Even parents of perfect angels could use a break once in a while. Here are six ideas for easy getaways where kids are refreshingly scarce, listed from west to east.
Try a getaway with a steady buzz
The Concept: Stay at a coffee plantation on the Big Island.
Where: Kona, Hawaii.
Chances You'll See a Child: Slim. The five-room Ka'awa Loa Plantation discourages parents from bringing kids; most visitors are couples or single travelers. In the rare cases when this B&B accepts a family with children, it places them in a separated cottage or in the upper suite, which has no guest rooms above or below it. As for the coffee plantation tour, few parents are likely to drag their kids there.
Cost: Doubles from $125 a night, with a minimum two-night stay. Breakfast is included.
The Trip: The 20 miles of rolling hills along Kona's western coast are known as the Big Island's coffee belt. Rich volcanic soil and a continuous cloud cover make the region especially friendly to coffee beans, and about 600 local farms use that to their advantage. To get a taste, spend a few nights at the Ka'awa Loa Plantation. Located 1,200 feet above Kealakekua Bay, this B&B sits on a lush, five-acre plantation that produces coffee as well as a mouth-watering variety of tropical fruits. You'll breakfast on freshly picked dragon fruit, avocado, guava, passion fruit, and white pineapple. Sweat away your cares in a traditional outdoor Hawaiian cedar steam room. Then relax on the wraparound veranda (called a lanai) and watch the sun set over the bay.
Hot Tip: For a two-hour coffee plantation tour, drive a few miles south to Pele Plantations' BrocksenGate Estate. Tours are free with the purchase of freshly roasted coffee beans, with prices starting at $25 a pound (800/366-0487, peleplantations.com).
Contact: Ka'awa Loa Plantation, 808/323-2686, kaawaloaplantation.com.
Become a wine explorer
The Concept: Walk among wine estates for four days.
Where: Sonoma County, Calif.
Chances You'll See a Child: Infinitesimally small. Because children (a) won't hike for miles a day and (b) are generally unwelcome at wineries.
Cost: From $950 per person, including breakfasts, lunches, accommodations, wine tastings, luggage transfers, and trail notes.
The Trip: Face it: You're never hiking the 2,175-mile Appalachian Trail, even if it's one of the ultimate child-free vacations. But a wine-tasting hike you can do. Luxury outfitter Wine Country Trekking sends clients on self-guided walks through wooded trails, country lanes, and hilly vineyards about 30 miles northwest of San Francisco. On one of its best-priced trips, Sonoma Valley Wine Tasting, you cover between six and eight miles a day. Because the tour is self-guided (maps and meal vouchers are provided), you can pick up gourmet picnic lunches from cafés and bakeries at your own pace. The itinerary of private tastings, which reads like a wine estate greatest-hits list, includes the large producer Ravenswood as well as the boutique operation of Robert Hunter. The outfitter reserves your stays at tony inns, such as the Zen-like Gaige House Inn, in Glen Ellen, Calif., and also transports your luggage.
Hot Tip: Avoid getting lost by renting a GPS unit ($60 per trip).
Contact: Wine Country Trekking, 888/287-8735, winecountrytrekking.com.
Discover your inner Monet
The Concept: Take a workshop in basic art instruction.
Where: Petit Jean Mountain, Ark., about 90 minutes from Little Rock.
Chances You'll See a Child: Low. While Art Escapes has no set age policy and might accept a mature high school student, the program is not for young kids, and no high school or college student has attended so far.
Cost: Prices have not yet been announced but will likely be around $490 per person for the three-day workshop, including accommodations, meals, and instruction. Materials are not included.
The Trip: The Winthrop Rockefeller Institute is perched atop Petit Jean Mountain in Arkansas's Petit Jean State Park. Overlooking the scenic Arkansas River valley, this former homestead of the late governor Winthrop Rockefeller has gardens, wooded trails, and buildings dating to the property's days as a cattle farm. The institute offers occasional three-day Art Escapes in the fall and spring. Visiting artists hold classes in such media as oil paint and watercolors. The classes, limited to a dozen people and open to all skill levels, guarantee plenty of personal attention and are often held plein air to take advantage of the pastoral setting. Evening activities allow you to mingle with the artists and your fellow students. One night may, for example, feature art-themed games. The conference center accommodations are sufficiently cosmopolitan, with flat-screen TVs and Wi-Fi.
Hot Tip: Plan ahead. Art Escapes is offered twice a year (and in 2009 will most likely be in April and November). Registration opens approximately three months in advance of each session.
Contact: Winthrop Rockefeller Institute's Art Escapes, 501/727-6220, uawri.org.
Float with foodies down the Rio Grande
The Concept: Take a three-day rafting expedition with an accomplished chef, who prepares your meals.
Where: Big Bend National Park, Tex., about 400 miles from San Antonio.
Chances You'll See a Child: Low. This river-rafting trip is geared toward couples, and most of the participants are between 40 and 65 years of age. The tour company says that kids are brought on trips less than 15 percent of the time, and they're never younger than age 8. You can guarantee a kid-free outing if you set up your own group of at least eight guests.
