Travel: Take a Spring Break from Stress

By Sascha Zuger

After the long gray and chilly season (why won’t winter just give up and go already!), it’s time to escape. But where to head to find your Zen … and not a horde of fist-pumping wannabes enjoying “local culture” (a.k.a. foreign drinking age laws)?

Open your mind to these relaxation vacations..

Grace Bay Club – Turks & Caicos

Kids in tow or flying solo, this fabulous resort offers an idyllic setting to soothe away the stress of real life. With an adults-only portion of the resort, guests can find their own “serenity now” through an ocean front yoga session or while lounging on a canopied daybed. The little ones are hardly left out. With captivating Kids Town, set in a native-style tree house (complete with tire swing), it will be hard to compete with beach olympics and classes in local arts and sandcastle architecture, not to mention supervised adventure excursions off-property for older kids to explore local villages, search out indigenous flamingo populations, venture on cave safaris, semi-submarine tours and kayak through nature preserves. But don’t worry – the Anani Spa will be standing by to entertain suddenly-empty-nesters, perhaps in the über romantic couples massage room.

* If you find it too tough to pull yourself from the sugary white sand, therapists will come to you in the beachside spa tent.

Inn of the Five Graces – Santa Fe, New Mexico

Looking for an exotic escape to a distant land… domestically? Consider this otherworldly Santa Fe property to fulfill the fantasy. Hand-painted Afghani beams, luxurious jewel-toned textiles and throws, intricate mosaics and hand-carved furniture pieces adorn 24 uniquely designed multi-room suites (some with kiva wood-burning fireplaces). Topping numerous “Best of” lists, this intimate inn is the brainchild of two importers of architectural elements, furnishings, rugs and antiques. Located within walking distance to everything in the historic town, this unusual collection of buildings sits on one of the oldest inhabited blocks in the country.

* Gourmet cook-to-order breakfast can be enjoyed in your room, as can complimentary in-room refreshments and massages, though the on-site spa chamber is a marvel.

Aulani Resort – Oahu

If the kids are clamoring for Mickey, but you’re thinking Mai Tai, find the best of both worlds at Disney’s Aulani Resort in Oahu. Find your “happiest place on earth” in Laniwai Spa or a hammock beneath a flowering plumeria tree while the kids are whisked off to Aunty’s Beach House to make leis and general merriment. Yes, you’ll feel obligated to sign up for a Character Breakfast (which you should do in advance, along with other dining reservations ala Disney World), but there will be no standing in endless lines for photo opps, since characters routinely pop up around the pool for meet-and-greets and a fair number of folks at the resort are there for Disney’s trademark service and impeccable cleanliness rather than being Goofy-stalkers. Teens too old to want to be transformed into princesses or make “Stitch’s Space Goo” can escape to Painted Sky, an impressive teen retreat.

* The resort is pleasantly distant from the Waikiki tourist hub, so plan accordingly for meals.

Reserva Amazonica – Peruvian Amazon

It would be tough to find a “wilder” spring break than at this elegant eco-lodge on Peru’s Madre de Dios in the Amazonian watershed. Whether admiring caiman (and the brilliant Southern Hemisphere constellations) on a twilight boat tour, cavorting with monkeys and macaws from bridges hung between the treetops on a canopy tour, strolling along the banks of an oxbow lake to spot endangered giant river otters or fishing for piranhas — well, it’s a real jungle out there. Luxe private cabanas with thatched fishtail palm roofs await, romantic lanterns and gorgeously fragrant rainforest flowers set the mood as you stroll back from a bamboo-grilled local fish feast to relax with a nightcap on your hammocked siesta lounge.

* If you need to chill out after the “Anaconda Walk,” consider a cooling Copaiba or cold stone massage at ENA, the lodge’s spa cabana perched on the riverbank.

Fowl Cay Resort – Exumas, Bahamas

Kick back and snag a beer from the fridge because this resort feels like a home away from home … if your home happens to come equipped with its own golf cart and boat to explore neighboring isles that is. Though “casual” is the intended vibe, it’s more of a reflection of comfort level than lack of luxury at this Bahamian haven. One of the keys to relaxation here is not stressing over the details. Fowl Cay’s inclusive pricing and “whatever you’d like” attitude does the trick. Breakfast whenever you roll out of bed from your fully equipped kitchen? No worries, just leave the dishes. Lunch on a deserted isle? Surely. A chef will whip up a basket for you to load onto your private boat. Four-course gourmet dinner showcasing the finest of local seafood and produce? Absolutely, and what wine would you like to accompany your 360-degree Hill House view of the Exumas?!

* Don’t be scared by the “inclusive” term. This is no mega resort. In fact, privacy lovers could rent their own island should they wish.

Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas – Nevada

Wait … Vegas to unwind?! Jackpot, baby! We’re betting that a stay at this non-gaming oasis right on the strip will change your idea of what a Sin City getaway could be. Grab the girlfriends and dance the stress out of your system before calling for the house car to return you to the deep-soaking tub of your luxe and serene suite. Perched high above the hoopla (both figuratively and literally), the incredible floor-to-ceiling views overlook scenic mountains and desert, or the glitterglam of the Las Vegas Strip. With an in-house spa and Charlie Palmer Steak an elevator ride away, we’d place the odds of you never wanting to leave most definitely in The House’s favor.

* If the Four Seasons’ chilled towels, Evian spritz and frozen fruit poolside goodies don’t excite you, take advantage of your guest privileges at Mandalay Bay Club and Resort (accessible through a hidden hallway) to enjoy an afternoon of people watching at the waterpark-style sand beach, or European bathing at 21-and-over Moorea Beach Club.

The Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota – Gulf Coast of Florida

If the thought of wrestling through security at an unfamiliar airport or sprinting to catch your connecting flight has your blood pressure rising, head south on a three hour nonstop hop to Sarasota. The Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota will welcome you with open arms … even if you (gasp!) come bearing kids. In fact, they’ll happily take them off your hands at the fabulous screen-free Ritz Kids Club and children’s pool in the exclusive Members Beach Club (while you to hit the Lido Key Tiki Bar for a frosty umbrella drink!). If a long, lazy afternoon on one of the top-rated stretches of white sand beach in the country doesn’t leave you as relaxed and limp as a pool noodle, the third best spa in the U.S. and Canada (according to Travel + Leisure readers) awaits to rub out the last of your real life worries.

* Don’t feel guilty, squeeze quality family time in exploring the seahorse nursery at the Mote Marine Laboratory, wandering through the world’s largest miniature circus at the Ringling Circus Museum, or paddleboarding amongst the manatees in Sarasota Bay with I Kayak Sarasota.

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