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2021 Spring Break in Florida: Top spots, COVID effect & hot tips

Last updated on March 25th, 2021 at 03:29 pm

Many colleges and universities have cancelled Spring Break this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, scheduling classes instead of recess, but what’s going to stop those kids from coming anyway?

With virtual classrooms the norm in 2021, students can attend classes from a beachfront hotel as easily as they can from home.

“College students have a great deal of freedom this year,” Stacy Ritter, tourism chief for Fort Lauderdale, tells the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Expect more families, tourism officials say, because many parents, like their school-age children, are working from home. Why not do both from the beach? Everybody in the family surely needs a break by now.

Florida’s tourism industry, hungry after last year’s Spring Break cancellations, is welcoming visitors with open arms, while beach communities are bracing to enforce mask mandates and social distancing.

Alcohol bans on beaches are universal this year, and liquor sales are being cut off earlier than normal in many beach communities. Beachgoers with coolers are being turned away.

Planned events of past years at beachfront venues will also be absent in 2021, but there are widespread reports of event planners moving their parties inland, away from the watchful eyes of police.

Midway through Spring Break, Miami Beach shut all night activities down, imposing an 8 p.m. curfew on bars and cafes in the beach entertainment district, even shutting down vehicle access to non-residents at night.

Be careful out there. Protect yourself and others.

When is Spring Break in Florida?

Spring Break is associated with the weeks colleges and universities take their spring semester break, and every school is different.

The staggered schedule means Florida’s Spring Break begins in late February and runs through mid-April, peaking in mid-March.

The dates don’t necessarily align with the Easter holiday, although that’s when you are most likely to encounter families with children. Easter falls on April 4 in 2021.

Editors note: Share your Spring Break experiences in the comments below. And we’d love to see your photos! Send your photos via e-mail to

2021 Spring Break Hot Spots


disney world star wars stormtroopers
Storm troopers greet guests at the new Star Wars attraction at Disney World in Orlando. (Disney Photo)

Orlando continues to top the charts as the No. 1 Spring Break destination in Florida. The closest beach, Cocoa Beach, is only an hour away, but the big attraction is the multiplex of theme parks, with Disney World, Legoland and Universal Studios leading the way.

In 2021, expect to wear masks and practice social distancing at all theme parks. Temperature screenings will be required at all entry points.

For more details, check out these COVID precautions at individual theme parks: Disney World | Universal Studios | Legoland

Hot Tip: Try something different while you’re here. The world’s largest concentration of springs can be found north of Orlando. We’ve picked out 19 springs worth visiting.

Things to do near Orlando

Outdoor adventures near Orlando theme parks

Lake Kissimmee State Park: Where Old Florida lives on

Camping near Disney World: Our picks within an hour’s drive

Check prices on places to stay in Orlando*

Beach House, Condo or Cabin

Book a Hotel Room

Fort Lauderdale Beach

spring break in florida
Spring Breakers are reminded to “Stay 6 feet apart” on Fort Lauderdale Beach. (Photo by Bonnie Gross)

Fort Lauderdale is a perennial favorite for Spring Break visitors, despite efforts by the city to quell the debauchery of past years. Expect additional vigilance this year’s pandemic, and crowds will be carefully managed with barricades.

Still, with consistent sunshine and the warm Gulf Stream offshore, Fort Lauderdale may have the most predictably pleasant weather of any destination, and the weather so far has been straight out of the promotional flyer.

Never discount Fort Lauderdale’s enduring reputation as a Spring Break mecca.

Hot Tip: This year’s crowds are likely to disperse onto neighboring beaches in Lauderdale-By-The-Sea, Pompano Beach, Hollywood, Deerfield Beach, Boca Raton, and perhaps the most desirable hot spot, Delray Beach.

