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If you don’t want to stay at home and deal with the cold this holiday season, but are worried about having to shell out an arm and a leg just to get out of town, we’ve got you covered. These fabulous, budget-friendly destinations are wonderfully warm in the wintertime and bucket list-worthy inexpensive too. From the Dominican Republic to the far stretches of Thailand, you’re spoiled with choices across the globe.
Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
If you’re seeking a Christmas-free experience, Punta Cana isn’t where you want to go – the Dominican Republic celebrates Christmas in a big way. But if you want the warmth of the tropics and lots of holiday spirit, it should be on the top of your list, as just about every hotel and resort will be celebrating in a big way. In fact, the country hosts such a big celebration that it lasts all the way from October through the end of January, with lots of parties, spectacular fireworks, fantastic feasts and much more. Christmas Eve is the highlight, with big family dinners the norm, though you’ll find lots of Christmas Eve meals hosted at many different establishments patronized by visitors. Punta Cana also has a well-deserved reputation for its high-value, low-cost luxury resorts.
Roatan, the largest of Honduras’ Bay Islands, enjoys average December temperatures in the upper 70s to low 80s – and, as it sits just off the world’s second-largest barrier reef, you can take advantage of that idyllic weather by spending your days enjoying some of the best diving or snorkeling on the planet. You can also enjoy your pick of gorgeous sandy beaches to lounge on, perhaps even all to yourself, and look forward to celebrating with locals at the Christmas Festival. When it comes to accommodation in Roatan, even holiday rates can be surprisingly reasonable considering what is on offer – remember, the earlier you book, the easier it is to snag the best deal.
San Juan, Puerto Rico
You definitely won’t be able to escape the holidays in Puerto Rico. Christmas here is a big deal, bigger than in most places and bigger than you might imagine. In fact, it’s been ranked on a number of sites as one of the best Christmas vacation destinations on the planet, taking its place with Amsterdam’s streets, Finnish theme parks and New York City’s Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree as must-sees on a traveler’s Christmas list of things to do. While snow, reindeer and the building anticipation of a gift-giving isn’t found in Puerto Rico, you will find lots of budget-friendly attractions and accommodation options, along with a party that lasts from the day after Thanksgiving to the middle of January, for at least six full weeks of holiday spirit. It isn’t all about cards and presents, but as the primary holiday of the year, it boasts a mind-boggling number of musical celebrations, traditions and festivals.
If your idea of the perfect holiday includes a budget-friendly destination with picturesque beaches, unique culture and lots of delicious cuisines, Thailand might be calling. All you’ll have to do is exchange that holiday ham for a holiday of Pad Thai and satays. In this “land of smiles” you’re sure to get both a warm welcome and a warm climate to help to further warm your spirit, along with breathtaking islands, diverse wildlife and Buddhist temples to explore. While it’s traditionally been a popular Christmas destination for northern Europeans, it still remains quite affordable, even during the peak season. Of course, beachfront hotels in Thailand will cost a bit more. Or, if you don’t mind walking even just a short distance, you’ll probably score a great deal.
Bali can be rainy around Christmas, but if you can handle a few downpours during your stay, you can find some very affordable accommodation options. Instead of Christmas carols, you can listen to the sounds of the gamelan gong while admiring glorious sunsets at the island temple of Tanah Lot, or swim in the ocean as the huge drops of warm rain pour overhead. And, while Bali is predominantly Hindu, the holiday spirit has managed to creep into the Balinese culture too. Hotels and villas in places like Ubud, Nusa Dua, Legian, Seminyak and Jimbaran are filled with all sorts of holiday décor, parties and fun festivities.
The entire country of Colombia has become a rediscovered tourist destination, though the historic beach city of Cartagena has been much longer. It offers an interesting mix of beach hotels as well as a magnificent colonial walled city with lots to see and do. As it’s a favorite with international tourists as well as Columbians enjoying their holidays, you’re unlikely to avoid crowds, but you won’t have to shell out an arm and a leg as it’s one of the more affordable sunshine destinations in the region, with 4-star hotels along the beach just west of the historic center offering some of the best Christmas season bargains.
Jamaica is renowned for its all-inclusive resorts and appealing package deals. Even during the peak holiday months, it’s possible to lock in a good bargain if you book early enough. Plus, the country is home to three resort towns, all served by the same large airport, allowing for more flexibility – and, cheap flights can be had from most major hubs. Jamaica’s less touristy South Coast is an especially budget-friendly place and offers the country’s famous laid-back vibe. You can enjoy chatting with local fishermen and stretching out on the sand without crowds at Treasure Beach, just a two-hour drive south of Montego Bay, as well as discovering cheap eats at many of the public beaches, where roadside stands serve up favorites like jerk chicken. Plus, the Christmas season is the most festive time to be here, filled with non-stop celebrations, special treats, entertainment, parties, festivals, and all sorts of fun gatherings.
Canary Islands, Spain
The Canary Islands, located just off the Moroccan coast, is the only true European destination with warm weather over the Christmas holidays, averaging in the mid-70s. There are over 900 miles of stunning coastline, offering the chance to relax at the edge of the sea while letting the feel of the soft white sands, clear cerulean waters, and rays of sunshine recharge your batteries in between the holiday delights. You can explore the islands’ soaring volcanoes, sip unique wines indigenous to the region, and get an in-depth look at how all seven islands, El Hierro, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, La Gomera, La Palma, and Tenerife, celebrate the holidays in their own way, with special local traditions. On Lanzarote, you’ll have a choice of over 80 beaches for spending the holiday on, while hotels offer their guests all sorts of Christmas activities, and Santa Claus often makes an appearance at hotel pools. Tenerife tends to be particularly cheap as compared to most other popular warm-climate destinations, and just about everything else is quite affordable as well.
Besides being one of Latin America’s cheapest countries to visit, Ecuador is consistently warm and beautiful, guaranteeing the perfect backdrop for all sorts of adventures and an unforgettable holiday season. The country is home to an impressive swathe of the Amazon rainforest, the Andean sierra, and many culturally diverse towns. In Quito, both the colorful, historic “old town” and the flashier, modern “new town” areas are fascinating to explore, while Salinas Beach, often referred to as the Miami Beach of Ecuador, offers a cheap tropical beach getaway with its warm tranquil waters, a long swathe of sand and all types of bars and eateries just steps away. Want to get into the holiday spirit? Don’t miss the celebrations in Cuenca, which culminate with the Pase del Niño Viajero, the largest and best Christmas pageant in the nation. There are also some incredibly cheap hotel options too. And, you can even enjoy a full street meal, including carne or chicken with a side dish for only a couple bucks, or tasty Argentine-style empanadas.