15 Best Spring Break Destinations in Florida

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Spring Break. Just two words, but they unleash a tidal wave of anticipation. Winter’s icy grip loosens, and dreams of sun-kissed skin and salty hair dance in our sun-deprived minds.

This year, ditch the passport and embrace the Sunshine State: Florida.

But Florida’s more than just beaches, bars, and theme parks (although, let’s be honest, those are pretty amazing too). It’s full of cities pulsating with nightlife, charming towns tucked away in the sunshine, and natural spots throughout the state that are worth visiting.

Bottom line: Deciding on a spring break location can be overwhelming. And that’s why we’ve written this article. We know you only want to know what the best spring break destinations in Florida are.

You'll enjoy beaches at many Florida spring break locations

Florida truly knows how to make your vacation unforgettable.

Where to go for spring break in Florida

As someone who lived in Florida for a few years, I’ve got the inside scoop on the best spots for Spring Break.

Below, you’ll find the 15 best spring break destinations in Florida for families as well as college students, with unique hotel recommendations for both.

1. Miami and South Beach

aerial view of Miami Florida

The Magic City is an excellent spring break destination for couples and college students. It offers an ideal combination of culture and laid-back charm, with all the necessary amenities for luxury relaxation.

Now, if you’re craving a spring break with some Cuban flavor, Little Havana is the place to be. This vibrant district is filled with lively bars, tasty eateries serving up Cuban food favorites like ropa vieja (shredded beef), and music venues that have the best in Latin music.

I highly recommend going on a food tour of Little Havana to experience it all.

For those with an eye for beauty, South Beach is full of Art Deco architecture, stylish sidewalk cafes, lots of nightlife spots, and miles of wide, sandy beaches.

You can wander through the Wynwood Arts District to take in the street art, and shop ’til you drop at Bayside Marketplace, the upscale Bal Harbour Shops, and the massive Dolphin Mall!

Miami is home to many great museums, including the Perez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) and the Frost Science Museum. But if art galleries, museums, and cultural events don’t appeal and you’d rather spend your time outdoors, Miami has plenty of nature spots. You can take day trips from Miami too―like Everglades National Park and the Florida Keys.

ALSO READ:
Is a Florida Everglades Day Trip from Miami Worth It?

2. Key Largo

Person holding a selfie stick underwater

If you’re looking for some diving and snorkeling, Key Largo is an excellent choice for your Florida Spring Break. You’ll find plenty of restaurants and bars, as well as a few shopping areas.

This island is located in the Florida Keys and is known for its clear waters and beautiful coral reefs.

One of the most amazing spots you can visit there is the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, a protected marine area and the only undersea park in the continental United States.

The coral reef here is one of the most diverse in the world, so you’re likely to see all sorts of marine life here, including dolphins, manatees, and sea turtles.

Along with diving and snorkeling, Key Largo has other water-based activities like jet skiing, kayaking, boating, and fishing charters.

If you’d rather stay dry, hop on a glass-bottom boat tour to see all the underwater sights without getting wet! You can buy tickets online prior to your visit.

ⓘ Interesting fact: Key Largo has one of the most unique places to stay in the world: Jules Undersea Lodge. This unusual hotel is located 21 feet below the surface of the water and can only be reached by scuba diving to the entrance!

3. Key West

Southernmost Point monument in Key West Florida

For those of you looking for a more lively Florida Spring Break destination, Key West is the go-to spot!

This island is located at the end of the Florida Keys and is known for its festive atmosphere, which college students especially love.

Duval Street is the main artery of this small town and is full of shops, restaurants, and bars. There’s plenty of live music and dancing to be had.

Mallory Square is one of the best places to find street performers. I always head there at sunset to watch them show off their talents, and then reward the best ones with a tip.

Some of the best things you can do in Key West include:

If you want to get out on the water, there are plenty of activities available too, like jet skiing, parasailing, sailing, fishing charters, and snorkeling.

You can also book a romantic sunset cruise or―for something really unusual―do a day trip to Dry Tortugas National Park. Located 70 miles west of Key West, it’s the hardest national park to get to, because it’s only accessible by boat or air.

Don’t miss out on some of Key West’s best restaurants when you get hungry. I can recommend Blue Heaven as well as Pepe’s Cafe for breakfast (try their famous key lime pie!). Be sure to pop into Sloppy Joe’s, Ernest Hemingway’s favorite watering hole.

ⓘ TIP: Take the Old Town Trolley to save your feet. The tour is designed so that you can hop-on and off at any of the 12 stops and explore on your own.

