The Most Dangerous Spring Break Destinations To Avoid, According To Research

Ah, Spring Break. A time for breaking out of the confines of the day-to-day to enjoy a new adventure. According to a survey conducted by IPX1031, a financial institute, at least 1 in 10 Americans is planning on traveling for the unofficial holiday. Many will head for warmer climates, while others will lounge close to home. While spring breakers often have to balance drinking for fun and drinking for hydration, there are a lot of safety considerations at play, too — particularly when venturing out of the country.

We know the last thing you want to think about when planning a vacation is a potential danger, but it is an important thing to note. To help, we've compiled this list to take some of the burden of research off of your shoulders and ease your vacation-planning mind. What is vital, though, no matter where you go for Spring Break or any vacation, is to always keep your wits about you. Common sense can often protect you from a lot.

Our decisions for this list were made by consulting local news stories and government reporting. When applicable, we also sourced information related to tourist-specific dangers rather than danger to the public at large. You can find out more about our methodology at the end of the article. 

New Orleans, Louisiana

As a place with open carry laws for alcohol, it's not surprising that New Orleans is the top Spring Break vacation spot. Sadly, though the city has gotten more dangerous in recent years; it was even the murder capital of the United States in 2022. Combine a tourist culture of over-imbibing and the city's scary fentanyl overdose problem, and NOLA becomes a potential hotbed for danger.

In 2023, the city had nearly 500 overdose deaths, the majority of which were fentanyl-related. DEA special agent in charge Brad Byerley told Fox 8 that the department seized a staggering amount of fentanyl in 2023. "This year alone we've already seized over 50 million fake pills that contain fentanyl. We've seized over 10,000 pounds of powder fentanyl," Byerly told the outlet. "Fentanyl can be laced in marijuana, cocaine, and in everything." 

It's easy to fall in love with the people, culture, and (of course) the food of NOLA. Even so, like any city, it isn't a perfect place. You especially need to be careful on Bourbon Street, particularly late at night. Just because it's full of tourists doesn't mean you're safe from crime. French Quarter crimes have gotten significant enough that in December 2023, superintendent of the NOLA Police Department Anne Kirkpatrick announced at a Bureau of Governmental Research event that she wanted to add to the police presence in the quarter, per Axios.

Montego Bay, Jamaica

Truth be told, Jamaica has been a frequent member of the State Department's travel advisory list. Per the State Department's advisory, however, it isn't just the potential for crime that makes travel to Jamaica risky. The island's varying availability of healthcare services also makes it a danger for visitors.

The U.S. Embassy in Jamaica warns that health services are very limited in Jamaica. More than that, the embassy notes that the cost of hospitalizations and/or medical evacuations can be in the tens of thousands for U.S. citizens, which is one of the many reasons why buying travel insurance is worth it. A media release posted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Foreign Trade to its Facebook account in January 2024 indicated that the country's government is trying to get a handle on both the healthcare disparities and crime.

Regarding how crime is handled in Jamaica, the State Department's warning addresses the precariousness of law enforcement. "Local police often do not respond effectively to serious criminal incidents," the advisory reads. "When arrests are made, cases are infrequently prosecuted to a conclusive sentence. Families of U.S. citizens killed in accidents or homicides frequently wait a year or more for final death certificates to be issued by Jamaican authorities."

Nassau, the Bahamas

In a similar vein to Jamaica, the Bahamas also has a travel advisory from the State Department, pointing to the crime in Nassau and Freeport. Per the State Department, gang violence is causing an uptick in murders and other violent crimes in Nassau. They also explain that recreational watercraft are not well-regulated, so visitors need to exercise higher levels of caution. 

Fentanyl is also becoming an increasing problem in Nassau. Bahamian psychiatrist Dr. David Allen told The Nassau Guardian that the deadly drug has been appearing at local clubs, warning the public to take the fentanyl epidemic seriously. As in many other places fighting fentanyl, deadly fentanyl encounters can happen when a different drug is laced with it. Nassau is a place with a history of cocaine trafficking, a drug that is known for fentanyl lacings.

