It kinda seems like winter's allure disappears with the holidays, right? When Christmas and New Year's have passed, what we once jollily called a "Winter Wonderland" is now less wonderful and more just, well, wintry, with tons of snow, minimal daylight, and freezing temperatures (oh my!). Fortunately, you can escape these harsh conditions and head to a balmy destination on the sand. Unfortunately, a mid-winter or spring break getaway can get quite pricey, especially because so many travelers have just the same idea, thereby creating a price spike among hotels and flights. But, fortunately yet again, there are some beach locales that aren't inordinately expensive. Take a look at our picks for this year's most amazing (and affordable) beach destinations for spring break. You'll definitely be surprised by a few (yes, we see Thailand in your future).
-- Jane Reynolds, Oyster.com
It's no secret that Greece's economy has been struggling for some time, so the country has found itself on plenty of European getaway lists as of late. But for our affordable beach destination roundup, we're highlighting the Greek island of Corfu. While most jet-setters head for the better known, more popular, and significantly pricier Cyclades (made up of islands such as Mykonos and Santorini), Corfu is a great pick for those on a budget. Travelers can often score relatively inexpensive flights directly to the island by booking through smaller, regional airlines and once there, visitors will find that hotels, restaurants, and activities can be pretty cheap. Be wary of hotels advertising four stars (take a look at our photos first!), but even if they aren't quite up to a luxury standard, many Corfu beach resorts offer all-inclusive options and feature numerous pools, a range of dining, and simple, clean rooms.
Our Hotel Pick: Aquis Pelekas Beach Hotel
Continually ranked as one of America's best family beach destinations, Myrtle Beach offers visitors one-of-a-kind nightlife, more than 100 golf courses, and 60 miles of sandy shoreline -- all at affordable prices. Flying there doesn't put a huge burden on the wallet, and it's an easy enough drive from cities such as Charleston, Charlotte, and Augusta. This locale may be known to get a bit jam-packed, but hotels account for this with massive pools and water park complexes, as well as plenty of meeting spaces and large rooms. In fact, many properties feature condo-style accommodations with kitchens and living rooms.
Our Hotel Pick: Captain's Quarters Resort
N.B. You can score a room here this March for less than $60/night!
Though it has a tropical, Caribbean vibe, Puerto Rico is a U.S. commonwealth and therefore flights to the island from the mainland are often inexpensive, especially when compared to those to nearby islands such as Turks and Caicos and the BVI. In Puerto Rico, huge malls, golf courses, and casinos meet tropical rainforests and beautiful white-sand beaches, while well-preserved 15th-century Spanish forts loom over charming towns with colorful colonial buildings. Prices are similar to those in the U.S., and the hotel offerings are varied, from luxury resorts, to government-sponsored inns, to chain hotels. So no matter your style (party-centric or laid-back) or budget (sky-high or tight), you'll find a great beach retreat.
Our Hotel Pick: The Beach House Hotel
Achieving an affordable vacation to Mexico often mandates sacrificing peace and quiet. Well, this may be the case with Cancun, but if you drive less than an hour from this affordable, party-centric locale, you'll find Playa del Carmen, its more low-key, less crowded sister that, like Cancun, offers plenty of budget-friendly, all-inclusive resorts. Even though spring break is peak season, many hotels offer deals around this time, and day trips to spots like Cozumel and the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza and Tulum are relatively inexpensive.
Our Hotel Pick: La Tortuga Hotel & Spa
N.B. La Tortuga is not all-inclusive, but rates are low for the area and breakfast is free.
This island, reachable from the Texas mainland via Route 100, is wildly popular during spring break, mostly because it's so cheap. Co-eds from various Southern colleges flock to its beaches every March, and South Padre hosts a massive annual spring break shindig -- complete with DJs and crowds of nearly 20,000. Families can also find plenty to do here (there's dolphin watching, water parks, kiteboarding, sailing, and plenty of inexpensive dining options) but the island's main focus, particularly during the spring, is on providing booze-fueled parties for rowdy 20-somethings.
Our Hotel Pick: La Quinta Inn & Suites South Padre Beach
N.B. This family-friendly option sits on a quiet stretch of sand.
Getting to Thailand does not come cheap -- although booking your flights as far in advance as possible certainly helps -- but once you're there, you can live like royalty for a shockingly low fee. The beach town of Phuket in particular is home to some of the most luxurious resorts in the world, and yet even the most exclusive properties offer rooms starting around $200/night. The same stunningly low rates can be found at restaurants, shops, and spas. Naithon Beach is beautiful, and conveniently close to the airport, while Batok on Racha Yai island is arguably even more gorgeous and unspoiled. Patong Beach is also popular.
Our Hotel Pick: The Westin Siray Bay Resort & Spa Phuket
N.B. A true five-pearl resort, the Westin can be booked for just $130/night this March!
Many major airports offer direct flights to Jamaica's Montego Bay, where a handful of affordable accommodations can be found. But for those who don't mind a slightly longer airport transfer, Ocho Rios (a couples hours from Montego) is an even more budget-friendly destination. (Some of Montego Bay's resorts can be quite luxurious, and therefore expensive.) Once a sleepy fishing village, Ocho Rios is now home to numerous all-inclusives nestled among laid-back, local joints offering cheap beers and tasty jerk chicken. It also has beautiful, private white-sand beaches and a famous waterfall park with swimming and hiking.
Our Hotel Pick: Moxons Beach Club