From the white sands of the Maldives islands to the wilderness of the Florida everglades, these spring escapes are reason enough to pack your bags
March is one of those months that can fly below the vacation radar. It’s just past the end of winter getaways, and a bit before the mad crush of spring break. This means travelers who time it right can enjoy an ideal combination of mild weather, fewer crowds, and great shoulder-season rates. Here are seven good choices for a March getaway.
Just a few miles from downtown Panama City, Somberania National Park is an oasis of rainforest greenery. And March is a great time to visit because – well, it isn’t raining all the time. Visiting the park during the dry season means plenty of sunshine and mud-free hiking trails. Paths lead through impressive stands of cotton, mahogany, and guayacan trees, crossing streams and swaying bridges on the way to waterfalls and swimming holes on the Chagres River. The 55,000-acre park is a favorite destination for bird watchers, who have tallied 400-plus species including exotic finds like toucans, trogons, flycatchers, and tanagers, along with rare birds such as the red-bellied woodpecker, yellow-eared toucanet and ground cuckoo.
March breezes usher in one of Mexico’s premier sailing events in the blue waters of Puerto Vallarta. 2023 marks the 30th anniversary of the Banderas Bay Regatta. This international nautical get- together draws an eclectic mix of serious sailors and casual competitors to compete in a week-long series of around-the-buoy races and shoreside celebrations. Headquarters for the event is the Vallarta Yacht Club, but don’t expect blue-blazers and bloody marys, because the club has a more laid-back flip-flop and Corona vibe. After watching the races, head to the quiet fishing village of La Cruz de Huanacaxtle for some old-school Mexican hospitality.
Each year thousands of humpback whales from all corners of the Pacific gather in the warm, shallow waters off the coast of Maui to mate, give birth, and raise their young. The action takes place in calm water not far from shore, making it one of the most relaxing places in the world for whale watching. And in addition to on-the- water viewing sessions, anyone who’s really into whales should mark their calendars for the Lahaina Whale and Ocean Arts Festival. Held on the first week of March at Lahaina’s Campbell Park, this event combines ocean-themed art exhibits with food, games, live music, and family activities.
There’s really not a bad time to visit the stunning islands of the Maldives, but March gives you a chance to slip in after the end of the winter rush while still enjoying some balmy weather and plenty of sunshine. This is also a favorite date for divers and snorkelers, as waters are particularly clear at this time of the year. March also marks the beginning of the surfing season. There are beginner- friendly waves ideal for anyone who has ever thought about taking up the sport, and some legendary breaks to challenge experts. With more than 100 islands offering stunning beach resorts, there are options to suit all tastes and budgets.
Florida’s theme parks and beaches can get crowded once spring breakers arrive, but there are still plenty of quiet places to enjoy in the Sunshine State. For a truly wild adventure, head to the Everglades National Park and sign up for an airboat tour into the heart of America’s largest wetlands. These specially-designed flat- bottomed boats glide through sawgrass meadows and shallow waters that aren’t accessible to other types of boats. For added enjoyment, combine a boat trip with a visit to the Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation for a cultural immersion into the history and traditions of the Seminole tribe.
Each year, as many as 2,000 humpback whales visit the Dominica Republic’s Samana Bay, and March is an ideal time for a whale- watching trip that has the added bonus of visits by resident pods of dolphins. Plan your trip early in the month and you can also take in the National Carnival Parade. This event is the culmination of weeks of regional carnival competitions, all leading to the big finale when the best carnival troupes from across the country converge on the Santo Domingo Malecón for a weekend of pageantry, dances, and parades. And if you miss that party, there’s still time after your whaling trip for a road trip to the Cabarete district to watch the action at the World Surf League and get in on the final carnival of the season.
It’s fitting that the island that has been called “a little piece of England” delivers echos of The Royal Ascot with the staging of the Caribbean’s most prestigious horse racing event. The Sandy Lane Barbados Gold Cup is a highlight of the island’s sporting and social calendar. The race draws an international field of jockeys and thoroughbred trainers. The Gold Cup is the culmination of a tradition dating back to 1845 when officers of the British Regiment stationed in Barbados staged impromptu horse races on the parade grounds of the Garrison Savannah. Today, it is much more than a race, as it has become the centerpiece for a weekend of social events and celebrations.