Outside of drugs and crime, it's important to be aware that the downside of beachside vacationing is the danger posed by the ocean. Shark attacks aren't common in the Bahamas, but they do happen. Being near a resort does not protect you from wildlife, so be mindful whenever you're in the water. For more info on safety, consider these travel hacks for traveling to the Bahamas.

Charleston, South Carolina

Besides having some of the highest murder rates they've seen in decades, Charleston, S.C., also provides a different kind of danger for visitors. The roads in South Carolina are considered one of the most dangerous in the country for drivers. Per research at Forbes, South Carolina roads rank as the second-most dangerous in the United States, just below Montana. Forbes reported that South Carolina was the second-deadliest state for drivers, below Montana, with 21 fatal crashes per 100,000 residents. 

Charleston is also struggling with increased fentanyl overdose deaths at an alarming rate. According to the Post and Courier, in 2023, Charleston County saw 178 fentanyl-related deaths. That was a 20% increase from the year before. Fentanyl-laced marijuana has also been linked to fentanyl overdose deaths around Charleston, giving even more reason for spring breakers to be extra careful.

For folks in marginalized communities, South Carolina also poses a risk as it is one of the last states in the country to pass increased hate crime laws. The law that would impose higher penalties against crimes fueled by hate has been stuck on the South Carolina Senate floor for months; the last bill of its kind died in the Senate in 2021.

Acapulco, Mexico

Despite being the first major resort area in Mexico, Acapulco has had a lot of setbacks. It is considered one of the most dangerous cities in Mexico, causing a lot of travelers to cancel their trips. Located in the Guerrero state area, the State Department lists Guerrero as a level four advisory level, which dictates that U.S. citizens do not go there at all. Per the advisory, this is due to crime.

"Armed groups operate independently of the government in many areas of Guerrero," the advisory reads. "Members of these groups frequently maintain roadblocks and may use violence towards travelers. U.S. citizens and [lawful permanent residents] have been victims of kidnapping in previous years." Gang violence in Acapulco is significant enough that in January 2024, 90% of the passenger vans ceased operation, according to CBS News. Beaches there are also prime targets for crime. In February 2024, three people were murdered on the beach by gunmen who got there by boat.

Memphis, Tennessee

Memphis is often considered one of the most dangerous cities in the United States. Not only because of crime statistics but because it's one of the most dangerous cities for drivers in the country. Data from the Department of Transportation, via Consumer Affairs, showed that from 2021, 1% of fatal crashes in the country happened in Memphis that year. In that year, 238 people were killed in crashes and another 55 were killed as pedestrians by a vehicle.

Beyond the roads, Memphis also has a crime problem. Per Statista, Memphis had the highest violent crime rate in 2022. Per 100,000 residents, the city had a rate of 2,40.86 violent crimes compared to the second-ranking city of Detroit at 2,027.9. In 2023, Memphis had its highest crime rate ever, per Memphis Shelby Crime Commission data provided to Fox 13.

Crime is such an issue that even hotel staff are giving visitors a heads-up. "When we arrived at the hotel, the attendant at the desk told us to watch for crime and to watch if there's gun fires and things," tourist Joseph McNulty of Ireland told ABC 24 in September 2023. "We've seen a lot of police cars and people wearing bulletproof vests."

Virginia Beach, Virginia

Although you're relatively safer in Virginia Beach than some of the other places we've listed so far, Virginia Beach is still considered a dangerous destination. In part because it has the highest DUI conviction rate in the state, with nearly 10% of the commonwealth's convictions. Virginia Beach Commonwealth's Attorney Colin Stolle told WTKR that the DUI rate is high in part because of the number of tourists who come to town and overindulge.

There has also been a rise in overdoses in the city because of fentanyl-laced cocaine. "What we see is that most of our overdose deaths are heroin and fentanyl-related," Virginia Beach police chief Paul Neudigate told 13News Now in August 2023. "Rarely do we see this combination with crack cocaine, so it was a glaring beacon for us. This is an abnormality for [Virginia Beach]. If you think you're just using crack cocaine, you may not be."

