In the May issue of Spirit we explored the art of the veer, or, in other words, finding those lesser-known (but just as awesome) spots just shy of major Southwest destinations. We’ll be bringing them to you in several installments all this month. First up, where to relax and where to seek adventure!Relax in:
Oracabessa, Jamaica (76 miles East of Montego Bay)
KICK BACK LIKE BOND, JAMES BOND
In 1952, Ian Fleming holed up in his Jamaican villa and wrote Casino Royale—the first of 14 James Bond books he would pen from what’s now GoldenEye Hotel & Resort (goldeneye.com; from $620). Ask for the 007 bedroom; Fleming’s writing desk still sits there, just in case you’re inspired to pen the next Great Spy Novel instead of basking at the beach.
Hollywood, Florida (11 miles South of Fort Lauderdale)
BASK ON A CROWDLESS BEACH
Pining for prime oceanfront access without the sunseeking hordes? Try Hollywood, quietly tucked between Fort Lauderdale and Miami and backed by a 2½-mile boardwalk. Stay at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino (seminolehardrockhollywood.com), where you can splash in a colossal lagoon-style pool. Cabanas and a 182-foot waterslide add to the appeal. Whee!
Yachats, Oregon (155 miles Southwest of Portland)
Standing watch over central Oregon’s craggy ocean cliffs since 1894, the Heceta Head Lighthouse (hecetalighthouse.com; from $234) now has a side gig—playing gracious host to guests as a six-room B&B. Ask for the Lightkeeper’s Room, and sink into the claw-foot tub that looks out on the slowly turning light, which guides ships from as far as 21 miles away.
Landers, California (135 miles East of Los Angeles)
SLEEP IN A LOVE SHACK
The six vintage Airstreams at Kate’s Lazy Desert (lazymeadow.com; $175) channel the vibrant taste of their owner, Kate Pierson of the B-52’s. Six miles from Joshua Tree National Park, they’re the perfect little place to get together.
Glen Rose, Texas (76 miles Southwest of Dallas)
TAKE A WILD RIDE
At the conservationist-run Fossil Rim Wildlife Center (fossilrim.org), you’re the sa-fari captain. A 9½-mile road skirts open animal habitats home to everything from ostriches to aoudads, lending a whole new meaning to the words “wildlife crossing.”
Ponca, Arkansas (153 miles Northwest of Little Rock)
FLOAT DOWN A FREEWHEELING RIVER
The country’s first national river, the Buffalo, flows for 150 pristine miles in northwest Arkansas. Explore its undammed waters in a canoe rented from longtime local outfitter Buffalo Outdoor Center (buffaloriver.com). Paddle for the day, or plan to spend the night—you can pitch a tent on a sandbar or the shore. And don’t forget your rod and reel: In the summer, these waters brim with smallmouth bass.
Tulum, Mexico (78 miles South of Cancun)
SWIM IN A SUBAQUATIC CAVE
The shimmering-blue underwater wells of the Mayans, sacred sites for centuries, are within reach—if you know where to look. Book a daylong snorkeling tour with family-owned Edventure Tours (edventuretours.com.mx) to explore the submerged caverns at Dos Ojos; you’ll also stop by Yal-Ku Lagoon, sea turtle–filled Akumal Bay, and the mysterious ruins of Tulum.
St. Paul, Minnesota (6 miles East of Minneapolis)
SCOPE OUT A STATE FAIR
And you thought fairs were just about fun rides. Second only to Texas’ in annual attendance and kicking off on August 21, the Minnesota State Fair (mnstatefair.org) is home to the esteemed crop-art competition: All entered works are crafted from Minnesota-grown seeds, stems, and other plant parts.
Oracle, Arizona (38 miles North of Tucson)
GO BONKERS IN A BIODOME
What turned into Pauly Shore’s nightmare in the 1996 movie Bio-Dome is the dream of the scientists at Biosphere 2 (b2science.org), who have created a world under sealed glass in the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains. Here you can explore a self-contained ocean, rainforest, and fog desert, all in the name of learning. Sure beats science class!