Unique touches like Segway tours and an on-property Dolphin Connection program are added insurance that family members of all ages will stay entertained, and it’s a smart move to enroll the kids in the Camp Hawk Environmental Education Program—a curriculum-based half- or full-day program for kids ages 5-12 that focuses on the Keys ecosystem with a mix of hands-on learning and fun activities.
Big Sur is California’s most beautiful and unspoiled stretch of coastline, with the legendary Highway One running between the central coast’s dramatic cliffs and the vast, protected swath of Los Padres National Forest. The 59-room Ventana Big Sur resort blends effortlessly into the rolling coastal hills, bluffs, and redwood groves, channeling New Age spirituality with luxury amenities like outdoor Japanese hot baths, daily guided walks of the 243-acre property, and programs that focus on HoloSync, Quartz Bowl, and Drum Circle music therapy. Hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, diving, and windsurfing are among the many options when you’re ready to explore. Book it here: Ventana Big Sur.
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.
Daytona Beach is an hour drive from Orlando, Florida; travelers are known to add the beach town to their Walt Disney World vacations, either as a full day trip or overnight. Doubles at beachfront resorts are as low as $80 per night. Hard Rock Hotel Daytona Beach recently opened, and the introductory rates are still a steal for summer with doubles at $149 per night, which includes complimentary use of guitars and on-demand yoga via entertainment system.
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The beach holiday is the platonic ideal of vacations: what nearly every traveler, whether active or armchair, dreams of. Soft sand, shady palms, a cold drink, a warm surf—what more could you want? It’s no wonder so many ad campaigns hang their hook (and their products) on this seaside ideal: brands of beer, lines of clothes, models of cars. Travel + Leisure writers and editors are no strangers to the allure of the shore, and so search the world for the best beach vacations it can offer.
The quintessential Maine vacation begins in Bar Harbor. The lobster rolls, sailboats and craggy cliffs of Acadia National Park are all here, but pictures don’t do justice to the spectacular landscape. If you’re looking for an outdoor adventure—whether that means a morning jaunt near the rocky shore or a challenging trail to the tip of a peak—you’ll find it in Bar Harbor.
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.
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.
The South Seas Island Resort occupies the northern end of Florida’s Captiva Island; originally built as a fishing camp in the 1920, the hotel sits amid a 330-acre nature preserve with 2.5 miles of beaches, 20 miles of bike paths, and ample opportunities to meet representatives of the island’s abundant resident wildlife, including sea turtles, ospreys, manatees, and 230 species of birds. Searching for seashells is a major pastime here (shown here), and ecotourism cruises around the island can take you to secret shelling beaches or on a naturalist-led dolphin watching trip. The family-friendly Gulf Coast resort has a wide range of accommodations from hotel rooms to luxury villas, including some with private docks. Book it here: South Seas Island Resort.
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.
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.
The Algarve is along Portugal’s southern coast and is a European favorite for holidays filled with sunshine and sand. The big city here is Faro, and Faro Airport is where you may fly into for this beach trip. Along the Algarve, you’ll find quiet villages, exciting party towns, and a little of everything in between. This is a great beach trip for travelers looking for authenticity and cultural experiences that go beyond just lounging in the sand. It’s a favorite spot among travelers from the UK and Northern Europe. Take a drive along the coast to see the beautiful cliffs, and make sure to check out Cabo de Sao Vincente, the Parque Natural da Ria Formosa, and Alte & Salir.
Secluded Beach Vacations for Couples: The best secluded beaches are found on islands, some remote and some just a short boat ride away, such as the private islands in Florida. Honeymooners love quiet spots where they can have picnics, swim, surf, snorkel and scuba dive while enjoy plenty of privacy. Travel to the tropics is most popular in November, December, January, February, March and April. In September and October, you can usually find great deals to secluded beaches in Maui, Hawaii, Oahu, Kauai and the Big Island.
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.
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.
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.