March is the unofficial month of spring break, which -- at least to hundreds of thousands of college students across the nation -- means it’s a 30-day stretch of time dedicated to partying, preferably in exotic locales around the world. If you’re looking to get the classic (read: raucous) spring break fix, here are the top 10 spring break destinations for partying.
|Where to go: Cancun|
Cancun -- with its beautiful, sandy beaches and turquoise waters -- is one of the world’s top beach destinations and also one of the most-visited spring break destinations on the planet. The Hotel Zone is where to go if you’re looking for all the college spring break staples; dozens of mega-resorts line miles and miles of postcard-perfect beaches where guests lounge in the sun, margarita in hand. Hotels here cater to spring breakers, hard partiers, young couples and rowdy groups with night-long parties, loud entertainment, cheap booze and all-inclusive plans. Stay at Hotel Riu Cancun. In the heart of the Hotel Zone, Hotel Riu Cancun sits on a sprawling piece of beachfront that’s close to bars, nightclubs, restaurants and shops. The all-inclusive, 569-room resort offers three swimming pools, a buffet-style restaurant and three themed restaurants, and a range of on-site activities that includes nightly live shows, tennis, windsurfing and a nightclub. Rooms are a bit outdated, but most consider it a small trade-off for the affordable prices.
|Where to go: Panama City Beach|
Dubbed by many as the “Spring Break Capital of the World,” Panama City Beach hosts nearly half a million co-eds every spring and keeps them entertained with outdoor concerts and contests, sandy beaches, popular restaurants and bars with extended happy hours, and even an amusement park. It is a less-expensive alternative to Miami, Florida’s other uber-popular spring break spot (more on that later). Stay at Holiday Inn Resort Panama City Beach. Throughout the remainder of the year, this oceanfront resort attracts equal parts families and students, but during spring break it is all about college-aged kids looking for a good time. The Holiday Inn transforms itself for the droves of students by offering special beach-side activities, giveaways, contests and poolside concerts lasting until 2 a.m. during March. Rooms are fairly typical for a Holiday Inn beach hotel, with fresh bedding and convenient extras such as full-size fridges and microwaves; the balconies featuring gulf views are perhaps the biggest draw.
|Where to go: Las Vegas|
Las Vegas is one of the country’s most famous party spots, so it’s no wonder it’s a major spring break party destination -- even considering its lack of a beach. Instead of fun along the sand, Vegas provides poolside and late-night debauchery with hundreds of pool parties annually and some of the hottest nightclubs around. Spring breakers can take their pick between classy and trashy, as the Strip offers everything from topless pools to quiet infinity pools, and from packed, fist-pumping nightclubs to bottle service-only lounges. Stay at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. The Hard Rock brand is synonymous with partying, and its Vegas resort may be the most party-centric of all. Not only is it home to Rehab (considered by many to be Vegas’s best pool party, and certainly its largest), but go-go dancers perform in the casino, live music plays nightly at The Joint (which boasts a 4,000-person capacity), and spring breakers can party ’til late at the popular on-site Vanity nightclub.
|Where to go: Jamaica|
Many parts of Jamaica are non-stop parties throughout peak season, and especially during college spring break. Known for its long stretches of white sandy beach, Negril is one of the island’s hot spots, as is the area’s not-so-creatively-named Seven Mile Beach. By day, revelers sip on rum punch and frolic in the warm waters, and by night they drink more rum punch and dance to live reggae bands and steel drum performances. Though technically illegal, marijuana is readily available and a draw for many visitors, as are the breathtaking sunsets that the area is renowned for. Stay at Negril Tree House Resort. Negril Tree House has a prime location in the heart of the action -- right on Seven Mile Beach and next door to great bars and restaurants. It’s not an all-inclusive, but with so many nightlife options to explore around town, you’ll be glad for the flexibility.
|Where to go: Miami|
Miami’s neon-lit South Beach (or “SoBe”) might be the sexiest beach town in America. Chic clubs with discerning bouncers draw the fashion-industry elite, the occasional celebrity, and plenty of 20-somethings ready to party. Fortunately for those on a budget, it’s not all glitz. Cheap Cuban sandwich joints, fishbowl-size discount margaritas, and Bud Light-slinging dive bars peacefully coexist with the posh hotel lounges and famed fusion restaurants. Stay at Catalina Hotel. Designed for randy 20-somethings who can rage until 4 a.m., the Catalina can be a godsend. It’s moderately priced, across from the beach, and in the heart of the fashionista bar scene. There are nice touches like Tempur-Pedic beds and a hip, rooftop pool, but it’s certainly a raucous party hotel at heart.
