Carnival: Mexican Riviera

15 Hot Spots to Avoid on Spring Break — and Where to Go Instead

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Carnival: Mexican Riviera

The Party Periphery

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 this time of year.

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Fort Lauderdale, Florida
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Avoid: Fort Lauderdale, Florida

A top spring break party city, according to STA Travel, Fort Lauderdale is readying for a wild scene come March and April. The student-oriented travel site says thousands will flock to the city's beaches for "the biggest open spring break party anywhere." It's not only the beaches that will be swarmed; bars across the street also transform into party central. Come nightfall, the party gets even more raucous.

Ambergris Caye, Belize
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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 the tiny island of Caye Caulker, in particular, is quite the charmer, a sleepy place where you'll find unforgettable seafood and crystal-clear waters. Belize is also known for being a nature lover's paradise. Top sights include the Belize Barrier Reef and the Great Blue Hole.

Related: 18 Things You Must Do While Traveling Central America

Serge Freeman/shutterstock

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. "Rowdy spring breakers descend on Nassau and Paradise Island, one of the Bahamas' most accessible islands, each spring break season," says Molly Fergus, vice president and general manager of TripSavvy. "But that doesn't mean you have to skip the gorgeous country entirely, especially when the country could use the tourism dollars to rebuild" after Hurricane Dorian in September 2019.

Bimini, Bahamas

Instead: Exumas, Bahamas

The water gets clearer and the crowds get thinner as you head to the outer islands of the Bahamas, of which there are more than 700, Fergus says. Consider the Exumas, a 130-mile-long archipelago known for its untouched beaches, sapphire waters, and memorable snorkeling. The region is made up of more than 350 cays and islands, and on many of them, there's far more nature than people. Great Exuma and Little Exuma are said to be among the most laid-back options here.

South Padre Island, Texas
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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, and between the temperature and crush of people, maybe it's a destination best avoided.

Portland, Oregon

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. Some of the highlights to put on a must-do list include the city's famous Voodoo Doughnut and the Japanese Gardens in Washington Park.

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
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Avoid: Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Myrtle Beach has a huge assortment of entertainment options for spring breakers, which is exactly why it attracts thousands of party seekers every year. There's a beachfront boardwalk, countless bars, strip clubs, and low-cost booze, all helping earn Myrtle Beach a spot on Ranker's list of trashiest spring break destinations.

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Instead: Montreal, Canada

There's also lots to do, including great nightlife, in Montreal. Explore the charming cobblestoned streets of Old Montreal, perhaps stopping to take in the Basilique Notre-Dame (which dates back to 1824), or spend an afternoon strolling among the blooms at the 190-acre Montreal Botanical Gardens, where there are 10 expansive greenhouses and more than 22,000 types of flora. True, there's no beach to be found in Montreal, but there's plenty of history and culture to fill your days instead. And come nightfall, the city's party scene holds its own, offering everything from supper clubs to trendy bars and after-hours venues. Think of it as the best of both worlds.

Cancun, Mexico

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. "Cancun and the Riviera Maya is practically synonymous with spring break crowds and rowdy parties. If that's not your scene, avoid it this time of year," says Fergus from TripSavvy.

Panama's historic Casco Viejo

Instead: Panama

Explore Panama's historic Casco Viejo (Old Town), marvel at the Panama Canal, and get your beach time in, too, says Fergus from TripSavvy. "Panama offers many of the historic and natural charms of Cancun, without the raucous reputation." There's also plenty of surf, sun, and sand in Panama. If you need your beach fix, head to Bocas del Toro, one of the country's top sun-drenched offerings. The region, made up of a cluster of tropical islands, is legendary for its sandy beaches and pale blue waters. The laid-back atmosphere of Bocas del Toro is an added bonus.

Las Vegas

Avoid: Las Vegas

Las Vegas is a perennial favorite among the party crowd — no surprise for a place known as Sin City. Between the raucous pool parties and clubs that allow for dancing the night away, peace and quiet is something you won't find here. "Las Vegas is notorious for getting you to spend money ... and way too much of it! Lunch buffets, drinks every night, and gambling can drain your bank account fast," says Emily Mandagie, a full-time photographer, writer, and creator of The Mandagies travel and adventure website. "Not only will your money not go far, but this place will be overcrowded, loud, the opposite of anything you could call a break."

Palm Springs, California

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 a 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.

Lake Havasu City, Arizona

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 and the ensuing drunken parties.

Bryce Canyon, Utah

Instead: Bryce Canyon, Utah

If a beach isn't mandatory for your spring break, 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. There are also free ranger programs year-round, including fascinating geology talks that delve into how the canyon was formed and rim walks that include plant and wildlife stories. The backdrop for all this activity is as peaceful as it gets, thanks to a lack of bars, nightlife, and bikini contests.

Related: Explore the Best National Parks in Every State

New Orleans, Louisiana

Avoid: New Orleans

One of the country's foremost party cities and a regular on 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 a charming, romantic visit to the French Quarter is your aim, consider scheduling a visit for summer or fall.

Related: 26 Best Cheap or Free Things to Do in New Orleans

Charleston's French Quarter, SC
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Instead: Charleston, South Carolina

Charleston gets raves from travelers and is loaded with inexpensive fun. It has sophisticated charm to spare, thanks to antebellum homes, cobblestone streets, horse-drawn carriages, and an elegant French Quarter. (Don't miss the Battery district.) The free Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art is also highly recommended. If beaches are an absolute must for your spring break getaway, Charleston has those, too. Just a few minutes from the city is Sullivan's Island, known for its pristine sand.

South Beach in Miami, FL

Avoid: Miami

Miami appears on numerous lists of top spring break party destinations. The steamy, entertainment-rich city attracts 20-somethings from around the world who come for the white sand beaches, trendy cafes, and nonstop nightlife.


