Best Spring Break Destinations to Avoid College Crowds
Where to find fun in the sun with quiet beaches and relaxation without running into the March Madness (and April, too) of college spring breakers? Never fear, we've found some of the best beaches—and deals—guaranteed not to have rowdy crowds.
Riviera Maya, Mexico
Fly into Cancun, then keep going about 60 miles south to the lovely resort area of Riviera Maya. While college crowds line the beaches of Cancun (the number one international college spring break destination according to StudentCity), you can relax and enjoy your vacation on the sunny beaches, exploring Mayan ruins, and cooling off in underground caves and crystal clear cenotes in quiet relaxation. Base yourself at Fairmont Mayakoba, a 45-acre luxury community that is perfect for families with a kids club, babysitting, and a children’s pool in addition to four other gorgeous pools, plus a stunning slice of beach with chairside service so parents can relax, too. Fairmont’s dining options include local specialties served at its four restaurants; the massive breakfast buffet is a must try, and kids five and under eat free from the children’s menu while children ages 6-12 eat for half price when ordering from the regular menu. Another plus for parents: The 37,000 square foot Willow Stream spa for luxe treatments and relaxation in mineral pools and steam rooms. The Riviera Maya is also one of the best warm-weather destinations to escape the cold.
The Yellowstone Loop
Prefer to get out and explore America on your spring break? Avoid Las Vegas (which Travel Channel calls one of the top party destinations for spring break) and embark on the Yellowstone Loop for an affordable and majestic road trip. Avoid the crowds by taking in the sights and wildlife throughout Northern Utah, into Idaho, and arriving in Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. This road to Yellowstone is for travelers looking to escape to smaller locales for their beautiful views, unique yet affordable accommodations, and a low-key approach to a vacation. A few options to add to your itinerary: A visit to the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge visitor center, a 74,000-acre National Wildlife Refuge in Brigham City, Utah; a stop in Logan, Utah for hand-dipped candies from the Bluebird Candy Factory, and the hands-on working farm on the American West Heritage Center. The Center sits at the foot of the majestic Wellsville Mountains on U.S. Highway 89/91 in Utah’s magnificent Cache Valley, the most scenic route to Yellowstone National Park. On the way, stay in the family-friendly city of Ogden, to visit Ogden’s George S. Eccles Dinosaur Park, and Hill Aerospace Museum and stay at the affordable Hilton Garden Inn Ogden. Take a break with a stop at the five pools of Lava Hot Springs in Pocatello, Idaho, where natural hot mineral water bubbles directly into the bottom of the soaking pools. Then Explore Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park, and the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center, a wildlife park and educational facility offering visitors to Yellowstone a chance to uniquely experience the world of grizzly bears and gray wolves. Yellowstone is also a perfect summer vacation.
Koh Samui, Thailand
Thailand, with its great value-for-money and friendly atmosphere, draws college kids to Bangkok and the popular island of Phuket (say the experts at SkyScanner), which is why you’re going to head to the jewel-like beaches of Koh Samui, an island destination known for its fabulous sandy stretches and sapphire waters. Head to the quiet southwest corner of the island and the new Avani+ Samui, an upscale, but affordable family resort situated on Phang Ka Bay near Taling Ngam with spacious guest rooms and pool villas that put you within steps of a secluded beach. Activities to explore the stunning natural surroundings abound: Climb aboard a traditional long-tail boat and set sail for our neighboring islands, go snorkeling in the vitrine Andaman Sea, explore the island’s lush green jungle and kayak in the mangroves. Or explore the cultural side of the area with Avani’s guided food and temple tours.
Is your family full of ski bunnies looking to keep the winter going? Then head north to Canada’s great skiing area for spring skiing; with plenty of powder on the ground and the sun in the sky, it’s the perfect way to get in the last great runs of the years. The iconic castle resort Fairmont Banff Springs is working with SkiBig3 so families can ski Alberta’s three iconic resorts—Banff Sunshine, Mt. Norquay, and Lake Louise Ski Resort—with a local instructor, and Banff National Park is great to visit on your own, too. Kids 3 to 12 can participate in a range of fun indoor and outdoor activities with Fairmont’s Kids at the Castle program, and the whole family can swim in the indoor pool and bowl together at the Fairmont’s own lanes.
