These Are Our Favorite Places to Visit for Spring Break

Whether you’re looking for sun or snow, a city break or a nature-filled escape, these editor-approved spring break travel destinations are foolproof.

Hillside casitas at Enchantment Resort in Sedona, Arizona, with red- and sandy-hued rock formations in the background

Spring is the perfect time to head to Sedona, Arizona’s Enchantment Resort, where a picturesque pool and family-friendly activities are calling.

Courtesy of Enchantment Resort

Spring break, aka the unofficial start of the family travel season, is upon us, a time when so many destinations are at their best: not too hot, not too cold, and (hopefully) not too crowded.

The good news is, if you haven’t booked your spring break travel yet, it’s not too late. Spring break can be as simple as a road trip closer to home (have you checked out some of the lesser-known national parks in your area or nearby small towns worth exploring?), or it could be a fun-filled journey abroad, capitalizing on some of springtime’s international airfare deals.

Whatever you’re up for, we’re hoping this list of our favorite spring break destinations can offer inspiration on places to go, whether for this year or future travels, and leave you feeling refreshed and reconnected with the people who matter most.

1. Maui, Hawai’i

A young blonde girl leans against the door of a store named Haku Maui that's surrounded by foliage

While in Maui, head to the town of Makawao in Upcountry to support local businesses like Haku Maui, which offers lei-making classes.

Photo by Michelle Baran

A little more than six months after devastating wildfires struck in Maui, this magical Hawaiian island is hoping to welcome back travelers who visit with care and respect. What better way to spend spring break than giving back to the local community? There are numerous volunteer opportunities in Maui for visitors, including the Feed My Sheep program, HandsOn Maui, and Hua Momona Farms, where families can sign up to help with tasks like sorting and preparing food for residents who were displaced by the fires (volunteer opportunities typically have a minimum age requirement, so be sure to check). Show your love to West Maui by supporting its local businesses, including the recently reopened Mala Ocean Tavern in Lahaina. Stay at Ritz-Carlton Maui, Kapalua, a gorgeous luxury hotel (one of our top 10 favorite resorts in Hawai’i) that was recently refreshed with renovated guest rooms (the residential suites with kitchenettes are perfect for groups) and public areas. The Ritz-Carlton helped to feed fire victims in the aftermath of the nearby blazes and has now fully reopened, along with all other hotels and resorts in West Maui’s Kapalua and Kāʻanapali coastal areas. At the Ritz-Carlton, families can sign up for the hotel’s Ambassadors of the Environment program, created together with conservationist Jean-Michel Cousteau, that imparts to kids lessons about ecosystems and ecology.

While in Maui, head to Upcountry to show support there as well (a region also recovering after wildfires in and around Kula) by spending time in the adorable town of Makawao, either before or after some hiking in nearby Haleakalā National Park. Fill up on grilled mahi mahi burritos at Polli’s Mexican Restaurant in Makawao before bopping into local shops like Haku Maui for handmade leis, Droplets for kids clothes and gifts, Tribe Maui for curated fashion and accessories, and the Monarch Collective for jewelry and home goods. Then it’s off to Maui Gold to see how pineapples are grown and to learn the important role the juicy fruit plays in Maui’s history. —Michelle Baran, deputy editor, news

2. Lake Tahoe, California

A chair lift and ski slopes at Heavenly Ski Resort in Lake Tahoe with views of the lake

Skiing or snowboarding in Lake Tahoe comes with the added bonus of beautiful lake views on many runs, such as this one at Heavenly Ski Resort.

Photo by Ethan Walsweer/Unsplash

I hate the cold and I love skiing, so I’ve always loved spring skiing. But now that I have two young kids (ages 5 and 7), the typically warmer temps and smaller crowds are a huge added draw to hitting the slopes this time of year. Spring skiing can be a bit of a gamble in terms of snowpack, but ample snowfall in California’s Sierra Nevada range these past couple winters has made spring a swell time for skiing or snowboarding.

I’m a big fan of the Northstar ski resort, for its wide variety of trails that cater to different abilities—and the resort’s newer Constellation Residences, luxury lodgings with access to the Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe amenities. The more low-key Mt. Rose and Diamond Peak ski resorts are also favorites of mine for families with younger kids. And if you’re with full-fledged beginners, Granlibakken is a great place to start, with just one bunny hill, ski and snowboard rentals, private lessons, and hills for sledding. It’s ideal for first-timers who aren’t likely to ski an entire hour, let alone an entire day.

After the slopes, head to the town of Truckee (15 minutes from Northstar and 30 from Diamond Peak) for good third-wave coffee at Coffeebar, elevated burgers and sophisticated cocktails at Truckee Tavern and Grill, and some cute boutiques. Another fun option is the recently opened Desolation Hotel in South Lake Tahoe, which has chic apartment-style hotel rooms with a full kitchen and access to an on-site outdoor heated pool and hot tub the kids will love. From Desolation you have easy access to the shops and restaurants of South Tahoe. Here’s the full list of of our favorite hotels in Tahoe.—M.B.

