Pine Knoll Shores, located on North Carolina’s Crystal Coast, is home to fewer than 1,500 people. But don’t be deceived by its size: this gem of a town is a treasured family vacation spot. You’ll be dazzled by the beaches, not to mention the nature reserves—including the Theodore Roosevelt Natural Area, which features a trail that winds through fragrant pine trees and ends with a stunning view of the sound.
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.
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.
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.
Maui: For those who like dry sunny weather, the resorts of West Maui offer plenty of activities. Kapalua has three beautiful bays, three golf courses, tennis, spas and other activities for guests of all ages. Makena Resort is located on a more secluded spot, surrounded by scenic views. If you are looking for a place that will let you get away from it all, try the quiet town of Hana on East Maui. The only luxury resort in town, Travassa Hana, has a relaxing spa and a restaurant that serves dishes made from organic ingredients. Visitors can spend their days relaxing on the tropical Hamoa Beach.
There’s a reason San Diego consistently ranks as one of the most family-friendly beach destinations in the States: it’s beautiful, it’s affordable, and you’ll never run out of things to do—especially if you bed down at the funky Hotel La Jolla. The high-rise hotel sports a retro coastal design (think: wood paneling, '70s beach photography, and mid-century furniture), and features an outdoor pool, spa services, a poolside bar, and a bike and hula hoop-borrowing program. A popular place to start the weekend is The Cottage—a sunny eatery known for its lively atmosphere and mouth-watering lemon ricotta pancakes. Grab your camera and continue on to La Jolla Cove to watch sea lions bathe on sandstone rock formations, or check out the latest exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art.
This charming beach town is super accessible, particularly for Houstonians who only have to drive 45 minutes to get there. And once you arrive, you can get just about anywhere by foot, so there's no need for pricey cabs or rental cars. Learn about the historic island city, one of the country’s leading ports in the 19th century, at Moody Mansion, the former home of one of Galveston’s founding families, or at the East End Historical District, where you’ll find a dazzling string of restored Victorian landmarks. From there, tuck into a diet-busting feast of hush puppies, corn on the cob, and three-pound platters of steamed crawdads at Benno’s on the Beach, a casual waterfront hang with an outdoor patio and wallet-friendly prices. Your Victorian-inspired digs at the Tremont House are the perfect place to kick back and relax after a long day of exploring.
Nassau, Bahamas: Nassau is exactly as you might imagine a city on a tropical paradise island to look like, featuring miles of fine sandy beaches, endless calm ocean, cloudless blue sky, lush tropical vegetation, colorful quaint architecture and smiling locals. Soak up some sun on the city’s magnificent sandy beach and splash in the shallow clear waters. When the sun gets to be too much, put your hat on and stroll through the historic Old Town where everything is brightly colored, from the flamingo-pink colonial-style government’s House of Assembly on the Parliament Square to the purple Pirates of Nassau Museum.
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 brainchild of American-born Beverly Deikel and her Dominican partner, Patris Oscar, the eco-friendly property is a microcosm of the island—and its first great place to stay. Set on 22 lush acres, its 28 cottages, each with carved mahogany and red-cedar four-poster beds, face onto a rocky beach or the Rosalie River. One of the world’s few carbon-negative resorts, Rosalie Bay not only relies on solar panels but has its own wind turbine, organic gardens, and spring-fed onyx-colored swimming pool.
When planning your dream beach vacation, be sure you know what you want and what you are getting. This may seem obvious, but during our travels we’ve talked to enough disappointed vacationers to say that this is the most important point when choosing the best beach vacation for you. While a resort on the beach in Thailand may sound fun and exotic compared to Southern California, be sure to consider everything that the trip entails: the cost, long airplane flight, recommended vaccinations, etc.
* Prices reflect the lowest "base rate" found over the next 30 days. Rates are subject to change and may not include taxes and fees, hotel service charges, extra person charges, or incidentals, such as room service. All rates are displayed in USD unless otherwise noted. Converted rates are provided for your convenience. They are based on today's exchange rate, but the hotel will charge you in the local currency.
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.
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
Wellfleet sits on a strip of land just two miles wide, flanked by pretty beaches and kettle pools. It’s criss-crossed with nature trails, where adults and children alike can learn about Wellfleet’s natural environment. Back in the quaint town center you’ll find many tiny art galleries, and you’ll want to stop and taste the famous Wellfleet oysters, too. Check out secluded Bound Brook Island Beach, one of the most tranquil places in Cape Cod, and consider finishing the day with a relaxed sunset sail.