If you're anything like us, you tolerate winter with muffled grumbles, counting down the days until summer begins. Get out of dodge instead -- these destinations offer plenty of beaches, hotels with swimming pools and outdoor activities to entertain the entire family, free from hibernation.


Did you know the Bahamas consist of 20-some islands? In the duty-free hubs of Freeport and Nassau, as well as neighboring Paradise Island, the beach life includes the high life -- giant casinos, glitzy restaurants, floor shows and international duty-free shops. Another side of the Bahamas includes the Out Islands, where you can relax in quiet settings, unscathed by the hand of modernity. The one commonality that binds all of these diverse islands together is the surrounding ocean. Azure waters, whose temperatures range from 75 to 84 degrees Fahrenheit, are fringed by pearly white or pink beaches. Pick an island, any island, and you can't help but find an excellent beach and warm waters.

Then there are the Exumas, even less developed than Harbour Island. With crystal-clear water, uninhabited islands to picnic and soft, rolling hills, this is the place to venture to if you want to say goodbye to the rest of the world. The Tropic of Cancer runs directly through George Town, the capital and principal settlement of the Exumas. Whether it's the action on Grand Bahama, New Providence and Paradise Islands or the quiet solitude of the Out Islands, any Bahamian island will do.

Recommended Hotel: Atlantis Resort


In Cancun, the shores bloom with high-rise hotels, creating a bustle that teens and 20-somethings find especially exciting. Except for March and April, when Cancun fills with partying undergraduates on spring break, the area has much to offer families, from all-inclusive hotels to a variety of restaurants. Snorkeling, diving and shopping are also available, as well as easy access to the Yucatan's attractions. The city is found in Riviera Maya, which offers much that makes Mexico's Caribbean so special. You and your family can swim and snorkel in cenotes, sinkholes formed by underground rivers; splash at eco-adventure parks; explore magnificent Maya ruins and sun on white-sand beaches. The Riviera Maya, less densely developed than Cancun's Hotel Zone (30 minutes to the north) also offers a range of resorts, from moderately priced lodging to luxury properties, plus a range of all-inclusive family-friendly resorts.

Most of Cancun's guestrooms crowd together in the densely developed 15-mile hotel zone, whereas the Riviera Maya's accommodations are spread over 86 miles, allowing for more greenery. Officially, the Riviera Maya stretches along Mexico's Caribbean coast for 86 miles, from just south of Puerto Morelos to Punta Allen. However, some maps include Puerto Morelos as part of the Riviera Maya.

Recommended Hotel: Moon Palace Golf & Spa Resort

Costa Rica

Costa Rica continually amazes us. In the rain forests, parakeets twitter, howler monkeys scamper from branch to branch, sloths hide in the crooks of trees and scarlet macaws take flight. You can float along mangrove-lined canals, view active and dormant volcanoes, lounge on beaches and, in season, watch turtles nest. An ecologically aware country, Costa Rica protects much of its land as parks, refuges or reserves. Costa Rica is also eminently family-friendly. It's safe (the "ticos" like Americans) and affordable, with hotel rooms and restaurants costing less than those in many U.S. cities and Caribbean islands. The only "problem" for visitors is the temptation to try to do it all in one vacation. Our advice? Don't. Avoid spending too much time on the road. Instead, pick a few regions to visit, and select one hotel in each area to use as a base for day trips.

Recommended Hotel: Si Como No

Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic boasts both the tallest point in the Caribbean -- Pico Duarte, which rises more than 10,100 feet -- and the lowest point -- Lake Enriquillo, which falls 131 feet below sea level. Add rain forest, cacti-studded desert, 16 national parks and nearly 1,000 miles of coastline lacing the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, and you have one of the finest outdoor playgrounds under the sun. When you have a spare moment, layer on the lotion and go play. Punta Cana, on the eastern tip of the island, is one of the most popular destinations in the entire Caribbean. In the winter months, several hundred flights a week arrive at the Punta Cana International Airport to whisk the European and American crowd over to the upscale Punta Cana Resort & Club or the growing legion of all-inclusive resorts that line the stretch of sand in neighboring Bavaro.

Recommended Hotel: Dreams La Romana Resort & Spa


In Florida, head south and you'll find the vibrant cities of Fort Lauderdale and Miami on the east coast; on the west coast, it's Sanibel and Capitva Islands and Tampa. Further south and you're in the Florida Keys, worlds away from the rest of the state and Florida's own Caribbean islands. And, of course, smack dab in the center is the home of the mouse: Walt Disney World.

