As the summer weather lingers and we head into the cooler fall months, families are in a frenzy to find some fun in the sun for when winter comes, but figuring out where to go can be a challenge. While your friends are planning trips to the top hot spots this winter break, escape the crazy crowds and inflated prices and head to these warm-weather getaway destinations instead.
TOP BC GETAWAY: VICTORIA | WHERE TO GO INSTEAD: PARKSVILLE
Featuring harbour views, quaint shops, and a diverse range of dining options, BC’s capital city is a popular place for Lower Mainland locals looking for a close-to-home getaway. But just over a two hour’s drive from Victoria’s Swartz Bay ferry terminal (or only 30 minutes from Nanaimo), you’ll find the city of Parksville.
There’s so much family fun to enjoy in and around the Parksville area. Gaze at the “goats on a roof” at the Coombs Old Country Market, take a hike through Cathedral Grove (located in MacMillan Provincial Park), which boasts an accessible collection of the biggest and oldest Douglas firs in Canada, creep through the caves at Horne Lake Caves, or simply stroll along the endless sand beaches during low tide and enjoy the wonderful West Coast views.
TOP US GETAWAY: LOS ANGELES, CA | WHERE TO GO INSTEAD: VENTURA, CA
Drawn by Disney, many families opt for LA when visiting the US, but there are so many beautiful beachfront getaways along the coast of California that provide fun for the whole family – and for a fraction of the price.
Venture beyond LA and head to Ventura County Coast, where you can enjoy a beachy break without the big spend. Comprised of the charming towns of Ventura, Oxnard, Camarillo and Port Hueneme, and only a one hour’s drive up the coast of California from LA, Ventura County Coast is a quiet oasis that is more than worth the trek.
Spend a day at Ventura Harbour Village – the go-to spot for beachfront eats, where you can satisfy your sweet tooth and snap an Insta-worthy photo of the one-of-a-kind taiyaki cone from Coastal Cone Ice Cream. Take a spin on the indoor carousel, play some old-school arcade games, and shop along the boardwalk. Then, catch a wildlife cruise that takes you from Ventura Harbour to Anacapa Island, where you can spot harbour seals, dolphins, sea lions and a wide variety of whales along the way.
Related: San Francisco With Kids
TOP CARIBBEAN DESTINATION: DOMINICAN REPUBLIC | WHERE TO GO INSTEAD: BARBADOS
The Dominican Republic is best known for its beautiful beaches and affordable all-inclusive resorts, but if you’re looking to venture beyond the beach and truly immerse yourself in the culture and cuisine of the Caribbean, head to Barbados instead.
Barbados may be a much smaller Caribbean island, but the region has a big personality. Get a taste of the “culinary capital of the Caribbean” with a local food tour through Bridgetown with Lickrish Food Tours, where you can sample all of the Bajan dishes loved by locals, while learning about the history of the island. Explore the unique limestone caves at Harrison Caves, and then hop on a Barbados Fishing Charter tour and roam the ocean while watching locals reel in the catch of the day.
TOP MEXICO DESTINATION: CANCUN | WHERE TO GO INSTEAD: XPU HA
Avoid the spring break crowds of the popular Cancun resort strip and head an hour and a half out of town to the beautiful beaches of Xpu Há, located along the Mayan Riviera in southeastern Mexico.
Sandwiched between Playa del Carmen and Tulum, Xpu Há is home to the Barcelo Maya Grand Resort – a world-class, all-inclusive beachfront resort that has something for everyone, including an on-site amusement park and go-kart track, waterslides, and 2kms of fully-private pure sand beaches. Venture off the property and take a dip in Cenote Hubiku, one of the biggest and most beautiful sinkholes in the area. Take a tour of the pyramids in Chichen Itza, and marvel at the mayan ruins that sit on the site, a historical landmark that is over 1,500 years old.
Chichen Itza, Mexico
TOP HAWAII DESTINATION: MAUI | WHERE TO GO INSTEAD: KAUAI
Many West Coasters make Maui an annual getaway spot, and it’s no wonder why with the laid-back lifestyle, miles of beaches, and palate-pleasing food options. But for those who are looking to leave the crowds behind and experience Hawaii in a more adventurous way, Kauai is the place to stay.
Known as “The Garden Isle”, Kauai is rich with horticultural havens. Take an immersive tour through Allerton Garden, the filming location for such Hollywood hits as Jurassic Park and Pirates of the Caribbean. Sail past waterfalls, lush valleys, 3,500-foot-tall cliffs, gaping sea caves, and private beaches on a catamaran snorkelling tour along the Nāpali Coast, and then jet over the jaw-dropping, jagged cliffs that line the island on a helicopter tour, soaring over Waimea Canyon (known as “the Grand Canyon of the Pacific”), and counting waterfalls as you fly over acres upon acres of untouched landscape.