Top Ten Alternative Spring Break Destinations

Beach Travel Expert Gary Chandler picks the hottest spring break spots and then offers alternative suggestions for travelers in search of something a bit off the beaten path.
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Playa del Carmen
BEACHES AND BARS: Playa del Carmen offers a vacation alternative to the hopping clubs of Cancun (Digital Vision)
The List That Matters
Our Top Ten Alternative Spring Break Picks—in Order
10. St. John (For Families)
9. San Juan (For Nightlife)
8. Cabarete (For Active)
7. St. Kitts (For Families)
6. Bonaire (For Diving)
5. Tulum (For Beaches)
4. Playa del Carmen (For Nightlife)
3. Dominica (For Active)
2. Roatán (For Diving)
1. Mayreau (For Beaches)

Ahhh, yes...the lure of spring break. Booze cruises, dental-floss bikinis, and the hoarse screams of college co-eds. But if you want to rule out beer-soaked blow-outs like Daytona Beach and snoozers like the Four Winds Renaissance Festival in Texas—more mutton m’lord?—there are still myriad places to choose from. Some, like Cancun or Montego Bay, are perennial hot spots, and for good reason: great beaches, plenty of hotels and resorts, and a hopping nightlife. But, no matter your ideal spring break experience, plenty of lesser-known places offer just as much for a better value and thinner crowds. Here, we list the typical Caribbean hot-spots in five different categories—nightlife, beaches, diving, active pursuits, and families—and suggest our top ten alternative destinations based on those categories.


Hot Spot:
Cancun, Mexico
Party hounds have lots of options when it comes to spring break in paradise. Cancun always shows up at or near the top of the list, with a slew of nightclubs raging seven nights a week, especially during spring break. Expect pyrotechnics, throbbing music, all-you-can-drink specials, and endless dancing. (The beaches also are beautiful, but you do have to be awake during the daytime to appreciate them—so don't make any commitments.) Cancun's excesses can be its drawback if you just feel like chilling out; plus, resorts raise their prices the instant the first Tri-Delts step off the plane.

Playa del Carmen, Mexico
An excellent alternative spring break spot, with a party scene that revolves around bar hopping, Playa del Carmen is only an hour from Cancun (via a shuttle that runs 24 hours), which means you can hit the clubs whenever you want. In addition to large resorts, this destination features more varied and affordable lodging, and more varied and affordable restaurants, including a hip Italian district. Playa's beach doesn't rank quite as high as Cancun's, but the beach clubs are better, and you'll have more appealing day-trip options, from snorkeling and diving to skydiving and trips to Tulum or Cozumel.

San Juan, Puerto Rico
Another party town that's accessible but still somewhat off the spring break radar screen is San Juan, Puerto Rico. A beautiful and historic city, San Juan has raucous nightclubs, plus something Cancun falls short on: Latin dance clubs and live music, from jazz to hip hop. San Juan draws a refreshingly mixed crowd, whether measured by age, race, or nationality, and is one of the most gay-friendly cities in the Caribbean.

Published: 25 Mar 2008 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication



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