Budget-Friendly Warm-Weather Destinations To Cure Your Winter Blues

Gray skies, frigid temperatures, and swirling snow got you down? It sounds like it's time for a vacation somewhere warm enough to shed your bulky winter layers. Whether you dream of plopping yourself on the soft, white sand of a Caribbean Island or hope to zipline above sloth-laden trees in Costa Rica, there are plenty of budget-friendly warm-weather destinations to explore. If you're feeling extra adventurous, you can head to more exotic locales like Bali and Thailand without breaking the bank.


There's little worse than carving out holiday time only to shiver on a garbage-strewn beach, so we ensured each destination in this roundup is clean, beautiful, and warm during the winter months. If the highs don't hit at least 70 degrees Fahrenheit, you won't find that place listed here, so leave your jacket at home. During our research, we consulted official tourist websites, traveler reviews, and booking sites like Tripadvisor, Expedia, and Booking.com to ensure that every spot we included boasts interesting attractions, cheap things to do, and affordable (and highly ranked) accommodations. So ditch the space heater, pack your swimsuit, and get ready to bask in the sun. You'll surely find a place (or many) to cure your winter blues on this inclusive list.


Ways to make a vacation budget-friendly

While visiting the places on this list will help keep your bank account in check, there are other ways to ensure an affordable warm-weather vacation is in your future. First, choose your timing wisely. While high season often boasts good weather, this is also when you'll find peak prices for everything from airfare to accommodations to food. Crowds are another thing to consider when traveling at popular times. Taking a trip in the shoulder months can cut costs dramatically while offering the sun-filled escape you've been dreaming of. We aren't talking about skipping a winter visit; we just suggest you juggle your dates to avoid pricier holiday times like Christmas and New Year's.


Other ways to save on winter vacations include traveling as a group and sharing accommodations in a vacation rental. Avoid rental cars if you can unless your trip requires a lot of driving between destinations. Instead, use rideshares or choose a location known for its walkability (i.e., its restaurants, attractions, and accommodations are easily reached on foot). Using miles and points to pay for airfare or hotel stays is another cost-saving tip. Airline credit cards can save baggage fees, among other perks like priority boarding. Another piece of advice: skirt pricey restaurants in favor of local grocery stores. If you're staying in a place with a kitchen, making your meals can be super cheap.


Costa Rica, Central America

Costa Rica offers tourists pretty much everything they could want in a vacation destination. Dense rainforests, majestic mountains, pristine white sand beaches, and creature-filled national parks make for an adventure-filled holiday. Whether you're hoping to zipline through the trees ($56.50 at 100% Aventura Adventure Park), come face to furry face with a sloth ($18.08 to enter Manuel Antonio National Park), or cross a bridge that spans a crocodile-infested river (it's free to walk on Tarcoles Bridge), there are plenty of budget-friendly things to do in this eco-wonderland.


A night at the highly-reviewed Santo Tomas Hotel & Wellness Center in San José will cost about $60 for an economy room for two that includes breakfast, WiFi, and use of the pool and gym. While this hotel is close enough to walk to many sites, the cheapest way to get around other areas of Costa Rica is by public transportation. You'll find economical buses in San José as well as other cities. A ticket can cost under $1, depending on your travel distance.

Cuba, Latin America

If you're looking for Insta-worthy backdrops, you'll find them aplenty in Cuba. From antique cars to sugar white beaches to historic buildings painted in pastels so electrifying they could make Crayola jealous, there's no shortage of beautiful places to photograph. The best part is that you won't have to blow your budget when visiting this vibrant locale. Popular attractions like Varadero Beach, Old Havana, and The Viñales Valley have no fees, and tourists can take a free walking tour of Central Havana. The Viazul bus company offers an easy, safe, and cheap way to get around with a one-way ticket to Varadero from Havana costing about $17 for the over four-hour journey. Don't miss Trinidad, a UNESCO World Heritage site filled with stunning architecture. Located about 196 miles southwest of Havana, an overnight stay can cost as little as $18.


