We could all use some unbridled vacation time right about now, so we've concocted a list of the best spring break destinations to party at during this raucous time off. For some of us, this short break is an excuse to visit the world’s most happening nightlife spots, where bars and red light districts are more popular than sightseeing. You'll find plenty of forbidden fruit on offer in a liberal European capital, a Thai island, and, closer to home, a Canadian city (all known to offer a good dose of culture, too). For those content with the spring break destination staples of beaches, bikinis, and beer, we've included two homegrown beach cities that make the grade and, of course, Caribbean and Mexico options. Rounding out our list are some unexpected spots, however, including something for do-gooders, a ski getaway, and a desert-fringed lake in America's Southwest. Party on! Start planning your escape with our Spring Break Destinations slideshow.
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Some come for the tulips, some come for other "green" delicacies, but whatever’s on the vegetative agenda, visitors to this freewheeling spring break destination often find themselves mesmerized by the city’s free-thinking, live-and-let-live mantra. With a Dutch policy structured on controlling what it can’t efficiently outlaw, such illegalized American no-nos as marijuana (available in Amsterdam’s ubiquitous coffeeshops) or even prostitution (witness the notorious Red Light District) are permitted and regulated here. Additionally, the legal drinking age for beer is 16 (and even that is rarely enforced), giving the under-21 crowd full access to the stellar nightlife scene and all its libations, in trendy cafés, cozy "brown" bars (neighborhood watering holes), and clubs highlighting top international DJs. For those preferring to steer clear of such illicit temptations, spring’s warm days in this Venice of the North are also tailor-made for strolling the some 1,000 bridges that span the city’s 160 canals (more than Venice!) – whether they lead you to a Van Gogh painting or to fulfill your hankering for a hashish-filled hookah or cold Heineken (the Dutch beer’s former brewery is open for tours in town) is entirely up to you. Use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the lowest rates on flights, hotels, packages, and more travel deals.
A growing favorite amongst travelers in search of good-value packaged deals, the Dominican Republic has become a hugely popular spring break destination that vies with Cancun in affordability and atmosphere. The second-largest country in the Caribbean (after Cuba), the Dominican has something for everyone seeking a little fun under the sun, from Vegas-style casinos, nightclubs, and all-inclusive resorts, to horseback riding, golfing, surfing, diving, and the luxury of hundreds of miles of white-sand beaches. Punta Cana, on the island's eastern coast, is the island's top draw, with the Caribbean's longest stretch of sand, while Puerto Plata, in the northwest, is a solid secondary consideration. Both are prime party spots and are also great for late planners, with a broad range of reasonably priced hotels that make a beer-budget trip a snap. Those with champagne tastes won't be disappointed either – there are more than a few swanky resorts and hotels to satisfy all desires. Use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the lowest rates on flights, hotels, packages, and more travel deals.
Throughout the Gulf Coast and notably in New Orleans, there are plenty of opportunities to translate thoughts of a do-good spring break vacation into action. Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast in August 2005, with the BP oil spill of spring 2010 only adding to the economic and environmental destruction. Although thousands gave their money and time to the rebuilding efforts, the work is still far from over – it will take years to rebuild and repair the homes, businesses, and most importantly, lives in the Gulf. Thousands of student groups have spent their recent spring breaks doing hands-on volunteer work in the region and beyond – the United Way is a great place to start your research, as they send students between the ages of 18 to 24 from all over the country on ASB (Alternative Spring Break) each year to lend a hand in Gulf Coast areas of Mississippi. There are also organizations, such as Historic Green in New Orleans, that focus their efforts on trying to restore the city’s surviving houses in an eco-friendly manner. After a long day of volunteering, New Orleans is the perfect place to relax with the buzzing French Quarter bar and restaurant scene (fried catfish, anyone?) and live, authentic jazz clubs. Use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the lowest rates on flights, hotels, packages, and more travel deals to the Gulf Coast.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
While some of us are eagerly awaiting the return of spring flowers, others may be longing for one last hurrah on snow-powdered peaks – and we’re particularly keen on the last-minute spring break destination of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in Wyoming. Visitors can partake in the Jackson Hole Mountain Festival March 29–31 – a weekend of freestyle skiing and snowboarding events, accompanied by live music acts. When you’re not on the slopes, you can saddle up and test your rodeo skills on the mechanical bull located just outside the ever-popular Mangy Moose Saloon. Don’t forget to allow yourself a couple days of pampering at one of several Jackson Hole spas – it’s the perfect remedy for tired ski legs. Use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the lowest rates on flights, hotels, packages, and more travel deals.
Koh Phangan, Thailand
Originally developed as an alternative to popular Koh Samui and Phuket, the lush, beach-trimmed island of Koh Phangan, in the Gulf of Thailand, has since gained its own spring break destination notoriety thanks to its monthly all-night beach parties, held on the Haad Rin peninsula in honor of the full moon. The Full Moon Parties have become legendary, attracting as many as 30,000 moon-worshippers and partygoers to the two sandy stretches that frame the cape, to dance to trance and techno barefoot on the sand, glow-sticks in hand. Even if your travel dates don't coincide with the party, you can still create your own bit of hippie nirvana on this bit of sand by spending your days at New Age cafés, drinking cheap beer, and having inexpensive massages. Come nightfall, crash on the beach or in a $5 bungalow – that is, if you come down at all. Use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the lowest rates on flights, hotels, packages, and more travel deals to Thailand.