Jacksonville, Florida

With the not-so-great achievement of being known as having the worst drivers in the country, Jacksonville is on this list mostly for crime-related reasons. The crime rates in Jacksonville are high for a city of its size — particularly the murder rate. For 2023, the murder rate was 11.94 per 100,000. "Murders in Jacksonville have been a problem for decades. This is not something new," University of North Florida political science professor Dr. Michael Binder told Action News Jax. However, Binder also added that a lot of those crimes are related to gang issues in the city and not pointed at the average citizen.

But it's worth noting that the "average citizen" of Jacksonville might not agree with that. News4Jax spoke with folks on the street and asked if they felt safe downtown after a rash of shootings. One individual who works downtown said they won't walk around at night. An anonymous man who lives downtown told the outlet that he only feels safe because he knows what areas to avoid, especially at night.

Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

You are quite a bit safer statistically in Hilton Head Island. Though Beaufort County, where Hilton Head is located, has had a big rise in murders in the last few years. According to an analysis by Post and Courier, the country had a nearly 140% increase in murders between 2022 and 2023.

Sheriff P.J. Tanner told the outlet that the shootings seem to be largely affecting and perpetrated by young people. "What you're seeing is a lot of young people lashing out at others in violent ways because of a posting on a Facebook page or some type of Snapchat comment that they felt was insulting," he said.

In addition to increased violence, South Carolina has one of the highest STD rates in the country. According to CDC data compiled by U.S. News & World Report, the state ranks sixth in the United States. The total STD rate in South Carolina is 991 per 100,000 residents. The only state represented elsewhere in our list that also made the top 10 is Louisiana, at number two with 1,212 per 100,000 residents. Syphilis, in particular, is of concern to CDC officials. Division of STD Prevention director Dr. Laura Bachmann told the outlet, "The U.S. syphilis epidemic worsened yet another year, and swift action is urgently needed to slow the curve."

Tijuana, Mexico

As one of Mexico's most dangerous cities, Tijuana is known as a particularly dangerous area near the U.S. border. But because it is so close to areas in the southern part of the country, it's also still a relatively popular road trip destination. Visitors need to be mindful of the violent crime warnings as well as the city's fentanyl problem. Unlike in Acapulco, the State Department is not recommending tourists stay away completely. Instead, the advisory suggests that visitors be mindful of local crime. 

"Violent crime and gang activity are common," the advisory reads. "Travelers should remain on main highways and avoid remote locations. Of particular concern is the high number of homicides in the non-tourist areas of Tijuana." It also notes a history of U.S. citizens being kidnapped while visiting the area.

In regard to the rising fentanyl issue, many drugs have been laced with it, including medications found in local pharmacies. While other lacing instances have been with illicit drugs, authorities are finding fentanyl in counterfeit pills like Adderall. To avoid an accidental overdose from tainted medication, it is advised only to use FDA-licensed pharmacies. If planning a Spring Break trip to the country, you may consider these other mistakes to avoid when visiting Mexico

Key West, Florida

Anyone looking for fun in the sun may be compelled to visit gorgeous Key West, Florida. However, sharks are also hanging out in KW, which is concerning to folks hoping for a lot of ocean time. After all, Florida is known as the shark bite capital of the world for a reason. Key West even made a new record in 2023 for two shark bites in 36 hours. The possibility of shark attacks is even causing people to cancel their Key West trip.

Of the 40 shark bites in the United States in 2023, 20 were in Florida. On January 8 and March 25, there were also instances of shark bites in Key West. Those statistics aren't Earth-shattering, though they are concerning to swimmers. There were also three reported shark bites in the Florida Keys, all in May 2023. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, there are a few ways to try and prevent shark attacks, such as limiting splashing while swimming.


As mentioned previously, this list comprises destinations that are known for a range of dangers, from dangerous roads to wild animals and drug activity. We utilized information from government agencies, local news outlets, and law enforcement data to get a better understanding of why some of these places might be more dangerous than others. We also took driving issues into consideration. Since 70% of spring breakers drive to their vacation, we wanted to take into account the safety of the roads at and near spring break destinations.