Pickleball proves that active sports and competition don’t have to end when you get older: this mix of badminton, tennis, and ping-pong has exploded in popularity in recent years, and seniors comprise the majority of competitors. The well-regarded tennis center at the Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, has eight pickleball courts as well as five POP Tennis courts (the latter appeal to young and beginner players, since it uses a bigger ball eliminates the challenging overhead serve); pickleball packages include instruction, villa stays, bike rentals, and daily court time. The resort also has a trio of 18-hole golf courses, kayaking on an 11-mile inland lagoon, surfing, and other water sports.
Avoid the interstate and take the slow road to the Lowcountry with a history-soaked drive between Savannah, Georgia, and Charleston, South Carolina, two of the Old South’s most beautiful port cities. Follow highways 17, 21, and 170 for a coastal road trip that includes a stop in Beaufort, with its lovingly preserved antebellum downtown (shown here), and can be extended with side jaunts to a pair of national wildlife refuges, the beaches of Hilton Head Island, or the exclusive resort enclave of Kiawah Island. Lay your head at Savannah’s Mansion on Forsyth Park, a bona-fide Southern mansion, and Charleston’s Market Pavilion Hotel, where an awesome rooftop bar peers over the city’s historic market and harbor. Book it here: Mansion on Forsyth Park and Market Pavilion Hotel.
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.
OK, so getting here might be a little trickier than it was a few months ago. But if you can finagle it, a flight to Varadero is about $200 from Miami. Varadero Beach is relatively unspoiled; the diving here makes you feel like you’re the first human who’s ever been underwater. Add in some of the friendliest people in the world working along the sand, and you’ve got the best all-around beach day in the Caribbean.
Budget for the trip: If you’re a diver, trips are a pretty good value with a full day of three dives and a long boat ride for about $250. Flights to Belize City are about $350 from US hubs, though San Pedro is the nearest city. There, nicer hotels set you back about $90 a night, but you can find decent ones for $50. Your daily cost aside from diving is under $30.
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.
Some places just make you go ahhh, and these neighboring islands on the west coast of Florida are among them. Their endless white-sand beaches — many scattered with delicate sea shells — offer panoramic views of the clear, calm waters and golden sunsets of the Gulf of Mexico. Sanibel has a distinctly casual charm with small traditional beachfront motels, while Captiva is golf-cart-friendly, with legendary eatery The Bubble Room and the large South Seas Island Resort offering activities of all kinds.
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.
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A Beaches Vacation includes more of everything for everyone, from every land and water sport under the sun, to anytime gourmet dining at up to 21 restaurants and luxurious family-friendly suites. Kids of all ages love our Kids Camps, while teens have their own scene with Xbox Play Lounge, and Liquid nightclub. Beaches offers more inclusions, more choices, and more ways to enjoy time together.
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.
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.
If you’re an active traveler who wants the sun and sand but not the sedentary lifestyle, put Virginia Beach on your radar. The city is renowned for its water sports (surfing, fishing, kitesurfing), its three-mile-long boardwalk—which features a separate bike path for rollerblading, biking or surrey rentals—and its sugary 100-yard-wide beach. More of an environmentalist than a beach bum? Venture out to First Landing State Park, where there are nine walking trails totaling 19 miles, and a bike path that winds around lagoons, large cypress trees and rare plants. Or simply stick around your hotel, The Founders Inn and Spa, to indulge in a pampering treatment in the spa and to treat yourself to a reasonably priced prix-fixe dinner with wine pairings at the Swan Terrace restaurant.
