Spring break season is about to begin, and travelers have already begun to book flights for their spring break coastal getaways. We already know which beaches will attract the largest and wildest crowds. If you’re not in the mood to revisit your college student glory days, or even if you simply want to try somewhere new, where should you go?
Fortunately, we have some answers. Come along with us as we travel across America for spring break beach destinations.
Is it Time to Change Your Spring Break Travel Routine?
Spring break: It’s not just for college students anymore. Yet whenever we think of spring break, we tend to gravitate toward the same destinations we frequented when we barely reached drinking age. While that may not always be a bad thing, it’s understandable to want a break from the stereotypical spring break party scene.
Where can we find beautiful beaches, sunny skies, interesting sights, and spring break experiences that feel more “grown-up,” while still serving plenty of fun? We scoured the entire country for the best beach destinations, so sit back and enjoy the vibes of these great beach towns. Who knows: Maybe you’ll even find enough inspiration to book your own spring break getaway after you read this.
East Coast (and Gulf Coast) Beach Destinations
Outer Banks, North Carolina
Situated about 140 miles south of Norfolk (Virginia) and about 250 miles east of Raleigh, North Carolina’s Outer Banks (OBX) feature a long chain of narrow islands, some of the East Coast’s best surf spots, and charming seaside towns that have unique personalities of their own. If you need something adventurous, try hang gliding over the East Coast’s largest living sand dune at Jockey’s Ridge State Park. If catching waves is more your vibe, Nags Head and Hatteras Island should quench your thirst for surf. If you consider yourself a history buff, check out America’s birthplace of aviation at Wright Brothers National Memorial near Kill Devil Hills.
Though the Outer Banks can get chilly during the winter months, daytime high temperatures tend to average in the mid-to-upper 60s in April. While there are plenty of spots to find peace and quiet, you can also find hotels, vacation rentals, restaurants, and shopping, particularly in the central hubs of Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills, Nags Head, and Hatteras Island.
Charleston, South Carolina
While Myrtle Beach and Hilton Head Island tend to get the most attention during spring break season, let’s not sleep on South Carolina’s largest and most historically vibrant city. From the long and righteous fight for civil rights to the remarkable resilience of local Gullah culture, Black History isn’t limited to merely one month in Charleston: The International African American Museum and the Gibbes Museum of Art are great starting points for exploring Charleston’s rich history and culture. For even more history and culture (and even some fun shopping!), Downtown Charleston has you covered with bountiful art galleries, museums and historic homes, restaurants and bars, and much more.
Even if you simply want to chill at the beach, Charleston still has you covered with five distinct and delightful beach towns nearby. Isle of Palms offers plenty of chic “island lifestyle,” while Folly Beach has some of South Carolina’s best surfing waves. With daytime temperatures usually topping off in the low 70s in April, Charleston also offers great weather to enjoy pleasant beach days.
If you must venture to Florida for spring break, Jupiter makes for a great place to enjoy Florida’s springtime sunshine without the maddening crowds of Daytona Beach to the north, and Miami Beach to the south. Situated about 20 miles north of Palm Beach International Airport, Jupiter offers an upscale yet down-to-earth atmosphere with a whole lot to do outside. If you seek a different kind of Florida coastal experience, head to Riverbend Park for hiking, biking, wildlife sightings (including alligators, river otters, and turtles), kayaking, canoeing, and even equestrian trails. Back at the beach, DuBois Park and Jupiter Beach Park offer ample opportunities for swimming, snorkeling, saltwater fishing, and even exploring local lagoons.
Though South Florida tends to stay warm year-round, April is typically the tail end of the region’s dry season, with daytime temperatures reaching the low 80s and less risk of torrential storms. If you’re still looking for more to do in the area, the famously tony enclave of Palm Beach is only about 20 miles south.
Orange Beach, Alabama
If you want to be close to the center of the action without being right in the epicenter of the spring break tourist crowds, you might want to consider Orange Beach. Located directly to the east of Gulf Shores and about 32 miles west of Pensacola, Florida, Orange Beach has the best of both worlds. If you want to partake in the traditional spring break festivities, you will find a long stretch of white sand beaches. Gulf State Park offers over three and a half miles of white sand, and it’s a lively habitat for sea turtles and dozens of bird species.
Back on shore, Perdido Beach Boulevard is Orange Beach’s main street for hotels, shops, and restaurants, and you’re a short drive from all the action in Gulf Shores. Daytime highs average in the mid-70s in April, so you’ll likely have great weather on tap to enjoy your time at the beach.
