Miami Is ‘Breaking Up’ With Spring Break—Here’s Where You Should Go Instead

Miami Is ‘Breaking Up’ With Spring Break—Here’s Where You Should Go Instead
By Susan B. Barnes
•  March 18, 2024

These are the Florida spring-break alternatives where you can escape the crowds.

“We need to talk.”

“This isn’t working anymore.”

“We just want different things.”

Hearing these words when in a relationship is hard enough, but what happens when they come from a destination that’s breaking up with its visitors?

That’s just what the City of Miami Beach is doing: breaking up with spring breakers. In a campaign unveiled earlier this month, the popular South Florida destination tells potential revelers to stay away—they’re no longer welcome in this part of the Sunshine State over spring break.

The reason for the breakup? Raucous and even dangerous behavior that’s gotten more out of hand over the years. Last year alone there were two fatal shootings, 573 arrests, and more than 100 guns removed from the street during spring break.

“Fed up with lawless behavior and a string of violent acts in recent years, [we] have implemented tough new measures aimed at putting an end to spring break,” Melissa Berthier, spokesperson for the City of Miami Beach, tells AFAR.

The new measures include restricted beach access, parking garage closures, DUI checkpoints, license-plate readers that can flag violations such as stolen vehicles, warrants, etc., and heightened police enforcement of alcohol consumption in public, drug possession, and violent behavior.

“We hope this campaign will dissuade unruly crowds from coming to Miami Beach during this time,” says Berthier, who at the same time acknowledges that the campaign could also negatively affect local businesses that rely on the uptick in traffic.

“There may be trade-offs, but we cannot tolerate another year like the last few, which threatens Miami Beach, one of the world’s most treasured destinations,” she says.

Jonathan Plutzik, owner of The Betsy, a hotel in Miami Beach, echoes that sentiment.

“We are thrilled to be welcoming of everyone, from everywhere,” says Plutzik. But, he adds that it takes hard work, discipline, and some consistently enforced rules to preserve Miami Beach.

“This commission, this administrative and police leadership, decided to responsibly do what was necessary to communicate to everyone who was contemplating a trip that Miami Beach intends to be completely welcoming, but a strictly law-abiding and safe place for all who choose to join us,” Plutzik explains. “This year, finally, we have seemed to have taken the tough, responsible steps necessary to keep the peace.”

Whether or not the campaign is dissuading travelers from heading to Miami over spring break is unclear, however. Just this week, Miami International Airport (MIA) said in a statement that it is expecting record spring-break passenger numbers.

Travel at the hub is up 9 percent compared to the same time last year, the airport stated in a release. MIA estimates it will welcome more than 170,000 passengers per day during the remainder of March.

Nevertheless, local businesses hope that those who do show up will behave in accordance with stronger enforcement measures.

“Yes, some of our businesses have been slower with the restrictions on parking, controlled access on the causeways, and very visible police presence,” Plutzik says. “Ultimately, these are a small, temporary price to pay.”

The best Florida spring-break alternatives

It’s not only South Florida that’s a popular destination at this time of year. Earlier this month, Tampa International Airport predicted nearly 3 million passengers would pass through the airport during the monthlong spring-break period (which runs from early March through early April).

There’s no reason to fret, however. With nearly 8,500 miles of shoreline, you can find plenty of places to soak in the Florida sunshine away from the masses. Here is a look at a few alternatives to make the most of your spring break, complete with warm weather, beaches, outdoor activities, and more.

1. Hutchinson Island

About two hours north of Miami Beach is Hutchinson Island on Florida’s Treasure Coast. Rather than see high-rise hotels and pulsing nightlife, you’ll find arches of mangroves revealing miles of unspoiled, wide, wild beaches. Set out on a kayak or stand-up paddleboard and explore the local waterways, such as the Indian River Lagoon and Intracoastal Waterway, or immerse yourself in the ocean and snorkel over a reef or dive to a shipwreck.

Where to stay: Hutchinson Shores Resort & Spa

2. Florida Keys

Fly into Miami and point your rental car south for a stay in the Florida Keys. Rather than travel all the way to energetic Key West, consider the other islands in the chain for a quieter pace. Some of the best snorkeling and scuba diving in Florida is at John Pennenkamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo, while some of the best fishing can be found off the shores of Islamorada. Visit rehabilitating sea turtles at the Turtle Hospital in Marathon, or visit the art studios and boutiques on Big Pine Key.

Where to stay: Hawks Cay Resort on Duck Key, between Islamorada and Marathon

3. Paradise Coast

Discover your own slip of peaceful paradise on Florida’s Paradise Coast, stretching from Naples to the Everglades in Southwest Florida. Launch a kayak and explore the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge, or hop onto an airboat for a wild ride through Everglades National Park. If you’d rather stay on dry land, opt for the 2.25-mile raised boardwalk at Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary to view and photograph the wildlife and nature in the world’s largest remaining old-growth bald cypress forest. Art enthusiasts will want to check out the fine art museums and galleries in Naples, like The Baker Museum and the Harmon-Meek Gallery, the oldest gallery of American art in the Southeast U.S.

Where to stay: La Playa Beach & Golf Resort

4. Fort Myers islands and beaches

The resilient residents and businesses in the Fort Myers area welcome visitors back with open arms and doors, post-Hurricane Ian. The 7,600-acre J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island is ripe for exploration, whether by foot, bicycle, canoe, kayak, or stand-up paddleboard. Birders will delight in seeing the more than 245 species of birds that call the refuge home, like the roseate spoonbill (sometimes mistaken for a flamingo), red-shouldered hawk, and belted kingfisher. Or spend your time walking the local beaches in search of seashells; Sanibel is “the seashell capital of the world,” after all. For the history buffs, a visit to the Edison and Ford Winter Estates will be a delight; it’s where inventors and friends Thomas Edison and legend Henry Ford spent their winters. In addition to viewing their homes, visitors can look into the Edison Botanic Research Laboratory, in which Edison and his team of scientists tested more than 17,000 plant samples to find an alternative source of rubber.

Where to stay: ‘Tween Waters Island Resort & Spa


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