In most beach towns, oceanfront digs will set you back hundreds—but not in Pismo Beach, a sandy playground on the Pacific Coast of central California. Stay at Cottage by the Sea, a newly-renovated hotel set against a backdrop of shimmering surf and golden bluffs, and you can fall asleep to the sounds of lapping waves for under $200 a night. The scenic property also offers complimentary continental breakfast, an oceanfront pool, and bucolic gardens abloom with poppies, sage, and evening primrose. Wine country is nearby should you want to sip the region's best cab sauv’s, as is the sprawling Hearst Castle, where the publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst lived from the 1920s into the ‘40s. Prefer to stay closer to home? We’d recommend a guided kayak tour of the coastline through Central Coast Kayaks.
Further afield, you, too, can find your bliss among the beaches of Goa, India, which have welcomed bohemian types since the ’60s. Amarya Shamiyana, a collection of four Moghul-inspired tents in a palm-shaded oasis—just down the beach from Jade Jagger’s boutique—channels that carefree, chic spirit. The hotel bursts with color, from playful hand-painted damask murals to metallic beanbag chairs, and puts you within walking distance of the beautiful party people (from $110 per night).
Phuket, Thailand is an exotic beach destination for summer, and it's notoriously cheap year-round. Recently, tickets to capital city Bangkok have been going for $400 in various US cities, and they're still a cheap $545 for summer (from Los Angeles), according to Kayak Explore Tool. From Bangkok, you can hop on a quick, one-hour flight to Phuket from several airlines, like Nok Air or Thai AirAsia, as low as $15 one-way.
Want to tick another state off your visited list? Then make it Alabama, where Gulf Shores offers nature (it's home to 6,500-acre Gulf State Park), entertainment (outdoor concerts) and foodie fun (from shrimp to barbecue). In total, there are 32 miles of white-sand beaches that let you explore the region's beautiful landscapes as you spy on seabirds (eagles, too), alligators and even black bears. Accommodations include condo rentals, B&Bs, motels, hotels and campsites.
From white sandy shorelines to first-class wineries, Pismo Beach has lots to offer vacationers. This classic beach town in California’s central coast sits right along the Pacific Highway, halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Pismo Beach has no shortage of outdoor activities as visitors have their pick of golfing, horseback riding, surfing, body boarding, and fishing. Suntanned shoppers can grab great deals at Pismo Beach Premium Outlets. Meanwhile, the award-winning boardwalk gives guests a chance to soak in the sun while satisfying their stomachs at the many restaurants and food stands.
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.
The most affordable beach in Spain is on the western shore of the island of La Gomera in the Canary Islands. The dark sandy beach sits at the end of a long valley shaped by imposing cliffs, which during the summer make a striking contrast to the blue sky. The little villages along the road make for a charming cultural experience on your way to the water. A couple of days here feels more like a remote island escape than most of the other islands in Europe.
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.
Alys Beach--one of several gorgeous enclaves strung on Florida's route 30A along the shimmering Gulf coast--is a sophisticated base camp for an upscale girlfriend getaway that features white-sand beaches, great restaurants, shopping, cocktailing, and chic villas that your gang may never want to leave. If you do leave, you can bike to neighboring Rosemary Beach and sip excellent cocktails at The Pearl Hotel's new rooftop bar and then linger over small plates at La Crema Tapas & Chocolate. Make one day a beach day, and don't miss beach dive favorites at Hurricane Oyster Bar in South Walton. Learn to cook with chef Nikhil Abuvala at Roux 30A, and then shop for beautifully curated spirits, wine, beer, and barware at NEAT Bottle Shop right in Alys Beach (and then amble into the tasting room for one of four featured craft cocktails). For a bit more activity, salute the sea in private or group beach yoga with Angela Ragsdale and go paddleboarding with YOLO Board.
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.