Say "spring break" and raucous parties, crowded beaches, and scantily clad coeds typically come to mind. The boozy annual blowout is a rite of passage for the college crowd, but for those hoping to steer clear of the frenzy, Cheapism asked travel experts to weigh in on some of the destinations to avoid from mid-March through early April — and where to go instead.
AVOID: SOUTH PADRE ISLAND, TEXAS
Named one of the top spring break destinations by STA Travel, South Padre Island is legendary for its crowds and party scene. But the spring heat in Texas isn’t exactly pleasant, says Dom Scarlett, chief editor at TravelPirates, and between the temperature and crush of people, maybe it’s a destination best avoided altogether.
INSTEAD: PORTLAND, OREGON
If beach vibes aren’t, in fact, your vibe, consider Portland. It’s a memorable foodie city and offers a wide assortment of cultural excursions. “From the famous Voodoo Doughnut to the Japanese Gardens in Washington Park, the City of Roses will keep you fed and busy,” Scarlett says.
AVOID: PANAMA CITY BEACH, FLORIDA
Dubbed the “Spring Break Capital of the World,” Panama City Beach is another famous party scene during March and April, known for its hordes of college kids looking for booze-fueled escape, Scarlett says.
INSTEAD: CAYE CAULKER, BELIZE
For warm weather without the crush of people, Belize may be the perfect alternative. It’s an up-and-coming destination, and Caye Caulker in particular offers gorgeous beaches. “Belize is also a nature-lover’s paradise. From the Belize Barrier Reef to the Great Blue Hole, spring breakers will have an opportunity to spend time with Mother Nature,” Scarlett says.
AVOID: MYRTLE BEACH, SC
Myrtle Beach has a huge assortment of entertainment options for spring breakers, which is exactly why it attracts thousands of party seekers every year, Scarlett says. There’s a beachfront boardwalk, countless bars, strip clubs, and low-cost booze, all helping earn Myrtle Beach a spot on Coed’s “trashiest spring break” list in past years.
INSTEAD: MONTREAL, CANADA
There’s also lots to do, including great nightlife, in Montreal. “It’s the perfect spot for a group getaway,” Scarlett says. “The city is one of our top picks for those seeking a city with excellent nightlife options.” What’s more, if you visit during the beginning of March, you may catch the city’s Montreal en Lumiere festival, where illuminated art and foodie culture (poutine or smoked meat sandwiches, anyone?) combine downtown.
AVOID: CANCUN, MEXICO
Cancun attracts a fair share of college students year-round, but come spring break it is easily one of the most visited destinations on the planet. Students are lured by hotels that cater to spring breakers, particularly rowdy groups looking for all-night parties, as well as budget prices and a seemingly endless number of nightclubs.
INSTEAD: NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE
Nashville has parties, incredible music, food, and nightlife — everything you could want in a destination, but with a chill vibe that’s second to none. “Whether you’re a major country music fan or just a fan of Tennessee barbecue, Nashville is on the rise for spring breakers,” Scarlett says. “The city is home to many famous honky-tonk bars, incrediblefoodie options like hot chicken and sweet, mollasessy ribs and the world-famous Grand Ole Opry.”
AVOID: LAS VEGAS
Las Vegas is a perennial favorite among the party crowd — no surprise for a place known as Sin City. Between the notorious pool parties and clubs that allow for dancing the night away, peace and quiet is the one thing you won’t find here.
INSTEAD: PALM SPRINGS, CALIFORNIA
Between the hot springs, spas, boutiques, art galleries, and abundant hiking, what's not to enjoy about Palm Springs? While this desert destination may be known as playground for the rich and famous, there are also plenty of free and inexpensive entertainment options. Check out VillageFest, an old-fashioned street fair featuring musicians, food, and art happening every Thursday.
AVOID: NASSAU, BAHAMAS
Nassau offers college students all the ingredients for a textbook spring break: affordable packages, nightclubs, booze cruises, miles of beaches, and plenty of sunshine. StudentCity, a website aimed at the college crowd, describes Nassau as "the only destination that offers both a wild spring break party atmosphere and a relaxing paradise." The question is, which are you looking for?
INSTEAD: BIMINI, BAHAMAS
A hidden gem, Bimini is just 50 nautical miles from South Florida, the closest Bahamian island to the United States. But despite its proximity and easy accessibility, the destination feels a world away, your own private Caribbean island escape with gorgeous beaches and friendly locals. Author Ernest Hemingway legendarily fell in love with the island’s unparalleled deep-sea fishing.Eco-tourism is popular here too, as the island is home to the Bimini Biological Field Station, a shark lab that studies the role of lemon sharks.
AVOID: LAKE HAVASU CITY, ARIZONA
Another destination on lists of top spring break party spots, Lake Havasu has plenty of appeal outside of March and April. Visitors are attracted by the endless sunshine, boating, off-roading, hiking, and fishing. But come spring break, Lake Havasu is completely overtaken by the college crowd.
INSTEAD: BRYCE CANYON, UTAH
If a beach isn't mandatory, Bryce Canyon National Park may be an ideal alternative in the Southwest. The canyon features stunning and unusual red rock formations and endless hiking, camping, and stargazing. On Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday evenings, there are also free ranger programs. The backdrop for all this activity isas peaceful as it gets, thanks to a lack of bars, nightlife, and bikini contests.