Recommended Hotel: Marco Island Marriott Resort Golf Club & Spa


Brimming with posh resorts and hotels, incredible dining and exciting family activities, it almost seems impossible that Hawaii could hold any more beauty and pleasure. Ah, but we didn't mention the beaches. Like beauty queens who rack up titles, Hawaii's white-, red- and black-sand beaches are consistently listed as "best beach" of just-name-a-year in the anointed circles that determine such things. Maui is the second-largest of the eight Hawaiian islands and is basically a chain of small towns and hip beach havens. Sprawling luxury resorts thrive in Maui, thanks to the millions of visitors who flock to paradise each year, but Maui also has condos and value accommodations for those willing to do the research.

Recommended Hotel: Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea


Families underestimate the size of Jamaica. Driving from one end to the other can take close to six hours. Yet, within its confines are some of the finest stretches of coastline in the Caribbean, offering the lush Blue Mountains that rise from its core. In Montego Bay and Negril, ladies with baskets of tropical fruit perched on their heads stroll the beaches, slicing and dicing sugary pineapples or butter-soft papayas faster than a chef at a Japanese steak house. A recent slate of all-inclusive resorts has opened just outside of Ocho Rios and have, once again, made the town a top family destination. Hang at the beach to swim and sail, or head outside the resort to climb Dunn's River Falls. Guides escort families up through the cascading water as they climb the 600-foot-high waterfall. Other nearby excursions include taking a tube down a clear stream in the mountains above the city, horseback riding along a quiet stretch of the coast and taking a drive to the birthplace of reggae legend Bob Marley.

Recommended Hotel: IBEROSTAR Rose Hall Suites

Puerto Rico

More than one vacation is required to explore all that Puerto Rico offers. With seven square blocks of cobbled streets, Old San Juan delights families with centuries-old forts, as well as art galleries, cafes and boutiques. The forts, the oldest European constructions in the National Park Service, along with the ancient city walls and the governor's mansion, have been designated a World Heritage site. Beyond San Juan, there's much to see and do. On the "mainland," hike the rain forest, explore caves, and snorkel through schools of rainbow-colored fish. On Vieques and Culebra, Puerto Rico's offshore islands, enjoy a laid-back, uncrowded Caribbean idyll.

Recommended Hotel: El Conquistador Resort

Southern California

Southern California is a region brimming with adventure and wonder galore. The upside to the region is that there are attractions, incredible restaurants, museums and memorable hotels sprinkled liberally throughout the many neighborhoods and communities that make the San Diego region, well, San Diego. And all this is under the most sublime weather (with the exception of May Gray and June Gloom). The downside is that choosing how to spend your time in San Diego is no small feat (Coronado Beach or LEGOLAND)? A Padres game or SeaWorld? You see the dilemma...

Further north is Anaheim, California, home of Disneyland, which is celebrating 60 years in 2015.

Recommended Hotel: Hotel del Coronado

U.S. Virgin Islands

Long with beautiful beaches, first-rate snorkeling, Caribbean culture and easy accessibility from the states, the U.S. Virgin Islands come with a reassuring sense of familiarity; after all, English is the primary language, the U.S. dollar is the currency and U.S. citizens do not need passports. St. Thomas, home to the busy port and USVI capital Charlotte Amalie, bustles with cruise passengers and other vacationers drawn as much to the island's beaches as to its abundant shops. St. Croix, the largest of the USVI in land mass, remains less developed than St. Thomas. On St. Croix, you can drive through 15 acres of dense vegetation dubbed a "rain forest" by islanders and spot the stone ruins of more than 100 once-thriving sugar plantations in the countryside. St. John is our favorite of the "virgins." Two-thirds of the 28-square-mile island -- 9,500 acres of land plus surrounding reefs -- are protected as the Virgin Islands National Park, part of the U.S. National Park Service. The park is not only St. John's main attraction, but it's also the jewel of the USVI for its snorkeling, beaches and natural scenery. Trails wind up and over hills, through tall, tropical trees and some end at the island's white sand beaches. At Trunk Bay, a popular snorkeling site, you can follow an underwater trail through the reef.

