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.
Eager to move on after a protracted civil war, Sri Lanka has hit that intriguing sweet spot—when a place is stirring with change but not yet overrun. Bentota, on the beach-lined southwestern coast, is one center of activity. Noted architect Geoffrey Bawa designed this building, which was renovated and renamed Avani in late 2011. The 75 rooms are large and contemporary, with rain showers and private patios. Some face the palm-ringed pool, with the shimmering Indian Ocean beyond.
Latin America’s new it destination is Panama, and its mascot is the starchitect-designed, sail-like Trump Ocean Club. Everything is over the top, from the slick service (customized mini-bars, personalized stationery) to the soon-to-open private island beach accessible by sailboat. You’ll spend most of your time on the 13th-floor deck, where cabanas surround five infinity pools with views of the water and the tony Punta Pacifica neighborhood.
Set next to the blue waters of the Grand Traverse Bay is Traverse City, known for its Cherry Festival, scenic driving territory, and quiet cycle and hiking trails with unspoiled views. You’ll want to make a stop at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore to discover its beaches (North Bar Lake Beach is particularly stunning), sand dunes, and forests. If you’re more of a lakeside cabin person than sandy beach house, Spider Lake is the perfect spot for kayaking, canoeing, or lounging on the dock.
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Villas are famously cheap in Phuket. You can rent an entire apartment in Phuket Town for as little as $26 a night, or a 2-bedroom villa with private pool for $48 per night. You can even afford to splurge on a beachfront villa with private pool, like this 3-bedroom (accommodating six guests) for $379 a night. With 6 people, that's $63 per person per night.
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.
A half-hour drive from Myrtle Beach’s high rises brings you to a little beach town full of rambling rental houses. Sunset Beach proudly preserves its undeveloped beachfront with wide setbacks―that means a spacious beach. Lofty sand dunes stretch 3 miles south to the inlet connecting the Carolinas on Bird Island state nature preserve. sunsetbeachnc.gov
Everyone in central Florida who wants to have an epic beach day makes their way here on the weekend. What results is one of the best beach parties in America, a sand-borne tailgate party where instead of playing football, people play in the ocean. If you find yourself on a landlocked Florida vacation to theme parks or otherwise, spending a day here is affordable and a whole lot of fun.
When you dream of an island getaway — the kind that comes complete with glittering hotels along a white-sand beach — you've got Honolulu in mind. Oahu's largest city and the state capital, Honolulu is home to many top attractions: sample a great dim-sum lunch in vibrant Chinatown or check out Aloha Tower, the city's landmark harbor-side clocktower surrounded by a marketplace brimming with shops and popular restaurants. Honolulu is also home to famed Waikiki Beach, located between the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor and Diamond Head. Just as you've seen in countless postcards, Waikiki's Beach's white sand runs along a 2-mile stretch of coast, flanked by dozens of high-rise hotels. The area is popular for sunbathing, swimming, surfing, body-boarding, picnicking, and outrigger canoeing. At the end of the beach is Diamond Head, one of the world's most famous volcanic rings. Although no diamonds were ever found here, the calcite crystals in the lava rock sparkle in the bright Hawaiian sunshine.
Sail (metaphorically or literally) into beautiful Newport, Rhode Island, for a summer girlfriend getaway at the timeless Hotel Viking, which is celebrating its 90th anniversary with a makeover that has brightened up the lobby and restaurant but keeps intact the history and charm that makes this a great Newport address. The hotel’s central location at the head of Bellevue Avenue is convenient to the shops and restaurants there and Thames Street, as well as the city’s fabled mansions and Cliff Walk (shown here). Packages include discounts at the hotel’s SpaFjor, and the rooftop Top of Newport Bar is the best place in town for sunset cocktails with friends. Book it here: Hotel Viking.
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.
