AAA's 13 top travel destinations for a warm winter vacation

Twelve Apostles off Port Campbell in Victoria, Australia

For many Americans, winter is the perfect chance to take a break from snow and frost with a trip to sunnier climes. Hawai‘i and the Caribbean are classic choices.

They're relatively close, and their white-sand beaches and blue waters are among the best in the world, so it's no surprise that they're among AAA's most-booked destinations for trips in December through February.

Others travel farther afield to take advantage of the Earth's tilt: Winter in the Northern Hemisphere means Southern Hemisphere destinations like Australia, New Zealand, and Argentina are enjoying summer. Even more paradisiacal are the Galapagos Islands, which sit on the equator and thus don't experience traditional seasons. 

Below are AAA's top winter travel destinations, as indicated by hotel and travel bookings made by members through AAA Travel Advisors in select markets, along with key facts for those looking for a vacation from the cold—just another way that AAA travels with you.1

An iguana suns itself on the Galápagos Islands

13. Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

About 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, the Galapagos are 18 islands that are world-renowned for their unique, pristine ecosystems. The wildlife Charles Darwin observed during his visit to the Galapagos in 1835 inspired his theory of natural selection, and those animals are still the biggest point of interest. Many species can only be found on the islands, such as the Galapagos finches, marine iguanas, flightless cormorants, and the famous Galapagos giant tortoise. 

Don't miss: the lava tunnels

The islands' volcanic geology is no less impressive than its wildlife, as exemplified by the lava tubes near the village of Santa Rosa on the island of Santa Cruz. They extend for miles underground and have electric lighting, making them easy to explore independently or with a hired guide.

Ready to explore the Galapagos?

Book your choice of Celebrity Cruises itineraries in the Galapagos, which include visits to the frigatebird colony at North Seymour, the tortoises of Puerto Ayora, and much more.

Contact an agent or book your Galapagos cruise online

Buenos Aires, Argentina at night

12. Argentina

A trip to Argentina will almost certainly begin in the capital of Buenos Aires. It's a walkable city with a hint of a European feel, but a distinct Latin American flavor. Highlights include the restaurant scene (steakhouses are particularly well-represented), the museums, and the distinct architecture of each neighborhood. Branch out from the city to see the world's largest series of waterfalls at Iguazu National Park, the vast plains and vibrant coastline of the Pampas region, the dramatic glacial landscapes of Patagonia, and the colonial history of Cordoba.

Don't miss: the Valley of the Moon

This UNESCO World Heritage Site features otherworldly wind-eroded landscapes as far as the eye can see. Lucky visitors may also catch a glimpse of Andean condors.

Ready to explore Argentina?

Book the Insight Vacations Argentina, Uruguay, & Brazil Discovery package and you'll spend 3 nights in bustling Buenos Aires and 2 nights at the majestic Iguazu Falls.

Learn more about the Argentina, Uruguay, & Brazil Discovery package

A traveler exploring Machu Picchu in Peru

11. Peru

The Inca ruins of Machu Picchu are Peru's most famous attraction, but there's much more to see in South America's third-largest country. The nearby city of Cuzco, once the center of the Inca Empire, is still overflowing with history and culture. The capital of Peru, Lima, has stellar examples of Spanish Colonial architecture and great museums. And while the Amazon River is commonly associated with neighboring Brazil, it starts in Peru and this is one of the best places to see Amazon wildlife.

Don't miss: Ollantaytambo

This monumental fortress and community provides a vivid illustration of Inca urban planning. Laid out in a simple grid with cobblestone streets, perfectly constructed stone walls, and canals, many of the buildings and residences date back 600 years or more. 

Ready to explore Peru?

Book the Insight Vacations Peru with Machu Picchu package to visit the Museo Larco in Lima, discover traditional Quechua weaving in the Sacred Valley, and spend 2 days exploring Machu Picchu.

Learn more about the Peru with Machu Picchu package

Colorful lights illuminating Orlando, Florida at night

10. Orlando, Florida

It's no surprise that the home of Walt Disney World Resort, Universal Studios Florida, SeaWorld Orlando, and a slew of other attractions makes our list. Anything members can imagine doing is here, from the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, to Cirque du Soleil, to a dizzying array of shopping and dining options.

Don't miss: Lake Eola Park

Take a breather from theme parks and other attractions with a stroll around this downtown oasis. Visit at night to see the lake’s fountain lit up in dazzling colors.