Whether you're a fan of no-frills B&Bs or more luxurious hotels, Havana has enough budget-friendly accommodations to suit every traveler's taste. The cheapest rates hover around the $20 mark for a room in a casa particular (a.k.a. guesthouse). A night at Aimara's Hotel Boutique costs about $48, including breakfast, or tourists can stay in the more elegant La Alameda Boutique Hotel for $115. A meal in a cheap Cuban restaurant can cost as little as $5 or even less for street food.

Ecuador, Latin America

It's easy to keep your budget in check while on holiday in Ecuador. A visit to El Cajas National Park only costs $10 a day, or pitch a tent and stay overnight for a mere $4. More of a comfy bed person? There are plenty of affordable accommodations in Ecuador, ranging from hostels that cost about $15 per night to the luxurious, five-star Itza Hotel Boutique Internacional in Cuenca for only $131, including breakfast. You can get great meals for super cheap throughout the country, especially if you head to a local market or take advantage of a lunch special. For instance, King Cone EC in Guayaquil boasts meals ranging from $5 to $10.


The Galápagos Islands are a big tourist draw and one of the most breathtaking destinations to swim with turtles. A word of warning for the super budget-conscious: visiting these magical isles can increase your trip cost as you'll have to pay for airfare and a hotel. Cheaper attractions include Quito's Old Town, local churches, and the thermal pools in Banos (Termas de la Vigen costs $6 per adult). To get around Ecuador, take a bus. This is the most popular (and cheapest) way to travel, with tickets costing as little as $0.25, depending on your route.

Clearwater, Florida

Clearwater lies on Florida's Gulf Coast, just over 22 miles west of Tampa. One of its main attractions, Clearwater Beach, sprawls on a barrier island just offshore, boasting an immaculate strandand restaurants galore. Some, like Ryan's Island Cafe, offer well-priced meals. We're talking chicken fingers for $10 and a quesadilla for $9. On the topic of a good deal, hotels are quite affordable in Clearwater versus the slightly pricier accommodations on Clearwater Beach. You can spend a night at La Quinta Inn & Suites by Wyndham Clearwater South for $117, including breakfast, parking, and WiFi.


If you're feeling amorous during your warm-weather vacation, why not get hitched while you're in town? Clearwater is one of the most underrated destinations for a beach wedding, which means you'll likely secure a great deal. Plus, you'll already be in the perfect spot for a romantic honeymoon. If you hope to feel toasty, visit in February or early March, when temperatures rise to the mid-to high-70s. In December and January, you can expect highs around the 70-degree mark.

Phuket, Thailand

There's no need to wear a coat in Phuket during winter — the highs between December and February average in the high 80s and low 90s. There's little rain in January and February, another plus to visiting this budget-friendly destination. You'll find plenty of affordable and free attractions like Nai Harn, Kata, and Patong beaches. Thai food is delicious at the best of times. When you can enjoy a full meal for between $2 and $7, it somehow tastes even better. Phuket is a haven for inexpensive accommodations. Expect to pay around $20 for a bed at a hostel or between $30 and $100 for well-reviewed hotels.


Getting around Phuket is easy and cheap, especially if you take a tuk-tuk: Small trucks (they're usually red) that are price-negotiable. Be sure to settle on a fare and destination before you get in. While fares should be around $5.60 to ride anywhere within Patong, drivers often try to charge more. A songthaew is another cheap option that takes tourists to the beach. Depending on where you're going, fees can be as low as $0.42 to $0.56 to travel from Phuket City to Patong.

Bali, Indonesia

While Bali may seem like an expensive place to visit, many are surprised to discover that it is a gorgeous island that won't break the bank. The Kura-Kura Bus company provides multiple cheap ways to get around. From airport transfers to shuttles to guided tours, your wallet won't get a workout when traveling with this economical service. Getting to Kuta from Ubud on a shuttle will cost just over $6. That leaves you plenty of coin to splurge on a hotel, although with rates as low as $16 for a stay at the Siesta Legian Hotel or $68 for a night at the four-star Amadea Resort & Villas in Seminyak, you won't have to worry too much about finances. Steer clear of the best beach resorts in Bali. A night at Amankila can cost over $1,850! Luckily, food isn't pricey in Bali, with an average meal costing between $3 and $7.


