Destination Dupes
The Most Popular Spring Break 2024 Destinations (& Where To Go Instead)

The Most Popular Spring Break 2024 Hot Spots (& Where To Go Instead)

These off-the-beaten-path locations are the biggest vibes when you’re spring *broke*.

by Jessica Booth

With (hopefully) the last of winter’s chilly days here at last, it’s nearly impossible not to think about the allure of a sunny vacation. Even if you don’t have a flight booked yet, it’s not too late to plan the last-minute trip of your dreams — especially if you opt for a location that isn’t a cliché spring break hot spot.

The most popular spring break destinations all seem to have a few things in common: swaying palm trees, close proximity to some sort of body of water, and plenty of bars and restaurants for all of the food and drinks.

Think: Cancún, Miami Beach, and Punta Cana, all of which are pretty much guaranteed good times — but they also give major party vibes (e.g., all-night dancing, crowds, and $$$). That’s totally fine if that’s what you’re looking for, but it’s not ideal for those in search of something a bit more low-key post-midterms.

If your idea of the perfect trip is somewhere off-the-beaten path that is still fun, exciting, and full of Instagram-worthy spots, consider heading somewhere that isn’t already all over the FYP.

To find the best alternatives to the usual spring break go-tos, Elite Daily caught up with #TravelTok creators and other travel experts who know exactly which locations pass the vibe check. Heading to one of them can help you beat the crowds, have an absolute blast, and maybe even save a few bucks.

Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images

Hot Spot No. 1: Miami Beach, Florida

Why it’s so popular: Exclusive clubs, white sand beaches, and the chance to run into Alix Earle? It’s not hard to see why Miami Beach is a peak spring break vibe each year.

For partygoers, places like LIV Miami and Nikki Beach always deliver, while neighborhoods like Little Havana offer some culture. Spring weather in Miami is hot and sunny, so lounging at the beach or by the pool is highly encouraged. And, of course, there’s always the chance you’ll run into a celebrity, reality star, or your favorite influencer.

The downside? Besides the fact that Miami literally has a whole campaign about “breaking up with spring break” this year, it’s far from cheap. If you want to save money, this isn’t where you’re going to do it.

Destination Dupe: Tamarindo, Costa Rica

Why it’s a good alternative: If you’re looking to skip the crowds, staying in the Sunshine State isn’t the way to go. Instead, grab your passport and head to Tamarindo, Costa Rica, a beach town on the Pacific Coast that offers prime surfing and amazing nightlife.

Tara Cappel, travel expert and founder of FTLO Travel, a group travel company for solo travelers in their 20s and 30s, calls Tamarindo a great alternative to more crowded beach destinations.

“It’s easy to get to and full of outdoor bucket-list experiences, like zip-lining, surfing, and rafting,” she says. “It’s also a popular spot for solo travelers, which means you have a good chance of making some new friends while you’re there.”

Emma Chao/Elite Daily; Getty Images

Hot Spot No. 2: Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

Why it’s so popular: A short flight from Los Angeles, Cabo San Lucas is perfect for partygoers, which is one of the main reasons it tops the list each year.

It’s also beautiful, with plenty of tropical beaches and lots of potential for outdoor activities. You can do everything from snorkeling to riding camels on the beach (no, seriously) to spending the day at the spa. Lots of all-inclusive hotel options make it easy to book a convenient package, and the nightlife is hard to beat.

That said, this is a classic spring break party spot, so anyone who wants something slightly more low-key is going to feel overwhelmed here.

Destination Dupe: Todos Santos, Mexico

Why it’s a good alternative: Just about an hour away from Cabo, you’ll find Todos Santos, an artsy beach town with less of a party atmosphere that is sometimes compared to Tulum. The natural landscape is stunning and it has a much more chill vibe to it, with cute boutique hotels rather than giant chains.

It gives you a more laid back vibe, where you can party and relax in a spot that isn’t as popular or expensive as Cabo.

