Through even the worst of winter, everyone knows there's something to look forward to: spring. The season brings warmer weather, blooming flowers and, of course, the rite of passage that is spring break. But with so many warm-weather destinations to choose from, it can be difficult to decide which sunny spot is right for you. That's where U.S. News comes in.
U.S. News ranks beaches, spring vacations and top spring break getaways to help you pick which destination fits your needs. Using a combination of expert opinions and user votes, we've determined the best spring trips for a variety of traveler types. Are you looking for a week full of excitement and nightlife or are you content relaxing on the beach? No matter your style, we've got you covered.
In our annual spring vacation rankings, we found three destinations that claim spots on multiple lists and appeal to almost any group, itinerary and budget. These locations all boast sandy beaches, average spring temperatures in the 70s and 80s and plenty of activities should you want to do anything other than soak up the sun.
This central Florida beach has long held a reputation as America's spring break capital thanks to its affordable accommodations and laid-back vibe, so it's not surprising that the city earned the No. 1 spot on our Best Cheap Spring Break Destinations ranking.
Situated about halfway between Jacksonville and Orlando, Florida, Daytona is easily accessible through multiple nearby airports. Plus, it's an easy drive (read: affordable getaway) for those on the East Coast. Once there, you can take the ultimate scenic cruise by driving your vehicle onto the beach, a tradition dating back to the early 1900s and part of the reason Daytona lands at No. 7 on our ranking of the Best Florida Beaches. Another big draw to the city? NASCAR. The main event, the Daytona 500, takes place in late February so most race fanatics have come and gone, but there are still smaller events to enjoy in March at the Daytona International Speedway.
Because of its consistent springtime party atmosphere, Daytona rounds out the top 10 Best Spring Break Destinations. Revelers will find popular nightlife spots like Razzle's and The Oyster Pub along Seabreeze Boulevard, only a block removed from the beach. Another favorite haunt of spring breakers and locals alike is Ocean Deck Restaurant & Beach Club where you can party right on the beach.
For those seeking a Caribbean getaway that doesn't require a passport or currency exchange, Puerto Rico, with its unique blend of American and Caribbean cultures, should be a top pick. An abundance of resorts and activities can be found to accommodate any type of vacation. It's not typically known as a party hub (it earned the top spot on our Best Alternative Spring Break Destinations ranking), but the island offers vibrant nightlife options in San Juan. Those who aren't night owls will also find plenty to explore: Nature lovers will marvel at Puerto Rico's lush landscapes like El Yunque National Rainforest, while shopaholics should head straight to Calle del Cristo for some outlet shopping.
Overall, Puerto Rico grabbed the No. 7 spot for Best Spring Break Destinations thanks in part to the sandy beaches that populate the island. Families will enjoy historic sites like El Morro or exploring the streets of Old San Juan, while more adventurous travelers will jump at the chance to explore the caves in La Cueva del Indio.
Affordability is another huge draw to a springtime visit: You'll dodge peak winter and summer pricing, when the island floods with tourists. Earning the No. 4 spot on the list of Best Cheap Spring Break Destinations, the island offers beachfront resorts and accommodations for a fraction of what they cost on neighboring Caribbean islands.
See: Best Florida Beaches
Its combination of clear blue water and notoriously raucous atmosphere earns Cancun the No. 3 spot on both the Best Beaches in Mexico and the Best Spring Break Destinations lists. If you should tire of the beaches and want a night off from partying, there are also plenty of activities that highlight the region's cultural heritage, such as El Rey Ruins.
Although its accessibility, culture and affordability make it a year-round family-friendly vacation spot, Cancún is one of the most popular spring break destinations for college students. Thousands pour onto the barrier island during March and April seeking a getaway with abundant, affordable nightlife. Dance clubs and the popular Coco Bongo Cancun provide inexpensive entertainment, but you may have to contend with large crowds.
Cancún's reputation as an affordable, warm-weather escape also earned it the No. 6 spot on the Best Cheap Spring Break Destinations ranking, meaning you'll find plenty of reasonably priced options for dining and shopping outside of your hotel. All-inclusive resorts are plentiful in the Hotel Zone, and although they might come with a heftier price tag for those on a budget, they usually cover some food and nightlife expenses. Another bonus, since there is such a large tourism industry in Cancún, the language barrier is minimal, with many locals speaking English in this laid-back town.
Where is your favorite spring vacation spot? Tell us in the comments below, and cast your vote on our rankings lists -- your selections will help us determine next year's ranking. For more ideas and inspiration, check out U.S. News' other vacation rankings.
-- Gwen Shearman