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.
Iron Springs Resort can put you in touch with the natural wonders of the Pacific Northwest whether your heart is drawn toward the deep woods or the sea. Clifftop cabins look out onto the wide sands of Copalis Beach, Washington, where you can fish, dig for razor clams (shown here), or walk for miles. Hop in a canoe or kayak for a paddle up the Copalis River to see a haunting “ghost forest” created by earthquakes, hike the 100-acre oceanfront resort’s groomed trails, or get a little wild and venture into the peaceful, ancient Hoh Rain Forest within nearby Olympic National Park.
Florida is a classic beach destination in the U.S., and despite its popularity, you can still find some great deals on beach trips in the state. For the best deals, look in beach towns along the Florida Panhandle and along Florida’s Gulf Coast. You can reach the popular towns of Panama City and Pensacola by flying into the Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport. The temperatures in Pensacola, for example, range between the 70’s and 90’s from April to October, which is perfect beach weather. Other great areas to stay in for your Florida Panhandle beach trip are Destin, St. Andrews, and Grayton Beach.
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.
Brimming with art galleries, shingled storefronts and charming mom-and-pop restaurants, Cannon Beach has become one of Oregon’s must-see beach towns. And thanks to the area’s abundance of natural scenery, you won’t have to shell out your savings to keep busy. Hit the more than five miles of sand between Ecola Creek and Arch Cape for unbeatable views of Haystack Rock, one of the state’s most recognizable landmarks, or bike the 16-mile trail to Manzanita, stopping to take in dramatic coastal views in Oswald West State Park. After, grab a broiled shrimp sandwich and a slice of apple walnut cake from Lazy Susan Café, then check out the town’s buzzy art scene at White Bird Gallery, the oldest fine arts gallery in the area. After a long day of exploring, rest your head at The Ocean Lodge, an affordable family-friendly resort with 45 water-facing rooms, a free continental breakfast, and a cozy library stocked with books and movies.
Whether you prefer a good siesta or fiesta, there are enough beaches in Mexico to satisfy every travel whim. The beaches along Cancun, for example, thrum with activity all day and night, but those of Tulum can lend some much-needed peace. And Orbitz has plenty of beach resorts all over sunny Mexico that beckon with soft, white sand and those beautiful ocean waves.
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Not all beach trips have to be about bikinis and sunbathing, and Oregon’s stunning beaches prove that beach vacations can go beyond the stereotypes. You’ll only need to drive about an hour and a half from Portland to reach this area, but you’ll feel like you’re a world away. Haystack Rock is the iconic natural landmark here that you’ll see protruding from the ocean a couple hundred feet from the surface. The route to get here highlights stunning views of the coastline, so pull over a couple times to snap photos of the scenery along the way. Ecola State Park nearby is great for hiking, biking, and flying a kite.
Want to tick another state off your visited list? Then make it Alabama, where Gulf Shores offers nature (it's home to 6,500-acre Gulf State Park), entertainment (outdoor concerts) and foodie fun (from shrimp to barbecue). In total, there are 32 miles of white-sand beaches that let you explore the region's beautiful landscapes as you spy on seabirds (eagles, too), alligators and even black bears. Accommodations include condo rentals, B&Bs, motels, hotels and campsites.
Often travelers don’t understand exactly what kind of a vacation they are booking and what best beach vacations mean to them. For example, during our stay at a secluded resort on Maui, many people complained that there was nothing to do. The hotel manager helped them arrange a vacation on the much busier West Side, but most resorts won’t be this accommodating, so be sure to research your destination before you book your stay. The actual resort may offer pools, beaches, golf, tennis and other activities, but if it is pretty isolated like in the case of East Maui, where the drive to the nearest nightclub or shopping takes several hours, that may not be for everyone.
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.
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.
The city of Newport in Oregon has lots to offer at a reasonable price. The rugged seacoast provides the perfect place for exploring tide pools, hunting for fossils, or spotting a grey whale. Guests can drop by the city’s two lighthouses, one of which is the largest in the state. The Oregon Coast Aquarium houses all sorts of sea creatures, from sharks to sea otters. The museum’s Secrets of Shipwrecks exhibit dives into the mysteries of the deep with lots of activities for children. The nearby Hatfield Marine Science Center continues the educational afternoon, letting visitors examine local marine life in touch tanks or gaze at a giant Pacific octopus.
