Hawaii is the classic destination for couples young and old. The problem with Hawaii is that it’s the one place you can visit domestically that will set you back thousands of dollars, and that’s just getting there.
So, what you can do if you want to get away for a romantic Valentine’s Day vacation when you can’t afford Hawaii?
Let’s look at a few Hawaii alternatives. These destinations will cost you less than a return flight for two from Hawaii.
See Also: 5 Tips for Reaching Your Travel Goals
Ocho Rios, Jamaica
Most tourists flying into Jamaica will land in Montego Bay on the north coast of the island. Now, why wouldn’t I recommend staying here?
The simple fact is that Montego Bay is currently under a state of emergency and only Kingston is more impoverished and has more crime than Montego Bay. If you want to be trapped inside your resort all day, then stay here, but if you don’t like being a prisoner then I recommend moving east towards Ocho Rios.
It’s true that Negril has the seven-mile beach, but it’s expensive and usually crammed full of fellow tourists.
Ocho Rios is more laidback, has fewer hustlers, and still gives you those spectacular beaches you expect. I stayed right next to the town’s beach, where a place called Turtle Towers is. This is steps from the beach and offers self-contained apartments, along with free access to the beach.
This beach is quieter and charges a fee unless you’re staying in the places around the beach, so there are no hustlers and there’s security everywhere.
Ocho Rios also has Dunn’s River, where you can form a human chain to climb up the falls. And Little Dunn’s River if you’re looking for something less touristy.
You can also easily go on an excursion to Port Antonio on the east coast. There are few tourists and you can see the REAL Jamaica in this little town.
Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic is always a popular destination for Americans. Most Americans visit Punta Cana on the east coast. I highly recommend you avoid Punta Cana if you don’t like the idea of no culture, no insight into the country, and overpriced…everything.
A great alternative for a beach destination is Puerto Plata. It’s one of the places where the cruise ships sometimes check in on their way to/from Santo Domingo.
I like Puerto Plata because it’s more laidback, it has the beaches, and if you love surfing or other types of watersports this is the place to be.
Plus, because the country is so small, you can easily go away for a night or two to Santo Domingo or Jarabacoa. They’re not far and they have clean, modern buses that traverse this route multiple times a day.
Maybe your idea of a getaway in February is a winter wonderland?
Then there’s no better place than Banff. Banff is a ski town in Alberta, Canada. It’s easy to get there from Calgary, and there are regular flights to the US.
Banff is a spectacular place and, to this day, remains one of the best places I’ve ever been for photography. This is the time for skiing and you’ll be able to enjoy towering mountains, powdery snow, and some of the most spectacular landscapes in the whole of North America.
I also recommend making the short trip to Lake Louise. You may have seen pictures of the ‘mirror’ surface of the lake. Well in February it’s frozen so you can say that you’ve walked across a huge lake.
If you live close to the border of Alberta, I recommend you drive up there as a car will be highly useful for exploring the more remote natural wonders in the region.
What do you think about when you go to Mexico? You have Cancun, Playa Del Carmen, and Tijuana. These are the most common locations for Americans.
Cancun and Playa Del Carmen are filled with tourists and the resorts are expensive, especially at this time of year. And Tijuana is a human trash heap with nothing of note to see. Even the beach is nothing to write home about. The sand is mainly filled with half-buried garbage. And it’s not exactly a safe place!
So, I recommend the place I spent a few months a year in Guanajuato.
I discovered Guanajuato entirely by chance when a fellow traveler in Guadalajara showed me pictures of the place. During my first visit in 2017, I ended up staying around the area for around three months.
It’s close to the town of San Miguel de Allende, also known as Little America, and is only a short flight away from Puerto Vallarta on the Pacific Coast, which is another popular expat hub.
More and more expats are discovering this colonial city. The entire place was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its colonial architecture.
It’s filled with restaurants, bars, and viewpoints. This is a colorful site to see, and there are more flights into nearby Silao from the US than ever before.
I recommend choosing one of the Airbnb options with a panoramic viewpoint close to a place called Pipila. You’ll be amazed!
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Are you looking for something exotic but you’re not in the mood for leaving the country? Then San Juan in Puerto Rico is for you.
San Juan holds a special place in my itinerary because I’ve never seen such gorgeous sunsets. I was there just after the hurricane in 2017. San Juan looked almost totally untouched, but the rest of the island still didn’t have power back yet. So, I never got the chance to explore the rest of Puerto Rico.
However, a few days in San Juan is the perfect way to spend a Valentine’s Day weekend. You have colorful colonial architecture, you’re on the coast, and there’s no better city for walking. Following the walls of the old Spanish fortifications takes you back in time and makes you forget that you got a US stamp when you landed.
Plus, it’s one of the most affordable Caribbean destinations you’re going to find!
Last Word – Where are You Going to Go This Valentine’s Day?
I only mentioned destinations in North America because most of us don’t have the budget to go away to Europe for the week. Plus, it’s about the only place where you’re going to get great weather at this time of year.
So here are five great destinations for quick getaways. Flights are reasonable, and you don’t have to go long haul to get there. There’s something for everyone on a smaller budget.
Or…you could always go to Hawaii instead.
Are you going on vacation for Valentine’s Day this year?
James Farner Bio
James Farner started traveling in May 2015 and has never looked back. He has been funding his travels to over 60 countries through his work as a novelist. His mission is to show how accessible travel really is to the average person.
You can read his books here.