Enjoy the tropical climate (highs between December and February reach over 86 degrees) while exploring the country's diverse topography of mountains, volcanoes, beaches, and forests. Winter tends to bring rain, but the storms usually last only a few hours in the morning and afternoon. The Sacred Monkey Forest Ubud Sanctuary is a must-visit tourist attraction filled with scenery so unique that you might gasp. Ancient stone temples and 115 species of the most incredible trees enchant visitors. So, too, do the 1,200 macaque monkeys who have free reign. Weekend admission costs over $6, while a weekday visit is about $5.

Philippines, Southeast Asia

With over 7,500 islands in its stunning archipelago, there's no shortage of beautiful places to visit in the Philippines. Plus, you'll look at highs in the upper 80s and lows in the mid-70s, so you won't feel chilled during your warm-weather vacation. December is the wettest winter month. Time your visit for January or better yet, February for less chance of rain. Hit the beach for a cheap activity. While some are free to visit, others charge for things like amenities, entry, and parking. There are so many to choose from that you'll surely find a perfect spot to soak up some rays.


While street food is your cheapest bet for quelling hunger pangs (a whole meal could cost under $1), other venues' dishes are also affordable. Cosmic Vegetarian & Vegan Cafe and Bistro, a well-reviewed vegan restaurant in Manila, for instance, boasts dishes that cost between $3.60 and $10.70. Accommodations are also well-priced. An overnight stay in an apartment can cost $33 in Manila, while a night at the plush, five-star New World Makati Hotel in this capital city is about $100 a night). Renting a car isn't advisable due to poor road conditions, so opt for a taxi (be sure the meter is on so you aren't overcharged).

Belize, Central America

A natural wonderland, Belize is beloved for its swamps, verdant jungle, beautiful beaches, and the spectacular Belize Barrier Reef, which is the second largest of its kind on the planet. It is truly unbelizeable (sorry, we had to). If you want to spend most of your time outside, this is where to do it. Gear up and get excited to meet a variety of colorful marine creatures by boarding a boat to nearby Hol Chan Marine Reserve and the aptly named Shark Ray Alley. A guided snorkeling tour of these two spots will cost $99 for an entire day with Ambergris Divers.


Ambergris Caye is the best place to visit for warm winter weather – its highs hover around 82 degrees Fahrenheit, while northern areas of Belize can be a bit cooler, with highs of 75 degrees in winter. Consider taking a water taxi to explore other Cayes. A return trip from Belize City to Caye Caulker with Belize Express Water Taxi will cost $37. Taxis can also be affordable (about $5 to $7.50), depending on how far you travel. Agree to a rate before leaving. As for accommodations, you can expect to pay between $68 for an apartment in Belize City and $146 to stay at the more upscale Villa Boscardi. And meals can cost anywhere from $5 to $50.

Puerto Rico, Caribbean

Many of Puerto Rico's most popular attractions are free to visit, including the 29,000-acre El Yunque National Forest and bustling Old San Juan, which costs nothing if you merely wander the streets and aren't tempted to visit the shops or restaurants. Others require minimal admission fees, such as the $10 charge to enter the San Juan National Historic Site, which houses ancient city walls and two castles. The best news? Temperatures are in the mid-80s all winter long.


Depending on the type of accommodation you want and your chosen location, nightly fees can range from $85 for a studio apartment in Rincon to $118 for a queen studio at Rosalina Ocean Park in San Juan. Transportation prices vary by location. San Juan offers the best car rental deals and boasts a cheap train service. Tickets for a ride on Tren Urbano cost $1.50, while bus fare in San Juan is $0.75. Grab a bite from a street vendor for your cheapest meal options.

Gili Islands, Indonesia

Welcome to Paradise or the Gili Islands, as they're more commonly known. Set a quick 8- or 15-minute ferry ride from the northwest coast of Lombok, Gili Air, Gili Meno, and Gili Trawangan are gorgeous. If you're looking for loads of sunshine, you should time your visit for February. December is classified as the wet season, and January is rainy and humid. February notices fewer damp conditions. It is still humid, though, so prepare to feel a bit sticky, with highs averaging 83 degrees. This makes the island's cheapest activities (swimming, snorkeling, and lazing on the beach) even more inviting.


