We know what you’re thinking: a beach in the middle of America? While the Show Me State is technically landlocked, the city of Osage Beach—located a stone’s throw away from Lake of the Ozarks State Park—is such an affordable destination that we couldn’t leave it out of this round-up. The park itself has miles of shoreline (plus two beaches designated for swimming), which means you’ll still catch plenty of rays.
Opened by former travel writer Uschi Wetzels, this two-story plantation-style hotel on Barbados’s windswept eastern coast has hammocks on the wide verandas and sweeping ocean panoramas. But it isn’t for everyone. There's no air-conditioning in the Main House (it is available in the 3-room Cottage, however) or television, guests share a single phone, and mosquito repellent can come in handy at sunset. Easygoing Americans and Europeans guests who seek out this place get to know each other over family-style meals.
Surf City is the cultural center of Topsail Island, a long barrier island off the coast of North Carolina. For visitors looking to surf in the aptly named city, there are plenty of sporting goods stores to suit your needs. The larger area is known for its organic blueberry farms, with some farms allowing guests to come out and pick their own fresh pesticide-free blueberries. Guests can unwind in Surf City’s cozy bed and breakfast spot overlooking the ocean waves. For the outdoorsy types, the area has an array of campgrounds where visitors can pitch a tent or park their RV.
The tiny surf town of Cayucos is refreshingly underdeveloped, with vintage shops, a 1,000-foot pier, and longtime institutions like the restored 1867 Cass House. Each room has standout features, whether cast-iron soaking tubs, canopy beds, fireplaces, or a private terrace. The farm-to-table restaurant serves four-course dinners infused with herbs, vegetables, and fruit from the garden.
A popular spring break destination, South Padre Island can be touristy, but it’s not without its charms. Snag a table on the patio at The Café on the Beach to tuck into fresh shrimp tacos, crab cakes, grilled snapper and tortilla soup, or opt for a grab-and-go meal at Ceviche Ceviche (the mahi mahi with fresh mango and avocado is to-die-for). When you want to venture outdoors, there’s the boardwalk along the Laguna Madre Nature Trail, the beachfront Isla Blanca Park (a popular picnic spot), and the 70-mile Padre Island National Seashore, the world’s longest undeveloped barrier island, just three hours away. The Hilton Garden Inn South Padre Island is steps from the beach and offers spacious rooms from $130/night.
Tamarindo Beach is along the green, mountainous northwest coast of Costa Rica. Not only does it offer the remote, relaxing views of the Pacific the country is known for, it’s also a hub for sea turtles, and several companies offer tours to watch the nightly ritual of turtle nesting. It’s also bordered by the largest mangrove estuary in Central America at Estero de Tamarindo.
Best Beach Vacations - Total Travel Time and Distance: How far do you want to go? Reaching an amazing beach resort destination in the South Pacific will take several airline flights, a time change (which means jetlag for a few days) and it will be expensive. But once you get there, you can expect an experience of a lifetime. If you are looking for dream beach vacations, that's the way to go.
As Memorial Day weekend approaches, our brains instinctually begin to daydream about the beach. Summer vacation planning might mean returning to a seashore that's been a family tradition for years or heading to a new beach you've always wanted to visit. If you're still undecided about where to head this summer, here's a look at the 10 best beach vacation destinations in the U.S.
Raise a glass with your favorites on a tour of Long Island, New York’s wine country, a compact but fruitful region running from Riverhead to the end of the North Fork at Orient Point (where there’s a ferry that’s convenient for joiners heading down from New England). Most of the 40-odd wineries are located off Route 48 and Route 25, making it easy to do a day of vineyard-hopping to favorites like Martha Clara in Riverhead, Macari in Mattituck, and Pellegrini in Cutchogue. A limo or designated driver is a must, because you’ll want to hang around for evening live music in the tasting rooms. Shinn Estate is a winery and inn powered by alternative energy and sustainable farming where you can sleep alongside the vines after a day of bonding.
Located in the heart of Cape Cod, Dennis Port is the perfect spot to enjoy the wind and waves while catching up on a little culture in between. Take a break from the surf with a scenic afternoon drive along Route 6A, a highway dotted with renowned art galleries, or cap off a sunny beach day with a theatrical performance at the Cape Playhouse. Watch for “Free Fun Fridays” at the Cape Cod Museum of Art, a summer event offering complimentary activities for kids including face-painting and pottery-making.
About an hour’s drive south of Los Angeles, the Blue Lantern Inn is where New England tradition meets kicked-back southern California. Neutral tones decorate the 29 airy rooms, many of which overlook the Pacific. French doors open to the ocean air in the downstairs sunroom, where a breakfast of artichoke quiche and fluffy pancakes is served. Spend your day biking along the point’s coastal paths, playing board games in the library, or reading in the gazebo or at the beach.
Unlike much of the Caribbean, Puerto Rico still offers affordable prices for an amazing beach experience. You can find flights from many U.S. cities for more reasonable prices than elsewhere in the islands. There’s lots of history to learn about here by visiting the Spanish forts around San Juan, as well as architecture from the Spanish colonial-style buildings throughout the city. You can find a little bit of everything here in terms of accommodations, including budget-friendly hotels, chain hotels, Airbnb properties, and high-end luxury resorts.
If you're looking for a beach vacation destination that offers active summer sports as well as easy access to a city famous for its history and quirky charm, check out Hilton Head Island. Located 45 minutes from Savannah, Georgia, it has carved a niche with its focus on golf, tennis, biking and nature walks, along with a plentiful supply of hotel rooms (major resorts include Marriott, Sonesta, Omni and Disney) and condo and house rentals in all price ranges. Day trips to Savannah add antiquing, historic home tours and lowcountry cuisine (shrimp and grits, anyone?) to the mix.
The most affordable beach in Spain is on the western shore of the island of La Gomera in the Canary Islands. The dark sandy beach sits at the end of a long valley shaped by imposing cliffs, which during the summer make a striking contrast to the blue sky. The little villages along the road make for a charming cultural experience on your way to the water. A couple of days here feels more like a remote island escape than most of the other islands in Europe.
Sanibel Island is a beachcomber’s delight, one of the best beach vacations for finding beautiful seashells that wash up on its sands. Residents here are conservationists and work hard to preserve the natural beauty of their home, so it’s a great place to find an undisturbed spot for a bit of quiet contemplation. Try the perfectly chilled-out Bowman’s Beach for shelling, paddling, or settling down with a good read.