Make Summer Happen Early: 6 Warm Weather Getaways For the Whole Family

Whether you're craving an adventurous family getaway at a far-off locale or some rest and relaxation stateside, here are six family-friendly locations to consider.

by Terry Ward
Originally Published: 

The problem with spring is that it isn’t summer. We’re not knocking the season — full of hope and birds and flowers and the like. But it also has its downsides. In mountainous regions, this means mud. If you’re lakeside, it usually means cold snaps and rain. Hell, much of the country is still experiencing temperatures in the 30s and 40s. There’s an easy solution: go south, find an island, or just get out and find somewhere where it’s blissfully hot. Because, let’s be honest, that’s actually what you want right now. Whether you’re craving an adventurous family getaway at a far-off locale or some rest and relaxation stateside, here are six spring break 2022 trips to consider.

1. The Florida Keys

Prefer not to pull out your passport? Play it safe and beeline it to the southernmost stretch of the continental United States. In Key West — along with any of the other Florida Keys you pass through on your way to the end of the chain — an early spring day is normally in the mid-70s.

Land at the international airport in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, or even West Palm Beach and rent a car to break further south still for the 125-mile-long chain of islands linked by 42 bridges along the Overseas Highway.

Key West has all the family vacation activities you could want — from trolley rides and a treasure museum and aquarium to sunset catamaran cruises and calm beaches with shallow waters. But you might find some of the other Keys in the chain even more mellow and fun.

The ocean and bayfront campsites at Bahia Honda State Park on Big Pine Key make for a perfect basecamp if you’re looking for a rustic and affordable stay (there are cabins for rent here, too). Or you can splurge at a spot like Isla Bella Beach Resort on Marathon (pictured), with several oceanfront pools and a private beach set on over a mile of waterfront as well as an onsite marina from which you can head out on snorkeling and fishing excursions. And while famous parks like John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park steal the spotlight, there are all kinds of other tucked-away nature spots to stop at as you road trip through the Keys, including the National Key Deer Refuge and the Florida Keys Wild Bird Center on Tavernier.

2. Tahiti

Hear us out on why you should try here over Hawaii for your next big family vacation.

For roughly two hours longer in the air from Los Angeles than it takes to get to Honolulu, you can find yourself landing in Papeete in the Islands of Tahiti. That’s right, board an overnight flight from Los Angeles on Air Tahiti Nui and about eight hours later (and hopefully a full night’s sleep for the gang) you’ll land in French Polynesia.

And if you’re wondering if the storied destination lives up to the hype, we can confirm the 118 islands and atolls here are well and truly among the most very beautiful and welcoming tropical isles on Earth (the kids might also love that these are the islands that inspired Disney’s Moana)

Leave the honeymoon crowd to pricey Bora Bora and base in Tahiti (the main island) or Moorea, right next door and just a 30-minute ferry ride away. Lodging options run the range from affordable family-run pensions to full-on hotel chain resorts with swim-up bars and kids clubs. Introduce the kids to French fare (the islands belong to France, after all, so the influence is everywhere) like a goat cheese salad or moules frites. Be sure to try the ubiquitous French Polynesian take on ceviche called poisson cru.

If you’re feeling intrepid and want to see more of the islands, hop an Air Tahiti flight for an hour to reach the Tuamotu Archipelago, where you can head out on excursions to snorkel with baby lemon sharks and reef sharks in sheltered lagoons in Rangiroa where they’re born, learn about black pearl farming or go scuba diving at some of the most incredible atoll passages on Earth in Fakarava. Among the family-friendly, waterfront places to stay in the atolls are Havaiki Lodge, Le Tikehau by Pearl Resorts, and Hotel Maitai Rangiroa.

3. Puerto Rico

Closer to home, time spent thawing out under the Caribbean sun in Puerto Rico is a great place to shake off any lingering winter chill. Do the kids like to surf? Or maybe that’s your thing, and you want to entice them with some skimboarding or boogie boarding in the shore break. Either way, surf towns like Rincón, Aguadilla, and Playa Jobos on the island’s northwest corner have a chill vibe and plenty of vacation rentals and inexpensive hotels to make your home base. Rincon Beach Resort and Villa Montaña Beach Resort are both popular with families who come for sun and surf.