AVOID: NEW ORLEANS
One of the country's foremost party cities and another city appearing on Coed’s lists of trashiest spring break destinations, New Orleans draws legions of college kids with no beach, but a lenient open-container law and plenty of bars selling cheap drinks. If acharming or romantic visit to the French Quarter is your aim, consider scheduling for the summer or fall.
INSTEAD: CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA
Charleston gets raves from travelers. It has sophisticated charm to spare, thanks to antebellum homes, cobblestone streets, and horse-drawn carriages. (Don't miss the elegant French Quarter and Battery district.) The free Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art is highly recommended. If beaches are a must for a spring break getaway, Charleston has those, too. Just a few minutes from the city is Sullivan's Island, known for its pristine sand.
AVOID: BALI, INDONESIA
Millions of visitors come each year to Bali, to the point that the traffic is terrible, the beaches are overrun, and the dreamy culture is increasingly difficult to find and truly experience, says Kristin Addis, chief executive of Be My Travel Muse.
INSTEAD: LOMBOK, INDONESIA
Lombok is a mere 30-minute flight from Bali and once there, you can easily find a beach you’ll have all to yourself. When not enjoying the sun and sand, play in Lombok’s otherworldly waterfalls, or opt for a volcano hike. “It’s what Bali was 20 years ago, though it’s a completely different culture,” Addis says.
Miami appears on numerous lists of top spring break party destinations. The steamy city draws revelers from around the world who come for the white sand beaches, trendy cafes, and non-stop nightlife.
The experts at Intrepidrecommend Cuba as an alternative to Miami. The Caribbean gem oozes old-world charm, with rich history and its share of exciting nightlife. While you’re there, explore Cuba’s historical Spanish architecture, which dates back to the 16th century, the island’s rich culture. You can also sample a few legendary cigars, even interacting with the farmers who make the cigars.
AVOID: GALVESTON, TEXAS
Galveston’s exciting beach parties are legendary. The city, just an hour from Houston, is also known for its inexpensive dining and serious nightlife. And did we mention the bikini contests? There’s a reason it is dubbed the “Playground of the Southwest.” Each March, the city turns into a road trip destination for college students from around the region.
INSTEAD: TEXAS HILL COUNTRY
Spring marks the beginning of wildflower season in Texas Hill Country, where a road trip will reveal fields of Bluebonnets as well as old schoolhouses and small towns, suggests travel expert and television personality Samantha Brown. “Texas hill country was settled by Germans, so there are plenty of German breweries,” adds Brown, whose recommends the Pontotoc Vineyard Weingarten as a lovely open-air setting in which to enjoy a glass of wine. For a bit of history, make your way to Gruene, which has the oldest Dance Hall in Texas.
AVOID: DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA
One of the original, legendary spring break locations, Daytona Beach still turns into one massive party scene in March and April. Known for being a good choice for students who want to party on a budget, there are DJs and MCs who run daily shows in Daytona designed to make for a wild spring break environment.
INSTEAD: JUPITER, FLORIDA
Known for its laid-back lifestyle and casual waterfront restaurants with nightly live music and seafood meals, Jupiter also offers outdoor recreation, including boating and kayaking. Turtle-hatching walks, hiking, or biking the city’s many park and beach trails are still more options, and Jupiter’s Abacoa Town Center includes sidewalk dining, weekly events, and live concerts. And don’t miss climbing the Jupiter Lighthouse to take in the view.
AVOID: BRECKENRIDGE, COLORADO
There’s nothing wrong with a little spring break skiing, but you’ll probably want to avoid Breckenridge if you want quality time on the slopes. In recent years, the mountain town has become ever more popular with the college crowd, attracting a steady stream of spring breakers throughout March. That’s likely due to the fact that recreational marijuana was legalized here, and the town hosts numerous free and affordable events, including Breckenridge Spring Fever, Mardi Gras, and the Breckenridge Spring Beer Festival.
INSTEAD: LAKE TAHOE, CALIFORNIA
Known for its gentler winter weather and spectacular scenery, Lake Tahoe offers an alternative to the Breckenridge party scene. Not only does the springtime snow offer plenty of skiing, but there are charming lakefront towns to explore and notable nightlife options for those who need a bit more excitement after a day on the slopes. Don’t miss visiting Truckee and its music and craft beer hot spots, including the Truckee Public House and Old Town Tap.
AVOID: GULF SHORES, ALABAMA
One of the more recent destinations to join the spring break hall of shame, Gulf Shores is loaded with fun, late-night beach bars (Pink Pony Pub, Tacky Jacks, and Flora-Bama among them), many featuring live music. Conveniently enough, Gulf Shores also offers plenty of rentable houses on the beach.
INSTEAD: SANTA FE, NEW MEXICO
For a trendy destination with tons to do, Sante Fe is your new spring break go-to, says Scarlett, of TravelPirates. Immersive art experiences and selfie museums are on the rise nationwide, but Sante Fe’s Meow Wolf is a destination in itself. “The interactive, immersive, and collaborative art experience opened in New Mexico two years ago, but it still draws countless art lovers to experience its non-linear storytelling,” Scarlett says. Beyond the once-in-a-lifetime art experiences, Sante Fe offers incredible New Mexican food, a fusion of Pueblan and Mexican cuisine. March is also an excellent time to hit the slopes here.