Spring break often gets a bad rap (unlike Spring Breakers, which is a modern masterpiece). But there’s a reason MTV set up shop on Daytona Beach in 1986 to film the antics of college kids on a week-long break: partying is fun. The channel continued to air their frenetic, chaotic coverage every year until 2005, when the revelry was shifted to MTVU where it held on until 2014.
This year, MTV is bringing spraaaaaang breaaaaaaak back. There’s probably a PowerPoint somewhere that explains this move to the company’s board, but the reasoning pretty much starts and ends with: Who doesn’t want to see some of the world’s sexiest people hanging out in the most beautiful beach towns in the world? The resurgence isn’t just limited to junk TV, either. Amid crackdowns at many of the spring break hotspots, destinations like Panama City Beach and South Padre Island are coming back to the communal beer bong ring and making big bets on filling bars and beaches with college kids gone wild.
If you’re planning a spring break in 2019, let the list below guide you through all the classic spots. You’ll recognize most of them — because it’s no great secret where people party in March. As always, be safe, respect the boundaries of others, ask questions about the origins of literally anything you choose to put in your body, and have fun.
Calling out the entire nation of the Bahamas as a spring break destination is casting a wide net. The Bahamian chain covers over 700 islands, meaning you’re going to have to decide exactly where to go within the archipelago. Regardless of which hub you settle on, you can count on a background of crystal-clear water and pristine white sand beaches, duty-free shopping, and luxury accommodations.
Nassau is home to spring break staple Señor Frogs, which is a major tourist spot guaranteed to get you drinking and having fun. If you want to break free of the tourist experience, head to The Daiquiri Shack for tropical drinks made by hand from fresh fruit. A lot of people heading to the Bahamian islands stay in a mega resort like Atlantis, Paradise Island — which is like going to Vegas and staying in the Bellagio. It’s a world unto itself, with 11 pools, a water park, five miles of beaches, and golf course to keep you occupied. But if you want to push your way through streets crowded with fellow partiers and have a real bacchanal, try heading to Freeport, where the town square becomes a mass of vacationing college kids marauding from bar to bar.
If you go, you have to see… the swimming pigs. Located in Outer Exuma Islands is Big Major Cay, a small island filled with friendly, swimming pigs. You can frolic with them and delight your Instagram followers with the pictures. (Yes, this is where Billy McFarland and Ja Rule took the Fyre Fest crew.)
Cancun is obviously a classic spring break destination. It has all the natural elements needed, like gorgeous sandy beaches, turquoise waters, and hours of warm sun each day. But there are also plenty of wild dance parties, tequila shots, and standard partying clichés to keep visitors busy. And we don’t mean clichés in a bad way. There are certain aspects of a spring break in Cancun that you want to be part of your trip. And if that means body shots, then there had better be some dang body shots (hint: there are).
Although Cancun is a bit of an SB OG, it still draws crowds of students from across Europe, South America, and Canada, making it a perfect place to meet global travelers while you lounge in the sun with a margarita in hand. Most people stay in what is called The Hotel Zone — an area built around tourism with a ton of all-inclusive resorts, beaches, and bars. The Hard Rock Hotel Cancun and Live Aqua Beach Resort Cancun are the places to head if you want a luxe experience. Otherwise, stay outside of this pricier area and save your money for activities, like heading to Coco Bongo, the spot for nightlife in the city. You can see live bands and acrobats and conga lines. It’s not unusual for the club’s shows to include bubbles, balloons, and confetti. But don’t expect a dance floor and a DJ; it’s not a conventional experience. It’s so much more.
If you go, you have to… make a day trip to Chichén Itzá, the biggest and most notable Mayan archaeological site in Yucatan. This ancient Mayan site is the perfect place to let your inner Indiana Jones free.
Daytona Beach, Florida
Daytona Beach used to be the spot for spring break. It was all bikini contests and cheap rooms and college kids looking to party, and it had been since the freaking 1950s. In the late 80s, MTV filmed live content in the city and continued to run it all summer, making the oceanfront city a must-visit among the channel’s viewership. Suddenly, Daytona Beach was being slammed by tourists in a way that wasn’t sustainable. The city rebelled against the hordes and chased out both the college kids and MTV. (There is a pretty awesome documentary about the rise and fall of spring break called Spring Broke if you’re interested in learning more.)
These days, Daytona Beach is still a spring break destination, but it has a more chill vibe than it had in the past. Fear not, you can still drive on the beach, which seems really important to a lot of visitors. It’s all part of Daytona’s ties to the NASCAR empire — which can be felt most strongly at the Daytona International Speedway. If you go, you’re gonna want to stay in a student-friendly hotel surrounded by other people on break. For our buck, the Hawaiian Inn is the way to go, as it is known specifically for being the spring break hotel of Daytona. And it’s pretty inexpensive.
