Slamming buckets of watered-down mango margaritas at Señor Frogs probably isn’t your ideal spring break getaway. Well, not anymore.
Thankfully, spring break no longer needs to revolve around waking up face-down on the beach each morning wondering where the key to your hotel room is. If you’re looking to get off the beaten path (literally and figuratively) this season, here are a few of our favorite alternative spring break destinations for adventurous travelers.
Mountain Bike a Volcano in Cotopaxi (Ecuador)
Aside from the Galapagos Islands, Cotopaxi National Park is Ecuador’s most stunning natural treasure. The breathtaking Cotopaxi Volcano and Limpiopungo Lake are ripe for exploration, whether by foot or on two wheels. Adventure Life offers guided multi-day tours of the region for travelers looking to explore some of its best attractions and don’t mind working hard in the process. Their Cotopaxi Mountain Biking itinerary is a whirlwind four-day hike-and-bike tour that starts in Quito and goes on to explore the El Tambo trail (including Andean lakes and ancient Incan ruins) and the Condor Machay waterfall. Lodging is included in traditional haciendas nightly, and riders wrap up the tour with an exhilarating track down the slopes of Cotopaxi volcano.
Master Your Surf Game (Dominican Republic)
Surf novices can seriously up their wave-riding game at the Dominican Republic’s Swell Surf Camp. The purpose-built, Cabarete-area retreat hosts week-long surf/stay packages where guests spend several hours a day perfecting their skills. ISA-qualified instructors teach everything from kitesurfing to “old school” surfing to yoga, and class sizes are intentionally small to ensure personal attention. Additional on-site activities include stand-up paddleboarding, horseback riding, canyoning, and mountain biking. The boutique rooms are modern and luxurious, but not pretentious. Packages start well under $1,000 (USD) and include just about everything you’ll need for a week-long stay: lodging, daily classes, gear, and ground transportation. The on-site kitchen also serves fresh, carefully cultivated organic meals daily.
Get Pumped About Foliage (New Zealand)
There’s hardly a bad time to visit New Zealand, but a spring break trip to capture the country’s fall foliage is particularly spectacular. We’re not talking about a six-hour, grandparent-friendly shuttle bus tour to snap leaf photos with your first generation iPad. Instead, make your first stop in Shotover Canyon, a dramatic craggy gorge topped with beautiful deciduous trees. Be sure to head inside the canyon for a jet-boating ride. The nearby area of Arthurs Point in Queenstown is ground zero for some of NZ’s best outdoor adventures including skydiving, paragliding, and bungee jumping. Don’t miss out on the burgeoning beer scene too!
Explore 10,000 Years of History (Ireland)
Once you find your way out of tourist-centric Dublin to the countryside, it’s easy to make any trip to Ireland a spiritual one. Exodus Travels’ Mystical Walking on the Kerry Way puts hikers on the country’s longest trail for some quality self-reflection time. The eight-day, self-guided trek covers 130 miles amid some of the Emerald Isle’s most breathtaking scenery. Hikers explore a veritable 10,000-year timeline of the country’s rich history. Stops include Killarney National Park (Ireland’s oldest wilderness reservation with its only herd of wild red deer), quaint mountain villages, stunning beaches, and pristine lakes throughout the southwestern corridor.
Hike and Paddle the Grand Canyon (American Southwest)
It’s hard to argue the Grand Canyon is the greatest natural wonder in the entire United States. Problem is: It’s also a magnet for tourists. Book a hike/paddle trip in April to avoid the peak-season maddening crowds. Arizona River Runners has been guiding multi-day trips in and around the canyon for almost 50 years. Their Nine-Day Oar Hiker’s Special provides the best of both worlds for adventure travelers. It starts with a challenging eight-mile hike down to the Colorado River to meet the trek’s expert guides. Travelers then spend the next week rafting the canyon’s infamous whitewater runs and exploring its many waterfalls and side canyons on foot.
Spot the Northern Lights (Iceland)
Don’t believe the too-cool-for-the-room tourist mags that say it’s overrun with tourists. There’s plenty of room in Iceland for everyone, and it makes the perfect “alternative” spring break destination. It’s already one of the best places in the world to catch the Northern Lights, but the long dark days from fall through spring ensure that even visiting as late as mid-April gives visitors a good chance of catching the phenomenon. Just keep a close eye on the weather forecast, and be sure not to go during a full moon. Time your arrival for about five days ahead of the next new moon. You’ll be all but guaranteed a week of dark skies afterward. Don’t forget to toast with a spot of Brennivín !
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