Located just several miles up the coast from Ormond, Flagler Beach boasts excellent fishing and equally beautiful views of the Atlantic. It’s the perfect place to send a kite soaring or take an early-morning bike ride at low tide. Trek through beautiful natural terrain at Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area, where you might spot some wildlife as you kayak through the mangroves.
If you’ve always dreamed of carving up the surf like a pro, Surf City’s family-friendly beach—where the summertime waves are small and gentle—is the ideal spot to take a lesson or two. Pack up your beach gear before sunset to catch the vivid clouds from stroller-friendly Surf City Pier. And don’t forget to pop into the souvenir shop for some hand-dipped ice cream.
International beach vacations were once reserved for that unapologetically wealthy tech scion in your freshman dorm who casually mentioned his “summer on the Côte” while everyone else hoped to scrounge gas money to Panama City. And, true, trips to St.-Tropez aren’t exactly going at a deep discount these days. But that doesn’t mean you can’t take a solid beach trip on a moderate budget -- inside the United States, especially.
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.
Need a break from the real world? There’s no better place to relax than on a warm, sunny beach—but for most travelers, it’s not relaxing to spend a fortune on your getaway. Luckily, there are plenty of off-the-beaten-path beach vacations that won’t cost you an arm and a leg. Check out these lesser-known beach destinations that go easy on your wallet.
Hang 10 with your finest friends in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, which hosts surfing camps and lessons year-round in one of the best watersports destinations on the East Coast (and is a short drive from Wilmington). Combine mind, body and spirit at the Women’s Surf, SUP, & Yoga Retreat in August, where you’ll learn to surf and standup paddleboard, or just sign up for a lesson while you’re in town: they’re offered daily between Memorial Day and Labor Day. The waters off the laid-back village of Wrightsville Beach are also a great place to kayak or sail; fuel up for your next activity with coffee and acai bowls at the newly opened Sun Days Cafe; get an afternoon espresso and shop for gorgeous shark teeth jewelry at The Workshop, and then settle in for outrageously delicious, Panamanian-inspired cuisine (and cocktails) at Ceviche's.The perfect stay on Wrightsville Beach is the Blockade Runner Beach Resort, a classic 60s beach hotel redone in great boutique style (and the new culinary home of star chef Jessica Cabo).
You’ve heard of pop-up shops and restaurants. Now meet the pop-up hotel, developed by the Berlin-based Design Hotels brand. Papaya Playa’s 99 thatched-roof cabanas are outfitted with local textiles and hammocks and attract visiting artists, designers, and DJs. They collaborate at a beach amphitheater, spin at Mayan full moon parties, and share freshly baked bread from the clay oven.
When travelers think of beach vacations, the word “cheap” is not the first thing that comes to mind. Many may be surprised to learn that the United States has dozens of beach getaways for solo travelers, couples, and families that are easy on the budget. Non-motorized watersports, hiking, biking, and exploring can all be affordable alternatives to otherwise pricey resort stays. Whether it’s California surfing, Maine tide pooling, or Florida snorkeling that excites the traveler, an affordable beach vacation awaits. These 25 US beach towns welcome visitors to an array of sights and activities for their next seaside getaway.
If you’ve always dreamed of carving up the surf like a pro, Surf City’s family-friendly beach—where the summertime waves are small and gentle—is the ideal spot to take a lesson or two. Pack up your beach gear before sunset to catch the vivid clouds from stroller-friendly Surf City Pier. And don’t forget to pop into the souvenir shop for some hand-dipped ice cream.
Most of the action on Staniel Cay centers around the friendly Staniel Cay Yacht Club, where yachters and landlubbers alike stay, dine, and congregate. Here you can rent 13- and 17-foot boats that will allow you to cruise to some of the uninhabited islets nearby, see marine life like nurse sharks, and visit with the famous swimming pigs of Big Major Cay, which paddle out to sea in hopes of getting a handout from sailors. You can also rent snorkel gear to use at Thunderball Grotto, a natural fishbowl featured in the James Bond film Thunderball. Diving, kayaking, and fishing are other options.
At only seven square miles, the island is easily explored by dune buggy. Pack some snorkel gear and head to beaches like Baia do Sancho and Baia dos Porcos, where you’ll see stingrays, sea turtles, and a wide variety of colorful fish just feet from the shore. Without a doubt, the water surrounding the island—a national marine park—is Fernando de Noronha’s top attraction. Take a snorkeling or diving tour to experience it first-hand. In the evenings, head to Vila dos Remedios, the island’s historic heart, where you’ll dance the night away to traditional Brazilian music at the popular and cheap Bar do Cachorro.
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.

International beach vacations were once reserved for that unapologetically wealthy tech scion in your freshman dorm who casually mentioned his “summer on the Côte” while everyone else hoped to scrounge gas money to Panama City. And, true, trips to St.-Tropez aren’t exactly going at a deep discount these days. But that doesn’t mean you can’t take a solid beach trip on a moderate budget -- inside the United States, especially.
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.
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.