The Crystal Coast of North Carolina has over 85 miles of coastline, including Pine Knoll Shores, a serene beach town with maritime forests. Pine Knoll Shores hosts a range of affordable accommodations to suit different budgets, such as condominiums, houses, and several hotels. Travelers can save by purchasing group deals and other travel packages available online. The region has no shortage of things to do, with activities like boating, fishing, and hiking. The North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores offers aquatic adventures for the entire family with exhibits featuring sharks, river otters, and a rare white sea turtle. Photo: Pine Knoll Shores
Robin and Sue Ricketts, who helped create and manage such luxurious island hotels as Malliouhana and Cap Juluca. Now the Ricketts have embarked upon a new project: the 27-room Anacaona Boutique Hotel, a stylish and affordable alternative on an island that is known for its sky-high prices. The modern, tropical rooms (Frette linens; gold and lime pillows; iPod docking stations) look out onto one of two swimming pools, and those on the upper floors have vistas of the sea. The mile-long Meads Bay beach is just steps from the property.
Tamarindo Beach is along the green, mountainous northwest coast of Costa Rica. Not only does it offer the remote, relaxing views of the Pacific the country is known for, it’s also a hub for sea turtles, and several companies offer tours to watch the nightly ritual of turtle nesting. It’s also bordered by the largest mangrove estuary in Central America at Estero de Tamarindo.
With pristine, white-sand beaches and a heavy dose of Southern charm, Pensacola is your quintessential all-American beach escape. It’s also wildly affordable, thanks to the many direct flights from major cities and its wide range of budget-minded hotels and restaurants. We love the Margaretville Beach Hotel, a sprawling beach resort done up in coastal hues of whites and blues, and overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. There are plenty of freebies—including WiFi and beer coupons—and the rooms are bright and breezy, with expansive balconies and sweeping ocean views. After you’ve hit the beach, stroll through the city’s historic downtown, where you’ll find restored Colonial-and Victorian-era buildings and an array of cool restaurants—like Al Fresco, a unique outdoor dining experience comprised of five food trucks serving everything from ice cold oysters to mahi mahi tacos.
If you’re a fisherman, birdwatcher or stargazer at heart, Chincoteague should be at the top of your vacation bucket list. This barrier island off the coast of Virginia doesn’t have the bars, restaurants or commercial development that many coastal destinations attract, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be bored. Take advantage of the area’s hidden fishing spots, winding bike paths and sunrise kayak tours to immerse yourself in an untouched piece of natural paradise.
Girls who grew up loving horses will be in heaven in Del Mar, California, a San Diego suburb that’s home to the exquisitely beautiful Del Mar Race Track, the Del Mar Horse Park (a mecca for riding events), and the Fairmont Grand Del Mar resort, which has its own equestrian center and stable of horses reserved for guests. Racing and riding stays can be built around golf outings, spa treatments, surf lessons, dining at the hotel’s Relais & Chateaux Addison restaurant, and late-night dancing at Club M. The Del Mar racing season only runs a few precious weeks each year, but visit anytime to enjoy miles of riding and hiking in the Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve, located just outside the windows of your luxury Fairmont suite. Book it here: Fairmont Grand Del Mar.
While most Americans have never heard of it, Fernando de Noronha is regarded by many Brazilians as having the most beautiful beaches in the country—and that’s saying a lot coming from a nation full of sand and sun connoisseurs. With its steep bunny-ear hills that soar up from undeveloped white and gold beaches, Fernando de Noronha might look more at home alongside Bora Bora and the other islands of French Polynesia than it does hundreds of miles from mainland Brazil. But unlike those Pacific islands, Fernando de Noronha is cheaper and easier to get to, at least from the East Coast of the U.S.
Best Beach Vacations - Total Travel Time and Distance: How far do you want to go? Reaching an amazing beach resort destination in the South Pacific will take several airline flights, a time change (which means jetlag for a few days) and it will be expensive. But once you get there, you can expect an experience of a lifetime. If you are looking for dream beach vacations, that's the way to go.
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
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Hobe Sound may not be an obvious choice for best beach vacations in America, but it’s truly an unspoiled paradise—just what you want when you need to escape the daily grind. Don’t miss Blowing Rocks Preserve, where at high tide you might get to see sea water spraying up through holes in the limestone that’s embedded in the sands here. Running right alongside Hobe Sound is the long, narrow stretch of Jupiter Island, where you can bike your way along the beach or join a tour and watch baby turtles hatching.