While you’re not going to find the type of loud, OTT partying other Mexico spring break spots are known for, there are still plenty of places to go for a good drink. “I love this location, because although it’s an hour from Cabo, it gives you a more laid back vibe, where you can party and relax in a spot that isn’t as popular or expensive as Cabo,” says TikTok and Instagram travel creator Carissa Boston.

The authentic Mexican food alone is worth traveling for; Boston highly recommends stopping at Barracuda Cantina for “the best fish tacos and cocktails.” It’s located just 10 minutes from Todos Santos in Cerritos Beach and was even featured on Netflix’s Taco Chronicles.

Hot Spot No. 3: Freeport, Bahamas

Why it’s so popular: If the Caribbean is calling your name, then Freeport, Bahamas is the place to be. The main island on Grand Bahama, Freeport is famous for its wild nightlife and, of course, unreal beaches.

The weather is basically perfect, the water is the kind of blue that looks like an Instagram filter, and there is a lot to do. You can book a booze cruise to party on the water, snorkel at Deadman’s Reef, or shop at Port Lucaya Marketplace, just to name a few.

All of this aside, this is not where you want to go if your main goal is to lay on a beach chair and leisurely sip on your drink.

Destination Dupe: Bimini, Bahamas

Why it’s a good alternative: If a more authentic island experience is what you’re after, skip Freeport and Nassau and head to Bimini, which is the closest island to Miami and much less of a tourist trap.

One of the Bahamas’ best gems.

“Bimini is, in my opinion, one of the Bahamas’ best gems,” Boston tells Elite Daily. “The island is much smaller than Freeport and it definitely gives off a more chill and local vibe.” The gorgeous beaches are ideal for relaxing and wildlife spotting (the area is known for hammerhead sharks, FYI) and you can venture out of your comfort zone by doing things like swimming with stingrays and dolphins.

And for tropical fare, it doesn’t get much better. “For the absolute best conch fritters, check out Ms. Sherry’s Shack at Radio Beach,” Boston suggests.

Hot Spot No. 4: South Padre Island, Texas

Why it’s so popular: A barrier island on the southern coast of Texas, South Padre Island spring break is not for the faint of heart.

There’s a reason this place is known as party central during the months of March and April: hoards of college kids come for the infamous beach and pool party events that look like they’re straight out of an episode of MTV’s Spring Break. Spots like Clayton’s (the biggest beach bar in Texas) and Louie’s Backyard (the most popular nightclub in the area) stand out the most.

As fun as this place is going to be, the party isn’t going to stop, so skip it if you actually want to try to get a little sleep on your vacation.

Destination Dupe: Austin, Texas

Why it’s a good alternative: If partying sounds like a blast, but you also want to be able to relax a bit, you can stick to Texas, but go north to Austin. It’s not on the ocean like South Padre is, but you can still get your beach fix at one of the many lakes in the area (you can rent a boat at Lake Travis and anchor out to drink and chill).

The food scene is pretty iconic, with everything from really good ramen to classic Texas barbecue (Franklin BBQ is one of the most famous spots to try).

Travel expert and blogger Samantha Meabon of the website PA on Pause suggests Austin as a more low-key alternative to South Padre, noting that she especially loves the thriving music scene. Oh, and there is no shortage of fun bars and dancing spots for anyone looking to let loose.

Hot Spot No. 5: Cancún, Mexico

Why it’s so popular: The packed beaches and pools of Cancún are the epitome of what many people picture when they think of spring break. This also means, of course, that it’s crowded and can be kind of exhausting.

There are all-day pool parties, tons of DJs, and music festivals that happen during the months of March and April.

All-inclusive resorts like the Grand Oasis, the Hard Rock, and Crown Paradise Club not only make it seamless to plan a trip, but also offer lots of swimming, drinks, food, and parties, so you don’t even need to venture elsewhere if you don’t want to.

Destination Dupe: Sayulita, Mexico

Why it’s a good alternative: Not into the idea of 24/7 partying but love the idea of Mexican food by the beach? Look into Sayulita, which is located on Mexico’s Pacific coast.