The French couple William and Muriel Demy fell in love with St. Martin on their first visit and eventually bought a beachfront villa, opening it as the Love Hotel in 2008. The seven-room property has light-filled rooms with no pretensions and simple dark wood furniture built by William. For lunch, order from the hotel café’s chalkboard menu that touts everything from Carib beer ($4) to Ruinart champagne ($100).
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.
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.
Osage Beach provides an ideal lake and outdoor destination. Located right in the heart of Missouri, Osage Beach has lots of deals for a variety of visitors, including couples and families, with affordable vacation packages that are available online. Attractions in Osage range from world-class boating to golfing, fishing to shopping, and beyond. Whether you are looking for a quiet getaway or a lovely long weekend, Osage has lots to offer with its lakeside resorts, restaurants, and entertainment venues. The community hosts festivals throughout the year, including its seasonal celebrations, car shows, art exhibits, holiday parades, fishing and golf tournaments, and wine tastings.
Need a break from the real world? There’s no better place to relax than on a warm, sunny beach—but for most travelers, it’s not relaxing to spend a fortune on your getaway. Luckily, there are plenty of off-the-beaten-path beach vacations that won’t cost you an arm and a leg. Check out these lesser-known beach destinations that go easy on your wallet.

There are lots of beach resort towns in Mexico, but one of the most budget friendly ones is Manzanillo. This is a port city that has a couple five-mile bays with beaches. Here you’ll find some great seafood restaurants and a laid-back atmosphere. Plan to rent an apartment or small home with an ocean view if you’re traveling with a few people and planning to stay for a while. Smaller budget-friendly hotels can also be found in Manzanillo, and many of them are conveniently located downtown and near the bus station.


For a consummate grown-up summer beach getaway near New York City, Cape May, New Jersey, is a fabled resort town known for its magnificent Victorian architecture and time-warp fabulousness. A 2½-hour drive from Manhattan, Cape May is the ideal destination for design lovers who enjoy exhilarating but non-strenuous outdoor activities, plus cocktailing and watching the colorful non-stop action on gingko-lined Jackson Street. Tuck in at The Virginia Hotel, which strikes the ideal balance between old-school, clublike charms and of-the-moment perks like private beach cabanas, and park on the veranda (shown here) for drinks. Spend a lazy afternoon beneath the striped awnings of The Virginia's stylish beach cabanas and a day riding buttercup yellow cruiser bicycles around town. Reenergize with classic American comfort food at Congress Hall's The Blue Pig Tavern, get your farm-to-table fix at hip café Louisa's, grab an old-school dog at Hot Dog Tommy's, and drink the night away at The Rusty Nail. Book it here: The Virginia Hotel.
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.
You’ve heard of pop-up shops and restaurants. Now meet the pop-up hotel, developed by the Berlin-based Design Hotels brand. Papaya Playa’s 99 thatched-roof cabanas are outfitted with local textiles and hammocks and attract visiting artists, designers, and DJs. They collaborate at a beach amphitheater, spin at Mayan full moon parties, and share freshly baked bread from the clay oven.
Taking the family to the beach can create lifelong memories, as long as every member of the family is satisfied. To help you choose your next family beach vacation, U.S. News considered factors like safe waters, kid-friendly attractions, dining options, spacious accommodations and multigenerational appeal to determine the list below. Weigh in by voting below, then use this list to plan your upcoming travels.
Named the “Most Beautiful Place in America” on ABC's Good Morning America by 100,000 public votes, Sleeping Bear Lakeshore is an outdoor-lover’s dream. During a visit to Sleeping Bear, vacationers can explore the area’s natural wonders, including sandy beaches, deep forests, shimmering lake views, and bluffs jutting 450 feet over Lake Michigan. Sleeping Bear makes the perfect camping destination while also offering a choice of charming inns, bed and breakfasts, resorts, and hotels at affordable rates. Other attractions include an island lighthouse, hiking on the Manitou Islands, or exploring the historical maritime village.
An unpaved maze of roads leads the way to Le Rêve, an intimate, 25-suite boutique property with more romance and charm than its neighboring mega-resorts combined. Couples hang out in private hammocks by the garden suites, accented with colorful, locally sourced Mexican tiles. Bungalows come with private plunge pools overlooking a generous stretch of ocean. Snorkeling gear is on the house.

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.
Arguably the most exotic city Americans can visit without a passport, Miami is home to sun, sand and irrepressible style. The city's 1970s boom has resulted in a flourishing economy. Home to many Cuban-Americans, Miami is a thriving multicultural metropolis that revels in its Latin American roots. Miami Beach's white sands welcome you to a tropical paradise where you can soak up the rays, boat, water ski and windsurf. Attend a music festival, enjoy world-class cuisine, browse in fabulous shops and dance all night to the sizzling Latin beat. Hundreds of restored Art Deco buildings await admiration in South Beach, the first 20th-century district on the National Register of Historic Places. Noteworthy attractions in ethnically diverse downtown Miami include the Miami-Dade Cultural Center, containing the city's main art museum, historical museum and library; the Gusman Center for the Performing Arts, a grand movie palace and concert hall; and the Freedom Tower, a key site for Cuban immigrants.
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.
Families should look for family-friendly resorts which offer facilities such as kids’ clubs, protected beaches with calm water, pools, kid-friendly restaurants and connecting rooms. During the summer holiday season (May, June, July and August), many resorts offer extra activities for family travelers which are typically not available during other times of the year. If you plan your family getaway on the fringe of the busy and off-season, you can find great packages and deals.
Whether you're into surfing, sailing or touring Gilded Age mansions, Newport is a beach vacation destination with a star-spangled pedigree. Its largest beach, Ruggles, is sweeping crescent of sand favored by surfers, while its historic Thames Street is lined with antique shops, pubs and seafood restaurants. Choose from an array of romantic inns (The Chandler at Cliff Walk and Forty 1 North, for instance) or full-service hotels (Newport Marriott or Hotel Viking). For active sightseeing, stroll or jog the scenic 3½ -mile Cliff Walk with grand mansions on one side and the sailboat-studded waters of Narragansett Bay on the other.
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