Robin and Sue Ricketts, who helped create and manage such luxurious island hotels as Malliouhana and Cap Juluca. Now the Ricketts have embarked upon a new project: the 27-room Anacaona Boutique Hotel, a stylish and affordable alternative on an island that is known for its sky-high prices. The modern, tropical rooms (Frette linens; gold and lime pillows; iPod docking stations) look out onto one of two swimming pools, and those on the upper floors have vistas of the sea. The mile-long Meads Bay beach is just steps from the property.
Flagler Beach prides itself on its laidback retro vibe. Casual beachfront restaurants and coffee shops set the tone for a relaxing vacation in this Atlantic Coast town. Even the local winery is on the beach. Residents and visitors have free access to the municipal fishing pier and more than 6 miles of sandy shoreline. Nature lovers can hike the Coastal Strand Trail to get an up-close look at the local ecosystem. Visiting the local art galleries and gift shops are a great way to while away an afternoon before heading back to the beach for an evening cocktail and live entertainment. Things to Do in Flagler Beach
Just 10 minutes from Punta Cana airport on the new 33,000-acre Cap Cana development, this hotel is the ideal family getaway. You can swim right out of many of the 299 Mediterranean-style villas, which all have kitchens, sofa beds, and either a balcony or patio. Horseback riding, paintball, sailing, fishing, and the Jack Nicklaus–designed Punta Espada Golf Course are in easy reach.
With no cars allowed on the island (minus a few beach trucks with benches in the back), a vacation on Little St. Simons Island, a private island resort off the Georgia coast, is an escape that Mark Twain himself might have invented. Life here revolves around biking and beachcombing, hiking and fishing, boating and kayaking—guided by a khaki-clad team of naturalists. At day's end, the resort's 32 (maximum) guests gather at dinner served family-style in a rustic, circa-1917 lodge to compare adventures and indulge in the garden's fresh vegetables and fruit, then head off to sleep in blissfully tech-free cottages among the palms. Nightly rates include lodging; boat transfers to and from the island; three full meals daily; beverages including soft drinks, beer, and wine; and all island activities including use of recreation gear (and easy access to plenty of bug spray), naturalist-led expeditions and talks, plus a fantastic curation of books, historic photographs, and beachcombed collections in the cozy lodge.
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.
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.
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.
Historic lighthouses, wild horses and scenic flights in open-cockpit biplanes above the spot where the Wright Brothers first flew — a vacation in the Outer Banks can include all this, and more. With a large inventory of beach house rentals (and quite a few resorts and inns, too) towns such as Duck, Corolla, Hatteras, Nags Head and Kitty Hawk are scattered along this series of sand-dune-studded barrier islands, making it a top spot for leisurely getaways with friends and multi-generational family vacations. Fresh seafood is plentiful and activities include hang gliding, bike riding and deep-sea fishing.
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.
Deep in the heart of the Caribbean, the island nation of Jamaica has miles of unspoiled beaches, lush rain forests, and green mountains — it's been called "the biggest little island in the world" for good reason. The edges of the island are lined with resorts, while the interior is verdant and blossoming with all manner of flora and fauna. Laze on the sugar-soft sands of any one of Jamaica's many beaches or take an invigorating hike through the lush Blue Mountains. On the west end of Jamaica, Negril boasts seven miles of beaches and serene waters to go swimming, snorkeling, or jet skiing in. At night, the discos are packed in Negril. You can also swim, play golf and tennis, and go to the spa at most of the island's resorts, and explore Jamaican culture in the city centers. In Kingston, Jamaica's capital, reggae fans can take a tour of the Bob Marley Museum at 56 Hope Road. In town, don't miss your chance to taste authentic Jamaican street food — try some spicy jerk chicken and wash it down with a Red Stripe.
Each summer, this string of charming villages located on the southeast coast of Long Island plays host to New York's A-list — from Wall Street bigwigs to music moguls — who escape the city to weekend at beachfront estates worthy of an Architectural Digest cover. But if you plan ahead, more modest house rentals are also available in Southampton, East Hampton, Bridgehampton, Amagansett and Wainscott. Besides sunning and socializing, the Hamptons are known for farm stands offering fresh local produce, restaurants specializing in Long Island seafood and farm-to-table cuisine and vineyards ideal for lazy afternoons sipping wine.
If your idea of a beach retreat prioritizes café culture and fab design over fish shacks and jungle, look to the fortified harbor city of Valletta—and this historic town house. Maison La Vallette combines baroque flourishes like brocade upholstery and gilded chandeliers with Alessi furnishings and original wood beams. Guests have the run of the place, which includes a living room and a kitchen. It’s a few blocks from the rocky seashore, where ferries depart for neighboring islands.
The small country of Belize is one of the most affordable destinations in Central America, and it has some beautiful beaches just waiting to be explored. Ambergris Caye is the largest island that’s part of Belize and a favorite destination among divers. One of the largest coral reef systems is located near the island, which is a huge selling point for divers and snorkelers. The vibe here is very relaxing and laid back in the town of San Pedro, and there are many budget-friendly hotels and restaurants here to indulge a bit without going broke.
Budget for the trip: TAP is doing its part to pump up Portuguese tourism, and round-trip flights to Lisbon are regularly $600 or less from the East Coast. For about $50, two trains take you from Lisbon to Algarve. Once you’re there, the famous cheap food, wine, and beer of Portugal are at your disposal, and your costs will be minimal. Hotels aren’t bad, either -- as little as $40 a night.
Sunshine and cool breezes slowly turn to sultry, starry nights. This is the beach vacation of your dreams, where you’ll reach that blissful state of ‘ahh’. Your stress-free, no-itinerary days may include lounging at Myrtle Beach resorts or swimming with dolphins on your Hawaii vacations. But whether your trip is romantic or rooted in family fun, we’ve got the perfect beach resorts for you.
Daytona is full of fun, campy dining spots with retro or tiki themes — like Jimmy Hart's Hall of Fame Bar and Tiki Deck and Burgey's Tiki Hut — that offer bang for your buck. A 1/2-lb beef burger at Burgey's is only $9. Local haunt Mai Tai Bar, with live music and blazed-up tiki torches, offers happy hours from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. where domestic pints are $2.50.
As Memorial Day weekend approaches, our brains instinctually begin to daydream about the beach. Summer vacation planning might mean returning to a seashore that's been a family tradition for years or heading to a new beach you've always wanted to visit. If you're still undecided about where to head this summer, here's a look at the 10 best beach vacation destinations in the U.S.