Need a break from the real world? There’s no better place to relax than on a warm, sunny beach—but for most travelers, it’s not relaxing to spend a fortune on your getaway. Luckily, there are plenty of off-the-beaten-path beach vacations that won’t cost you an arm and a leg. Check out these lesser-known beach destinations that go easy on your wallet.
Roatan, a minnow-shaped island within Honduras’ Bay Islands, attracts divers who come to experience the world’s second-largest barrier reef and those looking for a cheap, off-the-beaten-path beach vacation in the Caribbean. The island is one of Central America’s once-hidden, now-on-the-rise beach destinations, but thankfully it still lacks big chain resorts and some of the other trappings of mass tourism.
The longest white sand beach in Hawaii can be found on “The Friendly Island” of Molokai. Most everything in Molokai revolves around the water. From snorkeling to scuba diving to surfing, watersports are the favorite activity of locals and tourists alike. Equipment rentals, instructors, and guides can be found near Kaunakakai Harbor. Landlubbers have many land-based activities to choose from as well, including hikes in the Kamakou Preserve or biking along the Waikolu Outlook. Guided mule rides in the uplands is another unique family-friendly experience. Hand-crafted souvenirs to remember your trip to off-the-beaten-path Molokai are available at small stores throughout the island.
Thailand has been a favorite vacation destination among budget-minded backpackers, but it’s also a great place for a beach vacation. The big cost here is the flight, especially if you’re coming from the U.S. But if you can find a good deal on a flight, then the rest of your trip should be well within your budget. Phuket is a beach town that is famous for luxury resorts, but you can often find very reasonable prices on splurge accommodations or settle for low-key accommodations for an even lower price. Popular beach areas here include Racha Yai Island, Naithon Beach, and Patong Beach.
Daytona Beach is an hour drive from Orlando, Florida; travelers are known to add the beach town to their Walt Disney World vacations, either as a full day trip or overnight. Doubles at beachfront resorts are as low as $80 per night. Hard Rock Hotel Daytona Beach recently opened, and the introductory rates are still a steal for summer with doubles at $149 per night, which includes complimentary use of guitars and on-demand yoga via entertainment system.
Pristine Hatteras Island Beaches & Seashores Seventy-two miles of wide, unspoiled and uncluttered ocean beaches beckon you to Hatteras Island. Our crystal white sand and warm blue water are among the best in the world. You can visit a life guarded beach or even at the peak of the season, search out and find your own isolated spot in the sandy dunes. Hatteras Island beaches are within the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, the nation's first recreational seashore park. Created by Congress in 1935, the park has evolved into the premiere destination for nearly every recreational pursuit under the sun. Blessed by the proximity to the Gulf Stream, a great warm water oceanic current rising from the Yucatan Channel and flowing north where it touches the American mainland at Cape Hatteras, the island enjoys the most temperate year 'round climate north of Florida. Our water temperatures can be as much as 10 degrees higher that those areas immediately to the north such as Nags Head and Duck. Dunes caressed in golden sea oats and the dogleg shape of Hatteras Island provides a sheltered and safe beach from any wind direction except southeast to due east. All of Hatteras Realty's Outer Banks oceanfront homes border the National Park Service beach line and the ocean is only a short walk away. From the topside decks of most of our oceanfront homes, you should be able to see the ocean and the beach clearly. Come to Hatteras Island and enjoy our wonderful beach. From swimming to shell collecting, sun bathing to surf fishing, and from bird watching to relaxing and windsurfing to world-class seafood dining, Hatteras Island invites you to experience your best vacation ever. Check out our Visitor's Guide for a list of Beach Equipment Rentals. Click here for the local tide charts. < Back to Things to Do on Hatteras Island
Families have visited Ocean Isle Beach for generations. This small seaside town in North Carolina's Brunswick Islands accommodates all kinds with its pristine, quiet beaches. The laidback atmosphere makes Ocean Isle ideal for a relaxing beach vacation with plenty of restaurants, outdoor decks, and waterfront views. Located just minutes away, the award-winning Silver Coast Winery hosts tastings, tours, and events. Active travelers will love a kayak trip through the marsh or an afternoon zip line through the canopy at the Shallotte River Swamp Park. Rainy days are spent at the Museum of Coastal Carolina exploring eye-catching sea exhibits and a planetarium.
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.
Roatan, a minnow-shaped island within Honduras’ Bay Islands, attracts divers who come to experience the world’s second-largest barrier reef and those looking for a cheap, off-the-beaten-path beach vacation in the Caribbean. The island is one of Central America’s once-hidden, now-on-the-rise beach destinations, but thankfully it still lacks big chain resorts and some of the other trappings of mass tourism.
North Carolina’s Outer Banks don’t actually end at the Virginia state line. Sandbridge, 25 minutes south of Virginia Beach, sits at the northern tip of the OBX, where you’ll find a tiny residential community with a couple of restaurants, an outfitter for kayaking, and a chic condo next to the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge and False Cape State Park. Bring a bike so you can explore the refuge and the state park (which lacks an access road). sandbridgebeachva.com
Deep in the heart of the Caribbean, the island nation of Jamaica has miles of unspoiled beaches, lush rain forests, and green mountains — it's been called "the biggest little island in the world" for good reason. The edges of the island are lined with resorts, while the interior is verdant and blossoming with all manner of flora and fauna. Laze on the sugar-soft sands of any one of Jamaica's many beaches or take an invigorating hike through the lush Blue Mountains. On the west end of Jamaica, Negril boasts seven miles of beaches and serene waters to go swimming, snorkeling, or jet skiing in. At night, the discos are packed in Negril. You can also swim, play golf and tennis, and go to the spa at most of the island's resorts, and explore Jamaican culture in the city centers. In Kingston, Jamaica's capital, reggae fans can take a tour of the Bob Marley Museum at 56 Hope Road. In town, don't miss your chance to taste authentic Jamaican street food — try some spicy jerk chicken and wash it down with a Red Stripe.
For summer R&R that includes gallery hopping, wine sipping and spa going, this upscale beach community located about 90 minutes north of San Diego is ideal. Several large resorts — Montage Laguna Beach, The Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel and Surf & Sand Resort among them — are set along the area's picturesque cliffs and are perfect for a romantic couple's escape or a girlfriends' getaway. The town is a longtime art colony (with more than 100 galleries), so it's easy to find a one-of-a-kind souvenir, while the region's focus on healthy California cuisine means you'll eat well, too.
Flagler Beach prides itself on its laidback retro vibe. Casual beachfront restaurants and coffee shops set the tone for a relaxing vacation in this Atlantic Coast town. Even the local winery is on the beach. Residents and visitors have free access to the municipal fishing pier and more than 6 miles of sandy shoreline. Nature lovers can hike the Coastal Strand Trail to get an up-close look at the local ecosystem. Visiting the local art galleries and gift shops are a great way to while away an afternoon before heading back to the beach for an evening cocktail and live entertainment. Things to Do in Flagler Beach
Many people who haven’t traveled in Texas are surprised to learn that there’s an amazing beach along the southern coast of the state. South Padre Island is accessible by road and very popular as a budget-friendly beach destination in the U.S. Accordingly, this area has become famous for its spring break parties, but the beach is very calm and serene if you visit in September or October. In the early fall, the crowds disburse but the temperatures are still warm enough to spend your days at the beach. Families and adventurous couples can keep busy here with water parks, sailing, kiteboarding and even dolphin watching. The town of Galveston is also a fun place to visit for a beach trip because it’s only 45 minutes from Houston and has a nice beach, winery, parks, and gardens.
Key West, FL: There is so much history in Key West, you feel like you’ve stepped into one of the Hemingway’s stories. Get into the spirit of the place by staying at the charming, luxurious Curry Mansion Inn, where time has stopped and where you will be treated like royalty. Join the crowds at Mallory Square in Key West’s charming historic Old Town and watch the street performers’ show. Sunset-watching is a daily pastime in Key West, from Mallory Square or from the colorful Sunset Pier. Visit Ernest Hemingway’s beautiful Victorian house in the Old Town. Stroll through the Historic Seaport at Key West Bight to watch the boats and old fishermen. While here, make sure you grab a fresh fish lunch, or book a dolphin watching boat tour. For a respite from the crowds and relentless sun, sit for a while on a bench in the shady, fragrant Key West Garden Club.