I love this small beach town because of its vibrant atmosphere and beautiful beaches.

Sayulita is a less expensive option compared to other popular Mexico spots and offers a much more earthy vibe than Cancún. “I love this small beach town because of its vibrant atmosphere and beautiful beaches,” Boston says. “It isn’t extremely touristy and it offers something for everyone. It also has a really active party scene.”

You’re not going to find the same huge all-inclusive resorts, but you will find some chic boutique hotels and great Airbnb options. And if you’ve always wanted to be in your surfer era, this is where you want to go: It’s a surfer’s haven and is a great place to go for some lessons.

Emma Chao/Elite Daily; Getty Images

Hot Spot No. 6: Palm Springs, California

Why it’s so popular: Sure, it’s located in a literal desert, but that hasn’t stopped Palm Springs from becoming a spring break favorite. Palm Springs has mountains looming in the distance, tall palm trees swaying in the breeze, an artsy feel, and its fair share of nightclubs and bars.

It’s also not too far from Joshua Tree (if you want to get in touch with nature) and the El Paseo shopping district is the perfect place to go if you’re looking to treat yourself. A lot of the hotels, like Ace Hotels & Swim Club, offer pool parties for cooling down and having a few drinks, and clubs like Toucan’s Tiki Lounge promise all-night dancing.

The one caveat: Palm Springs can be exceptionally crowded — especially when people want to do it for the ‘Gram — and pricey.

Destination Dupe: Santa Cruz, California

Why it’s a good alternative: If the desert isn’t your vibe, but the West Coast sounds ideal, there’s a fun alternative up the coast. “Santa Cruz has this laid-back beach vibe that’s very Californian,” says Jessica Dante, travel content creator, entrepreneur, and founder of Love and London. “The famous boardwalk, the surf culture, the stunning coastline… it’s a great way to spend spring break.”

It’s a really vibrant beach town during spring break.

One thing that stands out about Palm Springs is the outdoor adventures, and that’s true for Santa Cruz as well. As Dante notes, you can spend time surfing, swimming at the beach, or hiking through the redwood mountains.

The nightlife offers something for everyone too, whether you want to hang at a dive bar, get dressed up for a club, or see some live music. “It’s a really vibrant beach town during spring break,” Dante says.

Hot Spot No. 7: Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Why it’s so popular: Think of Myrtle Beach as a kind of giant boardwalk. It’s located on the coast of South Carolina, so there are miles of beaches, but it also offers a wide variety of restaurants, bars, clubs, and other activities, like old-fashioned theme parks (the SkyWheel is one of the tallest ferris wheels in the country), shopping, and aquariums.

Myrtle Beach is always a popular vacay spot, but it gets even more popular during spring break, when the weather is heating up but not yet as humid as it will be during the summer. Nightlife includes bars, beachfront concerts, and live music, and the drinks are always flowing.

Like with every other hot spot, though, this place is going to be crowded, with both families and a younger crowd.

Destination Dupe: Folly Beach, South Carolina

Why it’s a good alternative: If you love the sandy locations of Myrtle Beach but are looking for something a little more calm, head south to Folly Beach. Not only is it a beautiful place to unwind on a lounge chair in the sand, but it’s also located close enough to the popular city of Charleston so you can check both spots off your bucket list.

Whether you’re into surfing, kayaking, or just relaxing at a local hangout spot, Folly’s got you covered.

“Folly Beach is great for spring break because it’s super laid-back and there’s a ton of stuff to do,” Dante says. “Whether you’re into surfing, kayaking, or just relaxing at a local hangout spot, Folly’s got you covered.”

Dante also loves that there are a lot of local restaurants rather than just chain spots. Spots like Taco Boy and Rita’s Seaside Grill offer delicious seafood and great drinks, and Center Street is where you should head to for rooftop bars and dance clubs.

