Roatan, a minnow-shaped island within Honduras’ Bay Islands, attracts divers who come to experience the world’s second-largest barrier reef and those looking for a cheap, off-the-beaten-path beach vacation in the Caribbean. The island is one of Central America’s once-hidden, now-on-the-rise beach destinations, but thankfully it still lacks big chain resorts and some of the other trappings of mass tourism.

Lara is a travel writer and editor with a closet full of musty thrift store finds from all over the world. Her ideal vacation is a big city one packed with live music and good food, but she admits there’s also a place for relaxing by the pool. Her all-time favorite getaway was a month hiding out in Brooklyn, getting the best museum, gallery and foodie fixes. The udon noodles at Samurai Mama still haunt her dreams...

With pristine, white-sand beaches and a heavy dose of Southern charm, Pensacola is your quintessential all-American beach escape. It’s also wildly affordable, thanks to the many direct flights from major cities and its wide range of budget-minded hotels and restaurants. We love the Margaretville Beach Hotel, a sprawling beach resort done up in coastal hues of whites and blues, and overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. There are plenty of freebies—including WiFi and beer coupons—and the rooms are bright and breezy, with expansive balconies and sweeping ocean views. After you’ve hit the beach, stroll through the city’s historic downtown, where you’ll find restored Colonial-and Victorian-era buildings and an array of cool restaurants—like Al Fresco, a unique outdoor dining experience comprised of five food trucks serving everything from ice cold oysters to mahi mahi tacos.
Alabama’s Gulf Coast isn’t all about the beaches: the 6,000-acre Gulf State Park between Orange Beach and Gulf Shores, for example, has six different ecosystems, including wet pine flatwoods, live oak maritime forests, coastal dunes and swales, longleaf sand ridges, freshwater marshes, and coastal hardwood swamps. You can explore them all by foot or bike on the paved, 15-mile Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail, keeping a sharp eye out for white-tailed deer, foxes, and alligators. After a day of pedaling, geocaching, and birding, settle down for the night at one of the park’s new outpost campsites, built on platforms and equipped with bunk beds, grills, and canvas tenting. Not into roughing it? Segway tours of the trail are available, too. 
Looking for a nearby escape that feels far-flung? Puerto Rico is just the ticket—especially if you’re budget-conscious. Though the island was hit by back-to-back Hurricanes Irma and Maria last September, vacationers are now starting to trickle back in as hotels and restaurants have reopened their doors. Flights from the mainland are inexpensive (compared with those to nearby islands like Turks and Caicos and the BVI), and there are plenty of wallet-friendly stays offering style, comfort, and top-notch service. Our fave? El Blok, a 22-room eco-hotel with a rooftop plunge pool, Caribbean Sea views, and a curvilinear concrete façade that’s inspired by the coral reefs on the island. Hit the beach, or embark on a two-hour $30 snorkeling tour through mangrove forests and bioluminescent bays via Abe’s Snorkeling & Bio-Bay Tours. Then, watch the sunset and chow down on burgers and frozen rum drinks at Bananas Guesthouse, a divey beach bar with killer happy hour deals.
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.
Southerners love the beach. But if you are looking for vacation ideas that can take you far away from the crowds, here is our list of the best secret beaches where you can stretch your toes in the sand. Part of the pleasure is the journey, like the hour-and-fifteen-minute boat trip to secluded spots like West Ship Island, 11 miles southeast of Gulfport, Mississippi. Traveling over water is also the only option if you want to see the secret beaches of Keewaydin Island. If you prefer vacation ideas with a sense of adventure, plan to ride horses along Driftwood Beach on Jekyll Island, or take a four-wheel-drive excursion along a 55-mile-long stretch of Padre Island National Seashore. If your idea of the perfect secret beaches in the South are simply secluded places to unwind and relax, stroll along any of these wonderful shores and get your toes wet.

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.


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.
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.
Your perfect family getaway awaits you at Beaches all inclusive Resorts in Jamaica and Turks and Caicos. Play on pristine, white–sand beaches caressed by crystal-clear seas. Spend your family vacation in luxurious rooms and suites. Enjoy a whole array of incredibly exciting and fun activities for kids of every age. Truly, Beaches Luxury Included® vacations in Jamaica and Turks & Caicos promise unforgettable family fun beneath the Caribbean sun.
Thailand has been a favorite vacation destination among budget-minded backpackers, but it’s also a great place for a beach vacation. The big cost here is the flight, especially if you’re coming from the U.S. But if you can find a good deal on a flight, then the rest of your trip should be well within your budget. Phuket is a beach town that is famous for luxury resorts, but you can often find very reasonable prices on splurge accommodations or settle for low-key accommodations for an even lower price. Popular beach areas here include Racha Yai Island, Naithon Beach, and Patong Beach.

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.
Costa Rica has two seasons: December to April is dry season (high season) and May to November is rainy season (low season). Low season is the cheapest time to visit, when flights can be half off. It's approximately $800 to $1,000 round-trip from major cities like Atlanta and non-direct flights are slightly cheaper, about $500 to $700, from west coast cities like Los Angeles and Seattle. It's not uncommon to call hotels directly and further negotiate nightly rates. Many people prefer rainy season as the rain is short, and rain makes the rain forests and jungles more vibrant and lush. Best of all? Fewer crowds.
For many families, Ocean Isle Beach is the best of both worlds: it’s less crowded, with gentler waves and warmer water than other popular North Carolina beaches like the Outer Banks, but it’s only a 45-minute drive from bustling cities like Wilmington and Myrtle Beach. The Museum of Coastal Carolina hosts a wide range of daily events tailored to small children, including story time, planetarium shows and “Touch Tank Feeding,” a chance to help staff members feed the museum’s marine animals.
Hang 10 with your finest friends in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, which hosts surfing camps and lessons year-round in one of the best watersports destinations on the East Coast (and is a short drive from Wilmington). Combine mind, body and spirit at the Women’s Surf, SUP, & Yoga Retreat in August, where you’ll learn to surf and standup paddleboard, or just sign up for a lesson while you’re in town: they’re offered daily between Memorial Day and Labor Day. The waters off the laid-back village of Wrightsville Beach are also a great place to kayak or sail; fuel up for your next activity with coffee and acai bowls at the newly opened Sun Days Cafe; get an afternoon espresso and shop for gorgeous shark teeth jewelry at The Workshop, and then settle in for outrageously delicious, Panamanian-inspired cuisine (and cocktails) at Ceviche's.The perfect stay on Wrightsville Beach is the Blockade Runner Beach Resort, a classic 60s beach hotel redone in great boutique style (and the new culinary home of star chef Jessica Cabo).
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.
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.

They don’t call this “The World’s Most Famous Beach” for nothing, but it’s so much more than the ultimate spring break destination. Clean, compact sand, trained lifeguards and areas designated for “on-the-beach” parking—no need to haul your gear all the way from the car—make this beach a great spot for families. The boardwalk and small theme park are both kid-approved attractions.


Lara is a travel writer and editor with a closet full of musty thrift store finds from all over the world. Her ideal vacation is a big city one packed with live music and good food, but she admits there’s also a place for relaxing by the pool. Her all-time favorite getaway was a month hiding out in Brooklyn, getting the best museum, gallery and foodie fixes. The udon noodles at Samurai Mama still haunt her dreams...
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