In New York, February is the cruelest month. Call it cabin fever, winter doldrums, whatever you wish: It’s time to get out of Dodge. Rather than napping the blues away, why not head south and throw yourself into the pre-Lent fray. From February 27 to March 4, scantily clad carnival revelers will let it all hang out in the streets of Mazatlán at Mexico’s largest annual pachanga (festival). The waterfront promenade at Olas Altas beach will be packed day and night with costume parades, street vendors, and roving bands. It all culminates at the Carnavaldome, where temporary stages and booths serve up live musictropicalia, mariachi, rockand local street foods like barbecued fish, mango shrimp, and smoked marlin. Book a room near the festivities at Hotel La Siesta (52-669-981-2640) or at the brand-new Hotel Posada Freeman (52-669-985-6065).
With only 40,000 masqueraders, Trinidad’s carnival may seem like small potatoes compared with those of New Orleans and Rio. But rest assured: In a country where women outnumber men by seven to one, there’s no shortage of bikini-mas costumes, those extravagant ensembles that comprise itsy-bitsy two-pieces, feathers, and beads. On March 3 and 4, the streets of Port-of-Spain will be flooded with calypso dancing, steel-drum bands, and street vendors serving up Trinidadian specialties like roti (flour-wrapped spicy meat and vegetables), doubles (deep-fried salt cakes), and phulorie (deep-fried ground split peas). Banwari Experience will plan your entire carnival adventure, from accommodations and meals to costumes and tickets to various fêtes. Five-night packages start at $850 per person (868-675-1619).
Blame It on Rio
No serious decisions are made in Rio de Janeiro between New Year’s Eve and carnival. Cariocas aren’t thinking of much besides orchestrating their escolas de samba, the outrageously decadent “samba school” parades that lie at the heart of the city’s weeklong blowout (March 1–4). Beyond parades, there are all-night masquerade balls at hotels and clubs and wild, impromptu street celebrations where anything goes, from dancing and drinking to musical improv to fireworks displays. Try to stay near Copacabana or Ipanema beach; Brazil Nuts Tours will arrange your lodging, costumes, and tickets to the Sambadromo, where the samba schools compete (brazilnuts.com or 800-553-9959).
Deal of the Week
New York Magazine readers get 10 percent off the rack rate plus free breakfast and dinner dailyat the restaurant or in their roomwhen they book a suite at the swank Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas for at least five nights during the month of February. Suites start at $675 (888-ROSEWOOD).
Paradise Found St. Barth gets one step closer to island-vacation nirvana with the debut of its first full-service spaa Molton Brown spa, at that. The Spa at Hotel St.-Barth Isle de France offers the usual array of services to help survive all that grueling sunning, swimming, and shopping (800-810-4691). Hotel California The super-luxe, 30-acre Montage Resort & Spa opens next month in Laguna Beach, California, with 262 decked-out roomsfeathertop beds, flat-screen TVs, stunning ocean viewsa huge spa, three pools, and several top-notch restaurants. Rooms from $450 (888-715-6700). Crazy for Cocoa Divers take note: The people behind Parrot Cay have developed an Indian Ocean outpost just off the Vadhoo Channel, one of the best diving spots in the Maldives. Cocoa Island offers 33 luxury bungalows, Indian–Sri Lankan fusion food, and a full-service spa (96-044-1818; rooms from $540). Inn Style Santa Monica continues to ramp up its lodging options with the opening of the Ambrose, a small arts-and-crafts-style hotel with a Zen garden (from $145; 877-ambrose). Later this spring, look for the Fairmont Miramar’s 32 revamped garden and poolside bungalows (from $799; 800-441-1414).