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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.
The Algarve is along Portugal’s southern coast and is a European favorite for holidays filled with sunshine and sand. The big city here is Faro, and Faro Airport is where you may fly into for this beach trip. Along the Algarve, you’ll find quiet villages, exciting party towns, and a little of everything in between. This is a great beach trip for travelers looking for authenticity and cultural experiences that go beyond just lounging in the sand. It’s a favorite spot among travelers from the UK and Northern Europe. Take a drive along the coast to see the beautiful cliffs, and make sure to check out Cabo de Sao Vincente, the Parque Natural da Ria Formosa, and Alte & Salir.

For diversity of nature on a budget, few beaches in the western hemisphere can rival this little island in the Lighthouse Reef atoll on the Belize barrier reef. Half Moon Caye is a national park, with crystal clear waters and world-class wall diving. Because the area is completely undeveloped, it’s absolutely teeming with marine creatures and birds. It happens to be the breeding ground for the hemisphere’s only red-footed booby colony.
Not far from the new-hotel construction zone in the middle of Jekyll Island, this secret shore on the northern tip offers solitude and haunting beauty. Ghostly tree-skeletons rise from the sand, overlooking the St. Simons lighthouse across the St. Simons Sound. These trees died from erosion that has taken place over the last hundred to two hundred years.
Maui is nicknamed "The Magic Isle," and with good reason. In addition to its famous beaches (Kaanapali, Wailea and Makena to name a few), this Hawaiian island is home to Haleakala (a surreal volcanic crater that's 10,023 feet above sea level), Molokini (a crescent-shaped offshore lava formation offering superb snorkeling, Upcountry (a lush area with historic cowboy towns and lavender farms) and Hana (a remote spot perched on black-lava landscape and accessible solely via the twisting, turning Hana Highway). Add in humpback whales (from November to March), spinner dolphins and a half dozen golf courses and Maui has something for everyone.
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.
Located along Florida’s Atlantic Coast just north of Daytona Beach, Ormond Beach gained its claim to fame as the “Birthplace of Speed,” where Henry Ford first tested his automotive innovations. Today, Ormond Beach hosts annual events with reenactments of its early racing days along sandy speedways. Still, Ormond manages to maintain its small-town tranquility and doesn’t allow vehicles on the northern end of the beach. Vacationers can spend the day swimming and sunbathing or go canoeing and fishing. Ormond Beach accommodates a variety of budgets, with options like upscale vacation rentals and reasonably priced motels.
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.
The beautiful island of Molokai is where you’ll find an authentic Hawaiian welcome without the crowds or modern interruptions you get on some of the more popular neighboring islands. This is a place where you’ll have certain beaches to yourself and where the scenery is nothing short of breathtaking. Seek out the black sands of Awahua Beach (you may need a guide to help you find it). The water’s a bit choppy so be careful swimming, but the peace and quiet is unbeatable. You could explore the Pali coast on a leisurely sea kayaking trip or head up, up and away, sweeping over the area in a helicopter. With beachfront bungalows or tropical rainforest cabins for rent, Molokai is truly one of the best beach vacations to explore your inner zen.
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