West Coast Beach Destinations
Cannon Beach, Oregon
Though Cannon Beach may not look like your typical spring break beach vacation, that doesn’t mean you can’t have a good time here. On the contrary, National Geographic placed Cannon Beach on their lists of “America’s Best Beach Towns” and “100 Most Beautiful Places in the World” due to the region’s stunning scenery. At Tolovana Beach State Recreation Site, you’ll find Haystack Rock – the world-famous monolithic rock that makes for a great beach walk and a great Instagram photoshoot. In addition, you’ll find tide pools featuring starfish, sea anemones, crabs, and sea slugs, as well as nesting sites for terns and puffins. At Ecola State Park to the north, you’ll find great surfing waves at Indian Beach, and you’ll find hiking trails where you can spot Roosevelt Elk, deer, and eagles.
Back in town, Cannon Beach houses a lively local art scene and a bumper crop of art galleries featuring works from local and nationally renowned artists, and you can find even more artistic energy during the Spring Unveiling Arts Festival in early May. If you’re more into the culinary arts, Cannon Beach is nestled in the heart of the North Coast Food Trail, where you’ll find a plethora of fresh seafood, farm-fresh produce and dairy, and delectable craft beer and local wines. Daytime highs tend to reach the high 50s and low 60s in April and May, and nighttime lows dip into the 40s, so make sure to pack some jackets and sweaters before you go.
Big Sur, California
Life feels so much bigger in Big Sur. Stretching for 71 miles from Carmel to Ragged Point along California’s Central Coast, Big Sur has it all: gorgeous beaches, rugged mountains, fantastic hiking trails, and seemingly endless natural wonders. Completed in 1932, the Bixby Creek Bridge has become world-famous for its own classic design, and for its location on top of a 260 foot high canyon where Bixby Creek meets the Pacific Ocean. At Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, you can hike through majestic redwood forests and into Santa Lucia Mountains. At Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park (not to be confused with Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park!), you’ll discover McWay Falls, where you can feast your eyes on an 80-foot waterfall where McWay Creek tumbles into the ocean. For a truly off-the-beaten-path and out-of-this-world beach day, head to Sand Dollar Beach – part of Los Padres National Forest – for Big Sur’s best surfing, a wide and sandy beach, great whale watching opportunities, and plenty of wildflowers perched on top of the cliffs above the beach area.
Daytime highs usually begin to approach 70 degrees in spring, but nighttime lows often continue to dip into the 40s, so pack some warm clothes in preparation. If you want to stay in the area overnight, you’ll find a mix of campgrounds, lodges, and luxury hotels dotted along certain stretches of Pacific Coast Highway (PCH). For more lodging and dining options, there’s always Monterey to the north, as well as Cambria to the south.
Santa Barbara, California
There are reasons why Santa Barbara is sometimes referred to as “The American Riviera”. Nestled along a dramatically beautiful stretch of California coastline where the Santa Ynez Mountains meet the Pacific Ocean, and where the Central Coast transitions to Southern California, Santa Barbara has a whole lot to offer spring break travelers. If you seek a stunningly beautiful shoreline with golden bluffs, great surfing and swimming waves, charming tide pools, a natural creek, and even beachside dining at the Boathouse restaurant, Arroyo Burro Beach (also known as Hendry’s Beach) is only five miles west of Downtown Santa Barbara. If urban exploration is more your thing, the Funk Zone is chock full of chic boutiques, delicious restaurants, and urban wine tasting rooms. Speaking of wine, Santa Barbara County’s Wine Country is less than an hour’s drive away, and you’ll find wineries offering stellar Pinot Noir, Syrah, Riesling, Chardonnay, and more.
Santa Barbara tends to enjoy pleasant weather year-round, and daytime highs tend to reach the low 70s in April. There are plenty of hotels in Santa Barbara proper and neighboring Montecito, and you’ll even find some great lodging options in Wine Country.
San Diego – North County, California
San Diego is a great place to visit year-round, but it’s especially nice to visit during spring: when temperatures begin to rise, yet before the summer tourist crowds pack into the beaches and theme parks. If you’d like more of a break from the spring break crowds, check out the North County beach cities. The beach at Oceanside Pier offers some of the region’s best surfing, alongside Swami’s Beach in Encinitas. For mellower vibes, Carlsbad State Beach (also known as Tamarack Beach) is a great spot for swimming, beachcombing, biking, and surf fishing. For calmer waves and fantastic coastal scenery, it’s hard to beat the beaches of Del Mar.
If you’re traveling with children, Legoland California Resort in Carlsbad offers over 60 rides and the world’s first Lego water park, and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park near Escondido offers a hands-on safari experience with wildlife from around the world. If your traveling party is adults only, Carlsbad Village and Downtown Encinitas have plenty of bars and restaurants that offer craft beer, unique cocktails, and tasty bites that put San Diego on the culinary map. Daytime high temperatures tend to average between the mid-60s and mid-70s at the coast, but keep in mind that temperatures can be much warmer if you’re heading inland for the Safari Park or to Temecula Wine Country.
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