Top Choices for an Uncrowded Spring Getaway

Escape the masses at these alternative destinations


Sitting halfway between the New Year holidays and summer vacations, spring is a great time for a getaway. Popular winter destinations are getting into the shoulder season and dropping the rates a bit but still enjoy milder temperatures. Meanwhile many places popular with the summer crowds are starting to warm up but haven’t yet filled every room and beach chair.

Of course, there are weeks when spring break equates to crowds, whether it’s families on Easter week holiday or collegiate revelers letting loose. The trick to avoiding this flurry of travel madness is finding a lesser-known destination with all the right vacation elements, fewer visitors and is still relatively easy to reach. Here are seven great options for escaping the crowds.

La Palma Island, Spain

The Canaries are one of Europe’s favorite escapes. Each year more that 14 million holidaymakers descend on this archipelago of sun-soaked volcanic islands. The most popular is Tenerife, which sees almost 5 million arrivals. Close behind are the resort-heavy islands of Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, and Fuerteventura. At the other end of the spectrum, remote El Hierro and La Gomera see few outsiders and are almost completely lacking in hospitality infrastructure. Sitting comfortably in between is La Palma, which has a respectable range of accommodation choices and welcomes around 80,000 visitors each year — still less than one percent of the Canaries’s total tourist trade. Add in the fact that early spring is right at the start of vacation season, and you have a formula for an uncrowded escape.

Canary Islands La Palma

Green rolling hillside landscape below the mountains in La Palma, Canary Islands. Photo: Eric Gevaert/iStock

There is a lot to like on La Palma. It is the greenest island in the chain, known as La Isla Bonita — the beautiful island. Rugged peaks cloaked in alpine forests rise to heights of more than 7,500 feet, and the entire island is a designated a UNESCO Biosphere and a Starlight Reserve where the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory is home to one of the largest arrays of telescopes in the world. There are good beaches, refreshing tide pools, picturesque fishing villages, and a port city steeped in Colonial-era charm. In the fall of 2021, the earth opened up and spewed hot ash on a swath of the island as a new volcano was born. Tourism came to a two-year halt as locals cleaned up the cinders, but all is back to normal. The vast majority of the island wasn’t affected by the eruption, and Europe’s newest volcano has now become an additional point of interest.

La Palma Hotel Hacienta De Abajo Canary Islands

Evening at the pool at Hotel Hacienda de Abajo in La Palma. Photo: Hotel Hacienda de Abajo

La Palma is mercifully free of high-rise beach resorts, and the emphasis is on smaller properties with bespoke personal services and authentic experiences. A choice that attracts an elite European clientele is the Hotel Hacienda de Abajo ( This grand dame of island hospitality and fine dining occupies the grounds and manor house of a former sugar estate. Upper-end rooms and suites are exquisitely furnished with original antiques, artwork, and tapestries from the 17th and 18th centuries. A more adventurous experience awaits at the Faro Cumplida (, which is a functioning 150-year-old lighthouse set on the island’s rugged northeast shore that accommodates just eight guests. But small doesn’t mean basic, as there is a spectacular rooftop infinity pool and a panoramic ocean view deck for wine service and personally catered meals delivered by local chefs.


The Republic of Cyprus is the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Size is a good thing because this easternmost outpost of the EU is highly sought after, drawing more than 3 million vacationers each year. The overwhelming majority arrive in the summer months, when sapphire waters, sunny days, and temperatures in the mid-90s are a given. It’s also the time when room rates are at a seasonal peak, and there’s always a waitlist at the best places. Come in as early as March, and you’ll not only enjoy balmy 80-degree spring days, but you’ll also escape the crowds, and even the most popular beaches have plenty of room to pitch an umbrella.

