20 best spring break destinations for college students

After a long winter, many students want to get away and have some fun in the sun. While there are endless options for amazing trips, some places are better than others for college spring break destinations. So here’s a roundup of some popular spring break ideas.

Key takeaways

  • There are plenty of spring break destinations for college students to choose from.
  • Top places to go for spring break include Florida, Mexico, the Caribbean, and the western and southern United States. 
  • Consider choosing a location that has what you’re looking for in a spring break trip, whether it’s relaxing beaches, a bustling nightlife, great food, outdoor adventure—or all of the above.
  • You might be able to save money by booking early or using credit card rewards when planning your trip.

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Florida beach vacations

You can’t go wrong with a Florida beach vacation. Check out these spring break destinations for college students in the sunshine state.

1. Panama City Beach, Florida

Panama City Beach in Florida with a few high-rise buildings, a white sand beach and the ocean.

Panama City Beach claims to be the “spring break capital of the world.” So if you’re looking for the quintessential college spring break experience, this might be the place. With 27 miles of white sand beaches, you can hang out at the beach during the day or try out the nearby arcades or mini-golf courses. And if you stay at a resort, it might provide additional entertainment too. 

2. Miami, Florida

Skyscrapers, palm trees and water in Miami, Florida.

Miami is a city rich in history, culture and art deco architecture. Most college spring breakers stay around the glamourous South Beach area, with its celebrity-chef eateries, indie fashion stores and nightlife. But college students often venture off to enjoy the nightlife of Magic City too.

If you’re into art, you can explore Miami’s thriving art scene. And eligible Capital One cardholders can take advantage of a complimentary membership to The Cultivist, a global arts club that gives you and a guest free entry to select museums worldwide. In Miami, members can gain admission to the Pérez Art Museum and the Bass Museum of Art. 

Or you could dine at one of Miami’s world-class restaurants. Capital One Dining can help you secure a hard-to-get reservation for an unforgettable culinary experience.

3. Daytona Beach, Florida

Daytona Beach in Florida with a Ferris wheel, buildings and a beachfront.

Daytona Beach is the main city on Florida’s “Fun Coast.” And because of how hard-packed the sand is, the beaches are perfect for motorsports, which is a big scene in this spring break city. 

The waterfront also includes a variety of water parks, and there are double-decker buses that take spring breakers from bars or restaurants to the beach for free. But even if you don’t catch one of these buses, most places to see in Daytona are within walking distance.

4. Key West, Florida

Palm trees, sand and a beachfront in Key West, Florida.

It’s easy to have a good time in Key West. And the weather likely won’t disappoint either. To make the most of your trip, take advantage of the many fun options this city has to offer, like jet ski tours, parasailing, snorkeling, boat rentals, dolphin tours and sunset cruises. And if you’re a literature fan, you can visit Ernest Hemingway’s home, where he wrote part of his book “A Farewell to Arms.”

Spring break destinations in Mexico

If you’re after sun and white sand beaches, these college spring break destinations in Mexico might be the thing for you. But before you leave the country, it might help to check whether there are any travel advisories for any destinations you’re considering.

5. Cancun

Mayan ruins, palm trees and bright-blue water in Cancun, Mexico.

Cancun is a beautiful city on the Yucatan Peninsula known for its beaches, nightlife and resorts. Spring break in this city is in the Riviera Maya, which is on the far east side of Mexico. If you like to stay active, you can explore the Mayan ruins nearby, go horseback riding through caves or do a zip-line canopy tour.

There’s also the Ventura Park amusement and water park nearby, jet boat rides and other water sports available. And, of course, there are always the beach parties and nightclubs this spring break city is known for.

6. Cabo San Lucas

Big rocks and turquoise water in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

What was once a sleepy seaside village is now one of the hottest vacation spots in the world, thanks in part to a Van Halen song, “Cabo Wabo.” Located on the southern tip of the Baja California Peninsula, spring breakers in this well-known vacation spot get to spend their days on the beach enjoying Cabo’s day parties. 

This area is also ideal for scuba diving, with numerous opportunities to see and interact with sharks, rays, mahi-mahi and other wildlife.

7. Playa del Carmen

A beachfront in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, with palm trees and bright-blue water.

“Playa,” as it’s called by most tourists, boasts sandy white beaches and turquoise waters and is about halfway along the Riviera Maya—a stretch of coastline on Mexico’s northeastern Yucatan Peninsula. During the day, you could trek any number of nearby Mayan ruins. Then come back to enjoy the city’s nightlife on 5th Avenue.

Playa also offers plenty of fun in the water, like snorkeling, catamaran tours, sailing, swimming with whale sharks and more. Or you can visit the nearby jungle to do a canopy tour, walk on an aerial bridge or go on a jungle buggy adventure.

