By Dalia Colon for the CheapTickets Travel Blog
Spring break means wet T-shirt contests, Jell-O shots and beaches so overrun that you can hardly take a selfie without being photobombed.
But it doesn't have to. This year, skip the usual spring break cliches by heading for one of these less-crowded American spring break beaches.
Caladesi Island State Park, Florida: In 2008, famed coastal researcher Stephen "Dr. Beach" Leatherman christened this Dunedin, Florida, beach America's best. But what keeps it less crowded than nearby Clearwater Beach is that you have to take a ferry from Dunedin to get there. It's worth it, though, for a Gulf of Mexico getaway where soft, white sand and wildlife meet modern amenities including a snack bar and gift shop.
St. Simons Island, Georgia: Avoid the Florida beach scene altogether by heading one state to the north. Take a sailing lesson, try dirt track racing at Golden Isles Speedway or climb the 129 steps to the top of the historic St. Simons Island Lighthouse. Even if you don't fish, take time to appreciate the view from the St. Simons Island Pier while you're downtown shopping or grabbing a bite to eat.
Leo Carrillo State Park, California: This Malibu beach makes a nice retreat from the hubbub of nearby Santa Monica. Named for an actor an preservationist, the beach is home to tidepools and sea caves that set the scene for a laid-back getaway. Pitch a tent, light a campfire and forget all about finals week.
Padre Island National Seashore, Texas: If boozy South Padre Island leaves you with a hangover, then the cure is just plain Padre Island Corpus Christi. Settle in for 70 miles of undeveloped coastline, where you're likely to see more pelicans and turtles than rowdy coeds. Windsurfing, kayaking and camping on the beach make for a spring break you'll actually remember.
Rehoboth Beach, Delaware: Located about 120 miles east of Baltimore, this resort town makes for a nice alternative to the usual spring break sites. Browse the downtown boutiques or take a shuttle to Tanger Outlets for some serious retail therapy. The area also has plenty of food options to fit a college student's budget, from Grotto Pizza to Dolle's Popcorn, Candy and Saltwater Taffy. For cheap entertainment, check the concert schedule at the Rehoboth Beach Bandstand.
Long Beach, New York: You don't need Hamptons money to enjoy a beach vacation off the shores of the Long Island. Long Beach is less than an hour's ride on the Long Island Rail Road, making it easily accessible from Manhattan. Stroll, jog or bike along the boardwalk before grabbing a meal from a pushcart vendor. By day, try surfing or beach volleyball, then change into your going-out clothes and hit up the area's many bars.
Folly Beach, South Carolina: No mistake about it. This surf town just 15 minutes outside of Charleston oozes with Southern charm. Expect the usual water sports, fishing and nightlife you'd find in any beach town, but also save room for a bowl of shrimp and grits of she-crab soup.
Atlantic Beach, North Carolina: The state's so-called Crystal Coast makes for a gem of a getaway. Try paddleboarding, cruise around the island on a rented bicycle or ride Island Ferry Adventures Ferry Service around to the Rachel Carson Reserve, where you might just see ponies frolicking on the shore. Now that's what we call a wild spring break.
Grand Isle, Louisiana: While the majority of spring break revelers stick to New Orleans, head about 100 miles south to this haven from the Crescent City. Lounge on the seven-mile stretch of white sand beaches or get your blood pumping at Wake Side Wake Board Park, where a system of cables pulls you as you wakeboard, tube or waterski.
Oahu, Hawaii: A Hawaiian island may sound out of reach for a college student's budget, but if you can score a cheap plane ticket, then there's plenty of bargain fun to be had. Catch a free performance by the Royal Hawaiian Band on the grounds of 'Iolani Palace; take a complimentary hula, ukulele or lei-making lesson at Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center or remind yourself that pineapples aren't just for cocktails when you wander through the Dole Plantation's enormous maze. And we haven't even mentioned the beach yet. We hear Hawaii has some pretty nice ones.