Springtime often means beach time, and there’s no better way to spend your annual March vacation than by cruising over to the spectacular shores of the Florida coast. Only here will you find ample sun, sand, salt, and surf. Whether you’re looking for a quiet seaside getaway to the Florida Keys or Cocoa Beach, or a wilder spring break experience at Daytona Beach or Panama City Beach, there are special events going on all throughout the Sunshine State’s most popular time of the year.
1. Daytona Beach
Spring break at Daytona Beach will be legendary. If you’re looking for a party, check out nightlife hot spots like Razzle’s, the Ocean Deck, and 509 Lounge — and there’s plenty to keep you busy during the day. Daytona Beach is a destination known for being the Festival Capital of the World, attracting visitors to join the throngs at Daytona Beach Hippie Fest and Halifax Oyster Festival, and the Daytona Beach Boardwalk and Pier is home to the Joyland Amusement Center. You’re also within a day’s trip of Walt Disney World, SeaWorld, and Universal Studios in Orlando. Soak up the sun on any of the 23 miles of beach with a game of volleyball, a surf lesson, or by simply relaxing the day away.
Daytona Beach, Photo by Ricardo’s Photography via Flickr, CC BY 2.0
2. South Beach
South Beach is minutes away from downtown Miami on the southernmost point of Miami Beach. Go here to enjoy glamorous nightlife, dine out at celebrity chef–owned restaurants, and of course, hit up the beaches. When you’re ready to take on the night, check out Mango’s Tropical Cafe for live Latin music or the famous STORY Nightclub. With five, full service bars in a colorful, LED-lit, circus-style setting, you’re bound to leave with a story of your own. Sleep it all off in style at an art deco hotel or hostel. Students will love Ocean Blue Hostel in the heart of the Art Deco District. It’s known for its rooftop lounge and affordable beds: only $30 per night for a stay in a 12-person dorm.
3. Florida Keys
The Florida Keys is a string of islands at the southernmost tip of Florida, topped off at the end with the most popular destination, Key West. On your way there, you’ll first pass through Key Largo, home to the underwater playground at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. You’ll experience some of the most beautiful diving and snorkeling in the state, but if 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea isn’t your style, you can still enjoy the views during a glass-bottom boat tour. This is also a great place to camp for a night or two. Once you make it to Key West, make a beach your first stop. Check out Smathers Beach — the largest public beach in Key West — for a lively scene, or Fort Zachary Taylor State Park for a quiet and relaxed afternoon.
Bahia Honda State Park, Florida Keys Photo by Jose Alvarez via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0
4. Panama City Beach
Panama City Beach has a 27-mile stretch of white, sandy shoreline to choose from. Some of the more popular places to lay your footprint are the pristine Shell Island, St. Andrews State Park, or at oceanside clubs like Club La Vela, the largest nightclub in the United States. They’ve been featured on MTV, and host a special spring break music lineup throughout the month of March featuring famous DJs and hip-hop artists on their poolside stage. This is the place to be if you’re looking to dance and party on the beach during spring break.
5. Clearwater Beach
Situated on the Gulf of Mexico, Clearwater Beach is a stunning seaside destination. If you go here, you have to visit Caladesi Island, often touted as one of the nation’s best beaches. It’s a quiet and pristine locale, good for leisurely swimming, kayaking, hiking, and camping by boat. They have a marina with floating docks you can anchor to and stay for the night. Back on the mainland, spend an afternoon exploring the town of Clearwater. Stop by the Clearwater Marine Aquarium to hear stories of rehabilitated dolphins and sea turtles, and visit Winter and Hope, the two rescue dolphins whose survival stories inspired the movies Dolphin Tale and Dolphin Tale 2.
Clearwater Beach, Florida Photo by rcgtrrz via Flickr, CC BY 2.0
6. Cocoa Beach
Cocoa Beach is a cultural mecca and quintessential Florida beach town. It’s minutes away from the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral, where you can plan your spring break trip around a space shuttle launch — but this coastal town is all about its surf scene. Go here to hit the waves or spend your days taking surfing lessons, and when the day is done, check out the Florida Surf Museum for interesting exhibits about the history of the sport, and some insider tips on the best surf spots. The Cocoa Beach Pier is known for having some of the best surfing on the East Coast, as well a lively nightlife filled with live music and cocktail bars.