With long stretches of white sandy beaches, warm Caribbean waters and a pulsating nightlife, Cancun is unquestionably one of the top destinations for spring break revelers. In addition to its tropical allure, this world famous spot along the Mexican Riviera can be quite affordable, even for students on a tight budget. Although many hotspots might not seem like much of a bargain compared to other Mexican resort towns, there are plenty of inexpensive eateries, nightclubs — such as Congo Bongo and The City — and other attractions for the entire trip. If time and weather permits, visitors might want to explore the Mayan ruins near Cancun or a full day trip to Chichen Itza, one of the new Seven Wonders of the World.
Las Vegas, Nev.
What more can be said about Las Vegas that hasn’t been said before? Something is always going on in this gambling mecca in the Nevada desert. That’s because gambling casinos are open 24/7 and many bars and nightclubs are still buzzing well past 5 a.m., making Vegas a premiere destination for college-aged partiers. The aptly named Gambling Capital of the World also boasts 15 of the world’s largest hotels by number of rooms, making overnight accommodations competitively priced – good news for budget-conscious students. Although most mega-casinos close swimming pools during the winter, by early spring, there are always huge crowds of co-eds enjoying a Vegas-style pool party at hotspots like the Rehab at the Hard Rock Hotel, Encore Beach at the Wynn and TAO Beach at the Venetian.
Miami Beach, Fla.
Of all the popular destinations in Florida for college students, Miami Beach is by far the most visited and most raved about. With a tropical climate, Miami is much like Cancun in terms of warm ocean waters, thriving nightlife, great food and competitive room rates, but far more of a grander style. During spring break, thousands of students descend upon South Beach to enjoy lively pool parties and warm ocean waters by day and bar hopping and dancing at night. Among the most popular events during spring break is the Winter Music Conference, featuring more than 2,100 music artists and DJs at more than 500 non-stop events throughout the Miami Beach area.
Panama Beach, Fla.
For students who can’t make it down to Miami Beach, another coastal destination in the Florida Panhandle is the perfect alternative. Panama Beach may not be as glitzy and ocean temperatures not quite as warm, but there are good reasons why it’s known as both the “World’s Most Beautiful Beaches” and “Spring Break Capital of the World.” More than 100,000 college students visit Panama Beach during spring break to party at hotspots like Spinnaker Beach Club, Hammerhead Fred’s, Harpoon Harry’s and the nation’s largest nightclub, Club La Vela. Spring break in Panama City is not just reserved to a few weeks in March. Instead, festivities run more than two months, from mid-February to mid-April, with thousands of new college students arriving to this Gulf of Mexico paradise every week.
South Padre Island, Texas
Tucked away on a thin strip of land at the southern tip of Texas, South Padre Island is another enormously popular vacation destination for the 20-something crowd. Located along the Gulf of Mexico and just 30 miles from Mexico, there’s summer-like weather all year round, drawing tens of thousands of young partygoers, particularly during winter and spring breaks. Much like Miami Beach, there are a number of luxury hotels, several miles of incredible beaches and some of the country’s hottest beach parties. Several vacation packages specifically tailored for college students, combining travel, accommodations and entertainment, have made South Padre Island a prime spring break destination.
Randy Yagi is a freelance writer covering all things San Francisco. In 2012, he was awarded a Media Fellowship from Stanford University. His work can be found on Examiner.com Examiner.com.