As February approaches, most Vancouverites would jump at the chance to jet off to a sun-drenched beach. But it’s high season for a reason in vacation destinations like Hawaii and Cancún.
Even if you don’t have the time or cash to take a tropical vacation, it’s still possible to escape the daily grind. Two or three days away from home can do wonders for the spirit, especially if you stay somewhere with an inspiring view or amenities and activities designed to pamper. You don’t have to go far: within a few hours’ drive of Vancouver, low-season hotel rates nicely compensate for the less-than-balmy weather. Deals abound for February and early March in all price ranges, whether you’re looking for the cheapest place to rest your head or a stellar rate on an otherwise out-of-reach luxury retreat.
I tend to look for high-end properties offering rates at under $150 a night. However, packages that include meals and spa treatments can be good value as well, even if the up-front price appears daunting. Here are a few options to consider through March. You’ll find the best rates on weekdays. In most cases, rates are higher on weekends, especially the Family Day long weekend (February 8 to 10) and the long weekend that runs from Valentine’s Day to the U.S.’s Presidents’ Day (February 15 to 17). Add tax to all the rates, naturally.
Harrison Hot Springs A speedy 90-minute drive east of Vancouver, Harrison Hot Springs is my top choice if you have just one night to escape. Staying at the Harrison Hot Springs Resort & Spa buys access to the property’s outdoor mineral pools, which are infinitely more atmospheric than the indoor public hot springs. The resort’s website lists a variety of good-value packages, such as a $129-a-night rate that includes a one-night stay and buffet breakfast for two. That’s valid Sunday through Thursday, and only for a compact room with a double bed; other packages offer more luxurious options.
Victoria Similar to Dine Out Vancouver, Victoria’s Dine Around & Stay in Town takes place from February 20 to March 9 this year with deals on both hotels and restaurants. Choose from a list of hotels offering rates at one of four price points: $69, $79, $99, or $129 a night—and rates are the same on weekends. Examples include the Strathcona Hotel for $69, Spinnakers Gastro Brewpub & Guesthouses for $79, the Inn at Laurel Point for $99, and the Hotel Grand Pacific or Magnolia Hotel & Spa for $129. Restaurants will be offering three-course menus for $20, $30, $40, or $50 per person.
Parksville With a pair of rubber boots, a walk on Parksville’s expansive beaches is a pleasure even in inclement weather. Until February 28, Tigh-Na-Mara Seaside Spa Resort is offering a $129 rate Sunday to Thursday for a spa bungalow studio, $149 on Fridays and Saturdays. The family-friendly resort has many types of rooms, some with kitchens. Rates for the Family Day long weekend (rates available February 7 to 10) start at $159 a night, with kids staying free. Rates start at $109 per night during the Parksville Uncorked food and wine festival, which takes place February 20 to 23. Along with Tigh-Na-Mara, other local hotels such as the Beach Club Resort are offering festival packages that include event tickets.
Tofino Attractive for its storm watching and surfing, Tofino has some good weekday winter rates. Through April, Pacific Sands Beach Resort offers beachfront weekday rates of $152 per night based on a three-night stay; linger longer and the price drops. Cox Bay Beach Resort is offering a one-bedroom beach house with kitchen for $129 a night midweek until March 15.
Sunshine Coast Quiet in the winter, the Sunshine Coast is the perfect place for a contemplative or romantic retreat. In Halfmoon Bay, just north of Sechelt, Secret Cove Treehouse is offering a one-bedroom cottage or treehouse suite for $125 per night from Sunday to Thursday through March; this rate is only available if you book by phone (604-628-7357) or email, not through the website. Further up the coast in Egmont, the Backeddy Resort & Marina offers a Friday or Saturday night special from $109 that includes a night in the inn or an ocean-view cabin, along with two dinner entrées at the friendly waterfront pub.
Whistler Unlike the above destinations, it’s high season in Whistler, so bargain-hunt elsewhere. Skiers and snowboarders on a budget should aim for value for money instead, such as a rate that combines hotel room and lift tickets through Tourism Whistler’s Stay & Ski packages. Rates vary depending on the date and hotel but net some bonuses. For example, a minimum one-night stay packaged with a two-day lift ticket gets B.C. residents half off the lift ticket on Family Day (February 10), plus free equipment rental for kids. Book by phone at 1-800-944-7853.
Another way to save: monitor last-minute Suite Secrets rates at whistler.com/deals/ 14 days or less in advance of your trip. Like Hotwire, this “blind booking” option lets you choose your desired rate, location, and star rating, but you must buy the room before you find out the name of the hotel.
Alternatively, if you’re headed to Whistler, consider bunking down in Squamish, a half-hour south of the ski resort. Executive Suites Hotels & Resorts has rates starting at $219 for two nights in a one-bedroom suite (with a sofa bed for the kids)—and you get a third night free. That works out to $73 per night for three nights.
Pemberton Valley Lodge is another option 30 minutes north of Whistler. It’s offering a package over Valentine’s Day (February 14 or 15) based on one leisurely night for two in a studio suite. The $179 rate includes a small bottle of sparkling wine, chocolates, a long-stemmed rose, strawberry ice cream, and a continental breakfast delivered to the room. Plus, you get an early check-in and late checkout. Sweet.