3. St. Pete–Clearwater, Florida

Aerial view of a busy stretch of beach in St. Pete-Clearwater, Florida complete with loungers and umbrellas

For many families, spring break is a time to finally soak up some serious sun and get sand between your toes after several long winter months.

Photo by Shutterstock

I know what you’re thinking: “Florida, how original. Just me and tons of families on the same spring break schedule.” But what I love about this trip to St. Pete–Clearwater is that you can pair a beach vacation with a trip to Walt Disney World or Universal Orlando—St. Pete Beach is a three-hour drive from Orlando. We fly directly to Tampa from New York, rent a car, and make a beeline for Postcard Inn on the Beach, a colorful, retro surf-inspired hotel right on a stretch of pristine white sand, with a heated pool and a beach bar; a low-key lobby restaurant with a killer barbecue bacon cheeseburger; and Ping-Pong, a pool table, and enough board games to keep older kids busy. Meanwhile, my absolute favorite Dalí museum (I even like it better than the Dalí museum outside Barcelona) is a 20-minute drive away. After you’ve eased into vacation mode, you can hit the theme parks—or do the reverse and start in Orlando and end on the beach. — Laura Dannen Redman, editor-at-large

4. Costa Rica

A sloth among the trees in Costa Rica

The journey to Costa Rica is worth it for the chance to see a sloth in the wild alone.

Photo by Abhi Verma/Unsplash

Costa Rica is an extremely family-friendly destination, not least for the sloths, monkeys, and whales that will delight your entire gang. Improved roads in recent years and a welcoming spirit that infuses the culture have made family trips even easier. And the weather’s always good. You can’t see the whole country in a week, and you shouldn’t try, but pick a spot or two, and no matter where you go, you’ll have a satisfying spring break. A few years ago, we flew into San José, rented a car, and drove to the Manuel Antonio area. Manuel Antonio National Park has gotten more crowded, which was a little disappointing, but from the pool at the Sí Como No Resort, we watched a sloth hang out in the treetops.

Then we drove down to the Osa Peninsula, where the nature is wilder and the roads are bumpier. We saw howler monkeys, spider monkeys, sloths, dolphins, whales, frogs—and don’t get me started on the birds. A nature walk we took at our lodge, Bosque del Cabo, even got the whole family into ants. On a previous visit, my wife and I visited Arenal, Monteverde, and Manuel Antonio, another fun itinerary. —Jeremy Saum, former executive editor

5. North Carolina

Two people walking on a trail beneath the trees in Black Balsam Knob, East Fork, North Carolina

From Asheville, you’ll have access to countless miles of hiking in and around the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Photo by Erin Doering/Unsplash

My husband is from North Carolina, so we usually visit from our home in Northern California at least once a year. Spring is a great time because the summertime tourists haven’t descended in droves yet. Depending on your family’s interests, you can do it all or zero in on a particular region. Avid hikers and nature lovers should head west toward the Blue Ridge Mountains and make the artsy hub of Asheville home base. Rest your heads at the Restoration Hotel, which opened in 2023, one of the hotels on our list of Asheville accommodations that are perfect for a truly local stay—or, if you want to get closer to the trails and trees, book one of these secluded mountain cabins. In Asheville, fill up on Indian street food at Chai Pani or Carolina BBQ at Buxton Hall Barbecue.
For those driving across the state, as we often do, you’ll want to break up the trip somehow. Stop at the art deco gem Kimpton Cardinal Hotel in Winston-Salem and explore Old Salem, or take a break near Raleigh, in Durham. There, the Durham Hotel has a midcentury-modern design, Unscripted Durham is a fun and groovy hotel option (with a rooftop pool), and the 21c Museum Hotel Durham hits all the right notes for art lovers. Durham’s Museum of Life and Science is an outdoor, educational wonderland for the kiddos, and afterward the crew can head to the Parlour for a scoop (or two) of ice cream.

If sand and ocean sunsets is what you seek, you can’t go wrong with the Outer Banks. Kill Devil Hills and Kitty Hawk have some secluded stretches of beach with easy access to great seafood restaurants and grocery stores where you can stock up if you are staying in a vacation rental (highly recommended for families). Read our guide on the best beaches in North Carolina for the full breakdown, and make sure to visit the tallest active sand dune in the eastern United States, Jockey’s Ridge State Park.—M.B.

6. San Diego, California

The pool area at the Shore House at the Del hotel and resort during sunset

Make the Shore House at the Del your home base while exploring sunny San Diego.

