Forgot to plan a spring break vacation? If you’re willing to spend the money, you can always find last-minute getaways to awesome and sunny destinations—but spring break can present holiday-travel scarcity.
To help, we sussed out great destinations that still have availability now through mid April. From balmy, shell-laden beaches to springtime in the mountains—and for everyone from families to singles—here’s a short list of the five best spring break trips to book now. And, we do mean right now:
1 Captiva Island, Florida
Best for: Families with everyone from tiny tots to teens
When you realize how easy and relatively inexpensive it is get to Captiva Island (fly direct to Fort Myers from $256 roundtrip on Spirit) and the 465-room South Seas Island Resort (5400 Plantation Rd., 866-565-5089; from $329 a night), which feels straight out of the tropics, you may never want to go anywhere else for a beach vacation.
What to do: Situated on a 330-acre wildlife preserve that hugs the Gulf of Mexico, South Seas does an excellent job of serving up fun for every age—there’s beach combing, sailing lessons, kayaking in mangrove forests, swimming in three pools with slides, fishing off of docks frequented by manatees, biking, golfing, and cruising into the sunset.
Where to eat: Dining options are slim but good: Try the 1950s-themed Scoops & Slices (grab a bag of candy!) and the off-site, tchotchke-filled Bubble Room, where you should save room for the orange crunch cake.
2 Paradise Island, Bahamas
Best for: The Disney-weary
If a sprawling, Bahamian beachside resort offering a 140-acre water park, open-air marine sanctuary and excellent amenities for both kids and adults sounds good, try Atlantis (One Casino Dr., 888-877-7525). Now receiving its best weather —clear of hurricane season with highs in the 80s— the elaborate Caribbean resort has been getting an influx of Chicagoans, thanks to a recent increase in nonstop service via United.
What to do: Splurge on a stay at the family-friendly Reef (from $799 a night) or adults-only Cove (from $1,009 a night) and you’ll get: A water park with its epic slides and huge river ride; snorkelling in a protected lagoon; tours of the underground, 2.3 million-gallon Dig marine exhibit; and access to quiet, private beaches available only to guests at the two hotels. More on what to do at The New York Times.
Where to eat: Have lunch at the Lagoon Bar & Grill, which sits on a predator lagoon patrolled by sharks. For dinner, take your pick from a slew of celebrity chef restaurants, including Nobu Matsuhisa’s Nobu, Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Café Martinique, and Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill.
3 Miami, Florida
Best for: Hip travelers on a budget
Looking for more than a beach party and a place to crash? Jet to Miami for a stay at the 62-room Freehand Miami (2727 Indian Creek Dr., 305-531-2727; from $60 per bed), an upscale, sleepaway-camp-cool hostel designed by Roman and Williams, the hot design duo currently transforming the Chicago Athletic Association into a new hotel. There’s more: Freehand’s next hostel is opening in Chicago at the former Tokyo Hotel. A stay in Miami now means you’ll be among the first to experience the head-turning brand before it hits the scene here.
What to do: Walk two blocks from Freehand to the beach, where you can learn to surf and kiteboard or partake in Saturday detox yoga. Or just stick around to enjoy the stuff you never expected from a hostel: a stylish outdoor pool, ping pong in the courtyard, bike rentals, and painting classes with cocktails poured by the Broken Shaker, a local hotspot right on the property.
Where to eat: Dine outdoors at Sushi Samba on Ocean Drive, where the people watching is fantastic at all hours.
4 Greenough, Montana
Best for: Families craving a challenge
Head west to the mountains of Greenough, Montana, pushing highs of 75 degrees by April, and The Resort at Paws Up (40060 Paws Up Rd., 800-473-0601)f or a different kind of spring break experience: the four-day Wilderness Games from March 26 to 29 and April 9 to 12 (from $405 a person a night, including stay in a Meadow Home).
What to do: Compete together against other families in challenges inspired by The Hunger Games and geared toward kids eight and up, including archery, sporting clays, and a horseback egg-and-spoon race. The team with the highest cumulative score wins a return family vacation to Paws Up with airfare included (a $25,00 value). While there, set out on other adventures such as fly fishing, ATV tours, horseback riding, and spa treatments with views from a luxurious tent.
Where to eat: At Trough, the onsite fine-dining restaurant, try Montana-sourced black angus rib eye, rainbow trout, and the rich local lamb Bolognese spooned over homemade pappardelle.
5 Zihuatanejo, Mexico
Best for: Anyone who wants to spend endless hours at the beach
You’ll run into fewer American tourists and more friendly, well-to-do Mexicans on holiday in Zihuatanejo, where the perfect thing to do is simply sunning at La Ropa beach.
What to do: Stay right on the beach at Viceroy Zihuatanejo (from $324 a night), where you should book a floating cabana (from $30—a steal!), order ceviche and beer served in a bucket of ice, and enjoy everything from sleeping to people watching to west coast sunsets. Up the beach and on a cliff, La Casa Que Canta (Camino Escénico a Playa La ropa S/N, +52-755-555-7000; from $295 a night) delivers spectacular views over the bay that, at times, resembles the Mediterranean. Cascading infinity pools, private terraces, and a maze of stairs and arches keep that view in focus at all times.
Where to eat: At the Viceroy, join the chef for a “Zihua” market experience that starts with a morning tour and some shopping at the local markets before returning to the hotel for a beachside cooking lesson and lunch.