Recommended Hotel: Caneel Bay Resort

1 of 12

10 Best Places to Escape the Snow
Atlantis, Paradise Island Resort in the Bahamas Reviews
Sun Bum - Mar 3rd, 2015

This place is awful and way overpriced. Any resort in Florida blows it away. The rooms are damp and smelly -- if you have allergies to mold -- be prepared to suffer. A gratuity of 15% is added to everything so the staff just doesn't care about ... read more
trentorley - Mar 31st, 2014

This was my fourth visit to Atlantis and the resport service has gone down considerably over the last two years. Basic things such as clean towels and face cloths not being refreshed were an every day occurence. The prompt response team did not ... read more
Atlantis, Paradise Island Resort in the Bahamas reviews
Moon Palace Golf & Spa Resort Reviews
Lamacklosky - Jan 29th, 2015

Have been back 4 times. Love it. The people are beautiful and friendly. Food at restaurants is always delicious. Pools are large and extremely clean. Spa is so relaxing and services - perfection. Golf course has gorgeous views, extremely ... read more
gitanad@hotmail.com - Nov 7th, 2014

The resort has the worst beach in Cancun. Very dirty and water is nasty, so don't plan any walks on the beach. The place is humongous with many restaurants and three pools. Restaurants are pretty good, but buffets are very boring. Friendly staff, ... read more
Moon Palace Golf & Spa Resort reviews
Si Como No Reviews
Be the first to write a Si Como No review!
Dreams La Romana Resort & Spa Reviews
isabelle - Oct 14th, 2011

Although we are not beachy people, coming from an island ourselves, we were intrigued by the deals we were getting at various ALL INCLUSIVE resorts during the shoulder season - KIDS STAY and EAT FREE is always an eye catcher, and that various ... read more
Griswalds - Aug 10th, 2010

After the referal and the research we headed to Dominican Republic. Other than Jetblue's scam at airport checkin to get $30 extra per person for seats we already paid for the flight was thankfully uneventful. The hotel's van was at the airport ... read more
Dreams La Romana Resort & Spa reviews
Southernmost on the Beach Reviews
rcbaird - Apr 27th, 2011

My daughter, age 12, and I recently returned from our first trip to Key West and a four-night stay at Southernmost on the Beach. This hotel is every bit as nice--and even better--than all the rave reviews indicate. From the moment of our arrival to ... read more
Southernmost on the Beach reviews
Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea Reviews
Be the first to write a Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea review!
IBEROSTAR Rose Hall Suites Reviews
shawannaturner - Apr 3rd, 2013

Me and my boyfriend first time on vacation/airplane/outside the country was for my 28th birthday. We flew into the airport in Jamaica were the bus was waiting to take us to the the Iberostar Resort. The bus driver was very nice and told us what to ... read more
burndoc - Oct 2nd, 2009

Destination Rose Hall Jamaica. This was our 3rd trip to the Iberostar Rose hall and our first stay at the new section Iberostar Suites. Every year my brother and I take our families to Jamaica for a week of sun and fun in July. We chose Jamaica ... read more
IBEROSTAR Rose Hall Suites reviews
Hotel El Convento Reviews
Be the first to write a Hotel El Convento review!
Disney's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa Reviews
lorikeet8 - Aug 15th, 2014

Disney's Grand Californian Hotel is pretty expensive but you are paying for the service, quality, and location. It is literally steps from Disneyland's California Adventure. The hotel has it's own entrance and it makes it so easy especially with ... read more
jkreps - May 18th, 2014

We decided to splurge and go to Disneyland for a birthday, and the title is what my child had to say as we walked in. I also had a baby at the time so with little kids in mind, this location cannot be beat. I never stressed about leaving anything ... read more
Disney's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa reviews
Caneel Bay Resort Reviews
Be the first to write a Caneel Bay Resort review!

    FREE Family Travel Newsletter
  • Family Travel Tips   (2 New)

    Family Planning and Tips

    • Disney Wonder Alaskan Cruise
      Join us onboard Disney Wonder's first exploration into Alaskan waters and ports as Family Vacation Critic Editor Lissa Poirot and her two tots take you on a tour. Be the first to see a sample of Disney's Alaskan Port Adventures, as well as glimpse the Disney Wonder's onboard fun, in our first-ever d...
    • Family Volunteer Vacations
      Away from the hectic pace of our everyday lives, any vacation is a chance for families to reconnect. There's no soccer game, no piano recital, no working late, so finally you have that precious day together. Yet, if you really want a meaningful break from your usual schedule, one that might change t...
  • Twitter
  • Facebook