Where to Go for Spring Break in Mexico

Beach with palm trees in Tulum
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For international spring break trips, nowhere is more popular than Mexico. The warm and tropical beaches, affordable prices, and younger drinking age make it the perfect option for college students looking to get away for a week. You've probably heard of spending spring break in Cancun, but that's hardly the only option for a vacation in Mexico.

One of the biggest concerns about spending spring break in Mexico is safety. While there are parts of Mexico that are considered dangerous, most of them are outside of the tourist areas. Practice the same safety guidelines that you would when visiting any other unfamiliar city, such as staying with your friends and avoiding seedy areas, and be especially careful about alcohol use. As long as you do that, you'll have a great time and see why so many travelers choose Mexico for their spring break destination.

01 of 08

Cancun

Partygoers in Cancun pool
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If you want to celebrate spring break with the biggest party of your life, Cancun is the place to be. Though it's far from the only place for spring break in Mexico, it's definitely the hottest attraction year after year, and the one that attracts the biggest crowds of partiers.

This little piece of Mexico is pure craziness during March and April, filled with margarita madness and a massive influx of students partying on the beaches during the day and then moving the fun into the nightclubs after dark. And since most bars and hotels—many of which have an all-inclusive option—are conveniently located in an area known as the Hotel Zone, it's easy to get around without ever having to venture away from the resorts.

If Cancun sounds like the place for you, be sure to book your accommodation fast, as rates are high and rooms sell out quickly. 

02 of 08

Cabo San Lucas

Cabo San Lucas Marina

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At the southern tip of the Baja California peninsula is one of the most luxurious places to spend spring break, Cabo San Lucas. Expensive resorts line the coast, but be aware that the beaches by the hotels on the Pacific Ocean side usually aren't safe for swimming. Most spring breakers stay around the area of Medano Beach in the San Lucas Bay, which has turquoise water and plenty of beach clubs with wild parties. The city of Cabo San Lucas also has plenty of nightlife options for once the sun goes down, including well-known names like Cabo Wabo and Señor Frog's.

Cabo San Lucas is just one of the two "Los Cabos," the other being San Jose del Cabo. It's about 40 minutes away from the resorts of Cabo San Lucas by car and next to the airport, but most tourists pass over it. If you're more interested in quiet beaches with a charming old town, then San Jose del Cabo may be the ideal destination for you.

03 of 08

Puerto Vallarta

Beach in Puerto Vallarta

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One of the most popular resort towns on the Mexican Riviera, Puerto Vallarta is known for dreamy beaches, friendly locals, a pumping nightlife, and some seriously great all-inclusive deals. Since it's on the Pacific side of the country, the ocean water won't be as warm as the Gulf of Mexico, but that doesn't stop spring breakers from enjoying all that the beach has to offer—which is a lot more than lounging and day drinking. Puerto Vallarta has a wild water sports scene, so add in some surfing lessons, parasailing, jet-skiing, or windsurfing for some extra flare.

If you want a bit of an escape, the town of Sayulita is just 22 miles north of Puerto Vallarta and is known as a haven for surfers. There are still beach bars and places to go out at night, but the atmosphere is much more laidback compared to the wild clubs in Puerto Vallarta.

04 of 08

Mazatlan

Beach in Mazatlan

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Mazatlan is definitely a resort town, but compared to the big-name chains and hyper-development in cities like Cancun and Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan feels like a more authentic slice of Mexico. You can walk through the Historic Town Center and see the original colonial architecture, stop through cultural museums, and eat at local taquerías. The brewery for the popular Mexican beer Pacifico is also located in Mazatlan.

The beach Olas Altas is just steps away from downtown and one of the most visited, but you can walk along the Malecón, or boardwalk, for over 5 miles of even more pristine beaches. South of the city is the peninsula La Piedra with its own expansive beach, and since the easiest way to get there is by a short ferry ride, it's often less crowded than the other beaches.

Even though Mazatlan is generally considered a safe place to visit, the surrounding state of Sinaloa sees a lot of cartel violence. So you probably won't be taking any day trips, but there's plenty to keep busy in Mazatlan.

Continue to 5 of 8 below.
05 of 08

Rosarito Beach

Rosarito Beach, in Mexico

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Rosarito Beach is especially popular with spring break students in Southern California since it's practically just across the border, about 30 minutes south of Tijuana. Although the beach at Rosarito doesn't have the same awe factor as other Mexican beaches, the convenience of getting there is a huge perk. You can easily get there from Los Angeles or San Diego, making it a quick getaway for a long weekend of lounging on the beach and eating fresh fish tacos.

Keep in mind that even though driving may be easier than flying, wait times at the border crossing between San Diego and Tijuana are unpredictable. If you're lucky, you may be able to get through in as little as 15 minutes. But during popular travel times like spring break, it's likely to take quite a bit longer. Check the approximate wait times at the Border Control website to know how long you'll be waiting (the most common port of entry is San Ysidro).

06 of 08

The Riviera Maya

Tulum beach and ruins

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The most popular place to visit on the Yucatan Peninsula is Cancun, but just an hour south is the Riviera Maya for visitors who want to experience the beauty of the peninsula without the craziness of Cancun. Playa del Carmen is the biggest city in the area and still has a lively nightlife scene, but the crowds are a bit older than the college students you find at the clubs in Cancun.

The biggest draw to Riviera Maya is the adventurous outdoor activities. The crystal-clear beaches are some of the most beautiful in the world and ideal for snorkeling and diving, and you can even swim with sea turtles in Akumal. In Tulum, you can visit Mayan ruins and pyramids. Further inland, swimming through the underground river system, or cenotes, makes for an experience unlike any other.

While Cancun is more about day drinking and nachos, Tulum is more yoga and tropical smoothies. If that's more of your vibe, consider the Rivera Maya.

07 of 08

Acapulco

Acapulco coastline

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For somewhere a little off-the-beaten-track, head to Acapulco for spring break. It was once Mexico's premier resort destination, attracting big-name celebrities like Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, and Elizabeth Taylor, but it later lost its appeal as tourists chose Cancun and Cabo San Lucas instead.

La Condesa is one of the area's most famous beaches, although if you're looking for solitude, Playa Pie de la Cuesta is ideal for finding some quiet time. Just outside of Acapulco proper is the charming seaside town of Puerto Marques, perfect for an escape from the resorts of the city. Even more popular than the beaches, however, are the divers of La Quebrada, who jump from a rock 80 feet high into a small ravine in the ocean below.

While Acapulco has a lot to offer, it's sadly also turned into of Mexico's most dangerous cities, and the U.S. State Department advises travelers not to visit.

08 of 08

Mexico City

Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mexico City, Mexico

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For something completely different from partying at the beach, think about a spring break trip to Mexico City. This super city has it all, whether you're looking for ancient pyramids, colonial architecture, lively nightlife, a delectable food scene, cultural events, and pretty much anything else.

In a city as expansive as Mexico City, you have to break down your itinerary by neighborhood. Start in the Centro Historico to see the main cathedral and the remains of the Aztec Templo Mayor. The neighborhood of Chapultupec encompasses the eponymous park along with some of the city's best museums. The neighborhood of Coyoacan is one of the most enchanting to walk around, and is also home to the Frida Kahlo Museum in La Casa Azul.

For a fun excursion, head to the canals of Xochimilco where you and your friends can rent a boat and bring your own beers on board while getting a tour of the area.

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