Gili Trawangan (a.k.a. Gili T) is the most developed island in the trio and boasts a broader selection of budget-friendly accommodations. Mango Tree House has an outdoor pool, air conditioning, and a convenient location to the beach, all for $21 a night, while Trawangan Dive Resort offers breakfast and a double room for $73. The least expensive meals are found in warungs, small restaurants often owned by families. Gili T's Oh Warung Gili is praised for its tasty dishes, variety of flavors, friendly staff, and incredible prices (most items cost between $1 and $5). 

Key West, Florida

You can't put a price on Key West's unique vibe. The southernmost point in the United States, this buzzy locale is filled with budget-friendly things to do. Walking along the city's beloved Duval Street won't cost a penny unless you feel inclined to dig into a piece of key lime pie or practice a little retail therapy. The area comes alive at sunset when tourists and locals flock to watch it become bathed in a kaleidoscope of pinks and oranges. Live music and street performers can also be enjoyed for free as you wander.


Hitting the water is another fun thing to do for free, and Key West is home to one of Florida's best beaches. You're in for a treat in the form of pristine sand and clear, emerald waves. With highs in the mid-to-high 70s, there's much to love about winter in Key West. When it comes to a place to stay, the prices for a room can be quite high at this time of year. That said, cheaper options like the two-star Blue Marlin Motel are available. Two can stay for about $299 a night at this well-reviewed property.

Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain

You won't have to worry about wearing strong deodorant in Tenerife during the winter. With highs of 71 degrees in January and February, you'll enjoy outdoor activities without donning layers or sweating through your t-shirt. Tenerife offers multiple attractions that won't break the bank, like Martiánez Lago, a highly-rated outdoor complex that boasts multiple swimming pools and a variety of restaurants. A day pass is $6.


Depending on the type of restaurant you choose, food in Tenerife can be quite affordable. For instance, a burger at Royal Bar Tenerife is $7.50, including fries. Accommodations can cost $24 for dormitory-style lodging or $104 to stay at the four-star Silken Atlántida Santa Cruz. Tip: Skip Playa del Médano when booking a European beach vacation, especially if it rains. This beach holds a black flag from Ecologistas en Acción due to an overflow of sewage.

Cancun, Mexico

You're going to love the warm winter weather in Cancun. Highs average between a balmy 77 and 86 degrees. You'll like the air conditioning blasting from the affordable hotel rooms that span this pretty beach destination even more. A stay in a studio suite at the beautiful Casa Tortugas Boutique Hotel will cost about $125 per night. The fab weather will have you spend most of your daylight hours outside, enjoying the magnificent beaches and exploring many family-friendly activities.


While some points of interest are a bit pricey (we're looking at you, Xcaret), others, like Parque Las Palapas, offer free outdoor concerts and cheap street food. The bus is the cheapest option to get around, but taxis can be reasonable, especially if you negotiate a rate before driving away. Note: The U.S. Department of State has issued a Level 2 travel advisory for Quintana Roo State, where you'll find Cancun. It suggests that tourists "exercise increased caution" when traveling to this area and be vigilant if they visit downtown Cancun at night.

How we chose the budget-friendly warm-weather destinations

We used a variety of criteria to determine a destination's place on this list. In addition to studying weather patterns that include temperature ranges and the amount of sun during winter, we looked at seasonal accommodation prices from multiple booking sites like Tripadvisor, Expedia, and Booking.com. Then, we cross-referenced these cheap places with travelers' reviews to ensure they aren't riddled with bed bugs or so noisy that you won't get a good night's sleep.


Since we're concerned about your safety, we also consulted the U.S. Department of State's most recent travel warnings. Places with a travel advisory higher than level two ("exercise increased caution") didn't make the cut. Finally, we looked at transportation options for each destination to find the easiest and most affordable ways to get around. Locations earned extra points if they had good walkability (i.e., restaurants and attractions are within easy reach by foot).