With the emerald hills of Scotland at its back and the turquoise sea at its front, this serene five-room cottage hotel on the Isle of Lewis draws hikers, sailors, surfers, and divers. Reclaimed merbau hardwoods and bath products of local lavender and Hebridean seaweed bring the outside in. Guests gather by the lounge’s wood-burning fireplace or recap the day’s adventures over fig and walnut pudding at dinner.
Mexico Beach is a small, lively coastal city in Bay County, on Florida’s Gulf Coast, known for its mile-long wonderful white sandy beaches, slow pace of life, and the nostalgic vibe of Old Florida. They made sure that the development is restrained and that everyone has a wonderful view of the beaches unobstructed by massive concrete towers. The stores are small, there are charming mom-and-pop eateries and boutiques, the waters are crystal clear, and the nature is lush and unspoiled. You can spend your time fishing, diving, swimming, shelling, kayaking, and parasailing, or you can stretch out on a beach chair under a colorful umbrella and enjoy a good book. Nature lovers can take one of many eco tours and go looking for ospreys, bald eagles, endangered sea turtles, or dolphins. There is always some festival to make things lively, such as the Fourth of July Best Blast on the Beach, Music in the Park, Beach Blast Triathlons, Gumbo Cook-Off, Art & Wine Festival, and Christmas Celebration of Lights.
Each summer, this string of charming villages located on the southeast coast of Long Island plays host to New York's A-list — from Wall Street bigwigs to music moguls — who escape the city to weekend at beachfront estates worthy of an Architectural Digest cover. But if you plan ahead, more modest house rentals are also available in Southampton, East Hampton, Bridgehampton, Amagansett and Wainscott. Besides sunning and socializing, the Hamptons are known for farm stands offering fresh local produce, restaurants specializing in Long Island seafood and farm-to-table cuisine and vineyards ideal for lazy afternoons sipping wine.

