La Paz, Puerto Loreto, Baja California, Mexico
La Paz has 17 miles of coastal beaches that are not overrun with crowds, and the newly built $60 million Villa Del Palmar resort, where rates start at a reasonable $250 a night, has transformed the area into a luxury destination. La Mision Loreto Hotel, the Posada de Las Flores and the Inn at Loreto Bay are other good options. Wherever you stay, make sure to enjoy the breadth of the La Paz experience. There’s hiking in the Sierra de la Giganta mountain range, snorkeling in water Jacques Cousteau dubbed the“world’s aquarium,” the best fishing in Mexico and great whale watching.
Palm Beach, Fla.
Palm Beach and affordable are usually not synonymous, but you might be surprised to learn that West Palm Beach has some of the lowest taxes imposed on car rentals, hotels and meals. Check out nearby Florida Everglades National Park for free ranger-guided tours as well as tram and boat tours that highlight local wildlife, birds, swamp life and alligators. Every Thursday night there is a free weekly concert series at the end of Clematis Street in Centennial Square, and on the last Friday of the month, you don’t want to miss the Art & Wine Promenade with free performances and wine tastings.
Rincón, Puerto Rico
This is one of my favorite towns in Puerto Rico. Surfers have always been drawn here for some of the country’s best waves, but Rincón also has great fishing, horseback riding, kayaking, spelunking—even zip-lining in the Batey de Semi rainforest. While one of Rincón’s first travelers, Christopher Columbus, had an arduous journey to reach the island in 1493, today you can just fly into the Eugenio Maria de Hostos airport, which is a 30-minute drive from town. Hotels range from resorts like The Horned Dorset Primavera and the Rincón Beach Resort to smaller properties like the Lazy Parrot Inn.
Magic Mountain, Vt.
While Magic Mountain might not have the high-tech lifts of some of their competitors, you can’t beat the location or the price. Only 25 minutes from Manchester, Vt., most people drive directly to Magic Mountain, where they find trails that are uncrowded even in peak times. There are 40 trails with two lifts and an equal percentage of trails for all skill levels, from beginner to black diamond. Stay at the Blue Gentian Lodge on the mountain or choose from several quaint local inns.
Crested Butte, Colo.
This is the year to check out Crested Butte. A $50 million renovation for all of the ski country mountains means you’ll find faster and newer lifts, recently modified trails and new half-pipes and jumps. Off the slopes, Crested Butte Mountain Resort’s new zip-line tour is one of the only winter canopy tours in the state. While Crested Butte Mountain Resort runs several ski-in/ski-out lodges that are just steps from the main lifts, I’m still partial to condominium rentals such as Black Bear Lodge and Snowmass Villas.
Turner Mountain, Mont.
If you’re looking for a good expert weekend ski getaway that won’t freeze your bank account, look no further than Turner Mountain in northwest Montana. Staffed entirely by local volunteers, this mountain keeps lift tickets in the $20 range. But here, budget doesn’t mean bad skiing. With the tagline “Steep, Deep and Cheap,” it’s no surprise that upward of 70 percent of all its runs are black diamond. Bonus! During the week you can hire a guide for a nominal fee or even rent out the entire mountain for around $2,500.
What’s one of your favorite vacation destinations?
“Costa Rica, because it’s only like a five-hour flight away from L.A. There’s no difference from going to New York [either], and you’re in Costa bloody Rica! And you get to swing in trees and zip through zip lines and go whitewater rafting.” — Neil Patrick Harris, How I Met Your Mother
Originally published in Watch! magazine, February 2012