7 Places to Travel This Spring, According to HAP’s Brandon Berkson
Whether it harkens back to grade school and the promise of a weeklong sojourn on your parents’ dime or it’s just the prospect of a reprieve — however brief — from colder weather, nothing matches the anticipation of a springtime trip.
And while the pandemic has put a bit of a damper on things, spring breakers still flocked to the airport in 2021, and — as evidenced by an Expedia report suggesting that 37 percent of Americans feel comfortable traveling in spite of the new variants — it’s likely they will this year, too.
Brandon Berkson knows a thing or two about travel. After being furloughed from his job as a travel publicist, Berkson turned his focus to his then-pandemic hobby — an Instagram page for hotel enthusiasts — and turned it into full-fledged media company that highlights the world’s trendiest hotels, restaurants and destinations. The resulting product, Hotels Above Par, features two-minute curated guides designed for the “hip traveler who is short on time.” In just 18 months, it’s amassed a readership of more than 128,000 across its various platforms and prompted the creation of Berkson’s most recent venture, HAP Concierge, a trip-planning service that offers totally customized itineraries with an emphasis on boutique hotels and hospitality experiences.
All of this to say: Berkson has a very finely honed radar when it comes to travel trends. Couple it with his penchant for high-end and forward-looking hotels, and we (correctly) assumed that Berkson would be the perfect candidate to select the seven best destinations to travel to this spring.
Below, his recommendations for a warm-weather jaunt of either the domestic or international variety.
Puebla is a colorful, Spanish Colonial-style town that’s underrated and often gets overlooked by Americans who prioritize the country’s tourist-heavy beach towns. As someone who considers our southern neighbor to be his favorite country in the world, believe me when I say Puebla is one of Mexico’s best-kept secrets.
Where to stay: Banyan Tree Puebla is a luxe boutique hotel that’s full of enchanting surprises at every corner: an underground tunnel connecting the lobby to on-site ruins, a rooftop bar with unrivaled views of the city’s chromatic edifices and distanced volcanoes, plus an impressive art collection are just a few of many highlights.
What to do: Visit the Museo Amparo and learn about Mexico’s history through their assemblage of artwork, including pieces from pre-Hispanic and colonial times. If you have a fascination with bookstores and libraries like me, check out Biblioteca Palafoxiana, which in addition to being a stunning, centuries-old establishment, holds more than 41,000 pieces of both Mexican and international literature.
Where to eat: Try traditional Mole Poblano at atmospheric restaurant, Augurio.
Marbella, Spain is not on many Americans’ radars, but it should be. The destination has similar weather to Southern California, meaning that it’s always sunny (think low 70s during April and May). While summer sees many Europeans flock to Marbella’s idyllic beaches, springtime travel is often quieter but just as beautiful.
Where to stay: For decades, Marbella Club has welcomed celebrities and Europe’s elite, from Bridgette Bardot to Audrey Hepburn. Needless to say, this place is iconic. The luxe hotel beams a white-washed aesthetic that pays tribute to the villages found throughout Andalucía. Expect Mediterranean-style gardens, a nourishing spa, ambrosial restaurants and beachfront access, among many other swoon-worthy splendors.
What to do: In addition to lounging on the beach, hit Puerto Banús: a luxe marina where you can find designer boutiques, high-end restaurants and billionaires with yachts that cost more than The White House (the people-watching here is fantastic!).
Where to eat: Dine beachside at Puente Romano Beach Resort Sea Grill, which serves some of the freshest seafood out there.
Encinitas is a laid-back beach town 30 minutes north of San Diego, my hometown. San Diego-bound travelers often opt to stay in La Jolla or Coronado, overlooking Encinitas. A surf haven and boho-chic beach town, Encinitas has grown up these past five years, with its main business district opening more and more trendy-yet-organic restaurants, casual bars and earthy boutiques.
Where to Stay: The luxe Alila Marea Beach Resort is located right on the sand. It’s super contemporary and clean — the wood finishes and curvy ocean-like windows are gorgeous. The hotel’s spa has a myriad of ocean-inspired treatments, which serve as a perfect morning indulgence before lunch at their delicious Pacific Ocean-facing restaurant, VAGA.