If you go, you have to… rent an ATV to ride across the beach. There are plenty of local companies to choose from and they all offer vehicles that are perfect for cruising across the white sands.
South Padre Island, Texas
Most people head for Florida and Mexico for their Spring Break revelry, but there are those people who (for a variety of reasons) are all about South Padre Island in Texas. The destination has really leaned into being an SB party town in ways that other cities have not. Though for much of the year the area is a family-friendly locale, in March it is best suited for college kids with swimsuits and beer bongs. They call it Spring Break Island and offer a Padremaniac VIP card that offers discounts on restaurants, stores, and covers entry to some of the biggest parties.
One of the big selling points of South Padre Island is that it is affordable. The Spring Break Beach Stage at Clayton’s, the biggest beach bar in Texas, hosts the biggest free daytime event on SPI — with celebs, music, contests, and prize packs. When night rolls around, head over to Tequila Sunset and take in the fireworks over the bay while you have a few cocktails and dance to live bands.
Visitors used to call South Padre the “two-nation destination” — because travelers would take quick jaunts to Mexico, a mere half hour away. But the US Department of Public Safety frowns upon that now. Don’t panic, it really is enough to feel the gentle, shallow waves of the Gulf of Mexico and to walk on the powder-soft beaches between drinks.
If you go, you have to… take surfing lessons. This is the only place in the entire state of Texas to offer year-round professional instructors, so it’s the ideal break to get out on a board and see what you can do.
For Spring Breakers looking for the sexiest beach town in the nation, look no further. Miami sizzles. Yes, we know that Miami isn’t a traditional Spring Break town in the way that others on this list are, but you can’t deny the allure of 24/7 clubs, slamming pool parties, and friendly locals. The famed beaches and towering Art Deco hotels may make it America’s Riviera, but it’s all of the opportunities to party that put Miami on the list of the greatest Spring Break locations (provided you budget properly).
If your Spring Break lines up with the end of the month, there’s the added bonus of Miami Music Week, which fills the city’s clubs, galleries, bars, and restaurants with scores of prominent EDM artists (and a bunch you haven’t heard of but will love). At the tail end of the week, the Ultra Music Festival takes place at Historic Virginia Key Beach Park and Miami Marine Stadium. It’s the biggest festival of its kind, and it works as part of any spring break trip. When it comes to staying somewhere, we think the Catalina Hotel has merit. There is a rooftop pool to swim in, though the beach is a four-minute walk away if you crave saltwater. Plus it is located perfectly in South Beach, meaning you can easily cruise to clubs and party spots. And they let you have up to four people in a room, bringing the price per guest into a reasonable range.
If you go, you have to… spend time at Haulover Beach Miami’s only legal “clothing optional” beach. Situated between Sunny Isles and Bal Harbour, this beach is the perfect place to break free from the tyranny of clothing.
Negril is a chill destination most of the year. People head there to lounge on its long stretches of pearly white sand beaches and to drink umbrella drinks year-round. But during the peak spring break season, it’s all about the party and things get turnt. Most spring breakers will stick to the beaches and to their all-inclusive resorts. As Jamaica is the third largest island in the Caribbean, it’s not like travelers can see it all in one trip anyway. However, we would encourage everyone to take some time to move north to Seven Mile Beach (it’s really about four) or head south to see the hippy-era Negril as it used to be.
If you aren’t down to sightsee in a traditional sense, Negril is home to the world’s premier swingers’ resort, so that’s always an option. Instead of staying in a resort for your entire stay, spend a few nights at Hedonism II and get in touch with your wild side. Be sure to head to Rick’s Café to jump off of the 40-foot cliffs and enjoy local cuisine, tropical drinks, and live music. It would be hard to find a more quintessential beach bar. At night, stop into The Jungle Night Club, which has two dancefloors and seven bars. Plus, they run a shuttle that can help you back to your lodgings safely.
If you go, you have to… swing on the rope swing at Blue Hole. There’s just nothing quite like living out your Tarzan dreams and this is a truly idyllic spot to do so.
Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic
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The Dominican Republic is one of the most popular Caribbean islands for travelers looking to let loose over spring break. It’s also a bit new to the game, having only recently become one of the world’s hottest tropical getaways for college students looking to shed the stress of the daily grind and go buck wild. For many of them, this means all-inclusive resorts where they have ready access to unlimited booze, contests and games by the beach, live music, and swim-up bars. It certainly simplifies things to have your resort take care of all your fun. You just show up and play.
