The long nights fueled by coffee and days spent rushing from one class to another are almost fading. Winter is giving way to spring. Warm weather, blue skies, seemingly infinite hours in the day: Ah, the glorious time of spring break is here!
Should you go the traditional route and paint red the towns of Fort Lauderdale, Florida or South Padre Island, Texas, or should you consider other more budget-friendly spring break destinations? Decisions, decisions, decisions!
Fret not, friends! We’ve done the legwork on finding some of the best destinations for celebrating spring break on a budget. All these destinations are not only affordable but are also overflowing with things to do. While partying until you can party no more is a spring break tradition (and these places know how to let their hair down!), it’s also nice to have other things to do on your spring break.
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Close your eyes for a moment. Imagine: Jamaica! Palm trees whistling in the breeze, a cacophony of sounds at the local market, powdery white sand, crystal- clear blue waters mixed with the smoky smell of barbeque pits, your hand feeling the cool condensation from a glass of the ubiquitous rum punch you are holding. Oh, Jamaica! Nothing says “vacation” like the sights and sounds of this island in the Caribbean.
If you fly to Kingston, the capital city of Jamaica, a round trip flight ticket will cost you about $200. Stay at one of the many hostels or budget-friendly hotels in Kingston. Painted in tropical colors, Ragamuffin Hostel & Coffee Bar has a vibrant energy and is a great place to meet other travelers. It’s also conveniently close to the Bob Marley Museum, which is a must-visit for all music and culture lovers.
The ocean in Jamaica is truly as beautiful as photos will have you believe. Take a quick boat ride from Port Royal to Lime Cay for a day of swimming, sun basking and strolling through small mangroves.
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2. Port Antonio
If you want a taste of Old Jamaica, take a three-hour drive to Port Antonio. At first glance, this isn’t your picture-perfect Caribbean vacation spot, but look deeper, walk slower, and you’ll see that you’ve transported yourself to a magical place. Share an autorickshaw with the locals and head to Frenchman’s Cove, where a freshwater lagoon mixes with warm seawater.
You’ll be spoiled for nature and hospitality here. Unwind on the beach, let the warm ocean wash over you, and enjoy food and drinks from the nearby shack. Don’t miss out on visiting Blue Lagoon (yes, the Blue Lagoon from the movie by the same name!). Previously called Blue Hole, the lagoon is an incredibly spell-binding sight and is one of the top things to do in Jamaica.
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Food & falls
We recommend staying the night in Port Antonio just to eat breakfast the next morning! Ackee and saltfish is the national dish of Jamaica and, as with most local dishes, the history of this traditional breakfast is linked with the history of the island itself.
From standing under waterfalls and swimming in blue water to swaying to music at every corner, and from hiking through misty mountains to sipping on aromatic coffee, this spring break on a budget will give you memories that you’ll want to revisit several times on every reunion!
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3. Oaxaca, Mexico
Not too many years ago, we were still learning to pronounce the name of this city in Mexico, which has shot to popularity in recent years. Oaxaca, pronounced wah-HAH-kah, will invite you to walk its cobblestone streets, wander through its intriguing bylanes, marvel at its colorful architecture, and indulge in its exciting food and drinks scene, all at a price that won’t break the bank.
At approximately $50 a night, Azul Cielo Hostel is one of the best places to stay if you are celebrating spring break on a budget. Offering a mix of private rooms and dormitories, this hostel, with its colorful interiors and energetic atmosphere, has been named No. 1 value hotel in Oaxaca by Trip Advisor. Rent a bike from the hotel and cycle your way through this charming town.
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Exploring in Oaxaca
While it’s tempting to pick a favorite coffee shop, we encourage you to try a new one every day. The historical city center is dotted with all styles of cafe, and it’d be a shame if you didn’t try as many as possible! Take a walking tour during the day. Oaxaca is best experienced on foot or bicycles.
You may be able to sign up for a free tour, but if you can’t, paid city tours cost between $20-$30, which is a relatively low price to pay for an insider view of the city. While exploring, you cannot miss out on tasting mezcal, an alcoholic drink with a distinct smoky flavor, made using blue agave.
Walk into any mezcaleria, indulge in some free tasting and bring home souvenirs for friends and family (and yourself)! When you are ready for dinner, inspired menus in bungalows-turned-restaurants await you: hibiscus flowers, cactus leaves and grasshoppers (that’s right)!
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If all the exploring, wining, dining and, not to forget, months of schoolwork have left you a little exhausted, indulge in a temazcal ceremony. This ancient Mayan ritual involves entering a sweat shed and allowing heat to cleanse your body and mind. For about $50 a person, temazcal may be one of the most unforgettable things to do in Mexico.
For a spring break destination on a budget, Oaxaca will deliver the finest in food, drinks and culture.
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4. New Orleans
Say it with us: New Orleans! Do you hear that rhythm in its name? Known as the birthplace of jazz, the streets of New Orleans always seem to be celebrating. A festival here, a party there, music emanating from every nook and cranny. Never mind if it’s day or night, or if a place is big or small, wherever you go in New Orleans, you will find yourself swaying to the city’s rhythm.
With domestic flights costing anywhere between $100-$200, getting to NOLA is relatively cheap. Once in town, don’t shy away from staying in Frenchman’s Quarter, the party central of New Orleans. You may imagine that finding a hotel in the busiest part of town, steps away from restaurants, bars and music venues, will be a costly proposition, but it isn’t. There are plenty of affordable, historic, storied hotels
to select from.
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Food & culture around New Orleans
New Orleans is an extremely walkable city, and you can choose to wander through its streets without a definite plan. You may find yourself drawn into the Voodoo Museum or taking a streetcar that is one of the best ways to sightsee. You may follow a musical trail and find yourself at Spotted Cat, where dancing patrons will invite you to join them.
If you are looking for a late-night snack, you may gravitate toward Dat Dog and dig into their gourmet hotdogs! In addition to being inspired by creole and cajun cuisines and soul food, New Orleans is also characteristically famous for Old Sober, or Yak-a-mein, a meaty noodle soup said to be the perfect cure for a hangover.
From drawing you in to indulge in its attractions to curing you after you have celebrated a little too much, NOLA is the perfect place to spend spring break on a budget.
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