Spring in Paris is the stuff of song (see, “I love Paris in the Springtime,” and “April in Paris” for proof), and spring break is a gorgeous, and yet not overly crowded time, to introduce your kids to the City of Light. Start off your trip at the Eiffel Tower to get a bird’s eye view of the city and plan out your itinerary. Be sure to get a ParisPass for front-of-the-line access to blockbuster attractions like the Louvre museum and complimentary BigBus hop-on-hop-off tours, always a kid favorite. If your kids like to try new foods, try out a Paris Food Tour, which will bring you straight to the best croques monsieur (tell them it’s fancy grilled cheese) in the city. And make the city feel like home by renting a spacious apartment through Paris Perfect; you can get a multi-bedroom, multi-bathroom apartment with full kitchens for almost the same price as a large hotel room (we especially love the ones with Eiffel Tower views).
Rincon, Puerto Rico
Head west, the western shore of Puerto Rico that is, for a spring break that’s heavy on tropical island beaches and palm trees, and light on the college crowds (and cruise daytrippers) that fill the streets of San Juan. Rincon feels like a secluded island, with a laid back vibe and quiet hotels and beaches. That doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty for families to do, though, Rincon is known for its great surfing (sign up the whole crew for lessons out on the surf) as well as horseback riding and standup paddleboarding. The western shore also offers laid back family-friendly resorts at reasonable prices, like the Rincon Beach Resort, where a free-form pool connects directly to a private beach.
The Palos Verdes Peninsula, just south of Los Angeles’ southern beaches but well north of Long Beach (which made College Magazine’s list of dream spring breaks), offers whale watching, kayaking, coastal hiking, and unmatched views of the Pacific Ocean, Catalina Island, and Channel Islands. The perfect place to enjoy all the scenic wonders of the area is Terranea Resort. The luxury resort located high on the cliffs over the Pacific welcomes families to enjoy four sparkling saltwater swimming pools (including one with a 140-foot waterslide and kids splash zone), children’s adventure camp, the Tide Pool Kids Club, for guests ages 4 to 12. There are also a variety of activities for the whole family to do together, such as summertime s’mores by the fire and family golf or more adventurous activities like archery and falconry. Parents will also want to check out the award-winning oceanfront spa, and while many of the nine dining options at the resort are kid-friendly, grown-ups may want to plan a special date night for the romantic seaside Mar’sel.
Lake Constance, Germany
Want to visit Europe without the crowds? Lake Constance in Southwest Germany is a perfect spring break alternative with plenty to do, see, and eat. Base yourself in the German lakeside town of Konstanz and take off on a bike ride all the way around the crystalline lake at the foot of the Alps; you’ll be able to visit Austria, Switzerland, and Lichtenstein, too (four countries for the price of one vacation!) The entire area looks like a fairytale setting, and there are castles, boat rides, sailing, and swimming, and the botanical island of Mainau, plus the Bronze Age Museum and the Zeppelin Museum. Stay on the private island of Constance at the Steigenberger Hotel, a former monastery set a short three-minute walk to town.
Head to Houston for a family friendly city vacation without the college crowds (they’ll all be in South Padre Island according to U.S. News and World Report). Spend a day exploring the Museum District’s amazing kid-centric offerings, including the Natural Science Museum and its butterfly center, the fabulous Children’s Museum, and the Houston Zoo (all of which are part of the affordable Houston CityPASS). Then head 30 minutes north to The Woodlands Resort, a family-friendly getaway set on 28,000 of lush forest offering outdoor movies, s’mores by the fire, family tug-o-war, lawn games, and even Beekeeping 101 at the resort’s new Bee Hive. Best of all is the resort’s Forest Oasis waterpark where the waterslides and lazy river will keep the kids busy all day. Check out these mini family vacations that won’t break the bank.
