ABAD DESTINATIONS: SPRING BREAK

It’s hard to believe that it’s that time of the year, again. We’ve hardly recovered from the holidays and there it is: time to plan for our next getaway. And why not? We either study hard or work hard but either way, we deserve another quick charge to our batteries and an opportunity to do so with the utmost style and fun. It used to be that Fort Lauderdale, Florida, was the number one Spring Break destination—everyone would head there and it would be the only time of year where young people outnumbered the elderly.  But times have changed, and these days, college students look for many other interesting holiday destinations. It’s not necessary to travel very far to find at least one destination that will afford you a nice beach to enjoy with friends and reasonable prices for accommodation and food. At ABAD, we get to travel all year round so when the time comes to give travel advice, we feel pretty confident that our suggestions will not lead you astray.

Santa Barbara, also known as “The American Riviera” is a wonderful Californian Beach Town, with Spanish style architecture, palm trees lined boulevards and mild weather. It’s great for those who love to surf or hang out at the beach. But it’s also great for those who love picturesque hikes and a town full of history. It’s about 90 miles from LA and they have their own airport as well! If driving there from LA, one thing to bear in mind is the heavy traffic on the 101, so plan carefully and leave early in order to avoid unnecessary delays. What we love about Santa Barbara is that it has an old American town feel to it. It’s very laid back; you can stroll from the beach straight into any one of the restaurants along State Street and enjoy whatever cuisine you love to eat. If you’re a lover of avocados then you will find your fair share of guacamole because it’s the very town where Judge R.B Ord introduced Mexican avocado trees to the US.  It’s also a university town and that in itself means that there is a lot to do.

East Beach happens to be located in the middle of everything, and it’s the most popular beach as well. However if you would like to step away from the crowds then there are plenty of other options as well like Arroyo Burro , also known as Hendry’s Beach  and it’s where you will find privacy as well as amenities. Another beach worth mentioning is Butterfly Beach, it’s located in the middle of a very exclusive neighborhood. El Capitan Beach is absolutely gorgeous, with no outside distractions whatsoever where you are one with nature and you can totally relax for the day. You may even spot a pod of dolphins or migrating whales.

Foodwise:

Food is always a matter of taste, but we can certainly vouch for a couple of places. Jalama Beach Grill beachside burgers are a Santa Barbara classic. The hamburger  is stacked with lean beef, fresh-cut veggies, and pickle chips and slathered with their secret sauce. Yum! If you want to splurge a little more on food, try La Super Rica Taqueria, known as Santa Barbara’s best Mexican food.

Tuesday is a great day for exploring the Santa Barbara Farmers Market. All of State Street shuts down and it’s a wonderful opportunity to go shopping for fresh produce

Accommodations:

If you want to p ay a reasonable price for real luxury then share a room at the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara, this is truly a very special treat. However for more down to earth prices, you should stay in one of the various Inns in the area, such as the Simpson House Inn or the Spanish Garden Inn.

Venice Beach, California, also known as the Venice of America in its heyday, is literally in our back yard, yet we can safely say that it’s a wonderful destination for anyone seeking a little break from the cold. It’s only 15 minutes away from LAX and it’s right in the center of a long stretch of beach that makes up the Santa Monica and Marina Beach front. There is so much excitement and so much to do whether during the daytime or night time. The weather is always mild and there is so much beach that you can choose between sitting on top of your friends or finding a secluded spot to relax. You can rent a bike and find yourself riding for a couple of hours whether you choose to go down to Manhattan Beach or in the other direction towards Malibu. The boardwalk is a constant source of entertainment with street performers galore as well as plenty of good eats.

During the nighttime a stroll through Abbot Kinney is a wonderful place to start. This eclectic street is named after the founder of Venice, Mr. Abbot Kinney who in 1905 developed the area into a seaside resort town. He obviously had a love for Venice Italy because he modeled it on the actual venetian town in Europe. These days you can still see the remnants of Kinney’s original vision; although no more glass blowers from Venice or Gondoliers imported from Venice, there is the original Venetian style architecture and the Venice Canals. It’s well worth your time to take a little walk in between thee canals and see for your selves.  There is no doubt that Venice 100 hundred years ago had a lot more to offer, but we can’t ignore the fact that these days it’s still a very unique place to visit; very different from any other beach town that you will ever see.

Foodwise:

There is so much good food in this place! If you’re interested in a quick bite to eat there is absolutely nothing like Abbot’s Pizza. It’s a hole in the wall with a few barstools for seats but the selection of bagel crusted pizza will drive you crazy. We’re love the mushroom piazza and the Greek salad pizza. For a more expensive meal and one that requires a reservation you must try Gjelina where they only serve seasonal produce in order to create the most scrumptious farm to table food.

