Spring break will be here before we know it. Heck, college spring break usually happens before “spring” weather or the season is even here. But it’s never too early for a break and a vacation! Do you know where you are headed this year? If you don’t, that’s completely ok. I’m here to help with some of the best places to go for spring break in 2023. Our friends at Lonely Planet compiled a list of their top spring break destinations. And while browsing this list, which includes several tropical, international locations, I noticed that a North Carolina city was one of their top recommendations for spring break.

We have some great places to visit in the state so that in itself was not a huge surprise to me. Though, to see North Carolina mentioned amongst such exotic places did catch me a little off guard. But the location that they chose? Not one that is typically on my spring break radar. It is however one of my favorite places in the state to visit, and a place I go to very often. I’ve never been for spring break though. In fact, unless I stayed home, I’ve never been on spring break in North Carolina. I won’t leave you hanging anymore though. Keep reading to see which unexpected North Carolina city Lonely Planet recognizes as a top spring break destination in 2023. You can read their full study here or see the top 10 spots below. So if you haven’t booked your trip yet, maybe this is the place to go! Or consider one of these other incredible spots.

  • 1. Hawai‘i (the Big Island), Hawaii

    Honolulu

    This would definitely be my dream spring break destination. While not the most affordable on this list, it is certainly one of the most beautiful. Here’s what Lonely Planet had to say about why it’s the top destination on their list. “With year-round temperatures that hover between 70°F (21°C) and 80°F (27°C), there’s never a bad time to head to the Big Island. Yet March marks the end of the high season, and budget travelers can usually find discounts on the largest island in the Hawaiian archipelago. Trek up toward snow-capped peaks, wander through a verdant Kona coffee farm, and watch the island get just a little bit bigger at one of the longest-running volcanic eruptions anywhere in the world.”

    Visit Hawaii

  • 2. San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

    Nicaragua

    We are getting a little more exotic with the second destination on this list. But it’s another one I certainly wouldn’t mind visiting. I have to say, Nicaragua wasn’t ever on my radar, but after looking at these photos I would definitely pay the central American country a visit. This is why Lonely Planet ranked the destination so high: “While Nicaragua might not be on your spring-break radar, the laid-back atmosphere at San Juan del Sur, the country’s premier surfing hub, will banish any doubts. Take surf lessons and experience some of the area’s world-class breaks, or hop around the neighboring coastline to visit the nearby string of glistening beaches: Playa Maderas, Playa Majagual, Playa El Coco, Playa Hermosa…the list goes on and on. Party animals, don’t despair: down an ice-cold Toña or a stout rum cocktail at one of the town’s lively bars, try craft beer at the local cervecería or take a boozy catamaran cruise out into the bay.”

    Visit San Juan de Sur

  • 3. Whistler, Canada

    Whistler

    While not the conventional spring break tropical destination, I can attest to both visiting a winter destination for spring break and for the town of Whistler. Why did Lonely Planet rank it so high? “For those who’d rather trade in the surfboard for skis on their spring break, head to the Coast Mountain resort town of Whistler, British Columbia. By March, the peak season has begun to die down, and the resorts offer up great deals to keep the winter momentum going.

    Longer days, clearer skies and a good snowpack make a spring in Whistler the perfect choice for both skiers and snowboarders. For 360-degree views of this alpine arcadia, take a ride in the Peak 2 Peak Gondola, a 4.4km (2.75-mile) feat of engineering that connects the peaks of Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains. At lower elevations, hikes through conifer forests might have you spotting the area’s black bears as they emerge from hibernation.”

    Visit Whistler 

  • 4. Los Angeles, California

    Los Angeles

    When is it not a fantastic time to visit LA? California weather is pleasant all year round and there is no shortage of things to do in the greater LA area. Here’s what Lonely Island has to say, “Sun, sand and surf (three spring-break essentials) can be found in abundance in Los Angeles. Famous beaches such as Santa Monica and Venice offer as much in the way of people watching and partying as they do in lazing and sunbathing. Other spots like Hermosa and Manhattan Beaches are less known by tourists but are just as popular with locals, especially surfers. For a much quieter (read: hungover) day at the beach, head for Malibu and Belmont Shore.”

    Visit LA

  • 5. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

    Rio Brazil

    Go big or go home. That’s what planning a spring break trip to Rio de Janeiro would be doing! You or your kids will certainly have the best destination to talk about at school once you return. So why did Lonely Planet put Rio on the list? “As one of South America’s premier beach destinations, Rio de Janeiro has something to offer every type of spring breaker: stunning panoramas, fantastic food and a variety of outdoor adventures that will make yours a spring break to remember. You’ll catch some of Brazil’s best rays on the sunny shores of the “Cidade Maravilhosa” (Marvelous City). pick a post on Ipanema Beach to see and be seen, or join the ranks of other tourists on Copacabana’s hotel-lined oceanfront. Take the cable car up to Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf Mountain) or bask in the colossal shadow of Cristo Redentor atop Corcovado by day. Then hit the bar scene in Botafogo or party to the sounds of samba in the clubs of Lapa by night.”