Cyprus Kyrenia Streets

Stone houses with balconies and restaurants in the town of Kyrenia on Cyprus. Photo: 123ducu/iStock

When it comes to beaches, Cyprus delivers more than 400 miles of coastline that includes long stretches of sand, compact coves tucked between rock headlands, and wild strands that see few footprints. Travel bloggers compose endless “Ten Best” lists of Cyprus beaches but still fail to capture the full scope of the island’s offerings. Shorelines aren’t the only thing that lures travelers. Cyprus is rich in history dating back to pre- Hellenic times, and island landscapes are dotted with a wealth of historic sites from Greek temples to Byzantine monasteries and medieval fortresses. Nature lovers are rewarded as well, as the forested slopes of the Troodos mountains rise to heights of more than a mile. In summer, this region is a mecca for walking tours that pass through river valleys and climb terraced hillsides to reach traditional villages. Each winter, these highlands receive enough snow to support several small ski resorts. On a good snow year, the chairs might still be open in early March, representing a rare opportunity to make a downhill run in the morning and snorkel in the afternoon.

Cyprus Limassol Hotel

Gaudi-like exterior and gardens at Hotel Limassol in Cyprus. Photo: Hotel Limassol

As one of the Mediterranean’s most popular holiday destinations, Cyprus has a thriving hospitality industry with more than 800 hotels and at least 80 five-star options. Quite a few of these upper-end choices are expansive oceanfront properties that include spas, multiple restaurants, expansive pool decks, and in- house casinos, all catering to guests who prefer an all- in-one-place vacation that’s big on mass market indulgences. For those seeking a more authentic and memorable stay, there are also quite a few delightfully eclectic boutique inns and guest houses. One of the most colorful is the Euphoria Art Land ( book at: http://euphoria-art-land-the-earth- with wonderland gardens and Gaudi-like rooms hand- crafted by a local artist using recycled materials. Equally colorful in a more traditional vein is the Stratos Art Deco House (, which is a boutique four-suite inn occupying a historic manor home dating back to the 1600s. Of the numerous wellness destinations scattered around Cyprus, a top choice is the Secret Forest Wellness Retreat & Healing Spa ( Set in a mountain valley among hundred-year-old trees, this modern 64-room retreat includes a massive spa complex that centers around historic thermal sulfur water pools.

St. Vincent, St. Vincent & The Grenadines

St. Vincent is among the Caribbean’s lesser-visited islands. On top of that, a substantial percentage of the 300,000 or so tourists who fly in each year make a short stopover before transiting to the smaller islands of the Grenadines. Those who do make St. Vincent their final destination are rewarded with pristine landscapes and uncrowded beaches. Forests still cover half the island, and farms and orchards cover much of the rest. Small villages are scattered along the coast, and even the capital city of Kingstown is compact, with no traffic lights and few buildings higher than a palm tree.

Kingstown View St Vincent Grenadines

Coastal view from Kingstown of Buccament Bay on St. Vincent. Photo: atosan/iStock

Given St. Vincent’s bucolic nature, it’s not surprising that eco-themed activities dominate. The island is home to the oldest botanical garden in the western hemisphere, has a historic fortress to explore, boasts a good collection of accessible waterfalls, and has miles of shaded walking trails to wander — favorites include the Mount Pleasant Nature Trail, Mount Royal Hike, Vermont Nature Trail, and Union Island Coastal Trail. For a more challenging trek, visitors can take on the 4,000-foot climb to the summit of La Soufrière volcano. On the island’s western coast calm Caribbean waters lap volcanic black sand beaches. By contrast, the Atlantic side of the island offers refreshing trade winds and surf-washed shores.

Young Island St Vincent Grenadines

Aerial view of Young Island Resort and beach. Photo: Young Island Resort

Vacationers seeking ultra-luxe accommodations will need to transfer to one of the Grenadine islands such as Canouan, Petit St. Vincent or Palm Island, where five-star properties draw A-listers and one-percenters. This is not to say that the big island is devoid of good choices. Sitting on the island’s southernmost point overlooking a surf-washed cove, The Milligan ( is a boutique 4-star hotel with just five guest rooms and an emphasis on personal service. The hillside and beachfront cottages of Young Island Resort ( sit on a private 13-acre island that’s reached by a two- minute water taxi ride from the Kingston waterfront. The Blue Lagoon ( offers upscale water-view rooms and fine dining, and the island’s newest upper-end property, LaVue (, lives up to its billing with ocean-view rooms and sweeping 360-degree vistas from an elevated pool deck.

