Ménage à Quatre

Let Cancún have the crowds. Four spots that lend style to spring debauchery.

Crested Butte, Colorado
Why It Beats Cancú;n » There's a reason Crested Butte hosts the national extreme-skiing, -snowboarding, and -teleskiing championships: More than 40 percent of the mountain's 1,073 acres is designated double-black-diamond terrain. Added bonus: The resort's new owners have shined up the mountain's sagging infrastructure.

Where the Action Is » Down a post-powder pint at the mountainside Butte 66 Roadhouse BBQ, then grab a shuttle to Crested Butte proper for steak and martinis at the Wooden Nickel.

There's More » Crested Butte Mountain Guides (970-349-5430, www.crestedbutteguides.com) will lead you on a four-day Spring Break Blast into the backcountry, where you'll spend nights in a spacious alpine hut. Or book a dogsled tour with Lucky Cat Dog Farm (970-641-1636, www.luckycatdogfarm.com), in nearby Gunnison.

Where to Stay » The Grand Lodge (doubles, $231; 888-823-4446, www.grandlodgecrestedbutte.com), just 200 yards from the lifts, has a full spa, gym, and pool. Or consider Club Med Crested Butte (doubles from $960, three nights all-inclusive; 800-258-2633, www.clubmed.com), at the base of the Red Lady Express lift.

Joshua Tree National Park, California

Joshua Tree National Park, California

The mountains and mole hills of Joshua Tree National Park

Why It Beats Cancú;n » World-class rock climbing (6,000-plus established routes) and bouldering in a secluded 794,000-acre desert playground about 150 miles east of Los Angeles.

Where the Action Is » Joshua Tree straddles two deserts: the Mojave and the Colorado (which is part of the Sonoran Desert). Climbers and hikers generally stick to the higher Mojave region, which flanks the park's northern boundary.

There's More » Climbing is the star attraction here. If you're eager to learn, take a beginner's course from Vertical Adventures (800-514-8785, www.verticaladventures.com), in Joshua Tree. Alternatively, pack a GPS and do some peripatetic backpacking.

Where to Stay » There are nine different campgrounds, but the climbers tend to congregate at Hidden Valley (760-367-5500, www.nps.gov/jotr), where a handful of sport-climbing routes jut directly from tent sites. If you must have a roof over your head, try the 29 Palms Inn (doubles from $110; 760-367-3505, www.29palmsinn.com), in nearby Twentynine Palms, where you can reserve a 70-year-old adobe with a fireplace and private patio.

Tulum, Mexico

Tulum, Mexico
The un-Cancún (courtesy, Mexico Tourism Board)

Why It Beats Cancú;n » Escape the sweaty crush of spring break farther north and head 90 minutes south of Cancú;n to Tulum, a sleepy pueblo on the Yucatá;n's east coast. Tulum's virtually deserted beaches make it a far better spot to soak up the tropical vibe and take in the surrounding Maya ruins.

Where the Action Is » Action isn't exactly the operative word here. Since electricity is limited, guests spend evenings tiki-bar-hopping between the handful of resorts along the beach.

There's More » Have your hotel arrange a bike excursion to the ruins and then take an afternoon plunge in one of Tulum's cenotes, or freshwater swimming holes. Or sea-kayak through the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve (011-52-998-884-9580, www.ecotravelmexico.com), 1.5 million acres of mangrove swamps, coastal dunes, savannas, and freshwater lagoons to the south.

Where to Stay » The two-year-old Amansala Eco-Chic Resort & Spa ($1,075 per person for three nights; 011-52-984-1000-717, www.amansala.com) features "bohemian chic" beach cabanas stocked with candles and incense. It also offers yoga classes, surf-side massages, and a session in a temezcal, or Maya sweat lodge.

Cabarete, Dominican Republic

Cabarete, Dominican Republic

Serene views in an extreme realm

Why It Beats Cancú;n » Canadian windsurfer Jean Laporte put this town on the map back in the eighties, but these days kiteboarders are flocking to the protected waters, where afternoon thermals arrive like clockwork.

Where the Action Is » Downtown Cabarete, a mile-long strip, is jammed with bars, restaurants, and hotels. Every evening the revelry spills onto the sand, where merengue beats waft from the bars until the wee hours of the morning.

There's More » Iguana Mama (800-849-4720, www.iguanamama.com), in Cabarete, can arrange canyoneering, river-rafting, and mountain-biking trips. Schedule surfing and kiteboarding lessons with Take Off (809-963-7873, www.321takeoff.com) or a scuba excursion at the Hippocampo Dive Centre (809-571-0834, www.hippocampo.com), in nearby Sosua.

Where to Stay » The newly renovated Extreme Cabarete hotel (doubles from $60; 809-571-0880, www.extremehotels.com) caters to adventure junkies with its on-site kiteboarding school and 40-foot-wide skater halfpipe. It's the first property from 34-year-old Silicon Valley CEO–cum–surf bum Bill Lee, who plans to open at least one more by 2007.

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