Ready to explore Orlando?

Stay 5 nights at the Holiday Inn Resort Orlando Suites – Waterpark, an IHG Hotel in Orlando, with round-trip airfare from $714 plus $125 in savings. The resort features include the lagoon pool and waterpark, 9-hole mini golf course, kids' splash pad and more!

Learn more and book the Holiday Inn Resort Orlando Suites – Waterpark online

Milford Sound in New Zealand

9. New Zealand

The mythical, magical natural beauty of New Zealand made it an obvious choice for the setting of the imaginary Middle Earth in The Lord of the Rings film trilogy. This enchanting wonderland is filled with craggy mountains, rustic hills, endless green meadows, gentle beaches, and dramatic cliffs. There's plenty to see in the urban centers, too. Hike a volcanic island or cruise through the glorious harbor in Auckland, then take a stroll and visit the shops and restaurants of the compact, charming Wellington.

Don't miss: Tamaki Maori Village in Rotorua

This educational attraction shows visitors how the Maoris lived prior to the arrival of European settlers. It includes a feast of succulent meats and vegetables prepared using the traditional Maori method of cooking over geothermal steam. 

Ready to explore New Zealand?

Book the AAA Member Choice Vacations® Exploring New Zealand's Wonders package to discover New Zealand's natural treasures, from the steaming geothermal vents of Rotorua to the ice sheets of Franz Josef Glacier and beyond.

Learn more about the Exploring New Zealand's Wonders package

A golden aerial view of Sydney, Australia

8. Australia

Comparable in size to the contiguous 48 United States, Australia offers unique natural wonders. Many trips begin on the eastern seaboard with snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef and exploring the coastal towns of the Gold Coast, before heading inland to see the monumental Uluru formation and the rest of the Outback. Of particular interest are animals native to Australia: wallabies, wombats, koalas, kookaburras, and of course kangaroos.

Don't miss: Byron Bay

Australia's easternmost town is a holiday destination famous for its surf culture, alternative philosophies, organic food, and outdoor adventures. Visit the Cape Byron Lighthouse, built in 1901, for a magnificent view of the sunrise, then go snorkeling in Cape Byron Marine Park for a chance to see dolphins, manta rays, sharks, and turtles.

Ready to explore Australia?

Book the AAA Member Choice Vacations® South Pacific Wonders package and see what life is like “Down Under” on this incredible journey through Australia and New Zealand. Discover the wonders of Aboriginal culture, cruise Sydney Harbour and Milford Sound, and experience Queenstown, the “Adventure Capital of the World.”

Learn more about the South Pacific Wonders package

Na Pali Coast in Kaua'i

7. Kaua‘i, Hawai‘i

Kaua‘i is Hawai‘i's "Garden Island" and is defined by its rainforests, peaks, valleys, and coastlines. Hike Waimea Canyon State Park, known as the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific," which was carved out by millions of years of rainfall on Mount Waialeale. Then kayak along Na Pali Coast State Park, named for the cliffs along the shoreline that rise thousands of feet above sea level.

Don't miss: Ho‘opulapula Haraguchi Rice Mill

Switch gears from the natural wonders to meet with the locals. The mill has been in the Haraguchi family for 6 generations and offers weekly public tours of the rice mill and taro fields, exploring the rich history of the farm.

Ready to explore Kaua‘i?

Book your trip to Kaua‘i with Pleasant Holidays and take advantage of optional add-ons such as a tour of the island's famous film locations, a sailing excursion aboard a catamaran, and zipline experiences.

Build your Kaua‘i package with Pleasant Holidays

Honolulu's shoreline in the evening

6. O‘ahu, Hawai‘i

Hawai‘i's most populous island has its fair share of the beauty the state is known for, with Honolulu adding big city amenities. Whether you're learning to surf off Waikiki Beach, touring ‘Iolani Palace, digging into kalua pork at an authentic luau, or seeing history firsthand at Pearl Harbor, O‘ahu is always worth the trip.

Don't miss: Diamond Head State Monument

Hikers can climb this volcanic formation for a splendid view of Waikiki and the ocean. Members planning to walk the brief but moderately tough trail should bring water and expect to get sweaty.

Ready to explore O'ahu?

Book a 5-night package at the Moana Surfrider, A Westin Resort & Spa, and get $150 in savings, plus a $50 activity voucher.

