16 Underrated Destinations to Visit on Spring Break

Spring break is right around the corner, and if you haven’t planned a trip yet, it’s not too late. If you’d like to avoid the crowds that amass in Florida and Mexico this time of year, it might be a good idea to travel somewhere new. From relaxing beaches to remote retreats in the mountains, here are 16 spring break destinations that are off the beaten path.

Dauphin Island, Alabama

A dramatic sunset on Dauphin Island, Alabama.
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A barrier island in Mobile Bay, Alabama, Dauphin Island is a low-key destination that isn’t typically crowded come March. At just 15 miles long, the island is easily navigable, with gorgeous, white-sand beaches that line the Gulf Coast.

But apart from catching some rays and fishing off the pier, Dauphin offers plenty to do. The Dauphin Island Sea Lab is an educational aquarium that highlights Alabama’s coastal habitats with its stingray touch tank and Living Marsh Boardwalk. History buffs will love exploring the remnants of 150-year-old Fort Gaines, which once protected Mobile Bay from invaders.

The Ozarks, Arkansas

Hiker on the famous Hawksbill Crag in Arkansas.
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For an adventurous spring break in the mountains, the Ozark Mountains in northern Arkansas should be calling your name. With a national forest spanning 1.2 million acres, the Ozarks are home to lakes, mountains, forests, and rivers — all ripe for exploration in the spring.

This time of year is especially ideal for exploring the region’s abundant waterfalls, many of which are roaring at the end of winter. To make the most of your trip, check out Twin Falls — one of the most photographed locations in the Ozarks, rent a canoe to paddle the Buffalo National River, or go spelunking in one of the region’s vast underground caverns.

Tybee Island, Georgia

Tybee Island's empty pier in Southern Georgia.
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A mere 20-minute drive from the city of Savannah, Tybee Island has been a desirable vacation spot since the late 19th century. Today, the barrier island remains the perfect spring break destination for those looking to enjoy the salty sea breeze.

Home to five public beaches, including the popular Tybee Island Beach, the island is a hotspot for surfing, sea kayaking, and saltwater fishing. Visitors can also climb aboard Captain Mike’s vessel to watch bottlenose dolphins jump above the waves before dining on fresh seafood at one of the island’s many local eateries.

Surfside Beach, Texas

A view of the beach houses on Surfside Beach in Texas.
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An hour’s drive from Houston, Surfside Beach is more laid-back than Galveston, which usually draws throngs of noisy spring-breakers. Since the seaside town is much smaller than its neighboring counterpart, it also has fewer amenities — a single beach, a few restaurants, and some nearby campgrounds — but that’s what makes it so enticing.

Without high-rise resorts and golf courses, Surfside Beach makes for a low-key beach vacation. Families can be found fishing on the jetty, while crabbers comb the beach during low tide. And the town’s eponymous surfers can be found riding the consistent swell on the shoreline’s deep break.

Nicaragua

View of volcán Concepción and Ometepe island in Nicaragua.
Credit: Alvaro Faraco/ iStock

In recent decades, Costa Rica has become a top-rated spring break destination in Central America, while Nicaragua often gets overlooked. But the “Land of Lakes and Volcanoes” has just as much to offer as its northern neighbor, with the added benefit of being more budget-friendly.

International visitors will fly into the city of Managua, which is a short hop over to the plentiful beaches along the Pacific Coast, including San Juan del Sur, known for its idyllic, U-shaped beach. Visitors looking to explore Nicaragua’s interior can check out the rainforest canopy in Mombacho or visit several volcanoes, many of which have eruptions that can be viewed from a safe distance.

Flagstaff, Arizona

Entering sign of Flagstaff, Arizona with a mountain landscape view.
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Nestled beneath the San Francisco Peaks, Flagstaff is an excellent home base for exploring all that northern Arizona has to offer. Conveniently situated between Sedona and the Grand Canyon’s South Rim, Flagstaff makes it easy to take day trips to either destination; it also coincides with several of the region’s most famous scenic drives.

Home to the largest contiguous ponderosa pine forest in the world, Flagstaff also provides access to the nearby mountains for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. In early spring, downhill skiers flock to the Arizona Snowbowl, which often provides a combination of fresh snow and bluebird skies for a refreshing day on the slopes.

Georgetown, South Carolina

Georgetown harbor with colorful buildings, fishing boats, sailboats and recreational boats moored.
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Visitors are consistently delighted by the coastal charms of Georgetown, South Carolina. As one of the oldest cities in the state, the town is filled with maritime history, much of which is on display at the South Carolina Maritime Museum, which celebrates the state’s nautical past.

To spend time on the water, boats can be chartered for inshore and offshore fishing excursions. On land, walking and tram tours are available to learn more about the town and its history, including a lantern-led tour of Georgetown’s historic cemetery. With dining options that range from Mexican to sushi, Georgetown also features numerous waterfront restaurants and plenty of nearby bars for after-hours fun.

Southeastern Utah

A paved dirt road in the middle of the desert in Southeastern, Utah.
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If you’re game for a spring break road trip, there’s no better place to visit than southeastern Utah. Home to five national parks, seven national monuments, and six state parks, the region is perfect for adventurous spring breakers. In fact, there’s so much to see and do, it’s best to stick to an itinerary, like this guide to some of the region’s most coveted spots.

In the late spring, abundant wildflowers, such as Indian paintbrush, prickly pear cacti, and columbines, will blossom inside the canyons of Zion and Bryce Canyon national parks. On the other end of the state, ancient Puebloan villages can be explored at Hovenweep, while the prehistoric fossils of dinosaurs on display at Dinosaur National Monument are sure to impress.