Cost: From $775 per person for a three-day, two-night excursion, including meals, accommodations, and equipment—except for sleeping bags, which can be rented for $10 per trip.
The Trip: In a remote corner of western Texas, an outdoor adventure company and a Swiss-born chef have refined the river-rafting experience. On one of Far Flung Outdoor Center's Gourmet on the Rio Grande trips, you'll float on an inflatable raft down smooth water for three days through Big Bend National Park's 1,500-foot Santa Elena Canyon, where you can scope out coyotes, ringtailed cats, and great blue herons. Late afternoon activities include hikes to a swimming hole and to a viewpoint where you can look across to Mexico. The highlight comes when you make camp and chef François Maeder, of San Antonio's Crumpets Restaurant, prepares a multicourse meal. You'll savor such entrées as rack of lamb and roasted duck with paired Texan wines, and rich desserts like crème brûlée. And you won't be balancing a paper plate on your knees; you'll eat your riverside dinner from china on white tablecloths and sip your pinot noir from real wineglasses. At nght, you and your companion will sleep in a tent of your own. Book ahead because at most four Gourmet on the Rio Grande trips will happen in 2009.
Hot Tip: While the guides will set up rafts and tents, remember that you'll still be in the wilderness and expected to pitch in. Plan to do most bathing in the river or with warm towels provided by the guides.
Contact: Far Flung Outdoor Center, 800/839-7238, farflungoutdoorcenter.com.
Climb a frozen waterfall
The Concept: Scale a vertical ice mass in the White Mountains.
Where: North Conway, N.H.
Chances You'll See a Child: Quite low. Groups are limited to three or four people; usually, it'll be you, whomever you came with, and a guide. Teenagers do account for around 10 percent of students overall at Eastern Mountain Sports Climbing School. Any child whose foot fits ice-climbing boots (which start in men's size 5) can attend.
Cost: Typically $140 per person for a basic class, including boots, crampons, and other gear. Prices vary depending on the day of the week. Availability depends on the weather, which is usually cold enough for outings between mid-December and early April.
The Trip: In the eastern U.S., you have to hike for many miles to get to a good mountaintop view. But if you climb a frozen waterfall, you get to a great lookout point in less time and with less effort. In eastern New Hampshire, the Eastern Mountain Sports Climbing School shows fledgling ice climbers how gorgeous the White Mountains look at roughly 80 feet above their base. Don boots and crampons (the spiked foot pieces that help you grip ice), and learn how to tie your harness and swing an ice ax. You'll progress slowly from climbing angled ice slabs to scaling frozen waterfalls. The view above the treeline is exhilarating, students say. Icicles glint around you while snow-covered mountains and trees stretch into the distance. "One misconception about ice climbing is that it requires a lot of upper-body strength," says Charlie Townsend, director of all the chain's climbing schools. "But it's really less about being able to do 10 push-ups and more about being able to take stairs three at a time. In other words, it's really about technique, problem solving, and efficiency."
Hot Tip: After a day of climbing, head to the Cabernet Inn, 1.5 miles north of busy downtown North Conway, where the school's local office is located. The red-wine-hued B&B discourages children and caters to couples. Fittingly, the ambiance is elegant and romantic. Out of the 11 guest rooms, some have fireplaces, a few have whirlpool baths, and a couple have both (800/866-4704, cabernetinn.com, doubles from $95).
Contact: EMS Climbing School, 800/310-4504, emsclimb.com, one-day classes in basic ice climbing are offered seven days a week from November through March.
Get back in the (bike) saddle
The Concept: Take a bicycle tour of flat, paved roads.
Where: Outer Banks, N.C.
Chances You'll See a Child: Small. Tour organizer Carolina Tailwinds won't accept any participants below the age of 16. Most of your fellow bicyclists will be 24 or older.
Cost: From $995 for the four-day version, including accommodations, meals (excluding one dinner), luggage transfers, guides, a support van, and a kayaking excursion.
The Trip: The best way to see the island chain that makes up North Carolina's Outer Banks is from the seat of a bicycle. Carolina Tailwinds, a cycling company run by Anne and Greg Fleming, offers itineraries tailored by terrain and mileage to suit your skill level, typically covering between 15 and 80 miles a day. For example, its Ocracoke Bicycle Tour swings through the Southern Outer Banks over four days. Start in historic Beaufort, N.C., and pedal through the coastal fishing villages and salt marshes. Ferries will transport you to the different islands, including Ocracoke, where you'll often find wild ponies standing in the shade. Roll on to Ocracoke Village, which has several shops selling the artisanal work of potters, jewelry makers, watercolorists, and weavers. On Cape Hatteras National Seashore, pause for photos at the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, the tallest in the country. Come dinnertime, tuck into local seafood specialties served al fresco in restaurants like the Back Porch. Bunk down at cushy digs, such as the waterfront Inlet Inn and the historic Castle Bed & Breakfast (the outfitter will reserve your lodging in advance).
Hot Tip: You don't need to own a bike. For $80 per trip, Carolina Tailwinds will provide (and adjust) a bike for you.
Contact: Carolina Tailwinds, 888/251-3206, carolinatailwinds.com, four-day Ocracoke tours will be in April, May, and October 2009.