We know you’re all students and funds may be limited, but that doesn’t mean you have to skip out on Spring Break all together! Here’s your chance to travel on shoestring budget. Head down South and check out the National Society Collegiate Scholars’ list of the top 5 destinations for Spring Break 2012: South.

This post is part of a spring break series. Be sure to check out our posts about West Coast destinations and East Coast/Midwest destinations.

South Padre Island, Texas

Imagine Texas’ version of Hawaii – extensive sections of warm golden sand, miles of stretching swell and a nightlife rivaling a weekend in Las Vegas.

Down on South Padre Island thrill seekers can enjoy heartracing activities like kiteboarding, windsurfing, snorkeling, parasailing, and even skydiving. For those of you who prefer to use fishing trips to relax, South Padre offers up the eclectic choices of bay fishing, deep-sea fishing and canyon deep sea fishing. If fishing isn’t your thing, but you love to explore the water, give scuba diving a shot, where pirate and explorer shipwrecks lay at Devil’s Elbow. But, just make sure to mind the blue advisory flag, which signifies a high number of jellyfish in the water. If you are a nature and animal lover, you’ll find a number of rare and interesting places to visit, like the Sea Turtles Rescue and dolphin watching tours. Each of these activities bring you up-close and personal with exotic wildlife in their own habitat.

Whatever you plan to do during the day, why not have a night (or two) on the town and enjoy South Padre’s nightlife. South Padre Island offers good company, beautiful sunsets, live music, drinking and all around good times. There is a wide assortment of bars, nightclubs and restaurants. Everything is bigger in Texas, including South Padre Island’s “Club Chaos” – Texas’ largest night club with 7 night clubs under one roof. Louie’s Backyard Dining & Cocktails, for example, hosts live entertainment including musical guests and even the Miss Hawaiian Tropic Bikini Contests. Its weekly events include: Live Music, DJs, Karaoke and Luaus.

Dirty Al’s is considered to serve up some the best seafood on the island at a reasonable price. Rave reviews center around the shrimp dishes. So, why not grab lunch or dinner before heading out.

New Orleans, Louisiana

Flavors of French, Spanish, Caribbean and African influences grace the city’s streets in every imaginable way making New Orleans unlike any other city in the United States.  According to NPR, New Orleans boasts the most bars per capita in the US. While it’s entirely possible to party ’til dawn on Bourbon Street, there are other fascinating experiences New Orleans has to offer. Explore the French Quarter and find the true meaning of the word “Jazz.” Home to the world famous Mardi Gras, one can only assume their are good times to be had along the streets of this beautifully authentic neighborhood. The Faubourg Marigny neighborhood offers a snapshot in time, depicting 19th century style raised housing. What doesn’t sound like much, is actually offering a glimpse into the past and future of New Orleans as this was one of the original neighborhoods least destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. The Garden District is becoming more commonly known for it’s architecture, rather than it’s gardens, due to the Victorian houses placed amongst 19th century mansions. All of this can be done on foot, or if you’re feeling a little more laid back, hop on the streetcar and enjoy the ride for $1.25.

New Orlean’s is also a mecca for the food connoisseur, so be sure to sample a taste of the local flavor whenever possible. When the French Quarter restaurant prices are a little too steep, check out: Mona’s Cafe serving some of the best Lebanese food at a low price (open seven days a week). Another is Moon Wok, which serves unbelievably large portions of Vietnamese and Chinese food for an amazingly small price. Acme Oyster House is said to offer some excellent and inexpensive seafood. Next door to the French Market is Cafe du Monde is 24-hour-a-day cafe, serving up heavenly “beignets” (think French donuts). You will find a crowd at all hours of the night and day here.

Cumberland Island National Seashore, Georgia

If you take a short drive down the Atlantic Coast and hop a ferry from St. Mary’s, Georgia, you’ll arrive at Cumberland Island National Seashore. Where tranquil beaches, glossy lakes, mossy oak forests, tidal creeks and miles of peaceful, endless dunes welcome you upon arrival. What was once used as a hunter’s paradise in the late 1800’s, is now one of the largest, and last, underdeveloped barrier islands in the United States. If you seek to enjoy a US beach in its most natural and purest form, then Cumberland Island National Seashore waits to welcome you, along with the island’s wild horses, as well as a sanctuary for roughly 1000’s of migrating birds. Renting a bike during your stay is a great way to get around the island and allows you to enjoy miles of un-crowded beach, while catching a glimpse of the local wild horses.