4. Sarasota

Entry to Selby Gardens in Sarasota floridaF

Located on Florida’s Gulf Coast, Sarasota’s star attraction is Siesta Key Beach, a pristine stretch of snow-white, powdery sand.

Compared to others, this could be one of the best spring break beaches in Florida for families and students who like to unwind without dealing with too many crowds.

The beach is family-friendly with its shallow water, lifeguards on duty, picnic pavilions, and nearby Siesta Key Village.

Other fun things to do include visiting Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium for a hands-on look at marine life or wandering through Selby Gardens’ 45 acres of tropical plants, flowers, and banyan trees.

For more shopping and dining, head to St. Armand’s Circle and Main Street in downtown Sarasota.

Finally, for a unique show, tour the Ringling Mansion Ca d’Zan and visit the Ringling Museum of Art, one of Florida’s most-visited art museums.

Or for a bit of history, head to nearby Anna Maria Island to see a restored 1920 cottage and the wooden City Pier, dating from 1911.

As for some relaxation, Myakka River State Park and Celery Fields have some of the best birdwatching in Florida.

ⓘ Interesting fact: Sarasota’s Pinecraft is one of the most unique communities in Florida: an Amish vacation enclave right on the outskirts of town. Tours are available here, if you’d like!

5. Sanibel Island and Captiva Island

hands holding shells on a beach

When it comes to family spring break destinations, Captiva and Sanibel Islands top the list!

Located on the Gulf Coast near Fort Myers Beach, the barrier islands are known for the many colorful seashells that wash ashore every night.

In addition to a quaint fishing pier and 19th-century lighthouse, there’s a boardwalk through mangrove swamps to enjoy.

There’s also the J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, which covers nearly half of Sanibel Island and is home to a diverse range of fauna and flora.

More things to do in this Southwest Florida destination include a high-speed catamaran cruise, picnicking at the Causeway Beaches, or visiting the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum.

This unique natural history museum is dedicated to everything related to mollusks and the shells they create.

Kids love touching live mollusks in their touch pools, winning scavenger hunt prizes, and watching their Giant Pacific Octopus!

6. Naples

ships on a street in Naples Florida

For a relaxing beach vacation, head as far south as you can on the Gulf Coast until you reach Naples.

This city has an upscale vibe, 30 miles wide, white sand, and plenty of waterfront dining options.

It’s the perfect place to enjoy fresh seafood while watching the sunset over the Gulf of Mexico.

Naples may not have the spring break crowds that Miami, Fort Lauderdale, or Panama City Beach do, but it still offers plenty of fun things to do.

Strolling along the beach to Naples Pier and enjoying the sunshine and calm waters while you watch for dolphins is an unparalleled experience.

You can also drive around and drool over the dozens of extravagant homes near the water and shop in high-end art galleries, chic boutique shops, and trendy boutiques along the legendary Fifth Avenue South!

Now, if you’re looking for something more historic, Naples has several good museums, including:

There are also many excellent parks in Naples as well. Two of my favorites are Cambier Park, which has a playground and basketball courts, and Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park, which is a great spot for hiking, swimming, fishing, and birdwatching!

7. Marco Island

beach, chairs, and ocean, as seen from Marco Island balcony

If your idea of a fun Spring Break in Florida is lounging on a sandy beach with an umbrella drink in your hand, head to Marco Island.

It has plenty of luxury resorts to choose from and there are lots of vacation homes on offer, as well.

Every spring break in Marco Island should include the Briggs Nature Center. The half-kilometer walk is surrounded by an enchanting nature park where you’ll have an opportunity to observe and explore a wide range of wildlife.

For those of you who like a little adventure, you can actually kayak to unoccupied islands! You see, on the southern tip of Marco, you’ll find the Caxambas Pass Park where you can picnic and enjoy a fun day.

However, you can also rent a kayak and explore the many tiny uninhabited islands around. Also, if you’re lucky enough, you can see some dolphins playing!

Also, you head to Collier Seminole State Park, located close to Marco Island, which offers simple camping, picnicking, kayaking, kayaking, fishing, and a mile of walking trails.

8. Orlando

Epcot Center in Orlando. Eiffel Tower in distance.

Orlando is the world’s theme park capital, and probably the most popular Florida spring break destination for families. Sure, Orlando’s theme parks are a big draw, but a ride on The Wheel at ICON Park will show you just how much else there is to do in the area.

Orlando is good for spring break vacations even if the hustle and bustle of the theme parks isn’t your thing. In the city alone, you can explore the Chocolate Kingdom, enjoy an Orlando Magic home game, or head to the city’s Harry P. Leu Gardens and Lake Eola Park.