The array of stores and galleries in the area are worth the time to stroll down Abbot Kinney and take a look. Hop on an Uber if you want to go up to downtown Santa Monica and walk down Third Street and explore the stores and eateries.

Accommodations:

Venice is pricey, but there are still a few places that will not break your pocket if you share a room, such as the Inn at Venice Beach, bohemian style boutique hotel, only a 4 minute walk from the ocean. Another one to look at is Venice On the Beach Hotel, this one’s right on the beach, so no need to elaborate and the price, well not that bad.

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, is another wonderful combination of old –world feel town combined with beach. It’s not only a resort town, it’s where locals live and work which makes it more of an authentic destination. It’s rich with cultural history and art galleries. There is so much to do here! It’s a beautiful part of Mexico with the palm tree tinted Sierra Madre Mountains and the Banderas Bay that snakes along the coast. There are many beaches, parties, and places to shop and dine. It’s good to know that April is one of the cheapest times of the year to stay in Puerto Vallarta because there will still be the occasional rain shower, but who cares about a little bit of rain when the temperature is still hot.

Like in most Mexican holiday spots you will find those annoying timeshare reps everywhere in town, if you learn to say “no gracias” right away then nobody will bother you. They’re only trying to do their job so no need to get angry. It comes with the territory. Note: you will need a valid passport.

Foodwise:

You’ll find absolutely everything in this place, and there is enough of a choice that you can avoid the food chains and opt for European or more interesting local cuisine instead. A popular joint around town is Casa Isabel where you can dine for less than $20. Though a very trendy and delicious place is Café des Artistes, only open for dinner but so worth it.

Accommodations:

You will find plenty of those all-inclusive hotels around town. The New Hard Rock Hotel Vallarta located in Riviera Nayarit opened in 2012 and is about 7 miles from the airport. There are trendy bars and lounges and it’s only a very short cab ride away from down town Puerto Vallarta. Hacienda San Angel used to be owned by Richard Burton and it was a gift that he gave Liz Taylor for Valentine’s Day. It’s got a stunning view of the bay below and it’s beautifully decorated with colonial antiques.

Things to do:

Walk about town: There are so many galleries around down town that you must set aside some time to walk around the narrow streets and check out the artwork. Wednesdays are allocated for their Art Walk where you can then meet some of the local artist.

Surfing: The beaches have decent conditions so you will find plenty of surfers along the beaches, but if you are a very experienced surfer then you’ll find your company in the northern beaches.

Kayaking: a wonderful way to enjoy the water is by renting a kayak and paddling along the coast.

Cabo San Lucas and Jose del Cabo, these two towns are located in the southernmost tip of Baja, California. However, they are very different from one another; Cabo San Lucas is more of the Party place, while Jose del Cabo is laid back. Cabos San Lucas started out as the very destination for the Hollywood elite, especially in the 70s, but since then it has been adopted by the Spring Break crowds that festoon the beaches every spring time. Note: you will need a valid passport.

This Spring Break destination is still one of the favorites. And why not? The weather is perfect, the beaches are beautiful, the water is crystal clear that you feel as though you are in another world, and indeed you are!  But, if you want to veer away from the crowds your best option would be to stay in San Jose del Cabo, it’s 20 miles away from the airport and it’s 250 years older than Cabo San Lucas. It’s becoming another up and coming destination for tourists: authentic and charming with cobblestone roads, it boasts art galleries and restaurants that serve authentic farm-to-table cuisine at great prices. It’s quieter than Cabo but there is always something interesting taking place in town. Ask about a shuttle service from airport to hotel, it will ultimately be cheaper than taking a taxi. Again, we advise you to become very comfortable with plain old “no gracias” when vendors come to peddle their goods when you’re trying to relax, they will soon learn to leave you alone. Also, in Mexico it’s common for stores to take siesta time, meaning they close mid-day for a few hours so their owners can take a rest.

Things to do:

Beach –  If you seek a quiet spot without vendors then go to Land’s End or El Arco. It’s a great spot for diving if you are an excellent swimmer and in peak physical condition because there will be some underwater currents there that you must be aware of.  Nearby is Playa del Amor or Lover’s Beach, and it’s one of the most popular beaches, it’s on the south side of downtown Cabo but easily accessible by boat from the marina. Another great beach is Playa Solmar, although it‘s the beach that the few hotels in the area use for their guests, it also means less beach vendors! You will need to do a little mini trek in order to get there, but it makes it all the more exciting.

Camel rides – these tours will take you along the beach as well as through the desert and offer you a picnic lunch as well.

Whale Watching – this happens between December and April. Sometimes the whales come very close to the boat so get ready for a serious adventure.

