NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Sun, sand, surf and a sea of friends and possible dates is the recipe for a successful Spring Break holiday for North American university students.
Online travel advisor Cheapflights.com (www.cheapflights.com) provides a list of the top 10 Spring Break destinations. Reuters does not endorse this list:
1. Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
With 24,000 hotel rooms and counting, Punta Cana is the tourist haven of the Dominican Republic. Rife with some of the best beaches in the Caribbean, all-inclusive deals and buffets galore, this destination has a lot to offer in terms of value. Nightlife abounds too, with free VIP passes to the island's top-rated clubs when you look through student programs like Student City, which has two headquarters there - Grand Paradise Bavaro and Barcelo Punta Cana.
2. Cancun, Mexico
If you didn't know it already, Cancun is the unofficial Spring break capital of North America. With an average daily temperature of 80 degrees, this Mexican mother city is unapologetic in its mass-tourism reputation. Students love it for its accessibility to nightlife and the plethora of all-inclusive resorts that include food and drink. Add in the fact that the dollar is standing strong against the peso, and you've got yourself a deal.
3. Montego Bay, Jamaica
The island's busiest airport and cruise-ship port bring loads of tourists to Montego Bay all year round, but a certain clientele appreciate it most during Spring break season. Sunny days are well-spent along Fletcher Beach and Doctor's Cave Beach, while partygoers find countless clubs on Gloucester Avenue, (referred to as "hip strip") at night.
4. Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
An alternative to Cancun, Puerto Vallarta is known by some as the liveliest and most sophisticated resort destination. It brims with stylish restaurants and shops along cobblestone streets, and holds the elegance of beach vacations in high esteem. So, whether you're in the mood to explore tequila manufacturing, or chill out within the local dining scene, Puerto Vallarta offers a new edge on discovering Mexico.
5. South Padre Island, Texas
Any location that offers Mardi Gras Tuesdays -- every Tuesday -- screams spring break to us. Just off the Gulf Coast of Texas, South Padre Island is all the fun of sun and social scandal, but right at home within the States. Students love Coca-Cola Beach, open every day for festivities and revelry (so, choose another beach for peaceful sunbathing). Lots of cheap food and all-inclusive offerings are available here for an economical week of celebrating.
6. San Diego, California
Sunny SoCal rarely fails for a mix of beaches and outdoor activities. Trail along the boardwalk and scope out the incredibly fit packs of residents, or stretch out along Balboa Park for a greener view. More than 70 miles of beaches make San Diego an easy target for sun seekers and surfers. Once the sun goes down, head to nightlife areas of Garnett Avenue or the Gaslamp District.
7. Miami, Florida
While it's perfect for partying, Miami is also an upscale city, with world-renowned cuisine, culture, art and shopping, so students with more complex agendas will enjoy the Latin rhythm here. High-priced hotels are the norm here, but there are low-cost accommodations and inexpensive food options for those willing to dig. Remember though you're still in the U.S., so the drinking age remains at 21.
8. Panama City Beach, Florida
If Cancun were in the U.S., it would have to duke it out with Panama City Beach for the title of best spring break city. Celebrities like Kenny Chesney, 50 Cent and Sean Kingston have made appearances in the past to hail this Floridian locale as a party mecca. Walk along the main strip, and you'll find a steady concoction of beach bars, hotels, mini golf centers, souvenir shops, and more beach bars. Dive into its renowned wreck-diving site for an alternative daytime activity.
9. Orlando, Florida
Think Orlando is just a minivan destination? Think again. With plenty of all-inclusive resorts with glamorous pools and lots of food and drink, Orlando makes spring break a secret hot spot for students. Universal Orlando is more than just kiddies and snow-cones, too: The attraction hosts multiple Mardi Gras nights with parades, street performers, Cajun cuisine, free concerts and other free events with your ticket purchase.
10. Montreal, Quebec Canada
Go ahead, buck the trend. You won't find sun and sand here, but you will get a better exchange rate, a legal drinking age of 18, and a whole lot of "European" charm on top of amazing food. It's like Paris on the cheap, but without the jetlag. Ski the Laurentians by day, and hit one of 300 nightclubs, bars, pubs or lounge at night.