Sometimes, you just need to get away from it all: drama, work, responsibilities. Tropical-weekend getaways seem so daunting to plan and to take, though. Fortunately, no matter where you live in the United States, there are plenty of relatively easy-to-access destinations that you can stay at for short stints.
Check out the Florida Keys, an easily accessible yet distinct part of the Sunshine State that offers succulent seafood to go with oceanside sunsets abound. Or try one of the many Caribbean islands that welcome direct flights from places you’d never expect. For the West Coasters, only one flight stands between you, the beaches of Hawaii and one of the best three-day vacations you can take.
Feeling like it’s time to get away, like it’s time to unwind and reset? For the price of one vacation day, you’ll be in paradise by lunch. Read on for our list of the best three-day vacation ideas.
Why It’s Easy: Nonstop flights from San Francisco, Los Angeles and Oakland make it possible to go tropical for a long weekend. Even better? No currency swaps or customs.
Why It’s Exotic: This is a side of Oahu few know exist. At the Byodo-In Temple, peacocks roam, and koi swim in a setting so foreign that it’s been used as a Korea stand-in on Lost. The replica of a Japanese Buddhist temple was built at the base of the Ko’olau Mountains to honor the 100-year anniversary of the first Japanese immigrants to Hawaii.
The Japanese influence doesn’t stop there. A 30-minute drive to Waikiki leads to Asian travelers queuing up at Marukame Udon for a taste of home. One slurp of the fresh noodles, and the next stop may as well be Mount Fuji on one of the best three-day getaways.
Travelers Beware: Byodo-In rests inside a memorial park, so road delays from funeral processions can happen. Also, Oahu has about six times the population of Maui on a smaller landmass. So, dig deeper to find the real Hawaii, like plate lunches at Rainbow Drive-In and canoe paddling at Ala Wai Park.
Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
Why All the Fuss: For starters, a week-long trip, flights included, can ring in for less than $1,000. And, with over 35,000 rooms, this all-inclusive mecca has thousands of options for those with a taste of convenience and bottomless cocktails. Low maintenance? Definitely. But predictable? Not a chance.
Why It’s Exotic: These megaresorts are growing up: Hand-pressed tortillas at Barceló Bávaro and Paradisus’ mixologist-crafted drinks have us nodding in unexpected approval (so does Barceló’s less-than-$100-a-night-per-person room rate). A personal butler on speed dial has us halfway to a fist pump.
Do: Bring your own insulated mug.
Don’t: Be sure not to assume everything is included. Premium alcohol, Wi-Fi, private-beach areas and spa treatments aren’t always covered in the upfront price.
Booking Tip: Use a travel agent to get as much as a third off.
St. John, USVI
Why It’s Easy: Daily nonstop flights from 10 U.S. cities travel to St. Thomas. From there, it’s a breezy (literally and figuratively) 20-minute ferry ride from the Red Hook dock to St. John.
Why It’s Exotic: This isle is small on development (only four hotels) and big on nature: Its national parkland covers two-thirds of the island. Jungle trails wend past petroglyphs and hermit crabs unfazed by curious guests. The park even extends underwater for 5,600 acres (see 225 yards of it on Trunk Bay’s snorkeling trail, where damselfish slide through sea fans, and parrotfish glow almost neon).
Afterward, nearby Cruz Bay awaits with coconut shrimp and mango coladas (made with local Cruzan rum) at Morgan’s Mango.
Travelers Beware: Topside, the ranger-guided Reef Bay Trail is the way to do the park, but the three-mile hike fills up fast; so, call far in advance to reserve a spot. Crowds of cruisers also swarm Trunk Bay.
Why It’s Easy: It’s 25 minutes from Providence by air.
Why It’s Exotic: Different season, different scene: Autumn calls for pumpkin ale at Black Dog and riding the country’s oldest carousel.
Travelers Beware: Booze sold only in Edgartown and Oak Bluffs.
Why It’s Easy: No boat required. Do 42 bridges in a drop-top.
Why It’s Exotic: Take three hours or three days. Find stone crabs off the virgin beach; overnight in a bungalow; be steps from a Key deer.
Travelers Beware: Get off Duval Street in Key West for cheaper beer and quicker liquor.
Montego Bay, Jamaica
Why It’s Easy: It’s no surprise all the major East Coast hubs offer nonstop flights to Montego Bay. But from Denver? Actually, yes. Thanks, Frontier. Fly nonstop from Indianapolis, Dallas and Minneapolis, too. The Jamaican dollar is the official currency, but the U.S. dollar is widely accepted, especially at resorts and for tourist taxis (different from route taxis, which are mostly used by locals and make more stops).
Why It’s Exotic: Outside the all-inclusives and beyond the overpriced tchotchkes on Gloucester Avenue, in Doctor’s Cave Beach, the best non-resort option for a day at the beach. Six bucks and one step inside the beach club later, it’s like being on a private island.
Travelers Beware: That $6 just mentioned is needed to get onto the beach itself, not just into the club; so, bring cash.
Jade Mountain, Saint Lucia
Why It’s Easy: Book three nights, period. No more, no less. Having a butler is easy, too.
Why It’s Exotic: Where else do you have a private infinity pool and living art instead of a wall? (Nearby Ladera Resort has this, too.) It means sleeping, showering and brushing teeth in fresh Caribbean air.
Travelers Beware: Little birds fly in and out. They’re cute for 72 hours. The novelty fades just in time for checkout.