The buzz around spring break 2011 destinations has begun with internet top ten lists spouting out the usual spring break ‘hotspots’. Some people might prefer the predictable debauchery in places like Cancun, Acapulco or Panama City, but for those looking for beach holidays with warm weather, cheap beer and, for the young ones out there, a lower drinking age, we have some alternative spring break destinations tips, after spending the past eight months traveling through Mexico and Central America…
Skip Cancun/Cozumel -> Explore the Yucatan
There are countless Cancun spring break package deals for those looking for the ultimate party. But Mexico’s Yucatan has much more to offer than the package party scene. Just a short ferry ride from Cancun is the tiny island of Isla Mujeres, easily our favorite beach spot in Mexico – for a country of thousands of miles of beautiful coastline, that is saying something. The island is so small you can see beach on both sides while standing in the center. The north end has ankle-deep crystal clear water stretching out over 100 feet in front of you. Visit the many restaurants, bars and very chill lounge bars by golf cart – the main mode of transport on Isla Mujeres.
Back on the mainland, visit Puerto Morelos, a sleepy fishing village which is an easy 30 minute bus ride away, or head down past Playa del Carmen to the beautiful beach town of Acumal, an almost undiscovered beach paradise. There are hotels and timeshare resorts surrounded by several small restaurants , but this is an insider spot, and very near to Tulum. Here, visit the indigenous Mayan ruins which have the most beautiful backdrop of any we’ve ever seen – the brightest blue water that looked photoshopped to our bare eyes.
Skip Acapulco/Mazatlan -> Go to Mazunte and Zipolite
On Mexico’s Pacific coast, Acapulco has had some bad press recently as dangerous drug-related incidents continue to happen here and while it and Puerto Vallarta have traditionally been spring break hotspots, we much preferred the two tiny pacific coast beaches of Mazunte and Zipolite. The two beaches, separated by a 15 minute ride, offer up all sun, beach and beer you need.Visitors here tend to be total hedonists, but hedonists who like a laid-back vibe. Zipolite is Mexico’s only nude beach (though this is frowned upon by locals), and at both beaches there isn’t much more to do than lay out (nude or not), explore the nearby jungle and party the night away with beach bonfires.
Skip Costa Rica -> Head to San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua
Costa Rica is gorgeous – who wouldn’t love the stunning beaches, wild animals and great nightlife. In fact, we are in Costa Rica right now and loving it! However, culturally and economically Costa Rica is much more similar to a vacation in the United States or Europe. This is why we suggest heading to San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua instead. The Nicaraguan beach town has everything you would ever need for parties, but spending a week in this chilled out surfer town will easily cost you half of any trip to Costa Rica. Beers here will run you $0.50 instead of $3 per beer in most Costa Rican vacation towns, dinners don’t cost more than $16 for two people, while in Costa Rica even a trip to the local ‘soda’ or diner, sometimes cost us $18 for two– no beers included. There are several neighboring beaches which are even more beautiful than the town beach, easily reachable by rent-a-car or group transport, and supposedly the best surfing in all of Nicaragua.
Skip Panama City, Florida -> Go to Panama City, Panama
The beaches of Florida are stuffed to the gills with wet t-shirt contests and binge drinking – the classic spring break party madness. But rather than go to Panama City in Florida, you could spend the same amount of cash dancing salsa with sexy strangers in Panama City – Panama. The city has the most beautiful skyline in all of Central America and a sexy nightlife to match Miami, plus you can visit the Panama Canal and ride the train along it through the lush rainforest. If a beach is a must, Bocas del Toro is Panama’s party place on the beach. The chain of small Caribbean islands off the coast of Panama has a motto of ‘take it easy’ by day, while people go snorkeling, surfing, or just chill out and take in the sun. By night, the drinking, dancing and party offer up the perfect spring break vibe.
Skip Jamaica -> Head to Belize
What draws so many people to Jamaica – its crystal clear azure waters, verdant jungle countryside, laid-back attitudes, reggae, plus no foreign language to muddle your way through – can all be had in Belize at a fraction of the price. We visited both popular Cayes (pronounced keys) off the coast of mainland Belize – San Pedro and Caye Caulker. The two cayes are very different, with San Pedro home to a large, and mainly older, US ex-pat community (who still like to party hard, so don’t let the ‘older’ bit completely turn you off), and Caye Caulker is a much more laid-back, car-free island with dirt roads and one main dancehall, though there are plenty of spots serving up the local rum punch for next to nothing. The snorkelling through Shark-Ray Alley here was the best we have ever experienced, as we saw not only loads of sting rays and sharks, but also turtles, loads of schools of fish and amazing coral. We don’t dive, but the tours off the Cayes are the best in Central America, and we don’t eat fish, but the just-caught fresh seafood is supposedly super cheap and delicious. We do drink beer, however, and we loved washing down our food with the Belizean Belikin beer. Tours on the mainland of Belize can also be organized, with everything from visits to Mayan ruins and ziplining to the ultimate caving adventure – the ATM tour – one of National Geographic’s top recommended adventure experiences in all Central America, and by far the most adventurous activity we have undertaken during our time here.