March is a good time to take a vacation. Spring is in the air, cherry blossoms are starting to bloom, and Spring Equinox celebrations are taking place. From St. Patrick's Day festivities to spring regattas to national festivals, here are the best places to travel in March.
Flag and Anthem Day celebrates the country's "status aparte" on March 18. A folkloric production takes place at Plaza Betico Croes in Oranjestad, as well as cultural and sporting events around the island.
The Hindu New Year's Eve is more raucous than Times Square. Using cymbals, gongs, drums, and fireworks, the Balinese scare away monstrous ogoh-ogohs: huge papier-maché figures representing evil spirits. Everyone keeps very quiet the next day, so the spirits can't find their way back.
The St. Maarten Heineken Regatta takes place in March: Not only is this the chance for world-class competition, it's also the time for the biggest nightly after-parties, plus culinary events; however, this is within the island's peak season, so don't expect a discount on rooms.
In the Galapagos Islands off Ecuador, March sees the flattest seas and warmest water. It's not peak season, so rates are down — but it is the rainy time of year, a bonus if you prefer an in-bloom landscape to an arid one. Note to wildlife photographers: this month, land birds mate, as do sea lions; you'll also see their pups.
It's the only country besides Ireland where St. Patrick's Day is an official government holiday. The festivities last a full week, and locals wear their national dress — predominant color: green. Bars serve Guinness and green Heineken, along with rum punch. You'll get a shamrock stamp in your passport and a chance to try the national dish: goat water. Really, it's delicious.
In Japan, it's a sure sign that spring has arrived when the country's national flower starts to bloom. Since the famed pink blossoms can only be viewed for two weeks, hanami (blossom viewing) is a big deal throughout the country. Time a trip during the annual Cherry Blossom Festival for better odds of catching the natural wonder. Some of the best viewing spots include Ueno Park, Inokashira Park, Sumida Park and along the Meguro River.
Don't wear your finest threads in Fiji during Holi, the Festival of Colors, when the Indo-Fijian locals toss colored powder at one another to celebrate the arrival of spring. Dancing, singing and bonfires are also part of the late-March party, which is the least religious and most social of the Hindu holidays.
These 365 cays lie just 35 miles south of Nassau. On Staniel Cay, the yacht club has a handful of bungalows on stilts at the water's edge, as well as obliging kitchen staff who'll give you scraps to take to nearby Big Major Cay. This one is uninhabited — except for feral (but friendly) swimming pigs, who live on the beach and dog, er, pig-paddle out to greet visitors and beg a snack. Help them celebrate National Pig Day on March 1. Hint: They're fond of watermelon rinds.
Riviera Maya, Mexico
Take a day trip inland to Chichen Itza to celebrate the Spring Equinox, when the sun creates the astonishing illusion of a snake slithering up El Castillo pyramid. Tip: It's also visible a week before and after the Equinox, and crowds are smaller then.
St. Croix is one of the few islands in the Caribbean where St. Patrick's Day is celebrated from sun-up to long after sunset in Christiansted with a street parade and live bands. Also, all month long, migrating whales can often be spotted along the north shore. Creative types will appreciate the Starving Artists Day at Whim Estate when pieces are priced to move. Note: March is one of the driest months.