Lake Havasu, Arizona
While Las Vegas is an all-time favorite spring break destination, Lake Havasu, some three hours southeast of Sin City in the Arizona desert, has gained major partygoer appeal, thanks to its array of after-dark action, stunning scenery, and its main attraction, the eponymous lake itself. Nestled amid craggy mountain peaks alongside the Colorado River, and dubbed the "personal watercraft capital of the world," Lake Havasu boasts over 400 miles of coastline and water sports galore – think fishing, skiing, kayaking, and boating (lots of boat and Jet Ski rentals are also available for those of you without your own vessels). Havasu's on-land activities span from beach-bumming, off-roading desert treks, and golfing, to horseback riding, hot air ballooning, rock climbing, and biking. There’s plenty of nighttime action to keep spring breakers playing long after dark, too: Several clubs and bars boast killer views of the Colorado River and some even offer outdoor parties on the river itself. Use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the lowest rates on flights, hotels, packages, and more travel deals.
The long, skinny island of Miami Beach – and specifically image-conscious South Miami Beach (South Beach or SoBe in shorthand), with its charming Art Deco District and sizzling dining and club scenes, has reigned as one of America’s capitals of cool. It’s the kind of place where you might spot a guy walking a leashed mountain lion down Lincoln Road. There’s plenty of interesting and cultural activities here, but it’s really all about "the scene" – by day, sun and sand amid scantily clad, hard-bodied rollerbladers and volleyballers, by night, dining and partying amid a mix of the rich, famous, and fabulous. This sprawling, sexy, sun-splashed resort playground's posh combination of sun, sand, and hedonism makes it the quintessential beach party capital and a perfect spring break destination. Use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the lowest rates on flights, hotels, packages, and more travel deals.
While spring break has long signaled a south-of-the-border migration for some guaranteed Mexican mayhem, those with a nose for the north will find all of the essential ingredients for a bit of debauchery à la française just above the Canadian border. Of course, you’ll have to forego beaches and bikinis here, but with alcohol consumption and casino gambling (check out the chic Casino de Montréal) open to the 18-and-over crowd, scintillating nightlife (try Boulevard St-Laurent or Crescent Street for the best action), strip clubs galore, and a certain je ne sais quoi, Montreal’s appeal reels in its fair share of spring breakers all the same. A popular road trip pilgrimage for East Coast collegians (it’s about 370 miles from Manhattan or 310 miles from Boston), it's no surprise with the city's bargains on everything from gentleman's club activities to nightclub covers. For the more sophisticated spring-breaker, there’s plenty to pique your interest, too: Check out the historic center of Vieux-Montréal, take in a view from the summit of Montreal’s emblematic Mont Royal, or catch the last of ski season at several prime resorts within an hour’s drive. Use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the lowest rates on flights, hotels, packages, and more travel deals to Montreal.
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
While there are quite a few Mexico hot spots favored as spring break destinations, no place other than Puerto Vallarta combines a raging nightlife scene with a colorful colonial village imbued with old-world ambience. Indeed, Puerto Vallarta's appeal is undeniable: The city proper, a fabled hillside hamlet, brims with muddled alleyways, red-tiled roofs, and balconies draped in bougainvillea. Miles of golden seafront, dotted with newer towns and resorts, stretch to its north and south, while the local color of an old Mexican fishing village mingles with modern upscale influences. The famed malecón – a waterfront boardwalk that stretches from the center of town towards the Hotel Zone – is dotted with shops, restaurants, cafés, bars, and street artists. The lively promenade is always hopping and perfect for grabbing a drink or a bite during the day and after sunset. Come nightfall, you can revel in trendy lounges, rowdy pubs, surf-side watering holes, and romantic taverns. Most of the nightlife is located along a three-block stretch of Calle Ignatio L. Vallarta, on the south side of the river, where everything from mariachi music and sports bars to salsa clubs and discos is found. Use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the lowest rates on flights, hotels, packages, and more travel deals in Puerto Vallarta.
Editor's Note: Incidents like the robbery of visiting cruise passengers are very rare. Notes the Puerto Vallarta Tourism Board: "As one of Mexico’s leading destinations, we have high regards for the security and safety of our visitors and we are constantly working on enhancing the safety measures employed by our local police and private security officers who work at our many tourism attractions, including new international standardized training." The U.S. State Department currently does not have any warning in place for Puerto Vallarta; check the website before your trip for updates.
Plenty of sun, beaches, and bars make San Diego one of the ultimate spring break destinations. Mild spring weather is perfect for strolling downtown city streets, cruising the boardwalk at Mission Beach, hitting the surf, enjoying a few beers at one of the many outdoor beach bars, or spending the day at nearby SeaWorld. A happening club scene draws spring-breakers to the Pacific Beach neighborhood, where dozens of bars are strung along Grand and Garnett avenues; downtown’s Gaslamp Quarter offers a cosmopolitan evening out; and hipsters flock to the W Hotel rooftop BEACH bar where ladies can cool their heels – sans stilettos – in wall-to-wall sand. But, if you and your crew would rather rage on the actual beach till dawn, you’re in luck, too, since most city sands have facilities to encourage bonfire booze-fests. Use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the lowest rates on flights, hotels, packages, and more travel deals to San Diego.