Instead: Cuba

The experts at Intrepid Travel recommend Cuba as an alternative. The Caribbean gem oozes charm, with a 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, and the island's rich culture. You can also sample a few legendary cigars, and even visit the farmers who make cigars in the Viñales Valley, a lush, inland region known for its tobacco plantations and striking limestone mountains reminiscent of Vietnam's Halong Bay. Cuba's tourism industry has been struggling amid constantly changing Trump administration regulations surrounding American visitation to the island. But visiting Cuba is still perfectly legal and very easy under the "support for the Cuban people" visa category.

Galveston, Texas

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 this place has been dubbed the "Playground of the Southwest." Each March, the city turns into a road trip destination for college students from around the region.

Texas Hill Country River Region, Uvalde County

Instead: Texas Hill Country

Spring marks the beginning of the vibrant wildflower season in Texas Hill Country, where a road trip will reveal endless fields of bluebonnets as well as old schoolhouses, small towns, and one winery after another. Fun fact: The Texas Hill Country was settled by Germans, so there are plenty of German breweries. Don't miss the Pontotoc Vineyard Weingarten in Fredericksburg, which offers a lovely open-air setting in which to enjoy a glass of wine. For a bit of history, make your way to Gruene, a former German farming settlement that has morphed into an art haven and is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Daytona Beach, Florida
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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, Daytona has DJs and MCs who run daily shows designed to make for a wild spring break environment.

Instead: Jupiter, Florida
Sean Pavone/istockphoto

Instead: Jupiter, Florida

Known for its laid-back lifestyle and casual waterfront restaurants with nightly live music and seafood, Jupiter also offers outdoor recreation, including boating and kayaking, turtle-hatching walks, hiking, and biking the city's many park and beach trails. Jupiter's Abacoa Town Center includes sidewalk dining, weekly events, and live concerts. Don't miss climbing the Jupiter Lighthouse to take in a sweeping view of the area. For baseball fans, Roger Dean Stadium serves as the spring training home for the Florida Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals.

Related: 18 Spectacular Lighthouses to See Across America

Breckenridge in Colorado

Avoid: Breckenridge, Colorado

There's nothing wrong with a little spring break skiing, but you'll probably want to avoid Breckenridge if you want peaceful, 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. The town hosts numerous free events from March through May, including the Breckenridge Spring Beer Festival and Breck Pride Week.

Lake Tahoe, California

Instead: Lake Tahoe, California

Known for its gentler winter weather and spectacular scenery, Lake Tahoe offers an alternative to the 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 historic downtown Truckee for exploring art galleries, taking in the music scene, and sampling craft beer at hot spots including Truckee Public House, which offers live music and a creative food menu.

Gulf Shores Public Beach, Alabama
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Avoid: Gulf Shores, Alabama

Yet another destination making an appearance in the spring break hall of shame, Gulf Shores is loaded with fun, late-night beach bars (Pink Pony Pub and Tacky Jacks among them), many featuring live music. Conveniently enough, Gulf Shores also offers plenty of rentable houses on the beach.

Related: Where to Go for a Budget-Friendly Summer Vacation in All 50 States

Santa Fe, NM

Instead: Santa Fe, New Mexico

For a trendy destination with tons to do, Sante Fe is a new spring break go-to. The city offers incredible New Mexican food, a fusion of Pueblan and Mexican cuisine. March is also an excellent time to hit the slopes here. But the art scene is perhaps the biggest draw, beginning with Canyon Road and its many galleries displaying work created by one famous artist after another. Santa Fe's museums are also a treat. History buffs will want to save some time to explore Santa Fe Plaza, which dates back to 1610 and is lined by several notable ancient buildings.

Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Avoid: Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

With its many beachfront resorts and year-round sun-drenched climate, Punta Cana is a natural choice for the college crowd. The hotel site Oyster has named the Hard Rock Hotel Punta Cana one of the top places to find a spring break party where there will be "great beaches, free-flowing booze, a party atmosphere, and fun activities." In other words, this is probably not the place to go if crowds and drunken beach parties are not your scene. 

Laguna Bacalar, Mexico

Instead: Laguna Bacalar, Mexico

For a more relaxing spring break, head to Laguna Bacalar in Mexico. "The shimmering freshwater Lake of Seven Colors offers waterfront villas, overwater swings, and a much more relaxing atmosphere," says Di Minardi, travel blogger and creator of the website Slight North. Bacalar, an up-and-coming destination (read: crowds have not yet descended en masse) was profiled last year by The New York Times and is known for being a charming village filled with fishermen's tiny homes and, of course, for being the location of a stunning turquoise lagoon. There's also a local ecotourism park where visitors can swim, snorkel, scuba dive, and boat.

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Avoid: Puerto Vallarta

One last legendary spring break destination, Puerto Vallarta hosts a party that doesn't stop at any point during March and April. It, too, regularly earns a spot on lists of trashy party destinations. That's not to say Puerto Vallarta isn't worth visiting. You just won't want to be here during the height of spring break, when it is known for attracting massive crowds of coeds.

Jess Kraft/shutterstock

Instead: Colombia

Colombia offers a warm, welcoming climate and vibrant metropolitan cities overflowing with culture and nightlife, according to Jeremy Scott Foster, founding editor of Travel Freak. "It will be a more unique and rewarding experience," he says. "It's also worth mentioning Colombia ... is now considered to be one of the safest countries in South America." Indeed, Colombia is in the midst of something of a renaissance, with tourists beginning to return to the country and giving it rave reviews. There's been a variety of hotel openings and an increase in flights serving the country. Among the most interesting things to see is Caño Cristales, also known as the river of five colors. This visually stunning attraction, which includes waterfalls and natural pools, can be found in Serrania de la Macarena National Park.