Looking to indulge in a spring break escape, minus the throngs of drunken college kids and $3 tequila shots? Here are five suggestions for sophisticated spring break getaways for grown-ups, delivering romantic brushes, adrenaline rushes, gastronomic indulgences, and more.
Best for Romance: Morocco
This exotic North African nation may seem far away, but it’s actually no further than France or Spain—both of which make excellent launching pads for flights to Morocco’s famed pink city of Marrakech. Marrakech has long captivated writers, artists, and lovers, and for good reason. Framed by the High Atlas Mountains and fringed with palm groves, it has a sultry beauty, especially at dawn and dusk as the muezzin’s call to prayer echoes from the 11th-century Koutoubia Mosque. Its architecture is a mesmerizing blend of Moorish and Bedouin influences, while its flavorful cuisine (lamb, fish, vegetables, couscous) seduces the taste buds. And you will not want for excellent wine, as vintners from France have planted here and are producing impressive whites, rosés, and even reds.
Where to Stay: To best savor the city’s past, stay in the medina, with its kaleidoscopic Jamaa El Fna square and labyrinthine souk, at either La Mamounia (from $589/night) or La Maison Arabe (from $271/night).
Best for Adventure-Seekers: Belize
With all the hoopla over the Mayan calendar ending on December 21, 2012 (and the resulting speculation about whether that spells doom for modern civilization), it’s the perfect time to check out the lore and legends of the Mayans. There’s no better place to dig into ancient prophecies than this English-speaking country located just south of Riviera Maya, Mexico, where the jungles of Belize's Cayo District hide mysterious caves (especially Actun Tunichil Muknal, home to the crystallized skeleton of a sacrificed Mayan maiden) and the world’s second largest barrier reef is a subaquatic playground. You can climb atop ancient Mayan pyramids at Caracol, Lamanai, and Xunantunich; or, snorkel or dive with impressive ocean predators in Shark-Ray Alley off of Ambergris Caye.
Best for Families: Los Angeles
If your spring break is locked into your kids’ school schedule and you’d like to mix beach time with some serious fun and a bit of celebrity sighting (well, at the very least, of their homes), consider visiting Los Angeles. With airfares as low as $300 roundtrip, LA can be a cost-effective alternative to Florida and offers much in the way of family fun. You’ll be nostalgic and your kids will have a blast comparing the original Disneyland (opened in 1955 and home to the distinctive Matterhorn) with its splashier sibling in Orlando. Another entertaining spot is the original Universal Studios, currently celebrating its 100th anniversary. Kids obsessed with dinosaurs will love the La Brea Tar Pits, while teens will enjoy touring Hollywood’s Grauman’s Chinese Theater and Walk of Fame (where Lassie, Matt Damon, and Motley Crue all have stars) and the movie star mansions of Beverly Hills.
Where to Stay: Get some sun in beachside Santa Monica, where you can stay at Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel (from $369/night) or the eco-friendly Shore Hotel (from $250/night), both of which offer walk-to access to the beach, shops, and restaurants, as well as the amusements atop Santa Monica Pier.
Best for All-Inclusive Ease: Cancún/Riviera Maya
Close by (a four-hour flight from the East Coast and about two hours from the South) and a great value (especially for luxury all-inclusive resorts), lively Cancún, Mexico, and the more laid-back Riviera Maya just to its south offer a mix of sun and Mayan culture. The brilliant white-sand beaches and turquoise Caribbean are amazing for sunning and swimming, but adventurous types can also snorkel, dive, rappel into limestone cenotes, and explore the Mayan ruins at Tulum and Chichen Itza.
Where to Stay: Even Cancun has its grown-up havens, such as upscale adults-only Excellence Playa Mujeres (from $438/night, all-inclusive), while Riviera Maya is studded with quite a few great-value all-inclusive properties, including sister property Excellence Riviera Cancùn (from $438/night, all-inclusive).
Best for Foodies: Vancouver
If you’d rather savor fresh Pacific Northwest flavors than soak up sun, consider visiting Vancouver and the neighboring wilderness of Vancouver Island. The combination of urban sophistication and rugged coastal beauty is fantastic, especially if you love salmon, crabs, lobster, and oysters. Vancouver’s top eateries, such as C Restaurant, West, and Blue Water Café, are some of the most innovative on the West Coast. Plus, by day, you can shop for local specialties at the Granville Island Public Market, and sample British Columbian wines at area vineyards. On Vancouver Island, head to scenic Tofino for outdoor pursuits such as biking, kayaking, hiking, and whale watching—and the freshest seafood imaginable.
Photo Credit: courtesy Anson Smart for La Mamounia