Beach Vacation Packing List: Beach attire will vary by destination, but generally beach resorts require clothes that are much more casual than city destinations. Pack a few comfortable outfits for daytime activities such as hiking, and dresses for a romantic dinner under the stars. If you are worried that your attire is too casual, call the resort concierge to inquire about the dress code in the hotel restaurant. Tropical resorts tend to be very casual – in Hawaii it’s completely acceptable to go to dinner at a fancy restaurant in flip-flops because it’s expected that vacationers will want to let their hair down and not worry too much about bringing along their entire wardrobe. Other essentials to not forget include great sunglasses, sunscreen and your mask for snorkeling. One year old and two year old kids will add more items to your list, because you don’t want to worry about hunting down essentials once you check into your hotel.
From white sandy shorelines to first-class wineries, Pismo Beach has lots to offer vacationers. This classic beach town in California’s central coast sits right along the Pacific Highway, halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Pismo Beach has no shortage of outdoor activities as visitors have their pick of golfing, horseback riding, surfing, body boarding, and fishing. Suntanned shoppers can grab great deals at Pismo Beach Premium Outlets. Meanwhile, the award-winning boardwalk gives guests a chance to soak in the sun while satisfying their stomachs at the many restaurants and food stands.
They say ’twas a bold man that first ate an oyster, but you don’t have to be an adventurer to enjoy a drive along the Virginia Oyster Trail. Virginia produces more farm-raised oysters than any other U.S. East Coast state, and the Oyster Trail combines a lovely drive on the Eastern Shore with an opportunity to meet local oystermen like those at Topping, Virginia's Rappahannock Oyster Co., who will show you how they bring these magnificent mollusks from water to table (don't miss the company's Merroir Tasting Room, shown here). For oysters fresh off the reef, the Dog and Oyster Vineyard in Irvington is a great choice—after all, this is Virginia wine country, too. After a day of shucking and slurping, the Tides Inn in Irvington keeps you close to the water: the resort is set on a peninsula between Chesapeake Bay and the Rappahannock and Potomac rivers—in other words, oyster central. (In the fall, Tides Inn offers a cool oystering experience package worth returning for.)
Travelers looking for an authentic Maine experience need look no further than Bar Harbor, Maine. A town that was once a retreat for the elite now offers affordable accommodations and activities at every price point. The free Island Explorer shuttle provides seasonal service to all three of the area’s public beaches. Tours and equipment rentals are available for a wide variety of watersports, including kayaking, canoeing, and paddleboarding. Abundant hiking and biking trails lead visitors along miles of scenic coastline. The perfect end to a perfect day is a lobster dinner at one of Bar Harbor’s many restaurants.
Best Beach Vacations - Beach Resort Activities: The great thing about vacationing on the beach is an almost endless choice of activities: surfing, swimming, sea kayaking, beach combing, snorkeling, scuba diving, fishing, boat rides, whale watching, dolphin swim, paddleboarding, romantic sunset dinners on the water, sunset cruises, morning yoga on the sand, horseback riding, scenic hikes and more. Pick a few of these activities that are the most important to you and find a hotel that will give you easy access to most of them. The most important thing on vacation is simplicity, not having to drive for miles to get to your next adventure because that’s the time that you could have been relaxing on the beach with a cool drink.
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 »
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.
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.
Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman, aka “Dr. Beach,” recommended this island just north of Clearwater Beach five years in a row, and it was the national winner in 2008. It’s an all-natural beach, ideal for swimming, sunning, and shelling. Take a private boat or the Caladesi Connection ferry to stroll the 3-mile beach, kayak its mangrove trails, or hike under live oaks. floridastateparks.org/caladesiisland
Mention Peru, and most people think of Machu Picchu. But the country’s northern Pacific coast beaches are becoming hot spots for surfers and sun-worshippers. Many congregate at this new hotel from architect Jordi Puig. In the main building's stacked wooden cubes, floor-to-ceiling glass walls bring light and views of the vibrant landscape in to stark white modernist rooms. Steps lead down to a 90-foot infinity pool stretching toward the ocean.
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.