The Spice Island of the Caribbean, Grenada is overlooked by many Caribbean travelers, which means you won’t have crowds to deals with, but get to take advantage of great adventure activities and fabulous beaches. Activities include snorkeling, kayaking, boat excursions, game fishing, river tubing, and spice plantation tours, and of course lots of sunning and swimming. Grenada’s pristine marine environment is home to several protected coral reefs that are home to a multitude of tropical fish and the world’s first underwater sculpture park, it’s also considered one of the top 10 SCUBA spots in the world. Mount Cinnamon Resort is a family owned, eco-luxe hideaway set on the hillside atop Grand Anse Beach, with 21 luxury villas with kitchens plus suites, each with its own veranda, giving families plenty of room to spread out and relax when they’re taking a break from the great outdoor options here.
Quy Nhon, Vietnam
For expansive golden beaches, turquoise water, authentic dining, and 900 year old ruins all without western tourists, and definitely no rowdy college partiers (they’ll all be in Jamaica and the Dominican Republic, according to ABC News), the beach town of Quy Nhon should be at the top of your spring break list. It’s exactly the kind of undiscovered getaway that comes to mind when you picture a tropical beach escape. The newly opened Anantara Quy Nhon Villas is the ideal beach idyll perched on the postcard-perfect southern coast of Vietnam, with 26 private villas that either line the beach or perch on the cliffs above, offering lots of elbow room for families. All the plush private hideaways have their own shimmering tiled pools long enough to swim laps and decks with outdoor furniture, couches, and fans; order up some Vietnamese style street food (bahn mi, pho, and summer rolls are all favorites) straight to your room to enjoy on your patio, or raid the in-room pantry which has everything from ice cream to charcuterie, not to mention thirst quenchers including local craft beers, French rosé, and fresh juices for the kids. The main resort building has an infinity pool with an in-pool bar worth leaving your room for, plus the Salt and Fire restaurant for all-day dining enhanced with 30 unique local salts. Kids will love swimming in the crystalline East Sea and learning martial arts from the on-staff master; grown-ups should make time for the airy cliffside spa’s Thai massage, chakra balancing treatments, and rejuvenating facials. Quy Nhon was also one of our must-visit places in 2019 according to travel experts.
The Crystal Coast, North Carolina
Located along North Carolina’s central shore, this Atlantic beach destination is one of the few remaining natural barrier island systems in the world. Outside Magazine named it the “Best Spring Break Destination” for its authentic “coastal experience,” 85 miles of silk sand, and sparkling beaches. Family-friendly activities range from exploring Blackbeard’s sunken treasure from The Queen Anne’s Revenge at the North Carolina Maritime Museum to hands-on learning at The North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores to climbing the famed Diamond Lady Lighthouse with views of wild horses roaming freely at neighboring Shackleford Banks. There are a variety of beach accommodations to suit every budget, including seaside cottages and massive beach mansions for rent that are the perfect place for multi-generation escape.
Avoid the college crowds at Breckenridge, SnowPak’s pick for top spring break destination in Colorado, and head to Keystone, instead. The resort, about a two-hour drive from Denver, is so family-friendly, kids 12 and under ski free (if you stay two nights or more) and the resort hosts an annual Kidtopia event. In early March, your crew can enjoy the Kidtopia Music Experience, complete with a Snow Pants Dance party, outdoor concerts, and Saturday-night fireworks. But even when the festival isn’t going on, there’s still plenty to enjoy in this mountain paradise: Kids will love playing in the World’s Largest Snow Fort at the top of Dercrum Mountian, Saturday-night fireworks, Craft-er-noons, and free entrance (with a lift ticket) to the Dercrum Ice Rink. Stay at the recently opened Hyatt Place Keystone and breakfast is free (for Hyatt Members, a free points program). These are the best spring break getaways in every state.
This Central American nation on the blue Caribbean Sea offers incredible adventures (whale shark swimming anyone?), no jet lag, and numerous direct flights. From Belize City, you can be on your way to the deep blue waters off Ambergris Caye or Placencia or a luxury eco-lodge deep in the Maya Mountains in under an hour. In fact, with seven or eight nights, you can easily combine the beach and the rainforest jungle in one trip! Next, find out the spring break destinations you haven’t thought of yet.
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