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Top 10 Spring Break Hot Spots for 2012

Where Everyone Will Be for Spring Break 2012!

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Where's the action for spring break 2012? Our list of hottest spring break 2012 destinations is below! Cancun still dominates despite (false) reports of popularity decline, but budget travel staying key means Florida beaches keep climbing the spring break hot spots list; volunteer travel's still growing, too. Europe: expect way more American students than usual. Rosarito Beach will see last minute traffic, Puerto Vallarta jumps up another rank, and the hospitality-challenged Bahamas drops three points.

Keep reading for the 2012 spring break hot spots list, or hop to:

1. Cancun

Tulum Ruins and Beach, South of Cancun (in attitude and distance)
Cancun, you're still the one. This little piece of Mexico is pure craziness during March and April: margarita madness and a massive influx of students doing the spring thing on drop-dead gorgeous beaches and in late-late-late night clubs. Hop the ferry to Cozumel or the bus to Playa del Carmen for slower-paced sandy paradises. Xel-Ha is fun for snorkeling, and Tulum is worth a visit (90 miles south; go early a.m.) -- great beach and unba ruins, but don't expect nightlife (the quiet nights - generator-powered lights out by 10 - are part of the charm). Don't forget to get a passport for this perennially popular paradise on Mexico's Caribbean!

2. Panama City, Florida

Panama City and Panama City Beach (PCB) have Florida's spring break top dog billing yet again in 2012, though Miami, especially South Beach, will once more offer some serious competition. mtvU was all about Panama City in 2009 (this year's mtv blowout is in Las Vegas: what is up with that? We're guessing mtv got an offer they couldn't refuse), showing the planet that Panama City's a sure bet for the kind of fantastic fun that makes a break memorable for the rest of your life. Take some time, too, to see Panama City's 27 miles of sugary sweet sand on the Gulf of Mexico (west coast of Florida, where it can be blessedly cool at night).

3. Miami and South Beach, Florida

Spring Break in South Beach Miami, Florida
Getty Images / Alexander Tamargo
Welcome to prime time, South Beach and Miami Beach! Just east of Miami, South Beach is bordered by Biscayne Bay on one side and the Atlantic on the other (which is where you'll find the beaches you'll like). South Beach is a tres cool club scene (is your attitude really ready?). Just up the sand is Miami Beach -- bit cheaper and less of dress-with-the-best thing. Get the skinny:

As for Fort Lauderdale (which doesn't want you and hopes you don't come), forget it. And Daytona Beach... you'll enjoy yourself anywhere if you're going with friends, of course: just don't expect it to be fast paced fun in this part of Florida.

4. Europe

Eiffel Tower at Night, Paris
© Kathleen Crislip

Exchange rates ain't bad, and thus Europe (yep, the whole thing) moves up four places on the list of spring break hot spots for 2012 -- Amsterdam, London and Paris will be the cities in which you'll see the most American students, followed by Rome, Florence, Madrid, and Berlin. All chilly cities this time of year, so the social scene will be indoors (your hostel's always the best bet for finding the party place), but sights will be free of summer's mobs: great time to be in Europe, and way more US students will be there this year than last. Learn more:

5. Puerto Vallarta

Dancers in Puerto Vallarta's Christine Club
© Stephen Manente
Puerto Vallarta's a beach-meets-Mexican-mountains city that will again have a lot of what you want for 2012 -- friendly folks, awesome nightlife, beautiful beaches, great all-inclusive hotel deals -- and all the action's not just at the beach, either: parasail or mountain bike, for instance. Hasta pronto!

6. Acapulco

Acapulco Cliff Divers Photo Acapulco Cliff Divers Picture © Kathleen Crislip
© Kathleen Crislip

Acapulco's not Mexico's best beachside city (that might be Puerto Vallarta), but it's tried, true, and ready for you. Acapulco's murderously messy drug-related mayhem has little to do with you -- mind your Mexico manners and consider student travel safety tips, and you should be as safe as you would in any US city.

Acapulco beaches range from quiet hideaways, like Playa Pie de la Cuesta, to elbow-to-elbow humans, like La Condesa. Stay in a hotel on the Costera (main drag) -- drop by the small Puerto Marques village for an afternoon.

7. Bahamas and Jamaica

© Bahamas Tourism
© Bahamas Tourism
Both of these beautiful Caribbean countries will see plenty of people in 2012: the blue, blue water and white, white sand of extremely accessible Nassau, Bahamas will bring boatloads of breakers to its balmy beaches in 2012 (even though Nassau's sometimes not so friendly). Rent a scooter or hit the Straw Market; gambling's on nearby Paradise Island. Bahamas spring break packages are uber cheap, and you can choose a cruise.

Meanwhile, the forecast for spring break 2012 in jammin' Jamaica is sunny and the outlook is partly party, party with scattered water sport fun in happening Montego Bay and quieter Negril. If you go, remember that parts of the island can be a walk on the wild side: don't fear to adventure -- just be safe.

8. South Padre Island, Texas

South Padre Island, where vacations are biiiig Texas style, is more popular than ever this year as an easy (easy to get to, not too expensive) and easygoing US beach town ...and with recent hurricane damage to South Padre, neighboring Corpus Christi will see its share of folks looking for the action, too. If you go, know that the sandy spit near Corpus Christi is windblown but sunny, and Padre Island proper has hundreds of miles of beach. The gang's all at South Padre, though, where you can find fresh shellfish and every conceivable kind of water sport, along with events galore. Surf's sometimes a little rough. Scooters are a great way to get around the whole island.

9. All Tied and All Good - Baja (Rosarito Beach, Cabo), DR, Puerto Rico

Rosarito Beach Pier
© Kathleen Crislip
You need no passport to drive back from Mexico if you have a PASS card, and Rosarito Beach in North Baja will get some last minute driving traffic through San Diego (you need a passport to fly home from Mexico). Cabo in South Baja, Mexico, will have the usual hot weather and cool clubs (fly, don't drive to South Baja). And learn whether Mexico is safe for spring break!

Passport rules also mean Puerto Rico may be lively this year: the Puerto Rico drinking age is 18, though it's a US territory (means no passport's needed).

And STA has a "hybrid" spring break package to the Dominican Republic: volunteer for 3-4 days in a DR village and spend the rest of the week beaching and clubbing.

Enjoy!

10. North American Ski Resorts

Whistler Blackcomb Night Skiing
© Whistler Blackcomb
Unlike current economic conditions, snow conditions are awesome and ski resorts are still on the list of cool spring break hot spots for 2012. Though there will be smaller numbers of 'em this year than last (just tooo spendy), you'll find plenty of fellow partiers boarding the days away and doing the apres-thing at North America's best ski resorts for spring break 2012, though. These are the slopes welcoming you in Colorado, Jackson Hole, Heavenly, Canada's wild Whistler, a few quieter spots, and some places you may want to give a pass. I live in Rocky Mountain high country now, and have done all but one of these top ten ski resorts -- and I promise it's all good. Get the whole skinny on how to get there, and where to stay and party.

Alternative Spring Break Ideas

Got a volunteer spring break planned? Want to learn more? Share tips or get some inspiration for alternative spring break ideas.

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