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.
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.
Although every mile of California's historic, narrow, twisting, and epic-view-blessed Highway 1 is an adventure, this 280-mile stretch from San Francisco to the Lost Coast region is marked by a remarkable string of near-empty beaches. Take as many days as possible to allow for stops for long walks and beachcombing, not to mention enjoying the inns, restaurants, markets, wineries, and breweries that line the route. For places to lay your head down, don't miss Nick's Cove on Tomales Bay (shown here) with 12 vintage cottages, including a string right on the water, plus an old-school bar and charming restaurant. The Sea Ranch Lodge has maintained its modern aesthetic, a perfect match for killer views over bluffs to the Pacific. Point Arena's restored Coast Guard House overlooks a glistening narrow cove and puts out a memorable full breakfast. Shelter Cove's Inn of the Lost Coast is a low-key hideaway with sweeping ocean vistas. Book it here: Nick's Cove, Sea Ranch Lodge, and Coast Guard House.
Visiting the rustic beach towns in Brazil’s northeastern state of Alagoas feels like uncovering a fantastic secret (most tourists still head south to Bahia). Around São Miguel dos Milagres, the white-sand beaches are dotted with crystalline tide pools. The nearby light-filled Pousada Patacho beckons with five intimate, whitewashed rooms amid coconut palms and vine-draped terraces.
About an hour’s drive south of Los Angeles, the Blue Lantern Inn is where New England tradition meets kicked-back southern California. Neutral tones decorate the 29 airy rooms, many of which overlook the Pacific. French doors open to the ocean air in the downstairs sunroom, where a breakfast of artichoke quiche and fluffy pancakes is served. Spend your day biking along the point’s coastal paths, playing board games in the library, or reading in the gazebo or at the beach.
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.
Lately cruise ship passengers have crowded parts of this outpost of Caribbean scenery. All you have to do, though, is head a little further up from the big resorts to find yourself on one of the most underrated beaches in the region. Thick groves of palm trees lead up to shiny white sand. Venture off the beach and you’ll find funky-cute bars to enjoy a beer for only a couple of dollars.
There may be no better place in the Caribbean to live out your castaway fantasies than Los Roques, an archipelago of 42 sandy islands and about 300 mangrove islets and rocks located 80 miles off the coast of Caracas, Venezuela. Protected as a national park since 1972, the vast majority of Los Roques islands are uninhabited. Those that are inhabited have little development—there’s no facility for large cruise ships, and local posadas, or inns, often have just a handful of rooms.
Even as more vacationers have discovered the appeal of the Gulf Coast, the beach communities here have retained their sincere hospitality and Southern charm. --> The Alabama Gulf Coast is a beach lover’s dream with 32 miles of sandy beaches spanning from Orange Beach to Fort Morgan. Visitors can find fantastic restaurants, eclectic shopping experiences and plentiful watersports providers sure to create a family fun vacation like never before. Boating fans will feel at peace walking around the well-appointed marinas, while golfers can find sanctuary in the world-class courses adorning the coast.
Located in the heart of Cape Cod, Dennis Port is the perfect spot to enjoy the wind and waves while catching up on a little culture in between. Take a break from the surf with a scenic afternoon drive along Route 6A, a highway dotted with renowned art galleries, or cap off a sunny beach day with a theatrical performance at the Cape Playhouse. Watch for “Free Fun Fridays” at the Cape Cod Museum of Art, a summer event offering complimentary activities for kids including face-painting and pottery-making.
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.