What to do: Walk around Encinitas’ main business district (you have to grab a coffee at Better Buzz — this San Diego staple is still one of my favorite spots for a cup of joe, to this day), sign up for a surf lesson at Moonlight Beach or head 10 minutes south to explore the galleries of Cedros Design District in Solana Beach.
Where to eat: When in Encinitas, eat like a local — you can’t go wrong with a seafood sandwich at Encinitas Fish Shop.
Lake Como, Italy
Okay, before you complain that Lake Como is too crowded, hear me out: the destination is way less tourist-frequented during the spring compared to summer. If you ask me, it’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to, with its lush mountains that slope down to the water, Italian-style villages and Belle Epoque estates.
Where to stay: Stay at Grand Hotel Tremezzo, which reopens this year on April 1. It’s a stunning, lakeside art nouveau retreat that oozes Italian elegance. Expect to feel regal and like a 19th-century aristocrat on vacation, from the manicured grounds to your room’s breathtaking lake-facing balcony to the tantalizing spa, with its traditional hammam made of white marble.
What to do: Take the ferry to the village of Bellagio or, if you are like me and into architecture, tour the lake’s remarkable palatial estates — I like Villa del Balbianello and Villa Carlotta.
Where to eat: See the opulent Villa d’Este and eat at their restaurant overlooking the property’s breathtaking gardens, Veranda. Major La Dolce Vita vibes.
Charleston, South Carolina
Hands down, I believe Charleston, South Carolina, is the USA’s best midsize city. The Southern charm here is instant.
Where to stay: The Loutrel is a lovely little boutique hotel right in Charleston’s Downtown — a lot of the design is inspired by the Lowcountry region and the colors its landscapes encompass. If you love a good cityscape view, head to the hotel’s charming rooftop terrace and bar.
What to do: You can walk for hours up and down Charleston’s historic streets. When here, get an Instagram at Rainbow Row, and then stroll down East Bay Street, along the Battery, where you’ll experience constant jaw-dropping at each old southern mansion you pass. History enthusiasts should head to Fort Sumter National Monument, where they can learn about the Civil War and Charleston’s pivotal role during that period.
Where to eat: Head to Husk, where you can expect delicious southern food served inside a historic and adorable Queen Anne-style home.
Mexico City, Mexico
Where to stay: Post up at The Brick Hotel, a 17-room boutique hotel with uber-cool contemporary art, right next to CDMX’s Colonia Roma’s neighborhood’s coolest street, Calle Colima. Plus, if you need a break from the hustle and bustle of the metropolis, the hotel’s Hela Spa is perfect for getting pampered.
What to do: There’s so much to do in CDMX — where do I start? Well, when you’re in Colonia Roma, walk along Calle Colima and pop into Casa Basalta, which has come-and-go art exhibitions and concept stores. After some shopping, head out of Colonia Roma and over for a stroll around colossal park Bosques de Chapultepec, hitting the National Museum of Anthropology and Castillo de Chapultepec. Walk across from the park to the gorgeous, brand-new Ritz-Carlton Mexico City, specifically to their 38th-floor-located Samos Bar for cocktails and one of the best views of Mexico City.
Where to eat: Eat at Nueve Nueve, where you can expect delicious, reimagined Mexican dishes served in an old colonial-style mansion with verdant gardens.
Amsterdam might be too far right now, but what about the Dutch Caribbean for a slice of Holland? After all, it’s much warmer.
Where to stay: Stay at BOHO Bohemian Boutique Hotel, right in the heart of Curaçao’s biggest city, Willemstad’s Pietermaai District — expect bright-colored buildings, Caribbean-style restaurants and island-y shops. The hotel features eight rooms and one loft-style apartment, with each corridor dressed in boho-chic furnishings. The pool and jacuzzi are extra rejuvenating during Curaçao’s warm nights.
What to do: The island has endless beaches, each one prettier than the last. With its crystal-clear water and soft-sand strands, Cas Abao Beach is one to prioritize. If you like your beach with way less people, head to Playa Kenepa for some lounging and, if you wish, snorkeling.
What to eat: Head to Plasa Bieu, an open-air food hall in Willemstad’s Punda neighborhood. You can find tasty, authentic Caribbean cuisine here.
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