You know all about Cancun and Miami Beach and all the other usual spring break hotspots, but how about some less heralded destinations that are equally fun? (And some of them even provide more bang for the buck.)
Below are our picks for under-the-radar locations for spring break that you have overlooked -- but shouldn't. Happy vacationing!
Want to experience a different culture for a decent price, in a land where you can get around easily? Belize has a good transportation infrastructure (as long as you can handle rides in buses that resemble the ones you used to take to grade school), most of the locals understand English, and there's a variety of activities you can do, from taking in the snorkeling and sun in Ambergris Caye and San Pedro just off the coast from Belize City, to getting-away-from-it-all beachcombing on the sleepy beaches of Hopkins down south, to more jungle-oriented adventures near Blue Hole National Park, to a hike through the Mayan ruins of Xunantunich near the border of Guatemala.
Tip: Ian Anderson's Cave Branch Lodge near the town of Belmopan provides comfortable accommodations and a full range of guided adventures, from cave tubing to hikes through Mayan ruins, horseback riding and diving.
Playa Del Carmen, Mexico
For a refuge from the overcrowded spring break revelry at Cancun, consider Playa Del Carmen, which is just an hour away from Cancun's airport. You get the same sunny beaches, with a more chill vibe. 5th Avenue (La Quinta Avenida) is the town's main drag for dining, shopping and entertainment, but head a few blocks west to find local restaurants that won't charge you high prices for traditional meals. You can also check out Mayan ruins in the local town of Tulum.
Tip: Check out the natural swimming holes (cenotes) in the area, which range from open swimming pools to cavernous swimming holes featuring stalactite and stalagmite formations. For a complete guide to local cenotes, see this website.
Sanibel Island, FL
If you're looking for an alternative to partying hard on South Beach, and seek a laid-back vacation that still contains plenty of beach time, check out this 12-mile island just 20 minutes away from Fort Myers. Beaches such as Bowman's Beach and Blind Pass Beach provide plenty of sun time without the big crowds, as well as plenty of choice shell collecting. More energetic visitors can take a kayak ride through the J.N. ("Ding") Darling National Wildlife Refuge, which includes crocodiles, endangered giant manatees, and plenty of bird life.
Tip: Take advantage of the BYOF (Bring Your Own Fish) policy at the Lazy Flamingo restaurant. Bring your freshly-caught fish to the cooks, who will come up with fried, blackened, or grilled plates, with a side of fries—for less than $10.
Some might not think of our nation's capital as a hot spot, but if you're in the mood for something cultural and culinary, Washington DC fits the bill. Decent metro coverage gets you to most of the sights of the capital without much fuss, and the restaurant scene is hopping around Georgetown University and the U street corridor (see this site for more suggestions). With free entry to most of the city's museums and historical attractions, there's plenty to occupy your attention during the day. For a list of the city's highlighted military attractions, see this Military.com article.
Tip: If you can time your vacation right, visit during the city's annual National Cherry Blossom Festival. Taking a stroll around the blossoms at the Tidal Basin and Washington Monument is not to be missed.
In the mood for a change during your spring break? Trade in typical sun and sand for invigorating hikes through mountains and lakes in western Maine, which offers lakeside cabins, and summit trails galore. It might be colder than your typical spring getaway, but it's no less invigorating. Cheap springtime flights to the nearest city of Portland get you into the area without costing you too much dough, and Maine Huts and Trails locations throughout the region offer full "eco lodge" huts, usually at discounted prices in the spring, during your trek. For those wanting cozier accommodations, local towns like Lewiston offer bed and breakfasts. Biking, paddleboarding and fishing are also available in the region, and if the weather cooperates, you can also ski at nearby resorts such as Sugarloaf and Sunday River.
Tip: The aptly named port town of Portland has much to offer, from saunters by the sea at Fort William Park to high-quality museums and a revitalized restaurant and brewery scene.
Keep up with military travel discounts
Whether you're an active duty service member, a military family member, or a veteran, stay on top of all the military discounts you're eligible for, from travel accommodations to auto and entertainment deals. Sign up for a free Military.com membership to get full access to all discounts.