Beaches, babes, and booze—is there really more to life during spring break? Well, to some vacationers, wildlife means more than Mardi Gras in New Orleans; a hydration system has nothing to do with a beer bong; and adventure travel doesn't involve squeezing six drunken friends into a Mexican cab. Even if you have to have your sun-filled, sexed-up, sloshed-out days, why not mix a little activity into the action?
To find great adventures in the great outdoors, look no further than your favorite MTV-worthy destinations. Want to hit the beach in Cancun? Take a day trip south for world-class snorkeling along the Great Belize Reef. Planning to paint the town red in the Big Apple? Take a two-wheel tour along the city's greenways. Even Las Vegas has more to offer than gambling and glitz. So squeeze your hiking boots and water bottle into that suitcase of beachwear and get ready for top 5 active spring vacations!
For cheap eats, drinks, and crash pads, beautiful weather, beaches, and bodies (as well as the beauty of an 18+ drinking age), spring-breakers know Cancun is Number 1. You get to party all night and rest and recoup on the beach all day.
If you want to break away from the crowded, touristy scene, no worries. Cancun is surrounded by natural wonders: the Great Belize Reef System; uncanny, otherworldly cave diving; and way more Mayan ruins than you could explore in a week. And all this is within a reasonable distance from party central (don't worry, it'll still be raging when you get back).
Florida, Daytona Beach, Panama City Beach, & Orlando
Florida's big three offer classic spring-break scenes for college students and—bonus, they're stateside. Life is literally a beach here: beach volleyball, beach contests, beachside clubs, bars, and cruising—all just a drunken stumble away from your hotel. Then, of course, there's the all-inclusive madness of a Disney vacation. Once this "redneck Riviera" wears thin (or wears you out), try this wild life on for size.
Sure, you can do all the usual outdoorsy activities in Florida: camping, paddling, hiking, and biking. And no visit to the Sunshine State would be complete without exploring the Everglades. But have you ever been snorkeling in a hot spring? Ever visited Florida's wild, pristine beaches? In central Florida, try little-known and little-visited Lake Kissimmee State Park (sure sounds like a spring breaker's idea of fun) for a world of recreational opportunities without the crowds; along the panhandle, Apalachicola National Forest is your best bet.
The classic cold-weather destination for East-Coasters, the Caribbean offers a tropical clime, beautiful white sand, and clear, blue-green water. Add in the savory food, friendly locals, and encyclopedic variety of tropical rum drinks, and you've got a stellar spring break. But how many beach-bum, booze-hound days can you really spend? (Don't take that as a challenge.)
Round out your blue-lagoon experience by snorkeling with stingrays (and feeding them by hand) in Grand Cayman; or swim with rowdier, riskier marine life— Caribbean reef sharks. Hike Jamaica's famous Blue Mountains, and ply the gorgeous Bahamian waters via sea kayak. Regardless of the activity level, you'll still be living on island time.
South Padre Island, Texas
Situated so far south it's nearly on a latitudinal par with Miami, South Padre combines Texas-size partying with 34 miles of tropical beaches. Looking for a two-nation spring vacation? Mexico is a mere 25 miles away. So if you feel ready to Padre, here are a few of the more outdoorsy activities to liven up your experience.
Swimming, hiking, off-road driving, bird watching, fishing, or just beach-combing—do it all on Padre Island National Seashore's 70 miles of white-sand and shell beaches. Just across the water from South Padre, Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge offers an April explosion of wildflowers and intermittent "migratory fallout" —where birds heading back north are stopped in their tracks by a cold front. While you're there, explore the uninhabited (and nearly inaccessible) tidal marshes of the Arroyo Colorado River by kayak, and keep an eye out for the endangered ocelot. South Padre is also a key stop along the 500-mile Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail, which marks key spots for birders to observe some of the Lone Star State's 613 documented species.
New York, New York
For that bright-lights, big-city experience this spring break, where else but the "City that Never Sleeps"? Between the toll on your body and your wallet, New York provides all the stimulation you can handle. Don't miss the spectacle of Times Square and Broadway, the awe-inspiring views from atop the Empire State Building and the Brooklyn Bridge, or the all-night partying at downtown clubs.
You don't need to leave the city to escape the concrete jungle. Central Park provides a green oasis in the middle of Manhattan (jog, bike, blade, or bird). All five boroughs offer horseback riding. Go sea kayaking on the Hudson River, flanked by Lady Liberty and Manhattan's impressive skyline, or enjoy traffic-free pedaling along the Big Apple's greenways. To really get away from it all, try biking or hiking up the Hudson River Valley.