    Visit Rio de Janeiro

  • 6. Southern Baja California, Mexico

    Baja

    Yes, please! When I think of my ideal spring break destination it always involves a beach, and gains points for blue water and a tropical climate. Southern Baja California certainly checks all those boxes! Not that I even need to explain why, but here’s Lonely Planet’s thoughts, “Away from the tourist resorts of Los Cabos, Baja California Sur has plenty of options for a more back-to-nature spring-break experience. The weather is ideal at this time of year, and the beautiful coastline offers the chance to swim with sea lions, kayak through turquoise waters, go whale watching (the season ends in March), and even help with turtle conservation, all of which will allow you to return home with ecological bragging rights rather than drinking stories.”

    Visit Southern Baja California 

  • 7. Tampa Bay, Florida

    Tampa

    You can’t have a spring break destinations list without including somewhere in Florida. I would have hypothesized Miami, but Tampa the gulf coast is a great option as well! So why Tampa? This is what Lonely Planet said, ”

    Florida all but invented the concept of spring break, but hotspots like Miami and Panama City Beach – the ultimate spring-break capital – typically snare the spotlight. This is a shame, because there are plenty of gems to discover in the state’s southwest region. We recommend the area around Tampa Bay, where 35-plus miles of dune-dotted, white beaches along the Gulf of Mexico promise traditional sun-and-sand relaxation. Fort DeSoto Park, with seven miles of sand and excellent trails and wildlife-spotting opportunities, is a standout. Meanwhile, the cities of Tampa and St Petersburg beckon with creative, seafood-rich dining options, innovative craft brewers like bike-themed Cycle Brewing and surprising cultural offerings like St Pete’s Dali Museum.”

    Visit Tampa

  • 8. Culebra & Vieques, Puerto Rico

    Puerto Rico

    Another tropical island destination gets recognition, this time Puerto Rico. Here’s what Lonely Planet had to say, ”

    You won’t find any resort ragers here – and that’s the beauty of it. These two sister islands off the east coast of Puerto Rico are the things that tropical dreams are made of: white sand, sparkling blue sea and slow living. Tiny Culebra is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean. Relax in the sun on Playa Flamenco’s divine arc of sand, or swim with sea turtles at Playa Carlos Rosario, one of Puerto Rico’s best snorkeling sites. At 21 miles in length, Vieques is a bit larger, and its wildlife refuge is home to myriad beaches all beckoning for exploration. Sip piña coladas at Sun Bay Balneario, lounge on expansive Playa La Chiva and snorkel at the aptly named Playa Escondida (“Hidden Beach”). Vieques’ crown jewel is Bahía Mosquito, its bioluminescent bay. Venture out on a nighttime kayak trip to witness one of nature’s best magic shows, as microscopic organisms glow in the dark below the surface, making the water glitter.”

    Visit Puerto Rico

     

  • 9. Asheville, North Carolina

    Asheville

    And here’s where North Carolina makes the list. Did you expect Asheville to be the spring break destination in North Carolina? I sure didn’t. I love Asheville and usually visit at least once a year, but I would probably pegged Wilmington as the spring break hotspot. But Lonely Planet raised some good points about why this mountain town made the list. “Southern charm, a thriving food scene and plenty of options for outdoor adventures: Asheville is the perfect spring-break destination for travelers looking to compile a vacation itinerary beyond the beach. This small city in the Appalachian foothills is a haven for beer fans, with more craft breweries per capita than any other city in the USA. The food scene ranges from Southern classics like Tupelo Honey to authentic Spanish tapas at local favorite Cúrate. Visit America’s largest home, The Biltmore, with its manicured grounds and gardens to explore on foot or by bike. Those looking for a spring break spent in the great outdoors won’t be disappointed either: Asheville is a gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, with miles of trails for hiking, mountain biking or spotting wildlife like black bear, elk and red-bellied woodpeckers. Outdoorsy types can also take to the peaceful French Broad River, with opportunities for kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding.”

    Visit Asheville

  • 10. Phoenix, Arizona

    Phoenix

    The Phoenix area has become a major tourist destination in the past few years. In fact, I have a trip there coming up next month. I’ve seen friends take Bachelorette parties there as well. So I’m not surprised to see it recognized. What makes it an ideal spring break destination? “PhoenixArizona, can be blistering in the summer months, but springtime in the Valley of the Sun is just right – especially if you want to escape the grey, damp dregs of winter back home. Phoenix offers plenty of options to unwind, too, whether your idea of spring break means getting your vitamin D while playing outdoors or soaking it up along with a few cocktails at your nearest bar patio,” says Lonely Planet. 

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