Whether you intend to fly south for some Caribbean or Central American sunshine, or party closer to home, it’s not too late to plan for spring break. And even last minute, there are ways to achieve a vacation on the cheap. Here are six ideas for budget spring break trips to plan now.
Belize, the only country in Central America where English is the official language, is connected to the U.S. via direct flights from cities such as Miami, Dallas, Atlanta, and New York. Make a beeline for the Placencia peninsula, which boasts 16 glorious miles of sandy beaches. Dorm beds start at around $22 a night, while a room in a simple guesthouse or a studio apartment runs to about $80. Dive or snorkel amongst the cayes and coral reefs or take a leisurely boat trip out on the lagoon to spot West Indian manatees, Morelet’s crocodiles and bottle-nosed dolphins. Afterwards, embrace the chilled vibe of bars such as Barefoot Beach Bar and Toucan Jacks Tiki Bar. If you can bear to drag yourselves away, the zipline through the rainforest at Bocawina National Park, one of the longest in Central America, is just the thrill you need to break up the beach time.
El Tunco, El Salvador
If you’re keen to spend spring break mastering a new sport, then why not make your way to El Tunco in El Salvador to catch the Pacific swells? This lively resort gets its name from the large rock partly submerged just offshore, which resembles a pig – tunco in the local slang. A consistent swell lures surfers from all over the world but if you’re a novice, there are numerous surf schools that can show you the ropes. Later, fuel up on pupusas for just a few bucks. Accommodation is also cheap and you can expect to pay upwards of $42 for a basic beachfront hotel, or if you’re prepared to shuttle backwards and forwards to neighboring La Libertad, as little as $15 for a dorm bed. San Salvador’s international airport, an hour’s drive away, is easy to reach by air from U.S. hubs such as Miami, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Houston.
South Padre Island, Texas
As any self-respecting Texas college student will tell you, spring break at South Padre Island has a lot going for it, not least warm weather and a free public shuttle as a convenient substitute for a pricey rental car. During the day, the action’s concentrated at places like Clayton’s Beach Bar, which offers beach volleyball and live music. The biggest party in town is held at Louie’s Backyard, a long-established venue where you’ll be treated to music from top DJs alongside what’s claimed to be the largest sports bar in South Texas. All the big games are shown here but on the weekends, the karaoke crowd descends to belt out their favorites.
Las Vegas, Nevada
Fabulous Las Vegas has made a worldwide name for itself but these days, there’s a lot more to this Nevada city than casinos. It’s surprisingly versatile. This is the not only the place to come for a wild spring break party, but also hikes to the sandstone rock and petroglyphs of Red Rock Canyon or historical journeys into city’s past at the Neon Museum and the Mob Museum. After dark, expect concerts, comedy, magic shows and performance art. The action centers on Fremont Street and of course the Strip. There, hotels like Circus Circus, Excalibur, The Strat and The Luxor are among the most affordable options, offering rooms for under $80 a night. If your budget’s really tight search a little further out, for a dorm bed at Bposhtels Las Vegas for less than half that amount. Of course, you should always gamble responsibly, but if you’re exceptionally lucky, you might even win back what you’ve spent to get here.
Playa del Carmen, Mexico
The trick to pulling off a budget spring break vacation on Mexico’s Riviera Maya is to ditch the oceanfront all-inclusives and opt instead for a better value hotel a few blocks inland. The colorful resort of Playa del Carmen is ideal, as you’ll be walking distance of the bars, cafés and restaurants that line Avenida Quinta, its lively main street. Close by, a room in Aloft by Marriott can be yours for well under $100 a night. When the beach calls, you’ll still only be steps away from Playa’s idyllic white sand. Also, splurge on a ticket for Xplor’s ziplines or swim and snorkel at Xel-Ha and Xcaret. Rappel into underground cenotes, explore the surrounding jungle on a buggy tour or head out to sea on a fishing trip. While Playa is more family-friendly than neighboring Cancún, there’s still plenty going on at night. Don’t miss Señor Frog’s with its infamous yard drinks and legendary nightclub Coco Bongo. Well-priced flights into Cancún’s airport aren’t hard to come by from the U.S. – if you’re watching the pesos simply hop in a shared colectivo (minibus) rather than a taxi to make the hour-long transfer.
Bocas del Toro, Panama
If you’re keen to elevate your spring break vacation beyond a fly-and-flop beach stay, Bocas del Toro is considered Panama’s premier ecotourism destination. It’s spread across nine islands and 52 cays. In Bastimentos National Marine Park you’ll find the largest area of mangrove forest in the country, while over on Bluff Beach, you might spot leatherback, hawksbill and green sea turtles from March onwards. Bocas del Toro is also a place to come and be active, with a slew of opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, kayaking, diving and sport fishing. For travelers with a keen interest in indigenous culture, visits to communities such as the Ngäbe village of Salt Creek and the Meri Ngobe village of Popa can easily be arranged via the Bocas del Toro Community Tourism Network.