This Season's Best Winter Vacations

Whether you dream of leaving the winter chill for the sun and sandy beaches, or you seek out the warmth of a fireplace after a day of hitting the slopes, this year's top crop of winter vacation destinations has something for everyone.

Whether you dream of leaving the chill of your hometown for the sun and sand of warmer climes, or you seek out the warmth of warm fireplace after a day of hitting the slopes, this year’s top crop of winter vacation ideas has something for everyone. U.S. News & World Report lists this season’s top winter vacation destinations, or what it calls the “best places to cure the wintertime blues.”

1. Puerto Rico, USA.

Why is Puerto Rico No. 1 on U.S. News & World Report’s list? Besides the sunshine and beautiful scenery, tourists can enjoy “all the perks of the Caribbean without ever leaving the country,” the magazine says. Some of the top attractions include the underground caves of Rio Camuy Cave Park to the 500-year-old walls of El Morro. Travel-review website TripAdvisor also recommends visiting the Tropical Trail Rides, Flamenco Beach (Playa Flamenco) and the El Yunque National Rain Forest. Weather in the region averages a balmy high of 84°F to a low of 66°F.

Winter 2010 hotel rates: 4-stars $170 to $430; 3-stars $80 to $220.

Air fare (per person, roundtrip, taxes and fees included, early February): From Los Angeles: $414; from New York: $284; from Chicago: $305.

2. Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

While winter is the peak tourism season in Mexico, Puerto Vallarta still has reasonable room rates, U.S. News & World Report says. It recommends finding the best deals by staying in the El Centro neighborhood, or the Zona Romantica. While you’re there, TripAdvisor recommends visiting the Botanical Gardens and Canopy River.

Winter 2010 hotel rates: 4-stars $180 to $470; 3-stars $90 to $32.

Air fare (per person, roundtrip, taxes and fees included, early February): From Los Angeles: $436; from New York: $474; from Chicago: $489.

3. Key West, Florida, USA.

Whether you’re a Jimmy Buffett fan, or a disciple of Ernest Hemingway, there’s something for everyone in this laidback party town. Key West is “an ideal winter getaway for those looking to strike a balance between warm weather and frozen daiquiris, mellow afternoons and rowdy evenings,” according to U.S. News & World Report. Weather in the region averages in the low 70°F during the day and dips down about 10 degrees cooler at night. Snorkeling, scuba diving and bike trails are among the fun things to do here, while TripAvisor recommends a visit to the Butterfly and Nature Conservatory and Fury Water Adventures.

Winter 2010 hotel rates: 4-stars $250 to $450; 3-stars $150 to $330.

Air fare (per person, roundtrip, taxes and fees included, early February): From Los Angeles: $390; from New York: $333; from Chicago: $355.

4. Banff, Alberta, Canada.

Rather ski than swim? Then there's no better place to do so than Banff, says U.S. News & World Report. Choose from three main ski resorts in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies: Banff Mount Norquay, Sunshine Village and the Lake Louise Ski Resort, or check out Bow Falls in Banff National Park. The town also hosts several wintertime festivals, the magazine says, including the WinterStart Festival in late November and the Ice Magic Festival in January.

Winter 2010 hotel rates: 4-stars: $180 to $290; 3-stars: $100 to $160.

Air fare (per person, roundtrip, taxes and fees included, early February): From Los Angeles: $397; from New York: $584; from Chicago: $508.

5. Kauai, Hawaii, USA.

The high season in Kauai means crowded beaches and sky-high room rates, U.S. News & World Report says, “but once you catch a glimpse of Kauai's shoreline, you'll realize it's oh so worth it.” Among the myriad things to do in this scenic paradise is a trip to the Po'ipu and Tunnels beaches, a hike along Kalalau Trail or the frothy shores of Lumahai, and a visit to Waimea Canyon, "The Grand Canyon of the Pacific." Weather averages a high in the mid-70°F and about 10 degrees cooler at night.

Winter 2010 hotel rates: 4-stars $260 to $540; 3-stars $80 to $270.

Air fare (per person, roundtrip, taxes and fees included, early February): From Los Angeles: $500; from New York: $823; from Chicago: $856.

See the complete list of winter vacation destinations here.