Palm Coast, Florida This is the place for people who love dramatic natural settings. Nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway about 35 minutes south of St. Augustine, this golden-sand state park is rocky―covered with coquina, or “sand” that is actually made of crushed shells. Three- to 4-foot boulders of compressed coquina dot the beach. Each rock looks as if it were sculpted by a trained hand.

There’s a gentle elegance to Akaryn Samui’s villas. Four-poster beds with 400-thread-count linens rest beneath whirring vintage-style fans. Sea breezes drift off of Hanuman Bay to your private garden and plunge pool. If you can rouse yourself from your outdoor daybed, there are sunrise and sunset yoga classes, a holistic spa, a boutique, and a tea salon.


Known for its family-friendly attractions, its proximity to Baja Mexico and its gorgeous coastlines, San Diego makes a perfect Southern California escape. The oldest port on the West Coast, San Diego is home to such famous attractions as the San Diego Zoo and SeaWorld. In the heart of the city is Balboa Park, one of the finest urban parks in the country, home to numerous museums, gardens, galleries and theaters. Take advantage of this vacation spot's perpetually idyllic climate and stay outside: you can swim, surf, kayak, bicycle, in-line skate, golf, and more in California's second largest city. But it's not just about the endless beaches or Shamu the whale: San Diego also boasts a vibrant art scene and hopping nightlife. Go to the historic Gaslamp Quarter (so-called because of the gas lamps that lined the streets) to check out both the well-preserved Victorian architecture of many modern storefronts and an array of fashionable restaurants and bars. Since San Diego is just 16 miles from Mexico, be sure to sample some tasty Mexican fare while you're there.
It’s worth experiencing both Tobago’s beaches and its wild interior. Tobago was purportedly the inspiration for Robinson Crusoe, and even though the deserted beaches described in the novel were based on observations made almost 300 years ago, you can still find such beaches on the island today. Try going to Pirate’s Bay, which was used in the 1954 film version of the novel.
Mendocino is a fun and funky destination for a drive north of San Francisco that takes in the majesty of the redwoods and the magic of the Pacific Coast Highway. Perched on scenic headlands overlooking the ocean and the Big River, this laid-back town is full of quirky shops and surrounded by parkland where you can hike, bike, and camp in splendid settings from old-growth forests to driftwood-covered beaches. The exclusive, 48-room Heritage House Resort sits on 37 acres of unspoiled Mendocino coastline, offering couples the option of unwinding on a private beach, cuddling on Duxiana beds in oceanview rooms, or drifting away at the resort’s soon-to-open spa. Book it here: Heritage House Resort.
They don’t call this “The World’s Most Famous Beach” for nothing, but it’s so much more than the ultimate spring break destination. Clean, compact sand, trained lifeguards and areas designated for “on-the-beach” parking—no need to haul your gear all the way from the car—make this beach a great spot for families. The boardwalk and small theme park are both kid-approved attractions.

TravelBird put together what it calls the Beach Price Index, an attempt to compare the cost of a day at the beach in 310 places around the world, accounting for water, food, sunscreen, snacks, and local currency. Some of those spots are in hard-to-reach locales, others offer beaches a bit more on the rugged side than powdery sand and swaying palms. But of the places you can reasonably fly to from the States -- and some even within the USA -- we’ve picked out 15 exceptional yet dirt cheap beach jaunts you can take this year.


There’s a reason San Diego consistently ranks as one of the most family-friendly beach destinations in the States: it’s beautiful, it’s affordable, and you’ll never run out of things to do—especially if you bed down at the funky Hotel La Jolla. The high-rise hotel sports a retro coastal design (think: wood paneling, '70s beach photography, and mid-century furniture), and features an outdoor pool, spa services, a poolside bar, and a bike and hula hoop-borrowing program. A popular place to start the weekend is The Cottage—a sunny eatery known for its lively atmosphere and mouth-watering lemon ricotta pancakes. Grab your camera and continue on to La Jolla Cove to watch sea lions bathe on sandstone rock formations, or check out the latest exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art.
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.
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.
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.
Surfers are no longer the only ones lured to Panama’s Pacific beaches. Boldface names like Angelina Jolie have been spotted in the Pacific village of Pedasí, four hours from Panama City. That’s where you’ll find the rustic-but-stylish El Sitio Hotel. Accommodations range from rooms with bunk beds to oceanfront suites with private balconies; whitewashed walls, ceiling fans, and dark wood furnishings are a theme throughout.
• Napili Beach, Kapalua, Hawaii: The compact size and crescent shape of this northwest Maui beach keep kids always in view, and the swimming, boogie boarding, bodysurfing, and snorkeling keep them happy. “Low-key” sums up the Napili Kai Beach Resort (808/669-6271 or napilikai.com) and other quiet condo resorts that perch above the sand. Bonuses: great sunsets and a cove full of turtles.
Oahu is expensive but has some of Hawaii's most inviting beaches. Head to Waikiki Beach, where the water remains relatively calm and lifeguards are always present. When you need a break from the beach, trek the kid-friendly Makapu'u Point Lighthouse Trail or explore some of the island's historic sights, such as the Battleship Missouri Memorial. Read More »

The “Spice Island” has something for everyone, including Afro-Caribbean culture, one of the Caribbean’s prettiest colonial cities, fragrant spice plantations, dozens of beaches and bays, and a mountainous national park great for hiking. In the capital of St. George, you can walk along narrow colonial streets lined with a rainbow of pastel-painted houses and shops and watch masted ships sail in and out of the harbor. While in town, browse the spice and food markets and visit the 18th-century French fortification Fort George.


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.
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