For some, spring break means crowded beaches, bustling ski towns and, occasionally, drunken misbehavior fitting of Bluto. But if you are among the fortunate few who have a precious week of springtime freedom these overlooked vacation spots will treat you to a unique experience far from the crowds.
Cochiti Mesa, New Mexico. Once considered among the premier climbing areas in New Mexico, the amazing faces at Cochiti Mesa have fallen somewhat out of favor recently due to a lack of overhanging jugfests. That’s all the more reason to visit this classic sport area where crowds and thin and temperatures beautiful in the spring. Nearby National Forest land offers plentiful free camping opportunities and by late March temperatures are usually in the 60’s.
The area is located between Albuquerque and Santa Fe near the town of Cochiti Pueblo. For detailed information, check out guide book information reprinted with permission by Los Alamos Mountaineers.
Pere Marquette State Park, Grafton, Illinois The weather in Pere Marquette State Park on the banks of the Mississippi River is a little hit or miss in late March and early April, but fickle rains and possible snow flurries add to the attraction of the magnificent lodge with an enormous fireplace and life-size chessboard. Fishing, hiking and many other outdoor activities give the traveler plenty to do while the lodge provides a peaceful respite from life’s worries. Tennis courts will be open (but maybe chilly) and the mighty Mississippi will be swollen in her banks, throbbing southward with spring melt water, an amazing and mesmerizing spectacle that is not to be missed.
Lake of the Ozarks – The largest, non-flood control lake in the United States, Lake of the Ozarks covers 55,000 acres of fun for boaters and fishermen in the heart of the Ozark Mountains. This centrally located aquatic can be a little overwhelmed with boaters and rowdy partiers during popular summer weekends, but early in the season tends more on the tranquil side.
Early season fishing can land super-sized bass, the surrounding forests are in early bloom and many hotels still offer off-season rates.
Assateague Island, Maryland – This popular summertime camping area and beach are still a bit chilly in late March but the unspoiled miles of beach and rugged beauty of the island will make up for it. Expect high temperatures in the 50’s to explore a magical landscape, miles of uncrowded beaches and wild ponies! Build a roaring fire at night, enjoy the unpolluted sky with a few friends and have a great, inexpensive break from the grind.
Shelf Road, Colorado – This is a Mecca of summer climbing destinations, but early in the year, Shelf Road is pleasantly warm but not roasting. With hundreds of routes, there is a little something for everyone and early in the season popular routes will be wide open. Moderate spring weather makes for pleasant days on myriad well-bolted sport routes and a great way to get the fingers revitalized after a winter of ice climbing or skiing. Somebody mention skiing? A short drive will bring you from Shelf Road to Monarch Mountain, whose huge snowpack lasts late into the spring and make for a double-whammy spring break sports trip. Shelf road is close to Cañon City, Colorado. Directions and more information are available at Mountain Project.
Culebra, Puerto Rico – Ok, so Puerto Rico is definitely on the Spring Break radar. Unless you are Puerto Rican, however, Culebra is probably not. This tiny island is one of the Spanish Virgins that are actually closer to the U.S. Virgin Islands than mainland Puerto Rico. For a $3 ferry ride from Fajardo, you will be in a tropical paradise that is as funky as it is fun.
Many days, the island is a veritable ghost town with just a handful of locals sharing the streets with the occasional passing sailor. On busy Puerto Rican holidays, however, look out! Thousands of Puerto Ricans make the trip from the mainland on long weekends to camp at popular Flamingo Beach or party onboard yachts and sailboats. Regardless, the place is has an amazing vibe and is still well off the beaten path. So if you’ve got money for a plane ticket, pack your bathing suit and a light tent, fly to San Juan and then find your way to the ferry dock in Fajardo. Next stop, paradise.