8. Puerto Vallarta

Historic Puerto Vallarta buildings and bright-blue water in the background.

Puerto Vallarta has been titled the World’s Friendliest City for its warm hospitality. It’s also very accessible by plane and car, making it a budget-friendly place to reach.

Students who visit this spring break hot spot can enjoy beautiful beaches and fun in the sun. There are also a variety of outdoor activities to enjoy, like snorkeling, zip lining, riding ATVs, speed boating, swimming with dolphins, horseback riding and more.

Caribbean spring break destinations

If you have your sights set on a hot and humid climate with beautiful, bright flora, consider a tropical destination in the Caribbean. 

If you’re worried about the cost of flights or hotels, booking with Capital One Travel could help you save an average of 15% on flights, using price prediction and other unique features. And if you’re flying from or through Denver, Dallas or Washington, D.C., be sure to check out a Capital One Lounge

Here are some of the best places to go for spring break in the tropics. 

9. Ocho Rios, Jamaica

Blue Hole in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, is a beautiful waterfall with bright green-blue water surrounded by lush greenery.

Ocho Rios is a hot spot for live reggae music, waterfalls, beaches and nightlife. The city name translates to “eight rivers,” which makes sense given the number of swimming holes, rivers and waterfalls this city has to offer. 

Two of the most popular are Blue Hole and Dunn’s River Falls, which are both beautiful in their own ways. And if you’re looking for more of the quintessential spring break experience, check out the spring break parties at Margaritaville.

10. San Juan, Puerto Rico

San Juan in Puerto Rico, with old architecture and a view of the ocean.

San Juan is the cultural center of Puerto Rico as well as the capital. This vibrant city has a few different scenes to choose from. There’s Old San Juan, which is ripe with old-world charm and history, while New San Juan has beaches, the Condado Lagoon, parks and more. Condado, which is the most popular tourist spot in New San Juan, offers dining, lounges, casinos, nightclubs and other event venues. Whichever area you choose to explore, this city has beautiful scenery and a stunning view of the water. 

11. Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

A tiki hut and a wooden boardwalk and dock on the water in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.

Punta Cana, located on the easternmost point of the Dominican Republic, is best known for its resorts and sandy white beaches. This is a budget-friendly place where you won’t have to sacrifice on fun, entertainment, weather or the views. It’s a prime spot for college spring breakers, with days full of things like pool and beach parties, casinos, dance clubs and spring break concerts. If lounging is more your thing, venture down to one of the many beaches and relax in the sun.

12. The Bahamas

Person snorkeling by fish and coral in Staniel Cay, Bahamas, Caribbean.

The Bahamas are home to some of the best beaches in the Caribbean. And there are plenty of all-inclusive resorts where you can relax and take it easy too. 

But it’s not all about lazy days at the beach. There are plenty of fun activities available to make your spring break memorable. Head to Rose Island Reef or Goulding Reef Cays for a day of snorkeling, or check out the famed underwater caves at Lucayan National Park.

Western getaways

For a change from the typical spring break destinations, consider these hot spots of the American West. Depending on your location, you may even be able to turn your journey into a road trip.

13. Las Vegas, Nevada

Las Vegas, Nevada, with a view of several high-rise buildings, hotels and resorts.

This spring break spot speaks for itself―premier shows, unparalleled casinos, exciting nightlife, delicious food and luxurious accommodations. Pool season in Vegas starts in March, so if you’re hoping to hang out poolside with your pals, make sure to stay at a hotel or resort that offers a great one. 

At night, visit an iconic Las Vegas nightclub, like Hakkasan, Zouk, OMNIA, TAO, Drai’s or one of many others. If the club scene isn’t your thing, check out downtown Las Vegas with its vintage casinos and unique bars lining Fremont Street. And don’t forget to walk the main drag to see the free street performers and a huge LED light show.

Curious about concerts and other exclusive events? Check out Capital One Entertainment and search for events happening in Las Vegas during your stay.

14. South Padre Island, Texas

An aerial view of a beachfront in South Padre Island, Texas.

South Padre Island is on a barrier island off one of the most southern spots of Texas. While Texas may not seem like a prime spring break location for college students, it brings in tons of spring breakers every year. The benefit of this location is that it’s a more budget-friendly option. But it still offers fun in the sun and sand and a hopping nightlife. Besides beaches, South Padre has dolphin watching, horseback riding on the beach and watercraft fun.

15. Glenwood Springs, Colorado

The outdoor hot springs pool in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, with snow-covered mountains behind it.

