6 Under the Radar Spring Break Picks
Travel experts share their favorites.
Looking for a spring break a little off-the-beaten-path? There is no better resource for under-the-radar travel than travel writers, those sages of the road less taken. We polled some of our favorite travel experts for their tips on great spring break destinations, whether they are traveling there this year, or just offering recommendations.
European River Cruise
We are taking a Viking River Cruise down the Rhine. This is the absolute best way to see multiple countries in a week. My 13 year-old is joining me, so we will see the Cathedral in Cologne, windmills in Holland, Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, the charming cobbled street of Strasbourg, the wonders of the Black Forest and the ancient castles that dot the Rhine waterway. All this without schlepping from hotel to hotel.
I’d also add: Champagne or Alsace. Champagne is a super quick hop from Paris (one hour by TGV, 30 minutes if you leave directly from the airport). There you get exquisite bubbly, a UNESCO heritage site or two, cool underground chalk caves and a stunning gothic cathedral, still pockmarked from WWI shelling, which is home to a glorious Marc Chagall stained glass window. Almost all of France’s kings were crowned here too. —Katie Kelly Bell, Forbes
North Wales is a spring break destination with plenty of eye-candy. The jagged peaks of Snowdon crown a landscape of rugged coastline and rolling fields of heather. Manmade structures are equally striking. With more castles per square mile than any other country on earth, these grand scale beauties look straight out of Game of Thrones.
Wales is part of the UK so while everyone speaks English, you will hear the ancient Welsh language in all of its Celtic glory. Dig deeper and strike up a conversation with a local and you’ll get the insider’s viewpoint on Welsh nationalism, Brexit and the evening’s rugby match. —Allison Tibaldi is a freelance travel writer. She has written for CNN, Time Out, USA TODAY-Go Escape and many other print and online publications. Follow her on twitter.
St. George Island
It’s hard to beat a spring trip to the beach. I head for quieter shores at Florida’s St. George Island.
This barrier island on the Gulf of Mexico and Apalachicola Bay has pristine beaches, bike paths and a dark sky sprinkled with more stars than you can imagine. You’ll find lots of wildlife, like dolphins and migratory birds, and sea turtles come ashore from May to October to lay eggs. There’s not much nightlife, but if you’re on St. George Island, that’s not what you’re looking for, anyway. Shop the galleries and boutiques in nearly Apalachicola or Eastpoint, or fish for snapper and sea bass. Sail with the captain of a fishing boat, and he may arrange for your fresh catch to be cooked and served at an outdoor table on the waterfront. (Order some oysters right out of the bay, too.) Book your stay in an oceanfront rental home, or camp at the state park to picnic, beachcomb or launch a small boat.—Lynn Coulter, Contributing Writer, Roam
Ironically, true vacations are rare for this travel writer. But if I could take a spring break (and I desperately need one), I’d honor Earth Day and beeline to Tulum, known for its eco-friendly resorts and yoga retreats. (I’ll leave the likes of Cancun to the true spring break crowd.) Plus, the U.S. State Department maintains a standing travel warning against visiting certain parts of Mexico, including Acapulco, due to an increase in violent crime (e.g. kidnappings). Thankfully Tulum, along with the entire state of Quintana Roo, has escaped this warning. Plus, celeb chef René Redzepi of Noma fame is opening a Noma Mexico pop-up in conjunction with La Zebra hotel, which will only stick around from April 12 through May 28.—Meredith Rosenberg, Contributing Writer, Roam
We go to Florida a lot since my in-laws winter down there, but I wanted to go somewhere different this year. Somewhere warm, but completely new to us and more authentic than an all-inclusive in the Caribbean. All-inclusives are fun, but I was looking for a vacation that would enable us to see and explore more of a country, including the people and the food. We're staying at three or four different places during our week in Costa Rica. We want to see it all! There's just so much more for all of your senses. It's not the usual beaches and buffets. It's more experiential. More time spent seeing volcanoes, walking across hanging bridges, relaxing in hot springs, getting up-close with tree frogs, all activities we wouldn't be able to do at a typical beach resort for Spring Break. Volcanoes, sloths and tree frogs: we have none of these here in Virginia. The climate, wildlife and landscape are just so different in Costa Rica. It's going to be amazing. I'm also both excited and terrified about the zip lines through the rainforest. It's a must-do while in Costa Rica, but they are so high in the air. I think I'll forget all about the height once I'm zipping along taking in the views of the Arenal Volcano.—Erin Gifford, Contributing Writer, Roam
Rancho Santana, Nicaragua
Spring break is a multigenerational thing, so you need a spot that caters to everyone in your crowd. Enter this residential-style enclave on the southwestern coast of Nicaragua. The ranch spans a whopping 2,700 acres, so even at peak season it never feels crowded. By day, hit one of five beaches; the remote curve of Playa Escondido is ideal for escapists, while Playa Santana is considered one of the top breaks in Central America. The onsite stables caters to riders of all levels, and the Kids' Club entertains ages 4 to 12 with activities like nature walks, art projects and a treehouse-style playground. The best family digs are the ocean-view villas, which range in size from two to seven bedrooms and come with perks like expansive kitchens, swimming pools, outdoor barbecues and satellite TV. If that's too much independence for you, check into the Spanish-Colonial-style Inn for easy access to the clubhouse, main restaurant and scalloped swimming pool overlooking the beach.—Longtime travel writer Susan Moynihan is founder of The Honeymoonist, a boutique travel company catering to special occasion escapes.