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20 Winter Breaks for a Bargain


Escape to the mountain retreat of Rio Caliente Spa, an hour from Guadalajara in the pine-forested hills of central Mexico. Undo the damage of daily stress by soaking in mineral hot springs, hiking through volcanic mountains, and practicing tai chi until your limbs are as pliable as rubber. If you're feeling less athletic, you can instead awaken your inner artist or mystic at one of the many seminars on everything from photography to tarot card reading. For more earthly pleasures, the spa treatments have prices so low you'll feel obliged to indulge: mud wraps are $15; hour-long swedish massages are $42.
Rio Caliente Spa, 800/200-2927 or 650/615-9543, fax 650/615-0601; www.riocaliente.com; packages from $92 a person per night, including double room, three vegetarian meals, fitness classes, and mineral baths. High 75 degrees; low 65.


Get cozy in the rugged beauty of the Canadian Rockies. Spend the days skiing, skating, sleigh riding, snowshoeing, soaking in the hot springs of Banff — or just snuggling by the fire in the lobby of the Buffalo Mountain Lodge on Tunnel Mountain. For some breathtaking views, head to Lake Louise (45 minutes away) and have a hot toddy in the lobby of the 110-year-old Chateau Lake Louise. Continue up the Icefields Parkway for a view of Peyto Lake, its baby-blue waters surrounded by snowy forests and towering Rocky Mountain peaks. Fed by a mammoth glacier, it's one of the most scenic lakes on the planet. The town of Banff has plenty of enticements: interesting museums and intimate restaurants from which to watch the snow fall.
Buffalo Mountain Lodge, Tunnel Mountain Rd.; 800/661-1367 or 403/760-4481, fax 403/609-6158; www.crmr.com; doubles from $175, including breakfast. High 37 degrees; low 21.


Only a puddle-jump from San Juan, sleepy Culebra Island is just the opposite of Puerto Rico's capital — no sprawling, monolithic hotels or throngs of tourists, just inlet after inlet fringed by empty beaches and miles of rain forest. Tamarindo Estates lies on 60 lush acres beside a private bay. Laze at the beach or pool, take a walk through the island's nature preserve, or snorkel in nearby Amberjack Hole. Evenings, dine alfresco in the colonial town of Dewey as you watch the fishermen bringing in the day's catch.
Tamarindo Estates, 787/742-3343, fax 787/742-3342; www.tamarindoestates.com; one-bedroom cottages for two from $175, including rental car. Weather: high 84 degrees; low 72.


Seventeen miles from the Vegas strip, and nary a showgirl in sight. With an 18-hole golf course designed by Jack Nicklaus, a top-notch spa, a freshwater lake at its edge, and miles of desert mountains surrounding it, the Hyatt Regency Lake Las Vegas is a rare Vegas destination: you might actually come home rested. After a morning of scoring birdies on the green, test your luck at the blackjack table in the hotel casino. Then enjoy a hot-rock massage in the spa, a trip to Hoover Dam, or a helicopter tour over the Grand Canyon. If after all this you're still itching for glitz, the strip is but a short drive away.
Hyatt Regency Lake Las Vegas, 101 Montelago Blvd.; 800/554-9288 or 702/567-1234, fax 702/567-6067; www.lakelasvegas.hyatt.com; doubles from $145. High 57 degrees; low 34.


After summer's end, the vacationers who take over Cape Cod return to their city dwellings, and the coastal hamlets resume their distinctive New England flavor. To get a taste, use Ashley Manor, an 18th-century Federal-style B&B in Barnstable, as your home base. Bundle up to walk the deserted beaches of the Cape Cod National Seashore, or ferry over to Martha's Vineyard for the day. On your return, warm up with a bowl of chowder at Captain Parker's Pub in West Yarmouth. Ashley Manor, Old King's Hwy.; 888/535-2246 or 508/362-8044, fax 508/362-9927; www.ashleymanor.net; deluxe suites with whirlpool and fireplace from $160 for two, including breakfast. High 41 degrees; low 29.


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