Built in 1932 to connect remote fishing villages, Nova Scotia's 185-mile Cabot Trail also offers a connection to the past. Cape Breton Highlands National Park provides the scenery; the French Acadian, Scottish, Irish, and First Nations people who live in the towns and own the restaurants and shops provide the traditions and conversation. While the scenery will astonish you all along this route, don't rush. Consider pulling over in Cape Breton for a for a whale watching tour with Oshan Whale Watch (the tours are equipped with a hydrophone so you can actually hear those magnificent sea mammals below you). Or stretch your legs on the 2½-mile Middle Head Trail in Cape Breton Highlands National Park, which leads to the end of a long peninsula and offers sweeping views. Bed down at Keltic Lodge Resort and Spa, where the cozy cottages have their own fireplaces; 902-285-2880 or kelticlodge.ca. Book it here: Keltic Lodge Resort and Spa.
Virginia Beach is another famous U.S. beach area that has a good reputation of being budget friendly. To save some money and enjoy the nature that surrounds you, plan to set up camp in a tent or RV at First Landing State Park. You can walk to the beach from your campsite and avoid many of the crowds that visit the actual Virginia Beach nearby. Of course, Virginia Beach itself is fun too and has a great boardwalk that’s peaceful to stroll along. There are many hotels right along this beach, but if you’re willing to bike or drive a bit further, you can find more affordable accommodations farther away from the prime tourist area. Surfing is popular here, and you might even be able to check out a surfing competition in the summer!
Huntington Beach, otherwise known as Surf City U.S.A. is a mecca for surfers of all ages and abilities. Lessons and equipment rental are available for individuals and groups at the Banzai Surf School, an accredited member of the National Surf Schools & Instructors Association. Beachgoers who would rather catch some rays than catch a wave can stretch out on a beach towel along 10 miles of award-winning sandy shoreline. Beach volleyball is a popular waterfront sport and tournaments are held throughout the year. For bicycle rentals and burger baskets, tourists can hit one of the concession stands along the beach. Things to Do in Huntington Beach
Historic lighthouses, wild horses and scenic flights in open-cockpit biplanes above the spot where the Wright Brothers first flew — a vacation in the Outer Banks can include all this, and more. With a large inventory of beach house rentals (and quite a few resorts and inns, too) towns such as Duck, Corolla, Hatteras, Nags Head and Kitty Hawk are scattered along this series of sand-dune-studded barrier islands, making it a top spot for leisurely getaways with friends and multi-generational family vacations. Fresh seafood is plentiful and activities include hang gliding, bike riding and deep-sea fishing.
When planning your dream beach vacation, be sure you know what you want and what you are getting. This may seem obvious, but during our travels we’ve talked to enough disappointed vacationers to say that this is the most important point when choosing the best beach vacation for you. While a resort on the beach in Thailand may sound fun and exotic compared to Southern California, be sure to consider everything that the trip entails: the cost, long airplane flight, recommended vaccinations, etc.
At party-hardy Myrtle Beach, you won’t get the peace and serenity of more under-the-radar beach escapes. What you will find? Plenty of budget-friendly accommodations, family-friendly attractions (think: mini golf courses and amusement parks), outlet shopping, and 60 miles of sandy shoreline. And if you make the Marina Inn Dunes your home base, you’ll have access to a more secluded stretch of sand—plus, free umbrellas, chairs and towels, and water sport equipment. There are more than 1,700 restaurants in the area, but you don’t want to miss the mouthwatering shrimp and grits at Mr. Fish, or the tropical drinks at 8th Avenue Tiki Bar & Grill, whose motto is “Good vibes. Good food. Good music. Good times.”
Southerners love the beach. But if you are looking for vacation ideas that can take you far away from the crowds, here is our list of the best secret beaches where you can stretch your toes in the sand. Part of the pleasure is the journey, like the hour-and-fifteen-minute boat trip to secluded spots like West Ship Island, 11 miles southeast of Gulfport, Mississippi. Traveling over water is also the only option if you want to see the secret beaches of Keewaydin Island. If you prefer vacation ideas with a sense of adventure, plan to ride horses along Driftwood Beach on Jekyll Island, or take a four-wheel-drive excursion along a 55-mile-long stretch of Padre Island National Seashore. If your idea of the perfect secret beaches in the South are simply secluded places to unwind and relax, stroll along any of these wonderful shores and get your toes wet.
Free iPad rentals, white-on-white leather furnishings, cute naming conventions (B Active gym, B Nourished restaurant)—sound familiar? If it weren’t for the rates, you could mistake this hotel for a pricer single-letter chain (cough, W, cough). But we love how the 240-room B Ocean does affordable without nickel-and-diming guests. Wi-Fi is free, ocean views are standard, and spa services are a bargain.
You might be forgiven for thinking you’ve stepped back in time when you arrive on Anna Maria Island. Local residents are proud to have a hometown that feels like Florida from long ago, with its super-relaxed, quaint feel and its Mom and Pop stores. It also has seven miles of wide sugar-sand beaches to explore—Bean Point Beach is an especially secluded spot.