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Santa Fe New Mexico market selling traditional southwestern goods.
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Whether you love art, history, or the outdoors, Santa Fe has just what you’re looking for. Old Town is filled with art galleries and top-notch museums, like the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, while the immersive art experience, Meow Wolf, is just a short drive away.

Nearby is Pecos National Historic Park, a little-known national park that combines Civil War history with the ancient ruins of the Puebloan people. For adventure seekers, Ski Santa Fe resort is a short drive from downtown, while the mineral springs at Ojo Santa Fe will soothe sore muscles after a day on the slopes.

Brevard, North Carolina

View of a girl from behind enjoying High Falls of Dupont State Forest in Brevard, North Carolina.
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Situated beneath the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, the city of Brevard, North Carolina, is the lesser-known neighbor of Asheville. But since Brevard is right next to Pisgah National Forest, it offers plenty to do in terms of recreation. Nicknamed “Land of the Waterfalls,” the region is home to an astounding 250 waterfalls, including the highest falls east of the Rockies.

With bars and restaurants aplenty, the college town is also pretty happening, with a hometown brewery, a weekly farmer’s market, and local art galleries. To take advantage of the region’s geology, visitors can stop by the local gem mine or learn how to rock climb on some of North Carolina’s most exciting routes.

Panama

View of the tropical Panama housing on Isla Grande shore.
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Panama is perhaps most known for its famous canal that links the Pacific Ocean with the Caribbean Sea. But what Panama should be known for is its potential as a spring break destination, offering visitors an abundance of things to do in a week.
After arriving in Panama City, where you can walk through the city’s original Spanish settlement, drive 45 minutes to Soberanía National Park, where you can go bird-watching, take a jungle cruise, or visit an Emberá village.

The country’s highlands are home to coffee plantations, while the lowlands have white-sand beaches and waves perfect for surfing. If you simply prefer a beach vacation, head to Isla Colón, an island on Panama’s Caribbean side with a laid-back vibe and affordable accommodations.

Death Valley, California

A view of the Death Valley rock mountain landscape around sunset.
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To avoid the scorching hot temperatures that define Death Valley, spring break is the best time to visit the national park. With daytime temperatures hovering in the 70s, the weather is perfect for hikers. Even better, swaths of wildflowers cover the park, blooming from the end of March through early April.

Located 282 feet below sea level, the salt flats of Badwater Basin are a must-see, especially since it’s the lowest point in North America. Popular trails include the Natural Bridge Trail, which leads to a photo-worthy arch, and Mosaic Canyon, known for its marble-smooth walls. And the drive along the nine-mile Artist Drive Scenic Loop provides some of the most breathtaking vistas in the park, with multi-colored mineral deposits painting canyon walls.

Cartagena, Colombia

A view of the city of Cartagena, Colombia.
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Situated on Colombia’s Caribbean coast, Cartagena isn’t on most people’s radars for spring break — but it should be. Plenty of airlines offer nonstop flights to Cartagena, and it’s also a bargain compared to other Caribbean spring break destinations.

Although the historic port city offers direct access to the water, some of the best beaches are on the Rosario Islands, which can be accessed by boat. Of these islands, Playa Blanca is one of the most-visited, known for its turquoise waters and pristine, white sand. On the mainland, Cartagena’s historic walled Old Town is ideal for shopping, dining, and watching the sunset.

Mendocino, California

A sea cave and a sinkhole on a headland in Mendocino, California.
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Located off the Pacific Coast Highway, the drive from San Francisco to Mendocino is one of the best ways to see the stunning California coastline. But after arriving in Mendocino, there’s still plenty to do. If you love wine, head straight to Wine Road, located along Highway 128 and home to dozens of vineyards and tasting rooms serving the region’s finest varietals.

Mendocino is also an ideal gateway into nature. Check out Van Damme State Park, where the Fern Canyon Trail winds through the towering redwoods before leading to a 100-year-old pygmy forest. For a chance to see California’s iconic coastal bluffs, Mendocino Headlands State Park is perfect for romantic picnics and long walks on the beach.

Dominica

Sightseeing terrace and an emerald pool on Dominica Island.
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Touted as the Caribbean’s “best-kept secret,” Dominica is a small island in the eastern Caribbean. Not to be confused with the Dominican Republic, Dominica has less infrastructure than other Caribbean hotspots, but that doesn’t mean you should miss exploring this tropical locale.

Dominica is ripe with places to explore. Hiking portions of the Waitukubuli National Trail allows access into the island’s jungle, while also providing views of mountains, farmland, and the sea. Plus, Dominica’s dormant volcanoes have created an abundance of natural hot springs, while the island’s renowned Champagne Reef is purported to have some of the best diving in the region.

Bend, Oregon

Mirror Pond view in Bend, Oregon along the Deschutes River.
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Drier and sunnier than the rest of the state, Bend averages 263 clear, sunny days a year, which is a far cry from Oregon’s rainy coast. The small town is also a playground for the outdoorsy set, with plenty to do during all four seasons, especially in the spring.

Nearby Mount Hood has three ski resorts, all of which are open in March and April. For après-ski, visiting the renowned Deschutes Brewery is a must, as is soaking in the region’s abundant natural hot springs. If skiing isn’t your thing, fear not. You can hike in the Oregon Badlands Wilderness and Smith Rock State Park, kayak the meandering Deschutes River, or brave the rapids by going whitewater rafting on the Mackenzie River.

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