Lake Atitlán in Guatemala is one of our top spring break picks for 2024. Photo: Ferrando Elias on Unsplash

We are officially in the throes of winter, and, as if I needed to be reminded, today I got a news notification on my computer from HuffPost asking me if I “feel like hot trash at the moment.”

Spoiler alert: It’s seasonal affective disorder. 

Seasonal affective disorder, baby! And the best non-clinical way to treat it? Start planning your next trip, which can serve as a distraction, but more importantly, give you something to look forward to. Spring break is just around the corner, right? Here are our top five recs to get you started.

A view of the Izalco volcano from the Santa Ana in Cerro Verde National Park in El Salvador.

El Salvador

Flight time from NYC: 5 hours

Direct flight cost March 1-8: $190

El Salvador has long been overlooked as a destination due to its violent past, but under the leadership of Nayib Bukele, it has gotten exponentially safer, particularly for tourists as the country tries to attract more of them. One benefit of visiting somewhere with a fledgling tourism industry? No spring break pricing. So what to do there — In El Salvador there are options, and because it’s a small country (smaller than Massachusetts!) you can cover a lot of ground. There’s Ruta de las Flores, a loop of five scenic towns in coffee country; Cerro Verde, a national park that is the starting point for climbing the Santa Ana volcano; and of course the beaches, including El Tunco, renowned for its surf breaks and spring break-esq nightlife. 

Baja Sur: where the ocean meets the desert + lots of whales. Photo: Josh Withers on Unsplash

Baja Sur road trip

Flight time from NYC: 6.5 hours

Direct flight cost March 1-8: $570

Fly into Cabo, rent a car — ideally a 4×4 —and hit the road (OK, and maybe stop for a meal at Tacos Gardenias). There are so many destinations on the southern part of the Baja Peninsula, you can really build-your-own road trip. A few of our favorites are: 

San Jose del Cabo: Cabo San Lucas’ quieter and classier sibling, San Jose del Cabo is a colorful colonial town with a lively arts district, good restaurants and miles of coast.

East Cape: Off-grid and untouched, East Cape is the perfect place to unplug and enjoy your surroundings.

La Ventana: La Ventana is a major kitesurfing destination for both pros and newbies, with plenty of lessons available. There are plenty of other activities as well, including hiking, mountain biking, fishing and hot springs.

Todos Santos: This laid-back town has surged in popularity in recent years, drawing artists, boho types surfers and travelers from all over for its gorgeous beaches, sunset, boutiques and baby turtle releases. 

La Paz: The capital of Baja Sur offers a little bit of everything: swim with whale sharks and visit the whale museum, stroll along the boardwalk, sail to Isla Espiritu Santo, visit the world-famous Balandra Beach, swim with sea lions,  

Lake Atitlán is surrounded by villages and volcanos. Photo: Paweł Wielądek on Unsplash

Lake Atitlán, Guatemala

Flight time from NYC: 5.5 hours

Direct flight cost March 1-8: $250

Nestled high in Guatemala’s highlands about three hours from the airport, Lake Atitlán is surrounded by lakeside villages and towering volcanoes, known for its natural beauty and cultural richness. You can easily visit the 11 different villages by boat, with some of the most popular being San Pedro, a backpacker mecca and party town with with lots of Spanish language schools, affordable accommodations and thermal pools; San Marcos, a hippie haven with lots of yoga, massages and spiritual vibes; and tiny Jaibalito, which has lakeside club with a hot tub and infinity pool that’s worth a visit (and an Instagram photo or two).  

There’s no city quite like Havana. Photo: Spencer Everett on Unsplash

Havana, Cuba

Flight time from NYC: 6 hours

Flight cost March (direct not available from NYC, transit in Miami) 1-8: $440

First things first — yes, you can legally visit Cuba, as long as your visit falls under one of several categories, which includes “support for the Cuban people.” Purposefully vague and applicable to a variety of situations. A city frozen in time, Havana has a unique charm and vibrant energy that draws people back time after time. There’s the colonial architecture and classic cars, the atmospheric Malecón along the sea, the street art, the music — salsa, Afro-Cuban and jazz, the cigars + plenty of nearby beaches with that perfect Carribean-blue water — it’s truly one-of-a-kind. 

Lisbon has it all: food, wine, friendly people, beautiful buildings and beaches. Photo: Spencer Everett on Unsplash

Lisbon, Portugal

Flight time from NYC: 6.5 hours

Direct flight cost March 1-8: $700

Europe seems far, but in reality Lisbon is just about 30 minutes further from New York City than Los Angeles is. And there’s a reason that everyone from digital nomads to retirees has been flocking there. It’s affordable, easy access to beaches, friendly, culturally rich and has great food and um, have you had Portuguese wine? You could easily spend a whole week in Lisbon, or, you can hop on a train a few hours south to the Algarve region, known for its stunning coastline and beautiful beaches.

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