CANCUN --Thousands of college students have converged on Cancun for Spring Break. While drug violence may pose a risk in some regions of Mexico – the big problem for students at the beach is “being too drunk,” said Chris Palumbo, a student spending Spring Break in Cancun with friends.
Palumbo, 21, was one of the few students not holding a can of beer or plastic cup full of alcohol.
For most students in Mexico for Spring Break the biggest threat is excessive drinking, not the drug gangs who have grabbed headlines in some regions.
“They cut your limbs off and sell your organs on Craigslist. I'm just kidding," said student Eric Dempsey also known as “DJ Hazy Hays.”
He joined another friend and gulped down big drinks.
On stage, girls in bathing suits with a beer logo on them danced to loud music as a DJ announced, “We’re going to get the drinking contests underway now.”
For plenty of students the drinking was well underway before noon. One smiling student waved a nearly empty tequila bottle as he stumbled through the sand.
“Your system just gets used to it,” said 21-year-old Zach Sklar.
Every year, the U.S. State Department offers safety tips on its website for students heading to Mexico for Spring Break.
In the advisory titled “Know Before You Go,” according to the state department, “The vast majority of arrests, accidents, violent crimes, rapes, and deaths are suffered by American students on Spring Break.”
Calls to the U.S. Embassy in Mexico to check on any crimes reported during Spring Break this year were not returned.
"Don't go with random people," said Morgan Peri, a 20-year-old student who had her own common sense approach to staying safe.
Peri and other friends stay in a group and watch out for each other.
“You have to pace yourself,” said Chris Palumbo, one the friends in the group.
Binge drinking can also lead to accidents.
"Going out there if I was too drunk," said Palumbo pointing at at the ocean. "I wouldn't have come back."
Warning signs posted along the banks of the lagoon highlight another possible hazard for intoxicated students: crocodiles.
A few years ago, a college student from Texas who decided to relieve himself in the lagoon was bitten by a crocodile. His injuries were not life-threatening.
Police said the student from Dallas had been drinking heavily at several bars before he waded into the lagoon. The trip to the hospital may have kept him from spending time in the local jail.
"It's about 36 hours for a misdemeanor for public intoxication," said Carmen Perez, an officer working at the Cancun Police Station in the hotel zone.
Out on the strip lined with bars and nightclubs, an officer on patrol said police give students the same advice every year, "Have fun but don't drink too much."
Across the street a busload of students pulled up to nightclub. Some had been drinking on the beach all day. A group of three young men stumbled off the bus yelling "Spring Break 2013!