Accomodations:

The all-inclusive hotels here may not be your smartest choice as they tend to charge additional hotel taxes and you’ll be better off dining off the property.  For the ultimate pampered experience we have to mention Capella Pedregal, a place that is only accessible through a long tunnel that cuts through the surrounding mountains—you can only imagine what this place would be like. The Esperanza, an Auberge Resort is another extravagant stay and a another great resort which is located right in the heart of town is ME CaboVilla Del Palmar Beach Resort & Spa Cao San Lucas is a popular place to stay with very reasonable prices. Villa del Arco Los Cabos Beach Resort is wonderful if you’re interested in being an arm’s reach away from downtown.  ME Cabo is a luxury resort in the center of town, it’s another hot spot where the young like to stay, the nightlife is excellent but if you’re a light sleeper and do not enjoy the party scene then you may want to stay away. Hotel El Ganzo is reasonably new and it’s near San Jose del Cabo in a still underdeveloped Puerto Los Cabos. It’s perched on a marina, they have a rooftop infinity pool that is pure luxury, a beautiful beach and clubhouse for guest’s use and a special protected area for swimming .

Foodwise:

The dining hours are extremely relaxed where you’ll still see breakfast menus offered during lunchtime, so if you are a breakfast lover then you’re in luck. Like anywhere else, the best values you will obviously find in the off the beaten downtown path as opposed to the main eating establishments. However, in Alcaravea Gourmet you will find a multi-course meal that includes a soup, salad and an entree and side dish plus a dessert and a drink for only $10. Another one to recommend is Baja Peppers where locals as well as tourist enjoy to dine. There is good quality food and it’s affordable to boot! You will find breakfast, lunch and dinner and the menu is a combination of Mexican obviously with some Italian items in case you have overdosed on Mexican. The best Mexican restaurant in Cabos is said to be Los Tres Gallos. It’s traditional Mexican dining but it’s the best that you will ever find. Some street eats in Cabos are March’s Feria de San Jose in Plaza Mijares, where you’ll find a medley of Mexican favorites such as taquitos, sopes, nopales and tortas.

Miami Beach, is dubbed America’s Riviera and it’s of course the quintessential place to be during Spring Break, especially if you live on the East Coast, and it’s not such a big deal to get there or you’re from the West Coast and you pine after a different beach experience altogether. In the North Beaches of Miami you will find more reasonable prices for hotels and restaurants. It’s where most families like to stay; it’s also where you’ll find beautiful architecture. The younger college crowd has an obvious attraction to SOBE, otherwise known as South Beach. You will experience a strong Spanish influence in this city, particularly because it has the largest Cuban population in the country. Although Miami does indeed cater to the money crowd, there is plenty to do that does not necessitate a boat load of money. First of all, you have the Atlantic Ocean in all of its glory and white powder beaches stretching for miles on end. Sure, you can spend a lot of money in clubs and sophisticated bars, but there are enough attractions to accommodate to any wallet size.

Foodwise:

So many restaurants to choose from, anything from high end dining, NY style chefs who’ve imported their trade mark dishes to Miami, to more ethnic foods such as Cuban, Caribbean, and Asian. A quick easy bite that we love in South Beach are the burgers from Burgers and Beer Joint.  If you’re in the mood for a take-out then you must not miss My Ceviche, a place that you would probably ignore when walking past it, but when you taste the fresh fish that’s on the menu, you begin to understand. We also tasted the Caribbean style burrito—excellent. Another great spot for dinner or just drinks is Juvia in South Beach, it has a beautiful view, cozy outdoor seating and a wonderful menu.

Accommodation:

For the boutique hotel experience we recommend The Tides South Beach, there are only 45 rooms and 12 floors but it’s a great spot if you need to unwind away from all the noise. Another one of our favorites is the SOHO Beach House. For a more opulent experience and a child-friendly hotel that still allows you to relax, there is always the Acqualina Resort & Spa on the Beach, it’s about 10 miles away from Miami beach. The Fontainebleau Miami Beach has excellent amenities and it’s a large bustling hotel popular with the young crowd, it’s where you go to see and be seen.

Things to do:

Beach: this is a perfect time of the year where it’s not too hot, so of course there will be water sports and dipping in the Atlantic, but long walks along the beach is a wonderful opportunity to take in the sites and exercise all in one.

Shopping along Lincoln Road, Collins Ave., and Merrick Park offer the opportunity to shop yet still remain outdoors to enjoy the perfect weather.

Nightlife – Miami’s nightlife is a booming scene all year round so your problem will be where to go first, rather than what to do at night?  There are clubs galore, bars to go to and late night art walks. Many people love to visit the Mansion or the LIV or SET nightclubs. Locals have a preference for Rec Room and The Broken Shaker. At the Design District there is the Stage, where very talented bands get to perform nightly.

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