Hot Spot No. 8: Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Why it’s so popular: Punta Cana and spring break go hand in hand. There are endless parties, all-inclusive hotels, gorgeous beaches… You know, the basic spring break starter pack.

Not only can you party all night (and all day), but you can also get your fill of adventure: zip lining, cave swimming, and horseback riding are all readily available. The Hard Rock also offers a casino, and you can take advantage of spas and golf resorts.

Like other spring break hot spots, expect Punta Cana to be busy and energetic.

Destination Dupe: Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic

Why it’s a good alternative: Both Boston and Meabon recommend choosing Puerto Plata over Punta Cana. The area is known for its natural landscape and beaches, but it’s also great for anyone looking to explore a little more. “Puerto Plata offers more adventure-filled excursions, especially if you’re a history buff,” Boston says.

Meabon adds that Puerto Plata can be a little more budget-friendly. She highly recommends the Damajagua Waterfalls, which features walks and tours through 27 different waterfalls.

While Puerto Plata might not come up as often as Punta Cana does when it comes to spring break trips, it’s by no means quiet and boring: the nightlife includes rooftop bars, dance clubs, and casinos.

Hot Spot No. 9: New Orleans, Louisiana

Why it’s so popular: Even though spring break usually falls after Mardi Gras, New Orleans is still one of the most popular places to be.

There’s an unreal amount of amazing food, the bars are on another level of fun, and the weather hasn’t yet hit the scorching temperatures of the summertime. NOLA also offers a lot of history, culture, and a constant stream of events, like music festivals.

While it’s almost always crowded, you can expect it to be a little extra packed during prime spring break times.

Destination Dupe: Memphis, Tennessee

Why it’s a good alternative: For another Southern city that is packed with culture and exciting bars, Meabon suggests making plans to go to Memphis.

“Memphis is similar to New Orleans with great food, nightlife, and a thriving music scene,” she says. The city is famous for its blues, soul, and rock and roll origins, so if listening to a lot of live music is your thing, this is a great option. You’ll find a lot of bars, restaurants, and shopping on historic Beale Street, or you can visit Graceland if you’re an Elvis fan.

This is definitely going to be a more low-key and family-friendly spot, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be boring — the nightlife is still thriving, with lots of places to go dancing or grab a few drinks. And while NOLA is obviously known for its food scene, Memphis is an excellent spot for traditional Southern cooking and soul food.

Emma Chao/Elite Daily; Getty Images

Hot Spot No. 10: Las Vegas, Nevada

Why it’s so popular: Las Vegas is another spot that, while always a touristy destination, becomes a little extra crowded during spring break.

This is where you go for bougie clubs, gambling until the early morning hours, epic pool parties, world-famous restaurants, and legendary concerts. You might stumble upon your favorite celeb or influencer here, and, honestly, anything goes. (What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas, right?)

With so much to see and do and so many party spots to hit up, Vegas is the opposite of chill.

Destination Dupe: Sedona, Arizona

Why it’s a good alternative: If the desert sounds cool, but the nonstop nightlife of Las Vegas doesn’t, try something different in Sedona. Dante recommends it for a more unique spring break experience.

You can hike or bike through the scenic trails, explore the art galleries and quirky shops in town, or relax with a spa day overlooking the picturesque desert.

You’ll find some stunning red rock landscapes, and it’s ideal for those who want to get out and adventure a little. “You can hike or bike through the scenic trails, explore the art galleries and quirky shops in town, or relax with a spa day overlooking the picturesque desert,” she says.

While Sedona’s nightlife is certainly more tame than Vegas’ — with wine bars and breweries being more prevalent than nightclubs — there are also plenty of big bucket list excursions to try your hand at, like riding in a hot air balloon. (Dante recommends reserving this well in advance if possible, as they book quickly.)

Sources cited:

Tara Cappel, travel expert and founder of FTLO Travel

Jessica Dante, travel content creator, entrepreneur, and founder of Love and London

Carissa Boston, TikTok and Instagram travel creator

Samantha Meabon, travel expert and PA on Pause blogger