Mexico reigns as top Spring Break destination despite U.S. State Department warning

Bathing-suited, margarita-swilling spring breakers are expected to hit Mexico in droves, despite warnings of violent drug-related activity from the federal government and from Texas.

“Clearly the publicity is horrible in terms of what we see in the media,” said Luke Bujarski, director of research at travel analysis group, adding that the advisories are applied to pockets of a large country and that the resort areas tend to be safe. “I think when it comes to spring break, Mexico remains an institution.”

The U.S. Department of State alerted travelers in December to the drug-related crime that has plagued parts of Mexican states. This year, Baja California (Sur), home of Cabo San Lucas, was added to the list. Jalisco (with Puerto Vallarta and Guadalajara) and Baja California (Norte, with Tijuana, Rosarito and Ensenada) are other popular vacation areas singled out for concern.

Brina Pochal, 20-year-old junior at the University of Vermont, said she thought twice about traveling to Baja, Mexico, for a week to celebrate Spring Break with her family. They stayed in a small town north of Cabo San Lucas to windsurf.

“Where we went it was pretty easygoing, I didn’t think much about the violence,” she said. “My dad and I are big into windsurfing so we chose this place specifically. It was not the spring break experience that you see on TV.”

The resort towns are not known for being crime ridden and are considered to be safe. However, crime rates were higher in 2014 in Tijuana and Rosarito (some reports say the homicide rate was lower but violence was higher) and also in La Paz, which is two hours north of the popular destination beaches at Los Cabos.

Violence in Mexico garnered international attention around 2008. Just the year before, in 2007, the country had its lowest noted intentional homicide rate in years – 8,867. Since then, the unfortunate record of people murdered has increased in fits and spurts. While the overall number of murders seems to have decreased, the number in Baja California, especially in Tijuana, increased.

Baja California Sur last year had its highest murder rate since 1997, with most of the activity described as organized crime centered in La Paz.

Texas’ Department of Public Safety also sounded alarms. While in 2010, the department urged revelers to avoid towns along the northern border because of drug related violence, in subsequent years the Lone Star State started telling its residents to stay away from the whole country.

Includes reporting by Lucia Suarez.