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3 Top Destinations for the Best Adult Spring Break of Your Life

Plan a vacation now for stronger mental and physical health overall

spinner image a person in a hammock at sunset on kaanapali beach in maui hawaii
Ka’anapali Beachis en la costa oeste de Maui.
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Many of us schedule a postwinter getaway, but it’s the break in “spring break” that matters the most. Studies show that leisure activities including travel are associated with a lower risk of disease — including dementia — and an increase in happiness. ​

“It’s around this time [of year] when we need a boost to our morale and a break in our routines,” says Lori Gordon-Michaeli, LCSW, a therapist in Michigan. “The break also invigorates [us] and releases dopamine that activates us and gives us pep.”​

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And active travel, whether it’s looking for whales in Hawaii or navigating Tucson’s Sun Link Streetcar system, increases cognitive stimulation among other health benefits.

“The healthiest brains are ones that continue to learn,” says Stephan Quentzel, M.D., assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. “It’s important that we use our brain to learn new things. Travel often provides one of the best classrooms you can find.”

Quentzel, 59, keeps mentally and physically fit by traveling to bluegrass festivals and skiing in Crested Butte, Colorado. He credits outdoor recreation and live music with providing critical breaks to his daily routine. 

“The joy we experience outside or listening to music has a value unto its own,” he says. “They are also proven antidepressants.”

Research published in the journal International Psychogeriatrics also says that visiting family and friends is especially beneficial to mental and physical health considering the limitations of the past few years. 

“We celebrate renewal in spring. There’s great emotional reward in reestablishing old relationships with friends and family,” Quentzel says. “It also feels good to visit favorite destinations where you can renew old or try new activities.”

Gordon-Michaeli notes that traveling somewhere warm for spring break can increase levels of vitamin D. “That alone perks us up,” she says. 

Here are three sunny destinations with unique cultural and physical activities to consider as you plan your spring break getaway. 

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Ka’anapali Beach is a great spot for snorkeling and whale watching.
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If you’re looking for fabulous beaches ... Ka’anapali, Hawaii 

The 3-mile Ka’anapali Beach in Maui provides the perfect sandscape for long strolls and surveying the water for whales. The paved Ka’anapali Trail also hugs the coastline and connects six hotels with shops, open-air restaurants and Whalers Village. The Hawaii Wildlife Discovery Center features more than 30 exhibits that explore this rich ecosystem.​

Snorkeling and whale-watching tours ($85) depart directly from Ka’anapali Beach, or you can rent fins and a snorkel at the beach ($20) and step directly into the water. 

Where to stay: The splurge-worthy Ka’anapali Beach Hotel recently completed a major renovation, and accessible rooms offer views of the garden, mountains and/or ocean. Rates start around $278.

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Horseback riding tours leave every hour at White Stallion Ranch.
Courtesy Crai S. Bower

If you’re looking for art and culture ... Tucson, Arizona​

Tucson remains an immersive showcase for western frontier culture with historic hotels, live country music and the White Stallion Ranch. The White Stallion is an all-inclusive, accessible guest ranch with spacious options for multigenerational families. Sign up for an archery lesson, paint a horseshoe, relax by the pool or in front of your personal patio fireplace. ​Rates start around $379.

Tucson also boasts a vibrant art scene with a series of outstanding photography galleries, including the Etherton Gallery, housed in white-washed structures on South Convent Avenue. The Mercado District features the MSA Annex, a collection of contemporary boutiques and cafes set in converted shipping containers. 

Where to stay: Check in to Hotel Congress for vintage-inspired decor (no TVs in the rooms) and live music (earplugs included with the room). Rates start around $129.

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Hot air balloon rides soar over vineyards and other beautiful landscapes in Sonoma County.
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If you’re looking for sightseeing at its best ... Sonoma County, California

Sonoma County wines get a lot of attention, but there’s more to sample here. Hot air balloons ($275 per person) take the Sonoma Valley skies on the spring breeze, with vibrant colors and patterns to match the styles found in Sonoma’s many boutiques and shops. Sonoma also has a lot of history — from the Mission San Francisco Solano— founded in 1823 — to Sonoma Plaza, considered the birthplace of California.

Healdsburg, about 15 minutes north of the Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport (STS), features the historic Healdsburg Plaza, which is easily explored by foot or on a rental bike. One highlight: Learn about the indigenous Pomo and Wappo people at the free Healdsburg Museum. 

Where to stay: The 12 rooms at Healdsburg Inn on the Plaza (one ADA-accessible suite; two accessible rooms for hearing impairments) are in the center of all the shopping, wine tasting and fun. Rates start around $300.

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