Uvita, Costa Rica

Costa Rica delivers a rewarding combination of beaches and jungles that set the stage for all manner of water sports and eco-adventures. One of the most popular places to mix rainforest hikes with Pacific Ocean frolics is the town of Manuel Antonio, which has one of the country’s best beaches and is the gateway to its namesake national park. It’s easily reached by direct flights into the city of San Jose, followed by a van transfer to the coast. Just don’t expect to have the place to yourself, as Manuel Antonio Park has become so well-known and popular that rangers have started limiting the number of daily visitors to prevent crowding on the nature trails. An alternative that often slips below the travel radar lies less than 20 miles to the south near the town of Uvita, which is the starting point for trips to Marino Ballena National Park.

Uvita Costa Rica

Landscape with the mountains and coast of Uvita in the province of Puntarenas, Costa Rica. Photo: Salvador- Aznar/iStock

Marino Ballena takes its name from the unique whale tail-shaped sand spit that joins a pair of scenic beaches within a marine reserve. It’s an appropriate landmark for a coastline that is known as the best place in Costa Rica to view migrating humpback whales. March is near the end of the winter whale migration, but there’s still a good chance of sightings, as the whales often come quite close to shore. Getting to the whale tail formation involves a mile-plus walk along a palm-fringed beach, which further enhances the sense of serenity. In addition to beach time, the park is a favorite for wildlife viewing. Several additional national parks and an assortment of scenic waterfalls are a short drive or van ride away, and the Caño Island Biological Reserve is the best option for snorkeling.

Uvita Costa Rica

View of pool and villas at the Oxygen Jungle Villas in Uvita, Costa Rica. Photo: Oxygen Jungle Villas

The town of Uvita is a low-key destination populated by small cafes and backpacker-friendly guest houses, along with a reasonable selection of mid to upper-end options. For the full resort experience, the area’s top choice is the Cristal Ballena Boutique Hotel & Spa, which is set in a 30-acre hillside garden between the ocean and rainforest. Uvita also offers several boutique villa resorts that edge into the five-star range, with two standouts being the Vista Celestia ( and the Oxygen Jungle Villas (

Koh Lanta, Thailand

With the COVID tourism slump long past, Phuket and the islands of Thailand’s Phang Nga Bay are once again one of the world’s most sought-after destinations. The small beach flanked by the world-famous rock formations of Koh Ping Ghan — aka James Bond Island — draws such a crowd of daily excursion boats that there may be standing room only on the sand. Things couldn’t be more different on the other side of the Bay, where the island of Koh Lanta offers sparkling clear waters and miles of golden sand beaches that are mercifully free of day trippers.

Koh Lanta Kantiang Bay

The stunning tropical paradise of Kantiang Bay, Ko Lanta, Krabi Province, Thailand. Photo: Elaine Ross/iStock

Though not the hidden gem of years past, Koh Lanta remains one of Thailand’s best destinations for a crowd-free beach destination. First, because it takes a bit longer to get there. A trip to Koh Lanta begins either with a 45-mile open water ferry crossing from Phuket or a connecting flight into the town of Krabi with a two- hour van ride and a pair of ferry crossings from the mainland. Patient travelers are then rewarded with an island destination that is 95 percent forested, with low- key beach resorts spaced along a 13-mile stretch of the western shore, leaving numerous stretches of beach entirely undeveloped.

Koh Lanta Layana Resort

Infinity pool overlooking the beach at Layana Resort & Spa, Koh Lanta, Thailand. Photo: Layana Resort

Koh Lanta offers everything that lures visitors to Phuket’s shores — minus the hordes that descend on landmark sites such as Patong Beach and the Phi Phi Islands. The snorkeling is exceptional at sites within Koh Lanta National Marine Park, which is known for vibrant coral gardens and an abundance of colorful tropical fish. As is often the place with up-and-coming destinations, it was the backpacking crowd that first discovered Koh Lanta and the island’s popularity with this group is reflected in dozens of budget-friendly beach lodges. Fortunately for those who enjoy air conditioning, room service, and a spa visit, the island is now on the national electrical grid, and several upper- range properties have recently popped up along the shores. Two of the standout choices for a luxury beachside vacation experience are the adults-only Layana Resort and Spa ( and the award- winning Pimalai Resort (, which is the island’s first five-star destination.