If you want to stay in a super indulgent all-inclusive mega-resort, the Iberostar Costa Dorada is the way to go. This is the kind of place where people roll out of bed and into the bar at ten in the morning and they keep it going until two in the morning. And when things get out of hand, there are late night buffets to help soak up the drinks. When you venture out of the resort, go to Kviar Show Disco and Casino. There are international DJs playing for huge dancing crowds and you can gamble there. It’s a lot of fun and the cover is pretty cheap. If you’re less of a disco-goer and more outdoorsy, consider going hiking, zip lining or horseback riding.
If you go, you have to… take the tour at the Brugal Rum Center and try all the rums they have on offer. There was a fire there this week, but it should be running again soon. You won’t get trashed, but you will learn a lot about the rum trade and discover some great new brands to drink during the rest of your stay.
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Puerto Vallarta is a lot like Miami in that is a bit more balled out than the other destinations. It has a lot of innate sophistication for visiting couples, singles, and families…until spring break comes around and the streets are filled with attractive twenty-somethings looking for drinks and hookups. And no judgment on that front; we love both. We especially love them when they take place in one of the most stunning beach destinations on earth. There are historic whitewashed buildings and blue seas set against a mountain skyline that begs for both introspection and selfies (can you do both?). This is also a great place for breakers looking to be active. Go scuba diving with manta rays off Islas Marietas and parasail off of the Playa Los Muertos.
Puerto Vallarta has a beachfront street that traverses downtown called the Malecón, and it’s one long strip of great bars. If you’ve ever watched a show about spring break that featured Puerto Vallarta, they went to one of these bars. In fact, the likelihood is that they went to Collage, which was famed for its foam parties. With Collage having closed, revelers go to Señor Frogs to get their foam needs met. We recommend Hard Rock Hotel Vallarta (yes, another Hard Rock property, but they are super cool) for visitors because it’s freaking beautiful but also boasts two free form pools, a spa with ocean views, and a grip of restaurants. You can party at the hotel before heading out to see the town or just stay close to your room for easier stumbling back after a wild night out.
If you go, you have to… eat street food. Mexico’s cuisine has made the list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO, an award not offered to any other national food groups, so you have to get in on as much of it as possible. Puerto Vallarta has some of the best street tacos, tamales, sopes, and more.
Panama City Beach, Florida
If you’re down with the Redneck Riviera (the name given to the nearly 100 miles of coastline between Alabama and Florida), Panama City Beach is an awesome place to celebrate your spring break. People will swear on everything they hold dear that this is the place with the softest sand in the nation. It’s snow white, fine, and powdery as all hell. Plus, college students from the south find it an easy drive. It’s worth noting that Panama City Beach used to be a bit more of a hotspot in the past because laws were introduced outlawing alcohol on the beach during March. However, there are plenty of other places to drink before or after you hit the beach, so it really isn’t too big of a deal. Plus, the city partnered with Four Loko to make it the official beverage of 2019, so how committed are they really to cracking down on fun?
This area has one of the world’s highest concentration of bottlenose dolphins, so between the incredible sand and the dolphins, you will want to spend as much time as you can at the beach. Hang under the sun all day, grab some dinner and recover a little, then hit up parties and clubs at night. Like South Padre Island, there is a VIP Panamaniac card to help keep costs down on cover charges and food and drink while you’re in town. For a good time, hit Sharky’s Beach Club, which is a pretty quiet seafood restaurant during day time hours, for their signature watermelon drink. They will hollow out a whole watermelon and fill it with enough liquor to get your head right for a night partying.
If you go, you have to… do some stand-up paddleboarding. Renting equipment is easy for seasoned pros, and newbies can find lessons easily enough.
Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
Cabo really hit the American radar in the 1970s, when Hollywood A-listers started visiting to escape the grind of Southern California without having to rub elbows with common tourists. And that influx of muckety mucks helped the city transition from a rather sordid public reputation to a city filled with world-class resorts. When they put in an international airport in the 1980s, travelers from around the globe got in on the action, and now it’s a must-visit for thousands on spring break each year. The city still has a patina of the elite but also offers better beach parties than you will find almost anywhere (with slightly fewer frat bros!).
March is the height of whale migration season, so be sure to take a margarita breather and hit the shores or join a boat trip to take a gander at eight species of whales. The beaches themselves are gorgeous, so staying at a resort right along the sand can’t be beaten. ME Cabo by Melia is a party-soaked oasis that is all about being sexy. It is home to both Nikki Beach and Passion Club & Lounge, which both serve as nightlife hotspots. It even offers beach access. And you kind of have to go to Cabo Wabo for live music and drinks. You’ll feel like a tourist, but a happy, drunk one, so it evens out.
If you go, you have to… kayak Isla Espiritu Santo, just outside La Paz. It’s a startlingly beautiful area filled with wildlife. Look for a Cabo San Lucas company that offers a package and take advantage of their transport and kayaking prowess to guarantee a good time.