Courtesy of Hotel Del Coronado

San Diego’s climate is almost embarrassingly perfect year-round (the temperatures average in the 60s and 70s much of the year, with almost no humidity), but springtime—when the Los Angeles region farther north can get a bit gray and overcast—is especially alluring. It’s one giant outdoor playground for families, with the world-class San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park, umpteen miles of sandy beaches (you can’t go wrong with La Jolla, with its beautiful bluffs), and the calm waters of Mission Bay.

You can stay at the iconic Hotel del Coronado, or better yet book into the recently opened Shore House at the Del, residential-style beachfront accommodations that include villas with full kitchens and plenty of room to spread out, plus a dedicated pool that overlooks the ocean. If you prefer your very own beach house, check out our guide to our favorite San Diego Airbnbs.

Those with younger kids can spend a day at the Legoland theme park in neighboring Carlsbad and extend the fun at the bricks-and-minifig-themed Legoland Resort Hotel and the Legoland Castle Hotel, where guests have access to a pool and outdoor play structures. Bonus: spring is a wonderful time to experience the famous flower fields of Carlsbad. —Tim Chester, deputy editor

7. Sedona, Arizona

Aerial view of red rock formations in Sedona, Arizona

Grab your crew and head to Sedona for hiking and cosmic encounters.

Photo by Casey Horner/Unsplash

Spring is an opportunity to explore the desert before the temperatures get too high. Few desert landscapes are as scenic as the striking red rocks of Sedona. The combination of endless trails (that cater to a wide range of abilities) and the charming quirkiness of a destination thought to have cosmic energy makes this outdoor playground an ideal setting for travelers of all ages. Enchantment Resort is a stunning oasis set within a red rock canyon, with rooms ranging from spacious casitas to one- and two-bedroom suites. Enchantment recently opened its new outdoor adventure center, Trail House, where guests can plan hikes and mountain-biking trips. The property also has a Camp Coyote kids club for children ages 4 to 12, and Little Shredders, a mountain-biking camp for kids ages 8 to 15.

For a forested outpost that feels like the luxury edition of summer camp, L’Auberge de Sedona offers families a restful retreat in cozy cottages (some of which have two bedrooms). If you like the idea of stylish rooms with killer views, make Sky Rock Sedona your family’s HQ. Prefer a vacation rental? There are plenty of Airbnbs in Sedona. Fill up on delicious Mexican in an adorably low-key setting at Tamaliza Café, and get all the necessary carbs for hiking from breakfast at Creekside American Bistro.—M.B.

8. Iceland

Person taking a photograph of a whale tail emerging from the water in Húsavík, Iceland

Make your way to Húsavík in Iceland for ample whale-watching opportunities.

Photo by Davide Cantelli/Unsplash

Most visitors to Iceland stick to Reykjavík and the 190-mile Golden Circle, which hits three of the country’s most popular attractions: Thingvellir National Park, the Geysir geothermal area, and Gullfoss waterfall. The rest of Iceland is, mostly, blissfully quiet. For the past few years, my husband and I have taken advantage of significantly cheaper flights and accommodations in Iceland ahead of the country’s peak season, summer, and traveled there during the spring.

The days are full of sun, the temps are in the 40s and 50s, and wildflowers are starting to return. Plus, you can do—and see—a lot in a long weekend or five days: I’m a big fan of driving the Diamond Circle in the country’s northeast, which comprises the four main attractions of Lake Mývatn, Dettifoss waterfall, the horseshoe-shaped Ásbyrgi canyon, and the picturesque town of Húsavík, known as Iceland’s “whale capital.” —Katherine LaGrave, deputy editor

9. Portugal

A historic castle in Sintra, Portugal

While in Portugal, explore the colorful castles of Sintra.

Photo by Raja Sen/Unsplash

I have never been to such a family-friendly place as Portugal. And it wasn’t just Lisbon or Porto that were accommodating—it was a universal welcome, from the airport queues just for families to our apartment rental (the Lisboans, with its extra-large rooms and breakfast delivered daily), our Uber drivers, and the waiter at a fancy restaurant who didn’t mind us arriving with a crying toddler in a stroller. Portugal even has dedicated parking spots for pregnant women.

I highly recommend a weeklong road trip from Porto to Lisbon, with an overnight in Óbidos at Pestana Castelo de Obidos and a day trip to Sintra from Lisbon, to see Pena Palace. (Opt for the automatic car for your rental so you don’t risk stalling out repeatedly on a steep cobbled hill in a medieval town like we did.)

You can eat out almost everywhere with kids (even wine bars in Porto) and explore the centuries-old attractions (our toddler loved running around the courtyard and hallways of Lisbon’s Jerónimos Monastery). And you’ll never be at a loss for an amazing park, wherever you go. —L.D.R.

This story was originally published in February 2021, and has been updated to include current information.

Michelle Baran is a deputy editor at Afar where she oversees breaking news, travel intel, airline, cruise, and consumer travel news. Baran joined Afar in August 2018 after an 11-year run as a senior editor and reporter at leading travel industry newspaper Travel Weekly.
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