Actress Jessika Van’s 7 Favorite Warm-Weather Vacation Spots

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As I round out my year in the increasingly unforgiving cold of the beautiful New Mexican desert—on location for CW’s upcoming The Messengers show—I’m starting to yearn for hotter days. Don’t get me wrong, I’m having the time of my life. The people here are warm, even if the weather is not, and I couldn’t be more excited about the show. Still, there’s nothing wrong with a little dreaming or planning ahead for spring break. Having spent the summer filming the movie Seoul Searchingin Korea, I’m looking forward to sunnier escapes a bit closer to home. If you’re craving somewhere a little toasty, too, consider these for your next vacation:

Bound for Mexico…
Without fail, one can always head south to any number of tourist destinations in Baja California. Puerto Nuevo is on the drive down to Ensenada—and is home to the best $15 butter-soaked fresh lobster, complete with hot tortillas and Spanish rice, that I’ve ever had in my life. That said, it’s not the most tourist-ready destination in the region. First-time travelers might instead consider Cabo San Lucas or Cancun, two rather Westernized and stress-free locales that are a quick flight away. You’ll find American mainstream restaurants and steakhouses popping up in new shopping areas, as well as plenty of spring breakers throwing beachside DJ parties on the beach. If that’s not your scene, not to worry: Frozen margaritas and street tacos come good and cheap, a great way to veg out and enjoy the view. If you’re a scuba or snorkeler looking for some serious reef action, research beforehand and venture outside of the main tourist areas.

Rainforest 1.0
Costa Rica is a popular rainforest destination that will stay in the high 70s to 80s throughout your spring break (and one of the most stable destinations in Central America). Check out the beautiful Monte Verde Cloud Forest to satiate your desire for sun and wildlife alike. Zip-line across the top of the rainforest branches, travel to the coast, and lay out on the beaches. Costa Rica is ripe for a mix of both action and relaxation, but adventure nuts can rest assured that this is but your first stepping stone to the true Amazon experience.

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Party Rich, Party Quaint
If you’re looking to party it up in the United States, head to Miami, the vibrant city that feels almost like the U.S. version of Sydney in Australia. There’s outdoor dining, shopping in the streets, beach weather, and a chance to dress loud. Celeb tours weren’t really my thing here, but if glimpsing the back of Queen Latifah’s house is your kind of thing, by all means, you’ll certainly have plenty of opportunities. One thing I wouldn’t miss? The cortadito—delicious Cuban coffee, like a short café con leche—that you can enjoy at the casual outdoor counter at Cuban restaurant Versailles. And the Everglades is home to a beautiful expanse of cattails and alligators (and, yes, an invisible mosquito-versus-human battlefield, so bring that bug spray).

Bonus: With a few extra days, you can road trip south from Miami to Key West, the stretch of islands off the southernmost tip of Florida. The closest point to Cuba in the U.S. and the home of Ernest Hemingway, it’s a lovely trip for chilling out or light adventure. Rent a jetski and tour around the island, enjoy Cuban-inspired food, and barhop along the picturesque streets at night. Best yet, everything in the main town is within walking distance—though biking might be the fastest way to get to all the spots for key lime-flavored pies, candy, lemonade, coffee, tea, and virtually anything else edible that you can think of.

Beach, Beach, Beach
The Bahamas is a beautiful beach destination—clear water, incredible colors filling your visual landscape, and plenty of conch shell action to go around. By this I mean conch shell salad, conch shell entree, conch shell souvenirs, and more. (They’re big, beautiful, peach-pink shells with squid-like meat inside.) For those seeking remote getaways, there are endless pristine islands surrounding the popular Paradise Island—but be prepared to pay a premium to get out to them. And if you have your heart set on seeing Pink Sands, I’d suggest planning in advance.

At the end of the day, I suppose it doesn’t really matter where you go. Enjoy your travels with spirit and stay open to exploration and the simple joys in life. Here’s to a grand adventure.

Photographer: Daniel Nguyen
Photo Assistant: Kristy Wu
Stylist: Francis Lola
Hair and Makeup Artist: Josie Sandi