The Best Fun And Casual Restaurants In 11 Top Spring Break Destinations

The Best Fun and Casual Restaurants in 11 Top Spring Break Destinations

Spring break is a time to get away from it all — to spend some quality time in the sun, on the beach, kicking back with friends and maybe getting a little bit rowdy. But at some point you're going to need to eat something, and you have no reason to settle for a crummy slice of pizza on the boardwalk.

Panama City Beach, Florida: Harpoon Harry’s

This low-key, laid-back restaurant is located right on the beach, and recently underwent a comprehensive renovation that more than doubled its size. There's a tiki deck with great cocktails; more than a dozen TVs for catching the game; and a great menu that specializes in local seafood dishes like a giant seafood bucket, local grouper and mahi mahi, fried Gulf shrimp, fish tacos, and smoked ahi tuna dip.

South Padre Island, Texas: Sea Ranch

Going strong for more than 35 years, this waterfront institution specializes in local, wild-caught Gulf seafood and top-notch steaks. Shrimp, red snapper, grouper, flounder, scallops, mahi mahi, and other fresh seafood can be cooked any way you like it (you can even bring your own catch and they'll cook it for you!), and you can't beat their steak and shrimp combo, with a 14-ounce ribeye and Cajun blackened Gulf shrimp. Make sure you start with Heat From the Deep — Gulf shrimp stuffed with cream cheese and jalapeno, bacon-wrapped and deep-fried.

Daytona Beach, Florida: Caribbean Jack’s

Named after a notorious Prohibition-era rum runner, Caribbean Jack's occupies a prime spot right on the Halifax River in the heart of Daytona, and it even boasts its own marina. There's plenty of outdoor seating, live music on the deck, a low-key relaxed vibe, creative specialty drinks, and great daily specials (64-ounce fishbowls on Mondays, $4 local beers on Thursdays). The food is great as well; you can't go wrong with the ribs, burgers, French dip, or wide variety of fresh seafood preparations.

Cocoa Beach, Florida: Fat Kahuna’s

This Space Coast destination has no shortage of solid restaurants, but locals and visitors alike swear by the diminutive Fat Kahuna's, located just steps from the beach. Steak and burgers are all on point, but it's the fresh seafood that keeps the regulars coming back. Start with the legendary coconut shrimp (made to order and tempura-battered) and continue with your choice of shrimp, salmon, corvina, mahi mahi, sushi-grade tuna, or shark, simply grilled and served with coconut rice, fresh vegetables, and spiced black beans. Sauces are made from scratch, and everything is cooked to order.

Las Vegas: Jaleo

Vegas has no shortage of super-expensive restaurants, but if you're looking to keep it casual and low-key on the Strip your first stop should be chef José Andrés' Jaleo, located in the Cosmopolitan. The tapas-heavy menu is loaded with a fun and exciting mix of traditional Spanish small plates and ones infused with Andrés' signature sense of whimsy. Make sure you try his take on Ferran Adrià's "liquid olives," and share a big order of world-class paella. Pass the porron!

Miami Beach: Pubbelly

This now-legendary Asian noodle bar and gastropub is the perfect spot for a night out with friends. Always bustling and always a scene, this is the restaurant that started it all for the restaurant group behind it, who now have seven additional restaurants. Make sure you order a bunch of buns — you can't go wrong with Buffalo sweetbreads, lechon asado, pork belly, softshell chili crab, and short rib — and don't miss the shrimp toast and ramen.

Punta Cana, Dominican Republic: Playa Blanca

This hidden gem inside the gated community of the Punta Cana Resort & Club is completely open-air, with plenty of umbrellas, big palapas, and lounge chairs. There's a chill walk-up bar and a wide menu of local favorites like ceviche, garlic or Creole conch, cashew-crusted mahi mahi, and whole catch of the day, priced by the pound.

Nassau, Bahamas: Poop Deck

Unfortunate name aside, this 40-plus-year-old East Bay Street institution serves some of the freshest seafood in town. Make sure you try the cracked conch (a Bahamian specialty) and definitely order the catch of the day; be it red snapper, yellowtail, or whole spiny lobster, you can pick it out yourself and they'll cook it to order.

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico: La Palapa

Want to dine with sand between your toes? Then head to the beachfront La Palapa, family-owned since 1959. Its menu of tropical Mexican cuisine is perfectly customized for the laid-back, luxurious setting: Specialties include several different types of ceviche, fish tacos on handmade tortillas, fajitas, pan-seared scallops, seafood risotto, and a catch of the day.

Cancún, Mexico: La Habichuela Sunset

In Cancún, you can do much better than Señor Frog's; look no further than the refined but still casual La Habichuela Sunset. Located in the city's famed Hotel Zone, this classy outpost of the venerable downtown crowd-pleaser bases all their dishes on old family recipes, and only the finest local ingredients and products are used. Try the ceviche, lobster, fish filet in traditional Mayan Tikin-Xik sauce, Yucatán lime soup, and chicken mole, and go home blissed-out and happy.

Cabo San Lucas, Mexico: The Office on the Beach

Located (as the name might imply) right on the beach, this colorful and lively restaurant is a hit with locals and tourists alike and is a great place to while away an afternoon with some cocktails and tacos. Don't miss the star attraction, however: big steamed local crabs with plenty of garlic butter. Eat them with your hands, and wash it all down with an ice cold cerveza.