Things to do near Fort Lauderdale

Kayaking West Lake: Hidden nature

South Florida bike trails: 11 of our favorites

Visitor tips for exploring Everglades National Park

Best Camping Near Fort Lauderdale

Check prices on places to stay in Fort Lauderdale

Beach House, Condo or Cabin

Fort Lauderdale Hotels

Miami Beach

Spring Break on Miami Beach
South Beach at Spring Break

Topless tolerance and Art Deco panache have propelled Miami’s South Beach to a premier Spring Break destination, but this year’s rowdy crowds have put the brakes on fun.

After a weekend that got out of control, causing some drinking establishments to close, Miami Beach has implemented a 8 p.m. curfew for the remainder of Spring Break, and the three causeways leading to Miami Beach from Miami proper are being shut down at 10 p.m., Thursday through Sunday.

The curfew means that bars, restaurants and sidewalk cafes in Miami Beach’s entertainment district must shut down at 8 p.m. without exception.

But that could be a blessing in disguise for the budget-conscious. SoBe nightclubs are notoriously overpriced and will put a huge dent in your vacation budget.

Here’s more from the Miami Herald: South Beach curfew, causeway closures extended

Hot Tip: If you are looking to get off the grid, cruise out to Crandon Park on Key Biscayne, where the beach is postcard-perfect and there’s plenty of parking.

Things to do near Miami Beach

Cape Florida on Key Biscayne: Top beach, lighthouse & sangria

Take a ride to the Florida Keys

Storied road through Everglades is a wild one

Camping and ‘Glamping’ in the Everglades

Check prices on places to stay in Miami Beach*

Beach House, Condo or Cabin

Miami Beach Hotels

Daytona Beach

daytona beach
Daytona Beach boardwalk (c) Can Stock Photo / SeanPavonePhoto

The World’s Most Famous Beach has long been a popular Spring Break destination and will remain so this year.

Daytona Beach is a town that likes to party, kicking off peak season with rowdy Bike Week in mid-March. It gets real crazy near the newly renovated Main Street Pier and boardwalk.

Daytona Beach tourism officials expect the beach to be just as crowded in 2021 as in past years. Beach patrols are being increased and social distancing encouraged. More attention is being paid to the city’s prohibition against alcohol on the beach.

Hot Tip: If you’re not into craziness, visit nearby Flagler Beach or New Smyrna Beach and pristine Canaveral National Seashore.

Things to Do Near Daytona Beach

9 awesome things to do near Daytona Beach

6 Things to Do in Ocala National Forest

Best 15 campgrounds near Daytona Beach

Check prices on places to stay in Daytona Beach*

Beach House, Condo or Cabin

Daytona Beach Hotels

Fort Myers Beach

Fort Myers Beach and its popular fishing pier. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)
Fort Myers Beach and its popular fishing pier. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

It stands to reason that consistently good weather on the Southwest Florida Gulf coast would draw a Spring Break crowd. Nearby Sanibel Island adds to the area’s charm.’s ranks this beach town as the No. 9 “trashiest destination” worldwide – “where the booze flows and the morals stay loose.” 

The top party spot, the Lani Kai, has scaled back its plans this year in deference to COVID-19. “We are not offering events that are going to cause people to crowd around together as we might have in the past,” Melissa Schneider, Lani Kai marketing director, tells WINK News.

Hot Tip: Bonita Springs, just 10 miles south, might be a better option with easy access to pristine Lovers Key and Barefoot Beach, “the second best beach in America.”

Things to do near Fort Myers Beach

9 Ways to Enjoy Sanibel Island

Lovers Key: Great beach, kayaking, manatees

Best camping near Fort Myers and Sanibel

Check prices on places to stay near Fort Myers Beach

Beach House, Condo or Cabin

Fort Myers Beach Hotels

Key West

Spring Break on Smathers Beach in Key West
Spring Breakers on Smathers Beach in Key West

Key West is still Key West, and there are plenty of distractions. Parties are a 24/7 event any time of year, whether it’s a pandemic or a hurricane, and everything kicks up a notch when the college kids swarm down Duval Street, crowd beaches and island bars.

