Spring Break for Grown-ups
Who says college students get to have all the fun? Here are ten places to play in the sunshine--no earplugs required.
Del Mar, Calif.
Stay at the Stratford Inn, a Best Western on the bluff overlooking the Pacific (710 Camino Del Mar, 858/755-1501, stratfordinndelmar.com, doubles from $110, including continental breakfast). For lunch, try Americana, which serves soups and sandwiches alfresco, with a partial ocean view (1454 Camino Del Mar, 858/794-6838). And for dinner, there's Bully's North. It has dark-wood paneling, red-leather booths, and terrific burgers (1404 Camino Del Mar, 858/755-1660, burger, $8).
Tulúm doesn't have any large resorts and, as a result, public transportation isn't all that reliable (rent a car at the Cancún airport). A hotel called Zamas is ideally positioned between beach and jungle. Each of the thatched-roof bungalows has a hammock on the porch and a private bath--the latter is something of an anomaly in these parts (415/387-9806, zamas.com, rates from $80). Bring cash or traveler's checks, since the hotel and most of the region's restaurants don't take credit cards. Pack a flashlight, too--there's little outdoor lighting around the hotel.
Stay at Villa Maroc, originally four 18th-century riads (houses built around a central courtyard) later joined together. It's in the middle of town and a 10-minute walk to the beach (011-212/4447-3147, villa-maroc.com, doubles from $93). Another worthy riad hotel, the Dar Loulema has seven charming rooms, all recently renovated. It's just off the main town square, near the port and ramparts, and has a lovely rooftop terrace (011-212/4447-5346, darloulema.com, doubles from $90).
Las Vegasis all about the thrill of the new. Just off the Strip--around the corner from the Bellagio and Caesars Palace--you'll find Vegas's latest hotel, the Westin Casuarina. Most of the city's premier resorts have 3,000 or more rooms; the 815-room Casuarina is a boutique property by comparison (160 E. Flamingo Rd., 866/837-4215, westin.com/lasvegas, doubles from $119). As for new restaurants, head over to Simon, in the always festive Hard Rock Hotel & Casino (4455 Paradise Rd., 702/693-4440). Having once worked for New York City's culinary king, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Kerry Simon is now cooking affordable gourmet comfort food, like crisp calamari and zucchini chips ($10) and macaroni and cheese ($7).
Old-fashioned cheap thrills are still available. Hitch a ride--but maybe not right after dinner--on a roller coaster. The Manhattan Express at the New York-New York hotel goes for nearly a mile; it's the town's longest, and lasts nearly four minutes ($12). At the Sahara, Speed will make you feel like a human cannonball. Get shot through a tunnel and a loop, going from 0 to 70 mph in a hair-shedding four seconds ($10). And the Stratosphere Tower's High Roller coaster starts 900 feet above the Strip and circles the tower's outer edge. The combined coaster and tower entrance fee is $11. Go at night for a view of the dazzling lights.
Hotels tend to be expensive in spring. Rent a condo from Kauai Vacation Rentals, which has extensive listings from $595 a week (kauaivacations.com).
For a romantic tour of the hills, drive along Creek Road, a country lane that passes streams and stands of ancient oaks and giant sycamore trees. Or spend an afternoon at Bart's Books, an outdoor used-book shop built around a massive oak tree (302 W. Matilija St., 805/646-3755).
Santa Cruz DeLa Palma, Canary Islands
A wonderfully unique combination of trade winds and ocean currents, along with a location way off the northwest coast of Africa, gives the Canaries a sunny, warm climate year-round. Add sizzling beaches and a Spanish sensibility when it comes to food, drink, and nightlife (the islands are provinces of Spain), and it's no surprise this is one of the most popular spots for Europeans to holiday in winter. But spring--March and April in particular--is relatively uncrowded.Of the seven inhabited Canary Islands, perhaps the most beautiful is La Palma. Shaped by volcanic activity millions of years ago, the lava flows and steep mountain slopes are now softened by exotic flora and pine forests. The main town, Santa Cruz, is a port with 18,000 people and beautifully preserved 17th- and 18th-century houses. Just outside town, on the Los Cancajos beach, is the Hacienda San Jorge, where you can lounge and order tapas all day by a large saltwater swimming pool. Each room has a kitchen and balcony (011-34/922-181-066, hsanjorge.com, doubles from $80).
Stay downtown at the Hotel San Carlos, a National Trust property that once hosted Clark Gable, Ingrid Bergman, and Spencer Tracy. Built in 1927, it still has its original woodwork and Italian-marble floors. Some believe the place is haunted by a young woman who threw herself off the roof after a love affair went sour (202 N. Central Ave., 602/253-4121, hotelsancarlos.com, doubles $109 to $166).
At night, see a show at the Orpheum Theatre, celebrating its 75th anniversary. The Spanish baroque revival building features concerts, plays and Broadway musicals (203 West Adams Street, 602/262-7272)