Cartagena, Colombia

Colombia is a trending destination, and nowhere more so than Cartagena. Once known as the “Jewel of the Indies” and “La Heroica” (the Heroic City), it is a destination steeped in an intriguing past yet alive with a vibrant cultural awakening and an increasingly sophisticated culinary scene. Fortunately, visiting in the spring puts travelers just past the peak of winter tourism and still within the comfortable climate of the late dry season. That said, it’s best to avoid the Holy Days of Easter Week, which is a busy time in this predominantly Catholic country.

Cartagena Colombia Plaza

Plaza at night in Cartagena Colombia. Photo: Starcevic/iStock

As a coastal city, Cartagena has its share of beach resorts. There are also sleek modern hotels downtown, guest houses flanking tree-lined squares, and the lively Getsemani district, which is gaining popularity with the digital nomad crowd. But for many visitors, the preferred choice is the Colonial-era Old Town. Within its fortified walls are churches, monasteries, plazas, palaces, and mansions, among the finest examples of preserved colonial architecture in the Americas. Today, many of these ancient edifices have been lovingly restored and transformed into boutique hotels and an eclectic mix of cafes, shops, and clubs. It’s a setting tailor-made for after-coffee walking tours, midday horse-drawn carriage rides, sunsets enjoyed from atop the city’s fortified walls, and evenings spent in random wanderings on cobblestone streets that once echoed to the sound of marching conquistadors.

Hotel Quadrifolio Cartegena

Interior guest room at Hotel Quadrifolio in Cartagena. Photo: Hotel Quadrifolio

In addition to its many other historic and cultural charms, Cartagena’s Old Town boasts an impressive collection of boutique hotels. With so many exceptional offerings, narrowing the choices might seem like a daunting task. And while there are dozens of good choices — and almost no poor ones — there are several worthy of a special mention. These include the Casa Pestagua (, a 16-room Relais & Chateaux property set in an 18th-century mansion once called the most beautiful house in Cartagena. Also on the shortlist is the romance and understated traditional elegance of the 8-suite Quadrifolio ( manor house and the courtyard ensconced terraces of the Casa De Alba ( de-alba-2/) which was once the 16th century home of the famous pirate Sir Francis Drake.

Lord Howe Island, Australia

The great thing about Lord Howe Island is that despite its popularity, things never get crowded. That’s because the Australian government has designated this UNESCO World Heritage site as a Permanent Park Preserve, which, among other things, limits tourism to no more than 400 visitors at any given time.

Lord Howe Island Australia

Lord Howe Island from Malabar lookout with peaks of Mt. Lidgbird and Mt. Gower at the island’s far end. Photo: photosbyash/Getty Images

Unspoiled nature is what lures visitors to this 3,600- acre oasis of green, which lies some 350 miles east of the Australian mainland in the Tasman Sea. The surrounding waters support the world’s most southerly coral reef, and the land is home to more than 70 endemic species of plants and birds. These natural attractions lure bird watchers, divers, snorkelers, windsurfers, and fishermen, as well as those who come simply to seek relaxation and solitude. The northern half of the island offers narrow tree-shrouded lanes that access boutique guest houses and lead to secluded beaches and surf-washed bluffs. The entire southern end of the island is a nature preserve dominated by twin peaks of Mt. Gower and Mt. Lidgbird, with trails leading to the summit for stunning vistas rewarding those willing to take on the four-hour trek.

Lord Howe Island

Loft with deck and tub at Capella Lodge on Lord Howe Island. Photo: Capella Lodge

For an island with extremely limited tourism, Lord Howe offers a surprisingly good range of dining choices, with some ten restaurants serving a variety of cuisines. The island’s social center is the Lord Howe Bowling Club, which welcomes visitors with a pub-like atmosphere as well as one of the island’s best dining experiences. Accommodation choices tend towards self-catering apartments and small guest houses. A favorite in the upper-end market is the nine-room Capella Lodge (, which offers spa services, bespoke menus, and stunning views of the ocean and mountains through floor-to-ceiling windows. Also on the short list of luxury properties is the 12-suite Arajilla Lodge (, which includes a day spa and Ayurvedic wellness center.