|Where to go: Dominican Republic|
Home to party-friendly Punta Cana, the Dominican Republic is one of the most popular islands in the Caribbean for spring break. Located on the D.R.’s easternmost tip, Punta Cana is characterized by near-perfect weather, as well as dozens of all-inclusive mega-resorts ranging from cheap to chic. Spring breakers flock to these hotels, where highlights include unlimited booze, beachside games and contests, and swim-up bars. Stay at Grand Palladium Punta Cana Resort & Spa. All rooms at the Punta Cana, part of a multi-mega-resort complex, feature in-room whirlpools, but the real draws are the clean, white-sand beach, access to four free-form pools, and eight reservation-free restaurants with some of the D.R.’s best all-inclusive fare -- a good value, if you don’t mind scrounging for a rogue lounge chair. With spontaneous dance parties and a disco that can stay bumping until the wee hours, it’s a great place to party.
|Where to go: South Padre Island|
A thin, tiny island off the southeast tip of Texas, connected to the mainland by a highway, South Padre Island is a popular spring break destination among students who attend schools in the south. Not only is it affordable and easy to reach, but every spring it is home to “Coca Cola Beach.” Attended by tens of thousands of co-eds, this massive party features all-day concerts, contests and games. South Padre Island’s beaches also boast volleyball, banana boats, snorkeling and parasailing. Stay at Pearl South Padre. The Pearl South Padre is located on the southern tip of the island. This 251-room resort is flanked by a wide, sandy beach and offers a huge outdoor pool with plenty of lounge chairs. Rooms are comfortable and spacious, and some are renovated, while all offer private balconies and excellent views of the Gulf of Mexico or outdoor pool. In-room amenities include flat-screen TVs, free Wi-Fi, and mini-fridges -- perfect for refueling between parties.
|Where to go: Puerto Vallarta|
Puerto Vallarta is one of Mexico’s most picturesque beach destinations, with historic white-washed buildings, and cerulean seas set against a rugged mountain skyline. With all this ocean comes a variety of water sports, like scuba diving with manta rays off Islas Marietas, boating around Los Arcos’ reefs, and parasailing off of the popular Playa Los Muertos. But Puerto Vallarta really becomes alive when the sun dips below the horizon. Steamy salsa clubs light up the streets and rowdy local bars supply a steady stream of cervesa for the thirsty traveler. Downtown Puerto Vallarta is the most happening and diverse area, and has a few gay clubs (Puerto Vallarta is arguably Mexico’s most gay-friendly destination). Stay at Villa Premiere Hotel & Spa. Villa Premiere is a great spring break spot for those with a little extra cash to spend -- and those who are seeking a calm oasis to escape to after partying all night long. Open only to guests ages 16 and older, the resort sits right across the street from the beach, and downtown Puerto Vallarta is just seven blocks away. Even with its small size, the 89-room Villa has an attractive, all-inclusive package -- a compact but still luxurious version of what you get at many of the mega-sized resorts several miles north, out of town. An added bonus: it’s a pretty little place with whimsical artwork throughout.
|Where to go: Bahamas|
An English-speaking archipelago that begins about 50 miles off the south coast of Florida, the Bahamas attracts spring breakers of all ages. College students often pick it because it is easy to reach and has plenty of beach party staples, such as Senor Frogs. The Bahamas exude a relaxed, laid-back vibe and the partying here is more chill than raucous. Nonetheless, there’s plenty of free-flowing beer, contests and games to keep revelers entertained. Stay at Wyndham Nassau Resort & Crystal Palace Casino. The enormous Wyndham Nassau’s main draw is its location, right on the beach in party-centric Nassau. Otherwise, the hotel doesn’t have much to boast -- but the price is right.
|Where to go: Puerto Rico|
Puerto Rico has become an increasingly popular spring break destination as flight prices have dropped and students have discovered the lively casinos and clubs that line the streets. By day, huge malls, golf courses, casinos and, of course, beautiful, white-sand beaches, attract tourists and partiers alike. Stay at The Beach House Hotel. The boutique Beach House Hotel sits right on a small stretch of private beach and offers perks like free Wi-Fi, nighttime film screenings and a pumping DJ on the weekends.