ll find Belize resorts ranging from ultra-exclusive private islands to family-friendly beach resorts with kids’ clubs and water sports to keep all family members engaged. Excursions like day trips to remote coral atolls and flying over Belize’s world-famous Great Blue Hole are once-in-a-lifetime activities you’ll enjoy sharing with the whole family.
While most visitors to Belize come to explore its reefs and relax on white sand beaches, don’t skip out on what the rest of the country has to offer. In its verdant interior, you’ll find great adventure activities older kids will love, like:
- Tubing through caves
- Hiking to jungle waterfalls
An array of lodges and guesthouses, many markedly eco-friendly, dot Belize’s most picturesque jungle landscapes and make this stunning area of the country more accessible than ever.
You’ll be pleasantly surprised by how close Belize is to home. With direct flights to Belize City from cities across the United States, you could be sitting poolside with a drink in hand just a few hours after leaving home. It’s just one reason a cheap tropical vacation in Belize is the perfect, hassle-free choice for a family getaway.
From the soaring mountains of the Andes to world-class beaches with fine white sand, Colombia has everything you could ask for to make for a perfect family getaway. Whether you’d prefer to explore vibrant and culturally-rich cities in Colombia like Medellin and Bogotá or a beachy getaway on the Caribbean coast, you’ll have plenty to choose from in Colombia.
Families with young children looking for a beach getaway will find Cartagena to be the best place for their dream tropical vacation. This booming Caribbean city is easily accessible with frequent flights from the United States and around the rest of Colombia. It boasts plenty of beautiful resorts with all the amenities you could ask for in a beach getaway. Cartagena is packed with historical landmarks, quaint restaurants serving local and international fare, and plenty to see and do, making it a top choice for traveling families.
For families with slightly older children, take a speedboat from Cartagena out to the Rosario Islands for great swimming, snorkeling, and kayaking; you’ll find affordable hotels and even hostels on these islands, which make them among the most affordable spots for a Caribbean vacation.
Families with older children looking for a bit more of an adventure couldn’t ask for a better destination than Colombia. Take the four-day Ciudad Perdida trek through the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains, go ziplining through the jungle canopy, or visit the towering wax palms in the Valle de Cocora. Or, practice your Spanish, learn to dance salsa, and explore Colombia’s rich history in off-the-beaten-path cities like Barranquilla or Popayán.
While you’ll find plenty of high-end and luxury travel options in Colombia, especially in Cartagena, you’ll be surprised just how far you can stretch your travel dollar in Colombia. With abundant and cheap public transportation, affordable accommodations, and delicious local meals, you’ll save hundreds and have an even more memorable trip than you might elsewhere.
Just 90 miles south of Key West, the largest island in the Caribbean is often overlooked by U.S. travelers as a potential vacation destination – but it doesn’t need to be. Though many don’t realize it, even travelers from the United States can visit Cuba, with no need to apply for a visa or complete any additional paperwork. It’s as easy as booking your flight and heading off for this unique tropical getaway.
The beautiful and fascinating capital city of Havana is an easy choice for travelers exploring Cuba. Packed with historic landmarks, unique cultural activities, and incredible things to do, Havana is an enchanting city and a traveler’s dream, distinct from any city you’ve visited before. From cheap, spartan rooms in guest houses to luxe boutique hotels, you’ll find a great range of places to stay in Havana, making a city break in Havana much more accessible than expected.
You can’t visit Cuba without experiencing its world-famous white sand beaches. The beach resort town of Varadero is just two hours east of Havana and is the perfect choice for most travelers to Cuba. This 10-mile-long white sand beach has been ranked among the best in the world by TripAdvisor year after year. Varadero has an incredible array of accommodations, including affordable guesthouses blocks from the beach that can be perfect for a family trip on a budget.
For a more high-end escape, choose some of Cuba’s far-flung white sand cays off the island’s north coast, like Cayo Coco or Cayo Guillermo. No need to travel to the Maldives; the brand-new Cayo Guillermo Resort Kempinski even offers stunning overwater bungalows you’ll need to see to believe.
For an even more off-the-beaten-path getaway in Cuba, leave both Havana and the island’s most famous beaches behind. From the stunning Sierra Maestra mountain range to historic Baracoa with pristine snorkeling just offshore, there’s plenty to discover here, no matter your family’s interests.
Consider heading to one of Cuba’s other vibrant cities, Santiago de Cuba, and exploring the island’s eastern side, less visited but just as rich as Havana and the surrounding areas. Or, head north to visit Alejandro de Humboldt National Park, lauded in its UNESCO World Heritage Site designation as “one of the most biologically diverse tropical island sites on earth.”
For travelers based in the United States craving a Caribbean getaway, there’s no more convenient choice than Puerto Rico. As a territory of the United States, Puerto Rico doesn’t require U.S. travelers to carry a passport, which is a huge plus if you’re traveling with children who still need to get a passport. With frequent direct flights from cities across the United States, Puerto Rico makes for a hassle-free and often relatively cheap tropical vacation perfect for families.
While Puerto Rico is rimmed with gorgeous beaches and has plenty of resorts and hotels to choose from, many travelers find that the best place to base themselves is in the capital city of San Juan. Beachfront resorts in neighborhoods like Condado and Ocean Park give travelers a feeling of tropical island seclusion while being just minutes from all of the restaurants, shops, and attractions of San Juan.
With its iconic seashell structure rising out of the sands of Condado Beach, La Concha Resort is a perfect choice for a resort getaway in San Juan. Newly refurbished yet retaining its retro Caribbean charm, this stylish resort is one of the best in Puerto Rico, whether you’re looking for proximity to the attractions and flavors of Old San Juan or a picture-perfect Caribbean beach vacation.
While Nicaragua isn’t a vacation destination you likely have on your radar, it might be just what you’re looking for, especially if you’re looking for a cheap tropical vacation destination. With United, American Airlines, and Spirit Airlines recently adding more flights to Nicaragua from the U.S., visiting this beautiful country is easier and more affordable than ever.
Just a short flight from the U.S., Nicaragua boasts:
- Beautiful colonial cities like León and Granada
- Stunning beaches on both its Caribbean and Pacific coasts
- Soaring volcanoes
Older kids and kids at heart will love fun adventure activities like “volcano-boarding” down the side of the Cerro Negro volcano outside of León, or kayaking to Isla de Ometepe on Lake Nicaragua.
For a more relaxed Caribbean escape, head to Nicaragua’s Corn Islands, just a quick flight from the capital of Managua. Long a favorite destination for backpackers, laid-back hotels with delicious local food and hammocks on palm-fringed beaches abound on these stunning islands. Head to the smaller Little Corn Island and stay at Yemaya Reefs to enjoy Nicaragua’s best beaches and most colorful snorkeling and diving spots.
Vacation of a Lifetime
Forgo the overcrowded Caribbean resorts and expensive flights to far-flung destinations. While a cheap tropical vacation might seem out of reach, especially when traveling with family in tow, choosing from these memorable destinations will ensure a vacation to remember without breaking the bank.
This article originally appeared on Hello Sensible.
Featured image credit: Robin Noguier
About the author
Carley Rojas Avila
Carley Rojas Avila is an avid traveler and the creator behind Home to Havana. Having visited twenty-five countries and spent years living abroad, she shares destination guides and travel tips to help travelers and digital nomads feel at home when traveling off the beaten path to Havana or beyond.