You can visit Gatorland, enjoy airboat rides for an adrenaline-pumping ride through Florida’s swamps, or take your kids to WonderWorks Orlando. The science museum offers over 100 hands-on exhibits like rope obstacle courses, zip lines and laser tag.

ⓘ BUDGET TIP: You will get free entry to over 25 top-notch Orlando attractions with the Orlando Go City Explorer Pass. Click here to see the list.

On the food front, Orlando is a foodie hotspot as well. It has an incredible selection of restaurants—everything from downhome barbecue joints to fine dining establishments serving up classic Southern cuisine or innovative farm-to-table dishes.

Because Orlando is in the middle of Central Florida, it makes an ideal base for sightseeing. Many of the best Florida beaches and attractions are easy day trips from Orlando, so you can see a lot of the state on spring break without having to change hotels!

ALSO READ:
20 Fun Day Trips from Orlando, Florida in 2024

How many theme parks are in Orlando?

Orlando has at least 16 theme parks and amusement parks. They include:

  • Sea World Orlando has three parks: SeaWorld Orlando, Aquatica Orlando and Discovery Cove.
  • Universal Orlando Resort has three parks: Universal Studios Florida, Universal’s Islands of Adventure, and Universal’s Volcano Bay (a water theme park).
  • Walt Disney World Resort has six parks in total. There are four theme parks (Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and Epcot Center), as well as two water parks (Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach). There’s also Disney Springs, an entertainment, dining, and retail complex.
  • Fun Spot America has two theme parks (Kissimmee and Orlando)
  • Gatorland
  • Old Town

9. Daytona Beach

  • Best for college students:
  • Best for families:
boardwalk in Daytona Beach with amusement park behind the buildings

The hottest Florida spring break destination for college students may well be Daytona Beach. It has a long history of spring break parties and wild nightlife, but there are plenty of things to do here for families on vacation as well.

Daytona Beach has 23 miles of hard-packed sand and warm water year-round, Daytona Lagoon water park and the world-famous Daytona International Speedway. There are also plenty of golf courses, charter fishing boats, and nature trails to enjoy.

Take a drive on the world-famous Daytona Beach, go fishing in the Halifax River, and visit the Marine Science Center. And don’t forget the iconic Daytona Beach Boardwalk with its carnival games, arcades, restaurants, and shops.

10. Cocoa Beach

surfers in Cocoa Beach Florida

Nearby Cocoa Beach is known for its beautiful beaches and great surf. If you enjoy watching surfers or want to take a surfing lesson, this is the Florida destination for you.

The Westgate Cocoa Beach Pier has been a landmark for over 50 years. Stretching 800 feet over the Atlantic Ocean, it is home to restaurants, bars and gift shops. It’s a favorite fishing spot and offers live entertainment every weekend from local bands and DJs―though that’s temporarily suspended until things return to normal.

In addition to watersports like parasailing, fishing, and kayaking, you can also go riverboat cruising along the Banana River or visit Ron Jon Surf Shop – one of Florida’s largest surf shops – which hosts live music throughout the year. You can also day trip from Cocoa Beach to Kennedy Space Center, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, and many other fun places on the Atlantic coast.

11. St Augustine

bridge and buildings in Saint Augustine Florida

The city of St. Augustine is an American icon, a historic destination that beckons to visitors year-round. From its 17th-century Spanish fort to its quaint cobblestone streets lined with historic buildings, there are plenty of things to do here.

Explore the city’s fascinating history by touring St. Augustine’s centuries-old architecture, including Castillo de San Marcos National Monument and Ponce de Leon Hotel (now Flagler College). If you have time, stop at one of its many museums as well.You can also take your family on an eco tour or go beach hopping at Vilano Beach north of St. Augustine or Anastasia State Park south of the city.

The beaches are safe for swimming thanks to shallow water with no undertow currents—plus they’re lifeguard patrolled. Even better: The warm waters are teeming with marine life including dolphins and sea turtles!

12. Jacksonville

aerial view of Jacksonville beach

Not far from the Georgia border, Jacksonville is a major city and regional business center as well as a natural paradise for visitors looking for a wintertime escape.

The “River City on the Sea,” Jacksonville boasts 22 miles of sandy and unpopulated spring break beaches and nearly 40 miles of meandering waterways in the inland river. A burgeoning food and beverage scene consists of award-winning restaurants, lively bars and booming nightlife.

