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.
We’ve never found a beach we didn’t love, so to help us narrow down the list, we asked Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman, better known as Dr. Beach, to lend us his expertise. Every year, he picks America’s top 10 beaches after considering factors such as sand softness, water temperature, pollution, and views. Dr. Beach is currently the director of Florida International University’s Laboratory for Coastal Research, but when he isn’t working, he retreats to his favorite seashore, Cape Florida State Park.
Total Cost: The cost of your trip will depend on the room rate, airfare, train tickets, or gas, if you are driving. Some top beach vacation destinations will be more expensive and others will be cheaper also based on the availability of food. If the only place to get dinner is the resort restaurant, you can expect to spend more than if you can go to a local café. Be sure to factor in the cost of activities and spa treatments because they can add to 100s of dollars per day. Look for all inclusive packages in major resort destinations like the Caribbean, Thailand, Bali, Maldives and other beach trip ideas.
Where to stay: To see the rainforest and its many colorful bird species, stay in an eco-lodge or go on a day tour with a local guide. The Cuffie River Nature Retreat, a reasonably priced eco-lodge located on the edge of the rainforest, offers a variety of nature tours including birding walks and visits to secluded waterfalls and natural pools. If you’d prefer to stay near the beach, try the intimate Hummingbird Hotel.
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.
Where to stay: To see the rainforest and its many colorful bird species, stay in an eco-lodge or go on a day tour with a local guide. The Cuffie River Nature Retreat, a reasonably priced eco-lodge located on the edge of the rainforest, offers a variety of nature tours including birding walks and visits to secluded waterfalls and natural pools. If you’d prefer to stay near the beach, try the intimate Hummingbird Hotel.

Australia: Kewarra near Cairns offers a beautiful sandy bay, a garden filled with exotic birds and pristine rainforest surroundings. Thala Beach Lodge, also near Cairns, is a unique getaway with two pools, waterfalls, spas and grottos. Lizard Island has 24 secluded beaches, a freshwater swimming pool, snorkeling and scuba diving on its own coral reefs. Ask for a room right next to the ocean.
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.
It’s no surprise that West Palm Beach is a virtual treasure trove of remarkable beaches, but the colorful shops, restaurants and live entertainment downtown pack a punch of their own. On the weekend, pick your way through the antique and flea market or pay a visit to the farmers market a couple of blocks away. Sign up for a beach food tour to taste your away around West Palm Beach in style.
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.
Although it’s situated in a gated luxury community of golf courses and vacation homes, there’s an untouched beauty to the surrounding nature trails and mangrove forests. That means guests at Magdalena Grand Beach Resort enjoy the thrills of back-to-nature adventure combined with the perks of a large resort development. All 178 rooms have marble baths, high-def flat screens, and ocean-view balconies.

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.

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One-size-fits-all isn’t usually a winning strategy for planning an multigenerational getaway, so the Lodge at Kukui’ula on Kauai has transformed the typical resort tour desk into a personal island concierge to customize activities that meet the needs of every family. Start by booking one of the resort’s cottages, bungalows or villas, all standalone accommodations where you can have your whole group under one roof. Resort highlights include a Tom Weiskopf-designed golf course, a spa, and farm-to-table dining; when you’re ready to explore the Garden Island of Hawaii your built-to-order tour options range from hiking to hidden waterfalls and on the Kalalau Trail, to sailing a traditional Hawaiian canoe. 
Outside your luxurious rental property, your Myrtle Beach vacation continues with great resort amenities and ideal location near popular Grand Strand attractions. Escape the heat in their sparkling oceanfront outdoor pool, located only a few steps from the sandy Myrtle Beach shoreline. And when you and your guests are ready to experience all the fun and excitement Myrtle Beach offers, fantastic destinations like the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk, Broadway at the Beach, Family Kingdom Amusement Park and Myrtle Waves Water Park are mere minutes away. World-class shopping venues like the Market Common and Coastal Grand Mall are within a short drive and delicious dining options are around around every corner, with over 1,800 area restaurants located throughout the Myrtle Beach area. Enjoy the ultimate oceanfront penthouse and condo accommodations on your next Myrtle Beach vacation at Bali Bay Resort!
While it's hard to argue with the universal appeal of simply basking in the sun on beautiful white sand beaches (with maybe a frosty drink in hand), there's just so much to do on an island vacation. Active explorers can survey coves and ruins, take jeep tours, parasailing lessons, or set out on day cruises. For water enthusiasts, there are scuba diving, snorkeling, diving, and sea kayaking opportunities galore in most any island vacation spot. And if you're in search of dynamic nightlife, island travel is just the ticket: a beach vacation just wouldn't be complete without nights of feasting on fresh seafood, dancing the night away in after-hours clubs, or just chilling poolside at the cocktail bar at sunset. Soak up the serenity of unspoiled landscapes and enjoy the variety of activities that come with a beach vacation.
It takes effort to reach the beaches of Panglao Island—an hour-long flight from Manila to Bohol Island followed by a 25-minute drive. But the payoff comes when you check-in to Ananyana Beach Resort, where the 12 luxe thatched-roof huts have bamboo-framed king-size beds and the lounge is outfitted with regionally made rattan and abaca furniture. The resort has a prime spot on a mile-long stretch of beach.
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.

Few beach destinations are as quintessentially New England as this hook-shaped island whose scenic sand dunes and shingled cottages have made it an annual summer vacation favorite for generations of Americans. A succession of charming beach towns — including Hyannis to the west, Chatham at the easternmost point and artsy Provincetown at road's end — offer house rentals, B&Bs and hotels or motels with pools and spa facilities. And any Cape Cod beach experience must include lobster roll lunches and sunset clambakes. It's all wicked cool.
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