Affordable beach vacation in Jan/Feb, flying from SFO?
December 23, 2016 10:46 AM   Subscribe

I would like to spend a week or so in January or early February lying on a sandy, sunny beach where the water is warm enough to swim. That's literally my only criterion. What is the least expensive way of accomplishing this? I'd be flying out from SFO (or OAK). I don't have a specific budget at this stage -- just trying to come up with a shortlist of relevant locations that are cheapest to get to and stay in.
posted by hoist with his own pet aardvark to Travel & Transportation (16 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
posted by killdevil at 11:11 AM on December 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

Isn't that the exact reason we annexed Hawaii as a state?
posted by janey47 at 11:17 AM on December 23, 2016 [7 favorites]

Virgin America often has inexpensive flights from SFO to Honolulu. Warm beaches and water abound.
posted by rtha at 11:24 AM on December 23, 2016

2nding Virgin's cheap flights to Hawaii. They fly to Maui now too. Hotels are pricy this time of year but hostels are worth checking out.
posted by entropyiswinning at 11:50 AM on December 23, 2016

Hawaii or Baja are the standards, but Miami or Carribbean destinations might also have cheap flights these days. Seconding entropyiswinning to say that snowbird hotel rates might be the bigger cost.
posted by rhizome at 11:53 AM on December 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

Baja is a good choice, or Puerto Vallarta. There is a wide range of prices for accommodations and food is affordable.
posted by impishoptimist at 11:55 AM on December 23, 2016

Really, budget will be your question. For example, I just saw on Jan 26, from OAK to HON on Alaska Air, first class airfare for $477. Regular cabin for around $244 (and move back to leaving Wednesday, and it was $199).

Heck, Southwest flies to Puerto Vallarta and Cancun. Aruba, too! Enjoy your trip wherever you go!
posted by China Grover at 12:43 PM on December 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

Check out World Sea Temperatures. My experience with Baja and Puerto Vallarta is that although the water isn't cold, it isn't what I'd call warm. For 80°+ water temperatures in Mexico, I'd head over to the Caribbean side.

Just saw this SF to Barbados for $322 roundtrip on with JetBlue.
posted by ShooBoo at 12:48 PM on December 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

Costa Rica? Have done it with very cheap fare and plenty of inexpensive accommodation. It might be raining on one of the coasts, need to check that.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 1:02 PM on December 23, 2016

The water in Baja is cold as hell in January on the Pacific side. I'd go to Hawaii or the Caribbean or further south like Belize personally.
posted by fshgrl at 6:54 PM on December 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

I was just in Punta Mita, not far from Puerto Vallerta, and the water was definitely warm enough for swimming. There were tons of people in the water, and my kids were fine with the temperature too. Zika is definitely affecting travel there, so I got a great deal on a rental house.
posted by snickerdoodle at 8:53 PM on December 23, 2016

Hawaii at that time of year, be aware it is the rainy season. In many locations it will rain more than once a day.

I love Puerto Rico and there were lots of deals on lodging when I was there in 2015.
posted by BibiRose at 9:31 PM on December 23, 2016

I'm going to the Yucatan for vacation in February and I was surprised by how affordable it is to fly to Cancun from Seattle. And once you're there, you have options all the way from hostel near the beach to fancy all-inclusive resorts.

Also, a few years ago I had a really nice week on the Oaxaca coast. I stayed in Puerto Escondido, but there are a bunch of different beaches down there, all with their own personality. And again, there are all budget levels (I stayed in a really nice little boutique hotel three blocks from a beach for $50/night). Getting there is kind of a hassle though - there are two small airports, but AFAIK, no direct flights from the US yet, so you have to go through Mexico City.
posted by lunasol at 9:31 PM on December 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

Virgin America was just acquired by Alaska, which already had robust west coast service to Hawaii. I think the booking systems are now integrated.
posted by spitbull at 4:22 PM on December 24, 2016

Seconding the Yucatan. I'm on Isla Mujeres right now (off the coast of Cancun) and it's lovely. Getting here was really cheap, even though we came in for the holidays.
posted by ananci at 9:18 AM on December 26, 2016

Just got back from Puerta Vallarta three days ago. The ocean temp was 77F. The air temp was an avg 85F. The humidity level was pleasant, not at all uncomfortable. We stayed at a 5 star all-inclusive that was cheaper than our airfare (from LAX) but you could stay (and probably fly) much cheaper than we did, we had to accommodate the schedules of small children. The flight is of course considerably shorter than going to the Caribbean.
posted by vignettist at 10:33 PM on December 26, 2016

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