February is here. The weather is getting warmer (we swear!). Summer isn’t too far off. But first? Spring break.
After long nights and gray days, the wonderful tradition of escaping the grind to somewhere usually warm and always fun lets you shake off those winter blues and look forward to the idylls to come. And spring break means much more than just flights to Florida – a place we adore, but whose population swells a bit too much for our taste each spring.
Read on for a range of destinations that you might not have thought of for the annual March/April getaway. They’re all long on fun – without the raucous college partiers. Here’s our list of the best spring break destinations for 2024.
1. Asheville, North Carolina, USA
Southern charm, a live-and-let-live creative community and plenty of outdoor possibilities make Asheville one of the USA’s most appealing places to visit – for spring break and beyond. This small city in the Appalachian foothills has the highest concentration of breweries of any place in the country, while its award-winning food scene ranges from Southern classics at Tupelo Honey to mouthwatering Spanish tapas at local favorite Cúrate.
While in Asheville, it’s hard to resist a visit to the largest mansion in the US, the Biltmore. And active spring breakers will have plenty to seek out, too: you’re at the threshold of Great Smoky Mountains National Park – the most visited one in the entire country – with miles of trails for hiking, mountain biking or spotting wildlife like black bears, elk and red-bellied woodpeckers. Outdoorsy types can also take to the peaceful French Broad River for kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding.
2. Phoenix, Arizona, USA
Unless you really like the desert sun, we’d recommend skipping Phoenix, Arizona in the summer months. But late winter and early spring in the Arizona desert? Now we’re talking. Besides the sunny but not too hot weather, Phoenix offers plenty of options to unwind, whether your idea of spring break means getting your vitamin D while playing outdoors or soaking it up along with a few cocktails at your nearest bar patio.
While in town, admire the array of succulents, cacti and other native plants at the Desert Botanical Garden. In downtown Phoenix, stroll the Roosevelt Row Arts District, with stops at galleries and record stores. After you’ve caught one of Phoenix’s technicolored desert sunsets, hole up at late-night haunts with great rooftop patios like the Grapevine for karaoke, or Valley Bar and Crescent Ballroom for cocktails, live music, DJ sets or arty community parties.
3. Big Bend National Park, Texas, USA
Deep in the heart of Texas, the skies don’t get wider and the nights starrier than in Big Bend National Park, the…star attraction of the wide-open western part of the state. And in early spring, a blue layer sets in, as thousands of wildflowers (depending on the year’s rainfall) make the desert bloom.
Lovers of the outdoors will find endless opportunities among the park’s 1250 sq miles (3237 sq km) of scrubland and low mountains – think hiking and camping, or even just (very) scenic drives. To best experience the park’s grandeur, arrange a day (or more) of paddling on the Rio Grande, through Santa Elena Canyon, where rugged limestone cliffs plunge to the narrow water below – a thrilling cathedral of nature.
4. Los Angeles, California, USA
While you can find sun, sand and surf at countless spring break destinations, you’ll enjoy people-watching like nowhere else at the urban beaches of Los Angeles. Sun-kissed California girls and boys frolic in the waves of wholesome Santa Monica, while colorful characters keep it real on the boardwalk of Venice Beach. Insiders – and especially surfers – know to head further south to Hermosa and Manhattan Beaches for a more low-key scene. And the sprawling dunes of Malibu provide a taste a nature just a few miles from the clamor of the city.
5. Hawai‘i (the Big Island), Hawaii, USA
Hawaii’s largest island offers huge pleasures all year long. Yet March marks the end of the high season in this tropical state, and budget travelers can usually find (relative) discounts for getaways to the Big Island. Trek up toward snow-capped peaks, wander through a verdant Kona coffee farm and watch the island get just a little bit bigger at one of the longest-running volcanic eruptions anywhere in the world. Expect much more than a mere beach getaway.
6. Culebra and Vieques, Puerto Rico
Off the east coast of pearl-like Puerto Rico, look forward to white sands, sparkling blue sea, slow living – and not an all-inclusive resort in sight. Tiny Culebra is home to the extraordinary expanse of Playa Flamenco, one of the best beaches in the entire Caribbean; at Playa Carlos Rosario, snorkeling with sea turtles is an experience you’ll never forget. Larger and skinnier yet just as languid, nearby Vieques has myriad beaches to traverse. Its crown jewel is Bahía Mosquito, an astonishing bioluminescent bay. Venture out on an after-dark kayak trip to witness one of nature’s best magic shows, as microscopic organisms glow in the dark below the surface, making the water glitter.
7. Whistler, Canada
If skis appeal more than surfboards for a spring escape, head to the world-famous resort town of Whistler, British Columbia. Come March, the peak season wanes, and the mountains begin to offer up discounts to keep the momentum going. At this point in the season, the days are longer and the skies clearer – but months of winter weather have ensured a solid snowpack for run after run. For 360-degree views of the glorious scenery, take a ride in the Peak 2 Peak Gondola, a 2.75-mile (4.4km) feat of engineering that connects the peaks of Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains. At lower elevations, hikes through conifer forests might have you spotting the area’s black bears as they emerge from hibernation.
8. Southern Baja California, Mexico
Catch a plane to Los Cabos – then immediately head north, away from the cluster of tourist resorts. A short distance up the sparsely populated Pacific Coast of Baja California Sur, nature beckons. The weather is ideal in the spring, and the beautiful coastline offers the chance to see sea lions, kayak through turquoise waters, go whale watching (the season ends in March) and even help with turtle conservation, all of which will allow you to return home with ecological bragging rights rather than drinking stories.
9. El Tunco, El Salvador
One of Central America’s least visited but most intriguing countries, El Salvador has lately been attracting new attention from visitors from all over. This small but mighty place tempts with mountain hikes, sunny beach days and surfing galore – and with frequent nonstop flights between many cities in the USA and San Salvador, it’s easy to pack it all into an itinerary lasting just a few days.
The waves hit El Salvador’s rocky coast especially intensely at El Tunco, a small village that’s become a major stop on the world’s surfing circuit. At any given moment, dozens of surfers are catching gnarly breaks just beyond the shoreline. On land, sun-kissed visitors toast to an active day on the waves at the town’s lively collection of beachfront restaurants and bars.
10. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Grab your passport, your sunscreen and the skimpiest bathing suit you own and head to one of South America’s premier destinations. In addition to its famous beaches, Rio de Janeiro has something to offer every type of spring breaker: stunning panoramas, fantastic food and a variety of outdoor adventures that will make for a getaway to remember.
Set up camp on Ipanema Beach to see and be seen, or join the ranks of other tourists on Copacabana’s hotel-lined oceanfront. Take the cable car up to Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf Mountain) or bask in the colossal shadow of Cristo Redentor atop Corcovado by day. Then hit the bar scene in Botafogo or party to the sounds of samba in the clubs of Lapa by night. You might not want to come back home.
11. The Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
How about an island getaway for spring break with crowds of tortoises instead of college kids? Remote yet worth every effort to get to, the Galápagos Islands, home to some of the earth’s rarest and most unique flora and fauna, are the answer for nature-loving, adventure-seeking travelers.
With a minimal human footprint, Galápagos (part of Ecuador) has unmatched biodiversity – endemic species such as giant tortoises, marine iguanas and blue-footed boobies roam the islands at ranges close enough to interact with. Go surfing, kayaking, biking or scuba diving near the town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on Isla San Cristóbal, or snorkel alongside stingrays, turtles and the occasional shark at Devil’s Crown, one of the archipelago’s most outstanding marine sites. Most arrive at this most remote part of the world through a package tour – though adventurous travelers can put together their own itineraries, too.