Spend a few nights camping at Sea Camp to have your fill of this beautiful National Seashore. Reservations can be made through the National Park Service.

The Florida Keys, Florida

Vacationing in the Florida Keys can be as hectic or as chill as you want it to be. You have the opportunity to go crazy, kick back and relax, or both!

Try relaxing on topical beaches surrounded by opal white sand, lush vegetation, palm trees and aromatic flowers. All while the aquamarine surf quietly, but steadily comes crashing in.

No matter where you go, the Florida Keys are sure to be beautiful. For a better idea of what the Keys have to offer, here’s a breakdown: Key Largo is the gateway for the Keys and is the self-proclaimed “Dive Capital of the World,” so why not give it a go? The best place for diving is the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, which offers snorkeling, scuba diving, and glass-bottomed boat tours. Islamorada is actually the Sport fishing Capital of the World – need more be said? Marathon is located in the middle of the Keys, which makes it seemingly easier to travel between all of the islands and essentially puts you right in the middle of the action. Big Pine Key is actually a group of keys that offer a variety of eco-adventures and sightseeing. Snorkeling and diving trips, kayaking and back country fishing are just a few examples of what Big Pine has to entice you with. Key West is the smallest island of the Keys and is the United State’s southernmost city. This particular island has a history of pirates, smugglers and even a literary cast, which includes Tennessee Williams, Ernest Hemingway and Truman Capote. Don’t forget to take a stroll down Duval Street where the colorful locals are sure to not disappoint. It’s commonly referred to as the longest street in the world – encompassing your fill of restaurants, bars and shops.

Best way to get around on the islands?: By bike. Numerous local inns and hotels offer bikes free to their guests. You can also rent a bike – The Bike Ship charges roughly $10 for a full day’s ride.

San Juan, Puerto Rico

San Juan offers a little bit of everything – a variety of gorgeously stunning beaches, ecletic Caribbean nightlife, rum factories (Bacardi anyone?). Not to mention, tropical, lush rainforest and an old Spanish Fort overlooking the Caribbean Sea.

The town is comprised of EL Viejo San Juan (Old San Juan), which consists of 400 restored buildings from the 16- and 17-th century. Castillo de San Cristobal is a 27-acre series of fortifications (the largest built by the Spanish in the New World). Ocean Beach Park is one of San Juan’s most popular beaches and considered the liveliest, as well.

While staying in San Juan why not book an “adventure trip?” After all, you can party all you want in town, but shouldn’t Spring Break include some adventure? Ecoquest Adventures & Tours specializes in organizing half-day and full-day trips. Their Campo Rico Ziplining Adventure will have you hiking and kayaking through a subtropical forest and eventually lands you at the Mojito Bar, where you can even enjoy a Puerto Rican meal. While the San Salvador Rainforest Adventure takes you into the Caguas mountains and will have you trekking canyons and rivers, all in an effort to take 3 heart racing ziplines, and eventually rappelling into an 80ft waterfall.

You even have the possibility to easily and comfortably explore all the area has to offer. Head over to Vierques Beach where you’ll find a laid-back atmosphere, along with beautiful untouched beaches and bioluminescent bays. Why not hike in the El Yunque National Rainforest? Better known as “El Yunque,” this tropical rainforest is the only one of its kind the United States. The forest has 13 well-marked hiking trails that range in difficulty. Visit El Yunque’s official website for more details.

Bianca Williams graduated from the University of Arizona where she spent 4 years as a DJ and PA for KAMP Student Radio, as well as interning for a local record/concert promotion company. She possess a love for all things New Media, traveling, languages, film, radio, photography, vintage bikes, snowboarding… everything! and is in pursuit of a career in freelance writing. All of her musical tastes and influences come from her world travels and the amazing people who have shared their lives with her along the way. Bianca is a member of The National Society of Collegiate Scholars and works as an NSCS Social Media Ambassador. Follow her on Twitter @biancadene.