A hidden gem in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, this small town is known for its hot springs pool. In fact, it’s the largest in the world, spanning more than the length of a football field. Glenwood Springs is also within a two-hour drive of several premier skiing destinations, like Aspen Snowmass, Vail and Breckenridge.

If you’re up for a hike nearby, Hanging Lake is a great spot. But it’s popular, so you’ll need to purchase a permit beforehand to hike it. Or you can visit the Historic Fairy Caves, which offers a guided 40-minute walking tour and other seasonal events.

16. Austin, Texas

A river and high-rise buildings in Austin, Texas.

Austin has something for everyone—from contemporary bars to eclectic music and a bustling nightlife. You can go the classic country route and check out a honky-tonk bar to get in some country dancing, or you can hit up Sixth Street or Rainey Street, some of the hottest bar scenes in the city. 

Rainey Street boasts an assortment of cocktail lounges, live music venues and wine bars, all of which are set in an old residential neighborhood complete with outdoor patios that are perfect for kicking back and hanging with your friends.

17. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

An aerial view of the Grand Canyon in Arizona.

Located in Northern Arizona, Grand Canyon National Park offers an outdoorsy spring break option that includes hiking, camping and taking in the natural beauty. The Grand Canyon is a geological marvel that began forming nearly 2 billion years ago through shifting tectonic plates and erosion caused by the Colorado River. With spectacular views and natural history, this park is one of the great wonders of the world and an off-the-beaten-path way to spend your spring break. 

Southeastern spring break ideas

If you want a taste of Southern hospitality on your next spring break trip, these southeastern spots could be worth checking out. With diverse cultures and an array of options for different budgets, the Southeast is a fantastic place to go for spring break.

18. New Orleans, Louisiana

Jackson Square in the French Quarter in New Orleans, Louisiana.

If you’re looking for good food, live music and a diverse nightlife, then New Orleans should be on your list of must-see spring break destinations. There’s always something new to explore, whether it’s one of the city’s more than 1,000 restaurants or the popular French Quarter, where you can find street performers and artisans alike. Or tour the nearby swamp to get a look at some of the local wildlife. 

19. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

A beachfront in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, with a huge Ferris wheel and some buildings behind it.

With its warm weather, fun-filled amusement parks and 60 miles of coastline beaches, you can’t go wrong with Myrtle Beach. It’s home to the East Coast’s only 200-foot Ferris wheel, and there are over 50 mini-golf courses to play with your friends. If you like to shop, there are two huge outlet malls and plenty of premier retailers. Or hit the links with nine of the state’s top “Best You Can Play” courses in the area. 

20. Gulf Shores, Alabama

A white sandy beach in Gulf Shores, Alabama, with bright-blue water.

Looking to get some sun and beach time without all the crowds of other spring break spots? Then Gulf Shores might be the place for you. Get all the regular fun in the sun with options for sport fishing, golf courses and gorgeous beaches and state parks. And if you feel like visiting two states in one, the Florida state line is only 33 miles away.

How to save money on spring break

Sometimes the thing holding you back from planning your ideal spring break trip or other vacation is your financial situation. So if money is at the forefront of your mind as you’re planning your next trip, these tips for traveling on a budget could help.

1. Plan ahead

Planning ahead could help you save by making sure you’re not paying late fees or a steeper price for things that would’ve been cheaper earlier on. And if you’re planning to leave the country, it might help to read up on how much it costs to get a passport and some tips for traveling internationally.

2. Travel with a group

Whether you’re getting a group discount or simply sharing accommodations, traveling with friends can help keep your costs down. So consider checking whether group discounts are available.

3. Opt for an off-the-beaten-path destination

While places like Florida and Mexico are always great options, certain locations have steeper costs because of their popularity. Choosing travel destinations that aren’t as common could help you save. If you want more ideas, check out cheap vacation spots for travelers on a budget.

4. Consider booking your trip early

You could save by booking flights and hotels well in advance. While you may get lucky with a last-minute opening, you’ll probably save money by booking sooner rather than later. And it might help to learn more about the best time to book a flight to save money.

5. Use travel rewards

Taking advantage of credit card rewards can be a great way to save money when planning a trip. If you have a card that earns points or miles, you may be able to put them toward your trip.

Plus, if you’re an eligible Capital One cardholder, you can take advantage of Capital One Travel. Features like price drop protection and price freezes give you even more flexibility when booking.

6. Look for student discounts

If you’re a student, consider finding out if student discounts are available. It could help you save on things like a museum ticket, flight or hotel booking. 

Student spring break destinations in a nutshell

If you’re looking to plan your next spring break trip, these destinations are worth looking into. And if you’re a college student, there are ways you can save money while booking your next trip—like taking advantage of student discounts, planning ahead and earning cash back and other rewards by using an eligible student credit card from Capital One.

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