If You Like The Riviera Maya, Mexico
Try: Costalegre, Mexico
Why Go: Long overshadowed by the likes of Cancún and Cabo, this pristine, 150-mile stretch of Pacific coastline—a two-hour drive from Puerto Vallarta—is one of Mexico’s best-kept secrets.
Where to Stay: Secluded oceanfront hotels include Las Alamandas and Hotelito Desconocido. Or rent a villa through Journey Mexico, which has 20 listings in the area, most of which are on the beach.
If You Like Costa Rica
Why Go: This beach- and rain-forest-filled destination is in the middle of a construction boom, with close to 5,000 hotel rooms in the pipeline.
Where to Stay: Pair a beach stay at Playa Bonita Resort & Spa or Westin Playa Bonita with a couple of days in one of Panama City’s chic hotels, such as Las Clementinas or Casa del Horno.
If You Like St. Martin
Why Go: Travelers are rediscovering this quiet island, which is flourishing again following a 2004 hurricane that battered its fertile volcanic interior and sugar-sand shore.
Where to Stay: Look for available rooms at the charming retreats of Laluna, Spice Island Beach Resort and Maca Bana. Villa rentals are also plentiful: Homeaway has more than 60 properties on the island.
Useful Booking Tools
Kayak: Not sure where you want to go, or deciding between destinations? A handy global map feature lets you pinpoint where you can travel and for how much. Also consider subscribing to fare alerts and daily or weekly deal e-mails.
AirBnB: The Match tool lets travelers on a deadline search multiple apartment, house, and villa listings in 192 countries and sends your request to the properties you deem a good fit. If your trip is within five days, you’re automatically routed to Match.
Lastminute.com: The Hotel Deals feature allows you to search for and book rooms within a three-day window.
Expedia.com: This site’s Last-Minute Deals section uses your starting location to produce a list of the best deals found by other travelers on airfare, hotels, car rentals, and packages.