10 Top Spring Break Spots

Best destinations for students or families for a memorable Spring Break getaway.

Whether you’re a college student looking for the perfect place to take a respite from your studies or a family looking for a place that’s appealing to all ages, it’s not too late to take a last-minute break this season. Here are some superior Spring Break destinations for your consideration.

College Spring Break Destinations

1. Jamaica

Pristine beaches, reggae and lingo like “go jam” (socialize), “bashment” (excitement/party) and “rhaatid” (wow)—it all adds up to an island paradise. If that’s what you seek in a spring break destination, Jamaica is the place. There are plenty of all-inclusive resorts to choose from, but you can find something a little different (and save a little money) by staying at a furnished apartment or guest house.

Explore limestone caves, waterfalls and mineral springs; listen to live reggae at parties in Montego Bay or Negril; visit Bob Marley’s Birthplace and Mausoleum to pay your respects to the legend, the Ocho Rios Craft Market for unique souvenirs or the decadent Devon House to step into the past. Or, simply relax on the beach and enjoy paradise.

Visit www.visitjamaica.com for travel deals.

2. Costa Rica

San José and Tamarindo both offer the nightlife any spring breaker desires, but for those on a budget the best bet is Jacó for discos and dive bars galore. For surfing, the beaches of Jacó, Esterillos, Hermosa and Boca Barranca provide the best waves.

Costa Rica is ideal for those looking for an eco-adventure. With 20 natural parks, eight biological reserves and numerous protected areas throughout the country, there are plenty of opportunities to hike, bike and do other things involving lots of sweat. Trek up to see one of the finest volcanic craters in the world in Poás Volcano National Park; enjoy zip-lining through the cloud forest in Monteverde; or go rafting and brave the rapids on the Reventazón River.

Visit www.visitcostarica.com and read our Costa Rica articles for more information.

3. Panama City Beach

The tried-and-true college Spring Break locale, Panama City Beach is the official mtvU spring break beach destination for 2009. So it’s got that going for it. With 27 miles of beaches along the Gulf of Mexico and St. Andrews Bay in the northwest of Florida, the beach town welcomes college students every year for what has to be the prototypical spring break experience.

Enjoy live reggae at Willy’s Pier Bar; eat seafood and sandwiches on the open-air deck of the Barefoot Beach Club; sip fruity cocktails at the Tiki Bar on the beach at Sandpiper Beacon Beach Resort. If you need a break from the sun, head over to Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditorium housed in a 75-foot high cruise ship run aground. Be amazed by the two-headed goat.

Visit www.visitpanamacitybeach.com or www.pcbeachspringbreak.com for more information.

4. Europe

Yes, Europe is an expensive choice (and a large geographic area to declare as one destination), but deals can be had, especially during the spring. Virgin Vacations offers packages at nearly half the cost of the same trip during the summer.

As every college student with thoughts of backpacking knows, hostels across the continent are an affordable accommodations option, but check out universities in the city or cities you plan on visiting to see if they rent out dorm rooms during breaks. The London School of Economics offers rooms in London’s West End that will help you pay for the high prices of everything else in the city.

Check out tourism board Web sites like www.visitbritain.us and www.visitdublin.com to find free attractions and discounts for tours and museums.

5. Austin

Warm and weird. During spring break, the average high temperatures are in the mid to upper 70s. The locals are dedicated to the city’s slogan—“Keep Austin Weird”—with attractions like the Cathedral of Junk (junk turned art in a resident’s backyard) and the South Austin Museum of Popular Culture. Mix in numerous nightlife options, particularly along Sixth Street, and the opportunity to gorge on delectable barbecue at the likes of the Salt Lick and the “Live Music Capital of the World” has all the ingredients necessary for a memorable Spring Break.  

Visit www.austintexas.org or read our recent Austin coverage for more information.

Family Spring Break Destinations

1. Los Angeles

Things are spread out, yes, and you’ll have to rent a car, but the City of Angels has something for everyone. Beaches? You bet, from Santa Monica State Beach to Malibu Lagoon State Beach (probably a little cool for a swim during Spring Break, but perfect for a bike ride, volleyball or Frisbee). Amusement parks? From Disneyland to Universal Studios to Six Flags Magic Mountain.

Shopping? Try the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica for a collection of boutiques in an open air mall or, if budget constraints are flexible, Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. Eating? No problem; for the best burger known to man, visit The Apple Pan in West Los Angeles. Sports? Depending on the timing of your spring break, the Dodgers, Angels, Lakers, Clippers, Kings or Galaxy could have a game. And yes, you might see a movie star.

Visit discoverlosangeles.com for deals and discounts.

2. New York City

Though there are beaches in Brooklyn and Queens, the weather is a tad cool in spring to be on the sand, and the city offers much more to keep all ages occupied and happy. Iconic landmarks abound, like the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building and the Brooklyn Bridge. Check out museums from the American Museum of Natural History to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to the Ellis Island Immigration Museum. Central Park alone offers 843 acres of possibility, from an afternoon picnic to a visit to the zoo to a rowboat ride on the lake.

Before you go, check out our numerous NYC articles, or Web sites like nycgo.com for special offers and discounts for museums, tours, shows and shops.

3. San Diego

If the kids love animals, San Diego has plenty for them. SeaWorld San Diego features Shamu in the “Believe” killer whale show, the chance to touch dolphins and bat rays, and also see manatees, penguins and sea turtles. The San Diego Zoo has five endangered giant pandas who call the zoo’s Giant Panda Research Station home. In the zoo’s 1,800-acre Wild Animal Park, you can see over 3,500 animals, including the largest crash of rhinos in a zoological facility, lions in the unique Lion Camp and the endangered California condor in one of the only exhibits of the bird in the world.

Find many other attractions and activities, even non-animal related, recommended by in our San Diego overview and at www.sandiego.org.

4. Washington, D.C.

With a new president who has inspired millions of kids and teenagers to get involved in service and the political process, now’s the time to visit our nation’s capital. Wander the National Mall from the Capitol steps to the Lincoln Memorial and go up the Washington Monument. Get lost among the treasures of the world’s largest museum complex at the Smithsonian museums, from the National Portrait Gallery to the National Air and Space Museum.

For the political-minded, try for a glimpse of the first family on a tour of President Obama’s new home on a self-guided White House tour, or visit our first president’s home with a day trip to the Mount Vernon Estate & Gardens.

Get more capital ideas with our D.C. coverage and by visiting www.washington.org.

5. Riviera Maya, Mexico

College Spring Breakers may enjoy going crazy in Mexico, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for families with less debaucherous ideas of fun. To go with the spectacular beaches and clear waters, a trip to the Riviera Maya can include snorkeling amidst the jungle in the largest “natural aquarium” in the world, Xel-Ha; a visit to the picturesque Mayan ruins situated along the sea at Tulum; an excursion to La Quinta Avenida (Firth Avenue) in Playa del Carmen for shopping and dining. All-inclusive resorts line the shore, but for those seeking something different, beachfront boutique hotels and cabins on the jungle’s edge are also available.

Read our Riviera Maya articles, or visit www.rivieramaya.com for more information.

Destinations: Los Angeles, Panama City Beach, New York City, Austin, Europe, Costa Rica, Jamaica, San Diego, Riviera Maya, Washington

Themes: Art and Museums, Beach Vacations, Ecotourism, Family Travel

Activities: Hiking, Cycling, Museums, Rafting, Shopping, Snorkeling