For some, spring break means crowd­ed beach­es, bustling ski towns and, occa­sion­al­ly, drunk­en mis­be­hav­ior. But if you’re among the for­tu­nate few who have a pre­cious week of spring­time free­dom, these over­looked vaca­tion spots will treat you to a unique expe­ri­ence far from the crowds.

Cochiti Mesa, New Mexico










Cochi­ti Mesa, New Mexico
Once con­sid­ered among the pre­mier climb­ing areas in New Mex­i­co, the amaz­ing faces at Cochi­ti Mesa have fall­en some­what out of favor recent­ly due to a lack of over­hang­ing jug fest. That’s all the more rea­son to vis­it this clas­sic sports area where crowds are thin and tem­per­a­tures beau­ti­ful in the spring.

The area is locat­ed between the Alberqueque and San­ta Fe, New Mex­i­co, in some beau­ti­ful­ly rugged desert land­scape. There’s a lot of nation­al for­est land in the area to camp or a devel­oped area is also near­by. For more infor­ma­tion and direc­tions, check out Ran­dal Jett and Matt Samet’s guide­book host­ed by the Los Alam­os Mountaineers.

Pere Marquette State Park, Grafton, Illinois










Pere Mar­quette State Park, Grafton, Illinois
The weath­er in this forest­ed state park on the banks of the Mis­sis­sip­pi Riv­er is a lit­tle hit or miss in late March and ear­ly April, but fick­le rains and pos­si­ble snow flur­ries add to the attrac­tion of a lodge with an enor­mous fire­place and life-size chess­board. With fish­ing, hik­ing and many oth­er out­door activ­i­ties near­by, the hotel will be qui­et ear­ly in the sea­son. Ten­nis courts will be open (but maybe chilly) and the mighty Mis­sis­sip­pi will be swollen in her banks, throb­bing south­ward with spring melt­wa­ter, an amaz­ing and mes­mer­iz­ing spec­ta­cle that is not to be missed.

Lake of the Ozarks










Lake of the Ozarks
The largest, non-flood con­trol lake in the Unit­ed States, Lake of the Ozarks cov­ers 55,000 acres of fun for boaters and fish­er­men in the heart of the Ozark Moun­tains. This cen­tral­ly locat­ed aquat­ic can be a lit­tle over­whelmed with boaters and row­dy partiers dur­ing pop­u­lar sum­mer week­ends, but ear­ly in the sea­son tends more on the tran­quil side.

Ear­ly sea­son fish­ing can land super-sized bass, the sur­round­ing forests are in ear­ly bloom. Many hotels still offer off-sea­son rates.

Assateague Island, Maryland










Assateague Island, Maryland
This pop­u­lar sum­mer­time camp­ing area and beach are cool but full of peace and qui­et in late March. But with high tem­per­a­tures in the 50’s, hardy campers will find a mag­i­cal land­scape, miles of uncrowd­ed beach­es and wild ponies! Build a roar­ing fire at night, enjoy the unpol­lut­ed night sky with a few friends and have a great, inex­pen­sive break from the grind.

Shelf Road, Colorado2










Shelf Road, Colorado
This is a super­store of sum­mer climb­ing des­ti­na­tions, but ear­ly in the year, Shelf Road is plen­ty warm to climb. Mod­er­ate spring weath­er makes for pleas­ant days on myr­i­ad well-bolt­ed sport routes and a great way to get the fin­gers revi­tal­ized after a win­ter of ice climb­ing or ski­ing. Some­body men­tion ski­ing? A short dri­ve will bring you from Shelf Road to Monarch Moun­tain, where snow­pack lasts late into the spring. This trip makes for a dou­ble-wham­my spring break sports trip.

Culebra, Puerto Rico.










Cule­bra, Puer­to Rico
Ok, so Puer­to Rico is def­i­nite­ly on the Spring Break radar. Unless you are Puer­to Rican, how­ev­er, Cule­bra is prob­a­bly not. This tiny island is one of the Span­ish Vir­gins that are actu­al­ly clos­er to the U.S. Vir­gin Islands than main­land Puer­to Rico. For a $3 fer­ry ride from Fajar­do, you will be in a trop­i­cal par­adise that is as funky as it is fun.

Many days, the island is a ver­i­ta­ble ghost town with just a hand­ful of locals shar­ing the streets with the occa­sion­al pass­ing sailor. On busy Puer­to Rican hol­i­days, how­ev­er, look out! Thou­sands of Puer­to Ricans make the trip from the main­land on long week­ends to camp at pop­u­lar Flamin­go Beach or par­ty onboard yachts and sail­boats. Regard­less, the place has an amaz­ing vibe and is still well off the beat­en path. So if you’ve got mon­ey for a plane tick­et, pack your bathing suit and a light tent, fly to San Juan and then find your way to the fer­ry dock in Fajar­do. Next stop, paradise.