Planning a holiday during the winter season? This travel list will give you the sunshine you’ve been wanting without the crowded beach and the holiday light displays you’ve always wanted to see without traffic and taxi cab horns. Instead of hyped destinations around the world that are not as good as people think, these lesser-known travel sites will make up for the places with their spectacular if underrated beauty. Check this travel list first before booking; you may find exactly what you’re looking for!

For Skiing: Instead of Pricey Aspen, try the Less Visited, Seemingly Untouched Mont Tremblant, Canada

Mont Tremblant is in the Laurentian Mountains and a laidback drive from Montreal. It’s a much more affordable, family-friendly winter destination where you and your family can ski on almost 100 runs. It has some 600 acres available for your winter activity of choice. Crowds and lines are guaranteed to be shorter and lighter than that of Aspen. You are also able to rent a nice sized chalet or condo with a hot tub, visit boutiques and shops, and send your kids to ski or snowboard lessons, all at a more practical price.

Mont Tremblant, Canada

Skiing Mont Tremblant. Photo: Shelby L. Bell via Flickr

The wintertime also brings opportunities to visit Chapelle St. Bernard to go ice-skating or stroll on the cobblestone streets of its pedestrian village. If you have small children, check out Fairmont Tremblant, the only ski-in/ski-out resort, which offers easy access to skiing and a lodge where children ages five and under eat at no cost. This is one of those travel sites that will blow you away!

Mont Tremblant, The Laurentians Canada

Photo:Shelby L. Bell via Flickr

For Beach Getaway: Instead of Crammed Miami, Try Charming Sanibel Island, Florida

Sanibel Island is a diamond in the rough; a holiday for the stars in the early half of the century. It has 25 miles of multi-use routes such as sidewalks, bike paths, and recreational trails. For years, people have gone to Sanibel for a reviving, slower pace – one of those travel sites that makes you want to stop and stare. Unlike Miami, guests are guaranteed protected white sand beaches, unparalleled flora and wildlife, beaches bursting with seashells, and a family focused atmosphere. Lighthouse Park, a true family beach, is quaint and spectacular for “shelling” and views of the Gulf.

The beaches are second to none for picnics, views, strolling, shelling, swimming in the Atlantic, sailing, and windsurfing. Oh, and beach parking is only $4. Crazy, right? This destination isn’t just for its beaches; it also has marvelous theatres, museums, and eateries. Don’t forget to check out the Education Centers, which will give even more information about Sanibel Island.

Sanibel Island, Florida

Sanibel Island. Photo: Freebird via Flickr

For a Tropical Hotspot: Instead of Sizzling Cancun, Try Unspoiled, Sultry Costa Rica

Costa Rica is not only an adventure travel destination, but also a family-friendly hot spot that really does have many opportunities for kiddie fun. From views of volcanoes, rainforests, and beaches to butterfly farms and coffee plantations, this is one of our favourite travel sites. Lapa Rios is an extravagant and sustainable Eco lodge in the low-lying tropical rainforest that bargains 16 bungalows with boundless sultry views and also offers kids and adults a chance to swim beneath a waterfall, trek, and even zipline in a rainforest.

Costa Rica

Immersed in Costa Rica Nature. Photo: Arturo Sotillo via Flickr

The one “drawback” between Cancun and Costa Rica is that Costa Rica does not have many “All Inclusive” resorts. At Ecophiles, we’ve never liked the idea of all-inclusive resorts as you tend to miss out on what the destination has to offer. Costa Rica has many more activities for a true travel lover than Cancun. Travel to Costa Rica to see a stunning lesser-known landscape!

Costa Rica

Walking on a Mirror. Photo: Korf-Adri via Flickr

For an Island Getaway: Instead of Packed Oahu, Head to Serene Waipi’o Valley, Hawaii

Waipi’o Valley, also known as “The Big Island,” receives its namesake from the river that snakes across the island. It was home to Hawaiin Kings and used to be a metropolis; now, the island has a couple dozen dwellers and is home to pristine flora and vegetation and hosts taro fields, a staple food in Hawaii. Waipi’o in Hawaii means “curved,” and describes the river that is a mile wide and 6 miles deep; this valley river splits into many “fingers,” and each finger has its own waterfall, and super striking black-sand beaches.