Puerto Rico is loaded with big resort offerings closer to Old San Juan’s attractions, too, like the Condado Vanderbilt Hotel. You can split your time between beaching it and exploring historic sites like the Castillo San Felipe del Morro. Make time to day-trip around the island for forays into the rainforest at El Yunque and to visit the island’s prettiest beaches like Playa Mar Chiquita in Manatí on the northern coast, or Playa Buyé on the southwest coast, the latter of which is known from its crystal clear waters.

4. Pheonix, Arizona

The easy-to-reach Phoenix area packs in a lot more fun for a warm winter urban vacation than you might imagine. Daytime highs in early spring usually peak in the mid-80s, with enough variation to make exploring the Sonoran Desert on casual hikes or ATV and horseback tours an option.

Two of the city’s best family-friendly hotels — the Arizona Biltmore and Arizona Grand Resort & Spa — have onsite water parks with slides and fountains galore. Spend an afternoon ogling cactuses and succulents along easy pathways at the Desert Botanical Garden or building your own desert terrariums together at Jade & Clover, which sits astride a great little wine and charcuterie bar, Postino.

You can also visit Butterfly Wonderland, the country’s largest butterfly pavilion, or take a scenic drive south of town to Dobbins Lookout (2,330 feet) for sprawling views of the Estrella and Superstition Mountains.

5. Baja California Sur, Mexico

Fly into Los Cabos, Mexico, for an adventurous family trip, where you can make your base in Cabo San Lucas or road trip north to the quainter towns of Todos Santos, La Paz, or Loreto.

If you think Cabo is just for the SoCal party crowd during the spring months, think again. When you stay at a family-friendly property like Grand Solmar at Rancho San Lucas or Grand Fiesta Americana Los Cabos, nature is at your doorstep, with migrating humpbacks and grey whales breaching on repeat within view of your hotel room’s balcony during early spring.

Dive Ninja Expeditions runs regular whale watching trips from the marina in Cabo San Lucas and can put your family in the water to snorkel with sea lions and colorful reef fish within a 10-minute boat ride of the docks, too. Just north of Cabo on the Pacific Ocean in the boho-chic surf-centric enclave of Todos Santos, make Los Colibris Casitas your base above a golden stretch of sand you can hike down to for up-close views of more breaching whales.

Back on the Sea of Cortez side in La Paz, snorkel with whale sharks that migrate here from October to May, or treat the family to an epic glamping adventure at Camp Cecil on Isla Espiritu Santo. The former silver-mining town of El Triunfo has an amazing Cactus Sanctuary worth visiting with the kids, too.

If you make it as far north as Loreto (it’s about six hours driving time north of Cabo and well worth it), there are many small family-run hotels for a stay close to the historic town center and boat trip options for visiting the Islands of Loreto, home to sea lions and dolphins and, during the winter months, even migrating blue whales.

6. La Fortuna, Costa Rica

Coastal Costa Rica has much to offer. But the country’s interior can be even more surprising for a spring break trip.

Rent a car upon landing at the international airport in San Jose and make the drive roughly 2.5 hours north to the town of La Fortuna, where the mighty peak of Arenal Volcano pierces the clouds as an otherworldly backdrop for all kinds of soft adventures with the family.

There, you’ll feel like you’re staying in the middle of a jungle at Nayara Gardens, where you’ll wake to the calls of capuchin monkeys and after dark walks with a flashlight from the restaurant back to your room might see you spying all manner of colorful tree frogs peeking out from the greenery.

When you see clusters of people standing by the roadside and peering upward around La Fortuna, be sure to pull over for a look, too — wildlife runs rampant here, and there’s usually a sloth high in a tree or some colorful winged thing to see.

Take a self-guided walk or head out with a naturalist through the wildlife sanctuary at Hanging Bridges, where you’ll follow suspended bridges along a route through the rainforest canopy and understory that’s home to eyelash vipers, coatis, and resident sloths.

Tire the kids out on another hike that descends 530 steps to the base of the thundering Fortuna River Waterfall, where you can cool off in the emerald green waters at the base of the cascade.

And do some bonding while soaking at one of La Fortuna’s many hot springs, including the ones at Tabacon Thermal Resort & Spa and EcoTermales Fortuna.

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