Learn more and book a stay at the Moana Surfrider online

Sand pyramid on the beach in Cancun, Mexico

5. Cancun, Mexico

Cancun is commonly associated with spring break, but the fun and the sun are year-round. Miles of white sand and beach resorts stretch out into the sea atop a reef, hosting visitors eager to catch some rays or dive into the warm waters.

Don't miss: Museo Maya de Cancun

Take a break from relaxing on the beach to learn about the Maya, the native inhabitants of the Yucatán Peninsula, and explore hundreds of ancient Mayan artifacts.

Ready to explore Cancun?

Book a 5-night package to Villa del Palmar Cancun Luxury Beach Resort & Spa All-Inclusive. Enjoy gourmet dining, snacks, and alcoholic drinks as well as $150 in savings.

Learn more and book your Villa de Palmar Cancun Luxury Beach Resort & Spa stay

A beach view of Los Cabos

4. Los Cabos, Mexico

Located at the southern tip of the Baja California peninsula, the once-remote area of Los Cabos has transformed itself into an international resort destination. Many visitors come for the stunning beaches and what is known as the Corridor, a 33-kilometer stretch of spectacular coastline that runs between the twin towns of Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo. 

Don't miss: Whale watching

Winter is the heart of whale watching season off Baja California as humpback and gray whales migrate south from their summer feeding grounds to breed in the winter. Want to see newborn baby humpback whales? January and February are your best bets.

Ready to explore Los Cabos?

Book your trip to Los Cabos with Pleasant Holidays and take advantage of optional add-ons such as a camel safari and whale watching tours.

Build your Los Cabos package with Pleasant Holidays

Waikuni Falls in Maui

3. Maui, Hawai‘i

Maui has a little of everything. Ready to hit the beach? Ka‘anapali is one of the best. Looking for rainforest and waterfalls? Drive the scenic Hana Highway. Or maybe a volcano is more your style? Watch the sunrise from the summit of Haleakala.

Don't miss: Maui Pineapple Tours in Hali‘imaile

Members can take a break from hiking and driving to tour a pineapple plantation. See how the fruit is planted, harvested, and processed, then taste different varieties right from the field.

Ready to explore Maui?

Book your 5-night getaway to Aston Kaanapali Shores with round-trip airfare from $764. Plus, get $150 in savings and daily breakfast.

Learn more and book your Aston Kaanapali Shores stay online

2. Aruba

Aruba is the smallest of the “ABC” (Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao) islands. Just 15 miles north of Venezuela, its exceptionally dry climate is considered one of the most desirable in the Caribbean. Aruba's arid interior, marked by surreal, wind-bent divi-divi trees; sprawling stands of cactus and aloe vera; and huge boulders strewn like marbles contrasts sharply with the more tropical, palm-lined southwest coast.

Don't miss: Aruba Aloe Museum & Factory

The dry weather is perfect for growing aloe vera, celebrated for its healing properties. Visit the Aruba Aloe Museum to learn the history of humankind's relationship with the plant. Then take a complimentary factory tour to see how aloe goes from plant to product.

Ready to explore Aruba?

Enjoy a 5-night getaway to Aruba at the Riu Palace Antillas with round-trip airfare and get unlimited buffet and a la carte dinners, snacks, and local drinks, as well as $150 in savings and nightly entertainment.

Learn more and book your Riu Palace Antillas stay online

Boats along the shoreline in Punta Cana

1. Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

This beach region is home to dozens of high-end resorts that draw millions of tourists each year, all looking for sun, surf, fishing, high-speed boating, and many other ocean-themed activities. For landlubbers, there is also an array of golf courses and sightseeing tours.

Don't miss: Isla Saona

Boats bring visitors to this idyllic island off the coast to marvel at its pristine shores and abundant wildlife. Covered in palm trees, the island epitomizes the “desert island” motif common in film and television.

Ready to explore Punta Cana?

Book your stay at the Riu Bambu with Pleasant Holidays and take advantage of exclusive offers for AAA members.

Learn more and book your Riu Bambu stay online

Portrait of a AAA travel advisor

Make your dream vacation a reality

It's not too late to make your warm-weather getaway. Whether you’ve been dreaming of exploring Maya ruins, hiking the Andes, or just relaxing on a sun-kissed beach, AAA is your go-to resource for planning.

back to top icon