The scent of pineapple floated through the Kona farmers’ market on the Big Island, Hawaii as my son and I searched for produce to bring to the beach. Fresh papayas for only $4 a bunch? We nabbed a perfectly ripe pineapple, papayas, tiny sweet apple bananas that my son would later devour by the bunch, passion fruit and avocados, all for about $10.
Could we actually be saving money on our tropical vacation? Yes, we were. It was part of a trip to Hawaii that was more affordable than we would have thought possible.
Sunny skies are closer — and cheaper — than you think. In Mexico, our family has discovered local accommodations that blew the nearby resort prices away. Closer to home, we’ve found cheap skiing in Lake Chelan and a budget-friendly desert journey through Arizona to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Here are details on these four affordable sunny winter getaways.
*Please note that all lodging prices are approximate and may vary after press time.
1. Explore nature in Loreto, Mexico
Mexico isn’t as expensive as you think, especially if you skip the resorts in the major tourist areas and head to Loreto, a sleepy town in the middle of the Baja Peninsula on the Sea of Cortez. The best thing about this historic town, one of the oldest settlements on Baja, is that everything is within a five- to 10-minute walk, including restaurants, the boat docks and the beach. Hop on a tour with Wild Loreto to see the gray whales along the Pacific Coast and meet the local sea lion colony on Coronado Island. The water in the Sea of Cortez can be chilly, but nothing a wetsuit can’t handle as you snorkel around the islands off the coast.
Go: Savings on accommodations and food once in Mexico can help offset airfare costs. Try an airfare alert on a website like AirfareWatchdog.com.
Stay:La Damiana Inn (rates from $68), is a friendly home away from home located in a converted schoolhouse about four blocks from the beach, with a communal kitchen and living space, too. Hotel Coco Cabañas (rates from $89) is just a few blocks from the beach and has two pools; cabañas come with full kitchens.
Eat: Fish tacos, guacamole and parrotfish fillets in garlic are a few of the local specialties. La Parala has a wide range of dishes, while Loreto Islas can give you views of the sea along with some of the tastiest fish on the beach. Finish up at La Michoacana, the best ice cream spot in town.
Also don’t miss: San Javier Mission, located in the hills about a half hour from Loreto, is a 300-year-old mission that is one of the most well preserved on the Baja Peninsula.