Just 10 minutes from Punta Cana airport on the new 33,000-acre Cap Cana development, this hotel is the ideal family getaway. You can swim right out of many of the 299 Mediterranean-style villas, which all have kitchens, sofa beds, and either a balcony or patio. Horseback riding, paintball, sailing, fishing, and the Jack Nicklaus–designed Punta Espada Golf Course are in easy reach.
Costa Rica has two seasons: December to April is dry season (high season) and May to November is rainy season (low season). Low season is the cheapest time to visit, when flights can be half off. It's approximately $800 to $1,000 round-trip from major cities like Atlanta and non-direct flights are slightly cheaper, about $500 to $700, from west coast cities like Los Angeles and Seattle. It's not uncommon to call hotels directly and further negotiate nightly rates. Many people prefer rainy season as the rain is short, and rain makes the rain forests and jungles more vibrant and lush. Best of all? Fewer crowds.

With no cars allowed on the island (minus a few beach trucks with benches in the back), a vacation on Little St. Simons Island, a private island resort off the Georgia coast, is an escape that Mark Twain himself might have invented. Life here revolves around biking and beachcombing, hiking and fishing, boating and kayaking—guided by a khaki-clad team of naturalists. At day's end, the resort's 32 (maximum) guests gather at dinner served family-style in a rustic, circa-1917 lodge to compare adventures and indulge in the garden's fresh vegetables and fruit, then head off to sleep in blissfully tech-free cottages among the palms. Nightly rates include lodging; boat transfers to and from the island; three full meals daily; beverages including soft drinks, beer, and wine; and all island activities including use of recreation gear (and easy access to plenty of bug spray), naturalist-led expeditions and talks, plus a fantastic curation of books, historic photographs, and beachcombed collections in the cozy lodge.

An unpaved maze of roads leads the way to Le Rêve, an intimate, 25-suite boutique property with more romance and charm than its neighboring mega-resorts combined. Couples hang out in private hammocks by the garden suites, accented with colorful, locally sourced Mexican tiles. Bungalows come with private plunge pools overlooking a generous stretch of ocean. Snorkeling gear is on the house.

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.
Uninterrupted ocean views, stunning scenery, minimal crowds, and good old peace and quiet. If that sounds like your idea of vacation heaven, then keep reading. We’ve found 17 places across America that offer all this and more. And not just cities or towns, but specific beaches that are known for total relaxation—and minimal crowds. Some of our picks have a low-key village feel, others are so remote you’ll probably be able to add human-spotting to your list of activities.
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