13. Panama City Beach

ⓘ TIP: Are you staying in the Panhandle and want to do something unique for grownups? Check out Distillery 98 in Santa Rosa Beach. Open daily from 2-8 pm, this microdistillery offers tours, a tasting room, live music, open mic events, and visiting food trucks. Be sure to try their eco-friendly Half Shell Vodka! It’s filtered with oyster shells and packaged in a recyclable paperboard bottle.

Aerial view of Panama City Beach

If you’re looking for a lively beach town to spend your spring break, Panama City Beach is the place to go. This popular beach town is located on the Gulf Coast of Florida’s panhandle and surrounded by 27 miles of white sand beaches.

The city offers a wide variety of things to do, from lounging on the beach to shore dives in St. Andrews State Park and kayaking through Shell Island’s mangrove-lined waterways. For more outdoor fun, head to Conservation Park for some birdwatching or go fishing at Deer Point Lake; you may even spot an alligator!

And when it comes time for dinner, treat yourself to fresh seafood caught in neighboring Apalachicola Bay before dancing off those calories at one of Panama City Beach’s many nightclubs. The best part? Most club admission fees are free after 11pm.

14. Destin

DEstin Florida sign. One of the best spring break destinations in Florida

Known as “The World’s Luckiest Fishing Village” thanks to its world-class deep-sea fishing charters and inshore charter boats, Destin is located on what locals refer to affectionately as “the Redneck Riveria.”

If you fancy spending spring break in Florida’s panhandle, the area has some of the most beautiful family-friendly beaches in Florida. You can also enjoy fishing, water sports like kayaking, snorkeling and paddleboarding, or outdoor activities such as hiking and dolphin-watching at Henderson Beach State Park.

15. Fort Walton Beach

Colorful vacation Houses in Fort Walton Beach

Fort Walton Beach is a pleasant coastal city near Destin. It’s a popular spring break destination because of its quaint resorts and attractions.

Best things to do include Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park, Indian Temple Mound, and the Air Force Armament Museum.

Several charming coastal neighborhoods around the city center are bursting with shops, museums and an impressive array of restaurants and bar venues which come alive when night falls.

8 budget tips for planning a Florida spring break

1. Find out if your destination offers a city card; many places in Florida do. These sightseeing passes offer good value for money, with things like free admission to activities, free public transportation, and discounts in restaurants, shops and entertainment. You can find a variety of city cards on Get Your Guide.

2. Don’t skimp on the fun. Give yourself permission to spend money on a few activities that will create lasting memories.

3. Be realistic about what you can pack. Especially when you’re flying to Florida, it’s may be better to rent or buy things when you get there.

4. To ensure you don’t miss out on the place you want, book your accommodation as early as possible.

5. If you’re traveling with friends or a group, consider sharing a vacation rental. This can work out to be cheaper than staying at a hotel, and often includes a kitchen. Search vacations rentals in Florida with CozyCozy or check out the Airbnbs in Florida to see what’s available.

6. Book your flights as early as possible, as fares increase as you get closer to departure day. Also try not to fly on the weekends, as those fares are usually much more expensive.

7. Spring break is an exciting time for your family, so make sure you choose a destination that offers lots of things to do for every age group.

8. If you only plan to travel between Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Sarasota, and Fort Myers, book a ticket for Ourbus online.

9. If you want to explore the state, you’ll need a car. Uber and Lyft are available in most places. For long distances, you’ll need your own set of wheels. The Miami car rental under 25 site is a good resource if you’re a college student. If you’re older, Discover Cars has better deals.

Don’t overlook your personal data protection while you’re traveling. There are a lot of scammers out there just waiting to hack your data. Try this site and install a reliable VPN to make sure you shop online safely.

When is Spring Break season in Florida?

The Florida Spring Break period typically runs from mid-March to the end of April, which is when many colleges and universities break from classes.

Many families choose to take a spring break trip at this time, because it’s when K-12 schools take time off as well.

The most common weeks for spring break are the week before Easter and the week after Easter. However, because different schools have different spring break dates, there is no one “universal” spring break week.

Omigosh―Can you imagine the massive spring break crowd if there were one? Yikes!

Want a spring break idea in the northeast? Check out this list of the best winter getaways in New England!

Ready for spring break in Florida?

We hope our list of top destinations has helped you decide where to go.

Have a great time! Spring break is all about relaxing and spending time with your friends and family – so make the most of it!

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Written by Linda

Linda is multilingual and has been to over 50 countries. Her insatiable love of travel, cuisine, and foreign languages inspired her to create As We Saw It, where she documents her trips, shares practical itineraries, and offers insider tips. She’s passionate about helping fellow travelers save time, money, and hassle, and loves to discover new places to explore.

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