The holidays are said and done and it’s still months away from summer’s sunshine. You’re craving the warmth and a break from those dreary days and the daily drudge but your budget doesn’t seem to care. While you may not have a lot of extra cash to spare, the good news is that there are some fantastic spots to vacation in during the month of February that won’t break the bank. And, odds are, you’ll get to enjoy plenty of fun in the sun.
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Tucked between Chile, Peru, Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil, Bolivia is often overlooked for its more popular neighboring countries, but it’s a fabulous destination that’s inexpensive and offers tons of interesting attractions. While February falls in the wet season, it’s a destination that can be enjoyed year-round, and this is the time when you can witness the incredible mirror effect at Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flat. Laguna Verde is another must experience with its intense color that varies from turquoise to dark emerald depending on the disturbance caused to sediments in the lake by winds. It’s backed by the dormant 19,555-foot Licancabur volcano.
Montego Bay, Jamaica
In the Caribbean, February falls in the high season but Montego Bay is one of the few spots that offer great value most of the year. It’s possible to find hotels as low as $30 a night, and you’ll enjoy the unbeatable February weather too. This city also happens to boast one of the largest airports in the region, making flights easier to find and more affordable to book. Look forward to cheap, tasty jerk at street-side and beach-side stands and enjoying plenty of free things to do, like lounging on the beach, swimming, and dancing to live reggae.
Colombia offers gorgeous sandy beaches, lush rainforests, snow-capped mountains and impressive colonial cities. In February you can expect it to be sunny and warm but not too hot, and, prices will be much cheaper than any other place in the Caribbean. As the high season ends here in mid-January, the already affordable hotel rates will drop even more and stay that way through February. Cartagena, the capital city along the northern coast facing the Caribbean, is a great place to base your stay with fun things to do, including powdery beaches, impressive mangroves and a historic old town surrounded by the city wall, representing some of the finest examples of civil and military architecture of the Spanish colonial times.
The Florida Keys are ideal if you’re craving the tropics but don’t have a passport. While Key West is one of the most popular destinations here, it also tends to be pricier. By staying in one of the Keys farther north like Islamorada, you can find some budget-friendly resorts. This lush oasis that offer the chance to laze the day away on a sandy, palm-shaded beach in a hammock and enjoy outstanding snorkeling too. Just 20 minutes north in Key Largo, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is home to the only living coral reef in the country. It’s considered one of the top spots, with clear turquoise waters filled with tropical fish and sea turtles.
New Orleans, Louisiana
If you visit around Mardi Gras, New Orleans is not going to be cheap. But the good news is that this year it falls at the end of February. That means if you go a few weeks before you can expect bargain accommodation rates and often inexpensive airfare too. Foodies can look forward to savoring spicy Cajun and Creole flavors, enjoying great jazz at countless venues, touring alligator-filled swamps, magnificent mansions and much more.
Death Valley National Park, California
Death Valley National Park is a place of extremes, with sizzling summer temperatures that often reach record highs as one of the hottest spots in the country. But February falls in the heart of the mild season with comfortable temperatures as well as bringing the best chance to see colorful desert wildflowers. You can also enjoy popular attractions like the Badwater Basin salt flats and Titus Canyon, with its ghost town and fascinating rock formations.
Orange Beach, Alabama
Temperatures at Orange Beach in February often feel more like spring with average highs in the mid-60s. While the water probably won’t be warm enough for a swim, there are lots of other fun and free things to do, like strolling the beach and nature trails. Boating, fishing and parasailing are just a few of the other options. The beaches here are absolutely stunning with the sand made up mostly of quartz, resulting in a striking white that sparkles in the sunshine, all framed by bluer than blue water.
Santa Cruz, California
Winter is one of the best times to visit Santa Cruz, and February often brings sunshine and relatively warm temperatures. Plus, accommodation rates are much cheaper than in the summer and the rides at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk will be open on weekends. You won’t have to spend most of your time waiting in line for thrill rides like the famous Giant Dipper roller coaster and you can enjoy plenty of free attractions like watching sea lions on the Santa Cruz Wharf, exploring tide pools and hiking in the nearby redwoods.
Amelia Island, Florida
Amelia Island is a barrier island that lies just off Florida’s northern coast and features 12 miles of beaches that are mostly deserted throughout winter, making it an ideal place to find that perfect spot on the sand. Enjoy off-season rates and lots of free things to do like visiting Fort Clinch State Park, which offers beaches and one of the best-preserved 19th-century forts in the country. The dunes are ideal for taking a stroll, and there’s also a half-mile long pier. If you splurge on one activity, make it beach horseback riding – even more unforgettable are the sunrise and sunset trips.