Spring Break for Grown-ups
Book one of these eight escapes right now. Warm, affordable, easy to get to—and not filled with coeds chasing down Jell-O shots.
The Southern Coast of Puerto Rico
With a bunch of flights from the U.S. (and no need for a passport), Puerto Rico has to be one of the easiest places on earth for an American to escape to—an observation that has not gone unnoticed by the ready-to-rage 20-somethings who throng the beaches and big casino hotels surrounding the capital of San Juan. Kelly Regan, editorial director of Frommer's Travel Guides, suggests you instead check out the southern coast of the island—home to what she says are "the most beautiful and least crowded beaches, like Cana Gorda, where Puerto Ricans vacation in the summertime." Regan also recommends Ponce, a well-preserved 18th-century city that gives you the colonial flavor of San Juan without all the crowds.
Amelia Island, Florida
Still considered one of Florida's secret beaches, Amelia has managed, thankfully, to hang on to its old-fashioned vibe. (Think: carriage rides, quiet barefoot beach, buckets of steamed stone crabs, Victorian inns.) Just off the state's northeast coast, it's one of the most relaxing places in Florida—no theme parks, no traffic—but it has also remained much more affordable than similarly genteel places like Palm Beach and Singer Island. Which means you get to be really mature—and maybe even call in sick to stay for a few extra vacation days.
The Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica
Spring (read: January through April) is the perfecto
time to visit Costa Rica. First, it's the hot, dry season (as opposed to the rainy, mud-slide season). Second, the just-completed expansion of the country's northernmost airport, Liberia, on the Pacific coast (and newly added flights by JetBlue
), has made getting to the Nicoya Peninsula that much easier. Despite all the rumors of mongo hotel complexes, the Nicoya is still somewhat underdeveloped, home to deserted beaches, jungle preserves and world-famous surfing in Tamarindo and Mal País. Expect: wild parrots, wild monkeys and a free hammock waiting outside the door to your room.
Sure, Tulum gets more and more popular each year, but that doesn't mean it's not still a Mexican paradise, down to the iced-fruit-popsicle stands, dreamy blue waters and ancient Mayan history. Fly in to Cancún, then immediately leave its land of mega resorts and nightclubs and head straight south along the sea, down the Mayan Riviera. When you spot pre-Columbian pyramids and a string of low-rise (as in, not towers!) hotels that includes everything from luxurious all-inclusives to basic bungalows on the beach, stop -the car—and start relaxing.
Hilton Head, South Carolina
Laid-back, classically coastal Hilton Head lies 20 miles north of Savannah, Georgia (and its party-till-you-turn-green St. Patrick's Day festivities), with plenty of golf courses, lighthouses, bike trails and the royal blue Atlantic Ocean. By spring, says Kayak.com
spokesperson Kevin Turner, not only is the water warming up but the beach crowds are at a minimum (high season is summer), meaning can't-miss deals on rooms and condos.
There's really only one thing to do on this Caribbean island (and its eight assorted islets and cays): lie down, smile sleepily and soak up the sun. While Anguilla isn't your go-to island for history and culture (for that see Curaçao and Jamaica), it is
home to some of the most exquisite sugar-white beaches in the Caribbean, says Patricia Schultz, author of 1,000 Places to See Before You Die
. But—surprise!—you can usually find relaxing hotels that are less expensive than in Turks and Caicos and St. Barts.
Picture huts on stilts and water the color of melted blue popsicles. Now picture cheap airfare and a short drive from the airport to the Caribbean Sea. These are what make Panama one of the hottest destinations for this spring, says Kayak.com
's Turner. Meanwhile, a number of huge new projects—including the soon-to-open Waldorf Astoria hotel, a Frank Gehry–designed nature museum and the transformation of the old quarter (Casco Viejo) into an arts district—are ramping up the offerings in the capital city.
Photo: Courtesy of Rockhouse Hotel
Negril is known for its party scene, says writer Schultz, but, surprisingly, there are plenty of properties that let you take advantage of its famed seven miles of beachfront—for example, the tiny, boho-glam Tensing Pen
, which has sunset views to drool for, and Rockhouse
, which is situated slightly off the main drag but has plenty of thatched-roof glamour (at an affordable price). Not to mention on-property cliffs that will make you feel 18 again—once you jump off them (completely sober) into the green, warm sea.
Next: 8 ways to make sure you have the tastiest vacation ever