I don't wanna call, I just wanna go
December 21, 2010 6:40 AM   Subscribe

Hubs and I desperately need a romantic getaway someplace warm. Suggestions and meta-suggestions needed.

His folks will take the kids & I don't have much vacation time, so we can only manage 4-5 days or so. All my traveling has been more of the "10 European hostels in 10 days" variety, so packages and the like are all new to me.

We're coming from Boston. I'd like to minimize travel time and cost, though we do have a couple thousand to work with. Tentative dates Jan 20-25. US or international OK.

We like: nature, hiking, good food, history, and culture

Don't care for: crowded beaches, overdevelopment, wild party scenes

Hawaii would be perfect but is crazy expensive this time of year. Where can we go with a similar feel that's closer to the east coast and cheaper?

Since we're not too set on location, searching for random "deal-of-the-day" type sites might work, but the dreck of the internet is overwhelming me. Where should we look for good deals?
posted by libraryhead to Travel & Transportation (18 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Clark Howard lists travel deals on his website. To calculate taxes and fees, he uses Atlanta as the departure city, but many of the deals are available from other (and perhaps your!) departure cities.
posted by litnerd at 6:58 AM on December 21, 2010

Best answer: puerto rico?

Jetblue should have direct flights out of Boston, and fajardo, vieques and the rainforest should provide plenty of nature, hiking, warm waters and uncrowded beaches. mix it with a day in old san juan for history and food and culture. 5 days is perfect - we went around the same time few years ago and the weather was perfect. memail for more info.
posted by cusecase at 7:04 AM on December 21, 2010 [3 favorites]

Clearwater beach in Florida is an awesome place to visit in January. Flight is short/inexpensive and plenty of places to stay there, especially with kids.
posted by mooselini at 7:04 AM on December 21, 2010

How about Belize? Or the Mexican coast south of Cancun - both are nice & not too far.
posted by jsslz at 7:23 AM on December 21, 2010

I don't normally recommend things that I have no experience with myself, but... I live in NYC and several friends have gone to the Dominican Republic for a warm, inexpensive, non-party-central quick vacation and had a good time. Maybe you should look into that. I believe JetBlue flies there as well.
posted by jacquilinala at 7:23 AM on December 21, 2010

We have always liked Jamaica for long weekend type trips from the east coast. Warm weather, friendly people, good food. We tend to do the all-inclusive places like Sandals or Beaches. My mom loves Punta Cana which is also doable for long weekends.
posted by maxg94 at 7:30 AM on December 21, 2010

Best answer: The problem with cheap travel packages is they're usually to the biggest tourist areas, which doesn't sound like what you want (not a lot of uncrowded beaches around mega-hotels). Given your interests, I think you'll have better luck trying to catch an airfare sale to an interesting destination and then booking hotel separately at a boutique hotel or B&B. Puerto Rico was a good suggestion, but here are a few destinations I think you'd enjoy:

-St. John, USVI. Fly into St. Thomas and take the ferry (20-40 minutes depending on which one you catch) to St. John, which is over two-thirds national park. It has fantastic snorkeling, beautiful scenery, and good hiking. You can explore the ruins of sugar plantations and see the archaeological dig at Cinnamon Bay, although it doesn't have a major historic town like San Juan. To avoid the crowds, visit beaches toward the east end of the island or on the south shore - the tourists mainly stick to a few North Shore beaches in easy striking distance from Cruz Bay. The cheapest fun place you'll find to stay is the eco tent-cottages at Maho Bay, although there are plenty of other options as well.

-Saint Lucia: Beautiful mountains, lovely beaches, and you can explore a live volcano. It's off the beaten tourist track and isn't a prepackaged experience.

-Dominica (not to be confused with the Dominican Republic): this former French colony still has great French-influenced food, and the island is still about local life, not catering to tourists.

-Jamaica: Outside of the main tourist drags on the coast around Kingston and Montego Bay, the island is gorgeous and the food is great. If you want to focus on hiking, I understand there are some very nice places to stay up in the mountains away from the big resorts (though I haven't done this personally). There are also smaller hotels on the coast which would be great as a base for striking off further afield if you rent a car.
posted by unsub at 7:30 AM on December 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Puerto Rico and the places unsub mentions sound amazing (eco tent-cottages, yes!) Keep 'em coming!
posted by libraryhead at 7:36 AM on December 21, 2010

I visited Playa del Carmen and it was lovely and relatively affordable. However, it was pretty busy, too. We went on a day trip with a tour to Tulum which was much quieter. I'd go to Tulum for a few days next time. It's incredibly beautiful.
posted by theredpen at 7:37 AM on December 21, 2010 [3 favorites]

If you really want to relax try the Pacific coast of Panama. Playa Las Lajas to be specific. My friend has a house there and weather will be great in January. There is a small hotel there owned by a couple of guys from Cali that has nice beach directly behind the hotel. There are also a few good local restaurants close to the beach. And you can take a day trip up to the mountains (Boquete) for a change of place. Roads are good and the people are nice. You could also consider Bocas Del Toro on the Caribbean side. Over all Panama is cheap and laid back compared to other warm destinations this time of year.
posted by white_devil at 7:42 AM on December 21, 2010

I was also going to recommend the Maho Bay Camps in St. John. I just stayed there in November and would love to go back.

There are a number of hiking trails that you can access from the Camps, many of which go by ruins. They also have a taxi service available if you want to go to Cruz Bay for shopping/dining.
posted by statsgirl at 8:00 AM on December 21, 2010

Anguilla for excellent food, stunning uncrowded beaches, and no overdevelopment. Not much else, though, but for the short time you're there you can get a lot of readin'n'relaxin done.
posted by Dragonness at 8:13 AM on December 21, 2010

Seconding Playa Las Lajas on the Pacific coast of Panama! I was there in March and at times, we were the only people on the beach as far as we could see. There's a great Colombian food restaurant that serves fantastic seafood and fresh papaya juice near the hotel white_devil suggests. There are also some surf shack-y cabin type accommodations if that's more up your alley.
posted by kalanchoe at 8:18 AM on December 21, 2010

Don't rule Hawaii out just yet. Oddly enough, I found that prices are pretty low the first half of February - I got a flight and hotel for a week for $700. Granted, that's from the west coast, but maybe there are similar deals out there?
posted by chez shoes at 8:37 AM on December 21, 2010

another vote for playa del carmen. Virgin america is about to open up a route to cancun in early january (playa and tulum are a couple hours from cancun by car), and i believe virgin services boston.
posted by amycup at 8:44 AM on December 21, 2010

I've got a couple of friends who have loved visiting St. John, and another couple who loved it so much that they stayed (and now run the favorite restaurant of Couple #1) :) Check out this place to stay; they had a great time there.
posted by Madamina at 12:46 PM on December 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

nthing St. John. Playa del Carmen is also great and much slower than Cancun, but still really touristy. If you're going to the Yucatan, I've heard amazing things about Sian Ka'an, a biological reserve south of Cancun (near Tulum). You take a bus from the Cancun airport to get there -- busing up and down the Mayan Riviera is easy and inexpensive.
posted by linettasky at 6:03 PM on December 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

New Orleans is a great place for food, culture, music, history, and relaxation. While there's obviously no hiking or nature within the city, walking around the parks and beautiful old neighborhoods is blissful and relaxing.

It is also a fairly cheap city to visit, a place where a small to medium-sized amount of money goes a long way.
posted by narcotizingdysfunction at 6:40 AM on December 22, 2010

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