Take a Break From Winter Break: Best Getaways

Courtesy of Glenn Jampol
Main room at the Finca Rosa Blanca Resort and Coffee Plantation

Have coffee with a Capuchin in Costa Rica, bungee jump New Zealand or fish the Florida Keys

If the winter break meant delayed flights and heated exchanges with loved ones, then you might need a break to recover from the break. Maybe rather than a beer with your brother-in-law, you want a dip in a tropic lagoon. Or instead of cold gray skies, you want warm white beaches. And what if you could trade a soggy bowl of cereal for a cappuccino with a real-life capuchin monkey?

Just 20 minutes from Costa Rica’s San Jose International Airport sprawls the Finca Rosa Blanca Resort and Coffee Plantation. Around 4,000 feet above sea level, this 40-acre eco resort produces some of the best mountain grown brew you ever tasted. A few cups will give you all the energy you need to hike nearby Poas Volcano, which contains three craters, one of which is the second largest in the world. And if java and lava aren’t your thing then tour the jungle canopy of Turu Bari, home to a menagerie of exotic creatures ranging from the keel-billed toucan to the three-toed sloth.  

Dine on locally grown fruits and vegetables at El Tigre Vestido, the resort’s patio restaurant offering a panoramic view of the Central Valley. And sleep in the main lodge, designed by local architect Francisco Rojas in the mode of Southwestern adobe meets Antoni Gaudi. The Rosa Blanca Master Suite includes a 360-degree bedroom view of the valley with a spiral staircase to a living room, bar and patio for $450 (seasonal), while junior suites are available at $320 per couple.

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If you’re looking for something a little more remote, you might try Monte Azul, an artist’s retreat about two and a half hours from the capitol through the cloud forest. The 100-acre jungle getaway offers four private casitas designed in mid-century style, each with its own garden. A working goat farm offers a taste of homemade feta, chevre, mozzarella and Camembert cheeses. And you can work off the calories bird watching or take a short walk to the rustic town of San Isidro. Oh, and don’t be surprised if breakfast includes an impromptu visit by a clan of capuchins looking for scraps. Rooms are $249 per person per day, with a two-day minimum, meals included. 

While Costa Rica is only six hours from LAX, it's too far away if you find yourself on location on the other side of the world. In that case you can beat the cold by heading south to Queentown, New Zealand, where Kiwis go to play. An alpine accommodation with stunning views of Lake Wakatipu and The Remarkables mountain range, the St. Moritz has the feel of an upscale mountain lodge with traditional guest rooms starting at $204 per night (seasonal), and one-bedroom alpine suites with kitchenette, washer/dryer, dining room and living area starting at $230 per night.

You can enjoy a helicopter ride into the Southern Alps and dine on a picnic prepared by house eatery, Lombardi Restaurant, or kick around the charming lakeside town offering gift shops, pubs and varied cuisine including Fergburger’s self-proclaimed World’s Greatest Burger. Don’t try it until you’re done waterskiing, jet skiing, sailing, hiking, golfing or bungee jumping at the Kawarau Bungy Center, the sport’s birthplace. And if burgers aren’t your thing, it’s just a short drive to Central Otago’s wide range of vineyards for a chardonnay to calm your nerves.

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Closer to home but not too close are the Florida Keys. No wine tasting here, but some of best and freshest seafood ever at the Cheeca Lodge & Spa about 45 minutes south of Miami. If you’re craving crustacean go for the Seafood Tower for Two including six oysters, four shrimp cocktail, lobster tail and ceviche. But you won’t want to miss the Ahi Tuna Carpaccio with avocado cream, pickled gooseberry and avocado oil. As you might have guessed, fishing is big here. But if you’re not into plying the deep for mahi and snapper, you could play golf on Cheeca’s ocean-side course, or paddleboard among the mangroves with lady fish passing inches under your feet, out of sight of the egrets and pelicans. Beach bungalows start at $249 (seasonal), and rooms start at $229.

If you’re looking for something a little quieter, you might try Key Largo’s Kona Kai Resort, an unassuming roadside stop offering an art gallery and botanical garden with an in-house horticulturalist providing personal tours. Don’t be surprised if you stumble across one of the island’s many ring-tailed geckos, the curly appendage looping on its back, or an iguana sleeping in the trees. You can choose between the private beach and pool for a swim, or take a short drive up the coast and sail the African Queen, the boat that carried Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn in the John Huston classic. Guest rooms start at $299 and one-room suites at $369, but there’s no restaurant. But don’t worry, across the street is Ballyhoo’s Seafood Grill offering the best Key Lime Pie in the Keys. But then again, that’s what they all say.