Be aware that visitors are required by local ordinance to carry masks and use them when social distancing isn’t possible. Masks are also required inside businesses.

Arriving by jet? You’ll be greeted by R2Key2, the disinfecting robot. Arriving by car, bring Florida Rambler’s popular Florida Keys Mile-Marker Guide and check out the fabulous Lower Keys along the way.

Hot Tip: The most underrated destination in Key West, thus the least visited, is the beautiful but unassuming beach at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park.

Things to do in Key West

On a budget? Key West on the cheap isn’t easy, but here are tips

Key West chickens: Noisy, colorful, just like Key West

Camping near Key West: Try these ‘affordable’ hideaways

Check prices on places to stay in Key West*

Beach House, Condo or Cabin

Key West Hotels

Cocoa Beach

Coconuts Beach in Downtown Cocoa Beach
“Coconuts Beach” in Cocoa Beach

Cocoa Beach is the surfing capitol of Florida, and you can gear up to look like a surfer at the only 24-hour surf shop in Florida, Ron Jon’s.

There is plenty of action on these beaches and in the air around it. This is the space coast, after all, and with a little luck you might see a rocket launch from nearby Cape Canaveral.

These are also the closest beaches to Disney World, Universal Studios and the multiplex of theme parks in the Orlando suburbs. Cocoa is also a short hop to Orlando International Airport.

Hot Tip: Avoid the pier area and venture further south on A1A to Cocoa Beach’s real town center and “Coconuts Beach.”

Things to do near Cocoa Beach

5 things to discover in Cocoa Beach

When birds migrate, they perch on Merritt Island

Get naked at Canaveral National Seashore

Jetty Park: Beachfront cabins & camping in Cape Canaveral

Check prices on places to stay in Cocoa Beach

Beach House, Condo or Cabin

Cocoa Beach Hotels

St. Pete/Clearwater

Pinellas Trail near Dunedin
The Pinellas Trail near Clearwater.

Clearwater continues to be a Spring Break hot spot, and that won’t change anytime soon, but St. Pete Beach further south is sure to draw a crowd after being named TripAdvisor’s No. 1 Beach in America this year.

Hoteliers tell the Tampa Bay Times that occupancy is looking good for Spring Break on all Pinellas County beaches.

Hot Tip: The best way to stay safe this year, may be to head 20 miles south of Clearwater to the stunning dunes of Pass-A-Grille, and a great diversion from the craziness is a bike ride on the acclaimed Pinellas Trail.

Things to do near Clearwater

Tarpon Springs: She ain’t what she used to be, but still worth visiting

Caladesi Island: Kayak to a wild beach

Best Camping near Tampa Bay: 9 choice campgrounds

Check prices on places to stay in St. Pete/Clearwater

Beach House, Condo or Cabin

Clearwater Beach Hotels

Panama City Beach

Panama City Beach
Panama City Beach © Can Stock Photo / digidreamgrafix

‘Girls Gone Wild’ had its roots Panama City, but the city’s heyday as a premier Spring Break destination has faded in the 6 years since city fathers enacted laws banning alcohol on the beach during March.

This year, gatherings will not be allowed to exceed 125 people and require a permit.

With temperatures rarely rising much above the high 60s during March, this may not be the best place in Florida to soak up the sun, at least not until April. On the other hand, if you are suffering from sub-zero snow pack, a sunny beach in the 60s could be nirvana!

Hot Tip: America’s No. 1 beach and a cozier, Old Florida atmosphere can be found 30 miles east at Grayton Beach.

Things to do near Panama City

Big Bend Scenic Byway: Less-visited, much loved

Panama City Visitors Guide

Best beach camping in Florida’s Panhandle

Check prices on places to stay in Panama City

Beach House, Condo or Cabin

Panama City Beach Hotels

*Editor’s note: Links to accommodations are sponsored.

A note from the editor:

The information in this article was accurate when published but can change without notice. Please confirm details when planning your trip by following the links in this article.

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