While there are plenty of hikes, it is important to remember that these hikes are not always for beginners; three that are a bit easier and under 3 miles include Pololu Valley, Hawaii Botanical Gardens, and Mauna Loa Lookout. Hawaii has always been a day dream, but Waipi’o Valley is somewhere between tranquil ecstasy and elated relaxation. Travel here to find out!

Waipi'o Valley, Hawaii

Photo: Paul dexxus via Wikimedia Commons

For Historic National Parks: Instead of Congested Grand Canyon, Head to Peaceful Gunnison Canyon, Colorado

If you’re going for the view, the usual choice would be the Grand Canyon in Arizona, but if you want the view without the traffic, lines of people, or “clutter,” try Gunnison Canyon in Colorado. Gunnison Canyon has the views you’re seeking, without all the bedlam. Warner Point, for example, gives you panoramic views in almost every direction and is a rather short trail, around a half hour.

Black Canyon National Park, Colorado

Black Canyon at Gunnison. Photo: Terry Foote via Wikimedia Commons

The Gunnison Diversion Dam is another sought after spot around Gunnison Canyon and previews the beautiful rushing water and also offers picnic spots and Instagram ops; the road is steep on the way down, but don’t get nervous! Morrow Point also has beautiful scenery and the tall points offer amphitheater level echoes. In a world that is over-run with urban housing and honking horns, Gunnison Canyon slows it down and gifts you with what nature intended to be.

Gunnison Canyon, Colorado

Wilderness Wonders. Photo: Bureau of Land Management via Flickr

For Wine Enthusiasts: Instead of Hyped Napa Valley, try the Lovely Monticello Wine Trail, Virginia

Fringed by Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains to the West and orbiting like spiraling spokes from  Charlottesville, the Monticello Wine Trail is a wine treasure. It’s not every wine route that can entice history buffs and wine enthusiasts to its playground, but the Monticello Wine Trail is not like Napa Valley and it’s not like most wine country routes. Marked with significant historical sites and overflowing with new vineyards, Monticello is a retreat of both palate and tang.

Virginia, United States

Virginia Wine Trails. Photo: LAmeetsDC via Flickr

Monticello boasts over 30 wineries that produce nationally and even internationally acclaimed fine wines. The Monticello Viticulture Area has four main trails, one in every direction. Each trail has, at the very least, 5 wineries with vineyards; the Southern trail has the most with 11 wineries. Where else can you tour the presidential homes of three US presidents (Monroe, Jefferson, and Madison) and enjoy first rate fine wine tastings mere minutes from each other? As lesser-known travel sites go, this one is a gem.

Virginia, United States

Virginia Wine Trails. Photo: LAmeetsDC via Flickr

For Holiday Displays: Instead of Chaotic Chicago, Try Beautiful Port City: Duluth, Minnesota

If it’s a beautiful city with brilliant holiday displays you’re after, but want a calmer, more family-friendly destination, then look no further than Bentleyville in Duluth, Minnesota. Bentleyville has been billed America’s greatest free-walk lighting display. With more than 4 million lights over a 20-acre park, Bentleyville is rested on the shores of Lake Superior, the largest of the Great Lakes. Complimentary hot cocoa, cookies, popcorn, roasted marshmallows and s’mores will be on deck to help warm you up.

Bentleyville- Duluth, MN

Photo: Bandito53 via Flickr

The family can get their picture taken with Santa or Rudolph or try to find Mrs. Claus, because she will be handing out candy canes. Between Gooseberry Falls, Ely’s Peak, Skyline Trailhead, and many other hikes, Duluth is a hub for nature and travel enthusiasts. Duluth has all the charms of a port city, without the crowds or the crime. Duluth really is the bargain on this list of lesser-known travel sites.

Duluth, Minnesota

Duluth Bridge. Photo: Randen Pederson via Wikimedia Commons

Skip the hype for something more with these lesser-known travel sites. Happy travels!

Also Read:

Holiday Travel: Fairytale Destinations for the Christmas Season

10 Sun-Soaked Destinations For Your Next Beach Vacation

For more exciting travel destinations like these, see our Travel Ideas section!