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...
Unlike much of the Caribbean, Puerto Rico still offers affordable prices for an amazing beach experience. You can find flights from many U.S. cities for more reasonable prices than elsewhere in the islands. There’s lots of history to learn about here by visiting the Spanish forts around San Juan, as well as architecture from the Spanish colonial-style buildings throughout the city. You can find a little bit of everything here in terms of accommodations, including budget-friendly hotels, chain hotels, Airbnb properties, and high-end luxury resorts.
There are more than 700 islands in the Bahamas, but the vast majority of travelers never get beyond the mega resorts of New Providence (home to Nassau), Paradise, and Grand Bahama islands. That means there are plenty of lightly trafficked “Out Islands” to choose from for off-the-beaten-path beach vacations. For glassy, gem-colored water, condo-free beaches, affordable accommodations, and some the best sailing grounds in the world, head to Staniel Cay, a two-square-mile island within the Exuma Cays.

Hobe Sound may not be an obvious choice for best beach vacations in America, but it’s truly an unspoiled paradise—just what you want when you need to escape the daily grind. Don’t miss Blowing Rocks Preserve, where at high tide you might get to see sea water spraying up through holes in the limestone that’s embedded in the sands here. Running right alongside Hobe Sound is the long, narrow stretch of Jupiter Island, where you can bike your way along the beach or join a tour and watch baby turtles hatching.
To experience nature at its finest, it's hard to top Cannon Beach, a wide, wild swath of sand on the Oregon Coast about 90 minutes from Portland. Known for its dramatic rock formations (235-foot-tall Haystack being the most famous), lush rainforests (complete with waterfalls), large artist population (galleries abound) and wildlife (you can easily spot nesting puffins and grazing elk), Cannon Beach is ideal as a romantic getaway spot for eco-loving couples. Aside from beachcombing and surfing, hiking is the thing to do (the views from Ecola State Park are sublime) and accommodations include dozens of inns to suit all budgets.
Avoid the interstate and take the slow road to the Lowcountry with a history-soaked drive between Savannah, Georgia, and Charleston, South Carolina, two of the Old South’s most beautiful port cities. Follow highways 17, 21, and 170 for a coastal road trip that includes a stop in Beaufort, with its lovingly preserved antebellum downtown (shown here), and can be extended with side jaunts to a pair of national wildlife refuges, the beaches of Hilton Head Island, or the exclusive resort enclave of Kiawah Island. Lay your head at Savannah’s Mansion on Forsyth Park, a bona-fide Southern mansion, and Charleston’s Market Pavilion Hotel, where an awesome rooftop bar peers over the city’s historic market and harbor. Book it here: Mansion on Forsyth Park and Market Pavilion Hotel.
Not all beach trips have to be about bikinis and sunbathing, and Oregon’s stunning beaches prove that beach vacations can go beyond the stereotypes. You’ll only need to drive about an hour and a half from Portland to reach this area, but you’ll feel like you’re a world away. Haystack Rock is the iconic natural landmark here that you’ll see protruding from the ocean a couple hundred feet from the surface. The route to get here highlights stunning views of the coastline, so pull over a couple times to snap photos of the scenery along the way. Ecola State Park nearby is great for hiking, biking, and flying a kite.
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.
Set among the cranberry bogs it’s well known for, Harwich delivers an authentic Cape Cod experience with bonfires on the beach, boating, and baseball. The village has six fresh water beaches and 17 saltwater beaches along Nantucket Sound. Permits for bonfires are issued by the Recreation and Youth Commission. Boats can be rented with or without a captain at NautiJane’s in East Harwich for a relaxing day at sea. Sports fans can spend an afternoon watching the Harwich Mariners take on another team from the Cape Cod Baseball League followed by a casual dinner of local favorites at Brax Landing in Harwich Port.

At party-hardy Myrtle Beach, you won’t get the peace and serenity of more under-the-radar beach escapes. What you will find? Plenty of budget-friendly accommodations, family-friendly attractions (think: mini golf courses and amusement parks), outlet shopping, and 60 miles of sandy shoreline. And if you make the Marina Inn Dunes your home base, you’ll have access to a more secluded stretch of sand—plus, free umbrellas, chairs and towels, and water sport equipment. There are more than 1,700 restaurants in the area, but you don’t want to miss the mouthwatering shrimp and grits at Mr. Fish, or the tropical drinks at 8th Avenue Tiki Bar & Grill, whose motto is “Good vibes. Good food. Good music. Good times.”
Husband-and-wife sheep farmers converted this windswept curve of the Norwegian coast into an architectural landmark. Domes light underground bunkers carved into the landscape, each decorated with modern and vintage pieces, hand-painted murals, and art installations. Floor-to-ceiling glass entrances look out on Hosnasand Beach and the distant Halten lighthouse. And most days end with a soak in the barrel-like, wood-heated hot tubs.
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Best Beach Vacations - Total Travel Time and Distance: How far do you want to go? Reaching an amazing beach resort destination in the South Pacific will take several airline flights, a time change (which means jetlag for a few days) and it will be expensive. But once you get there, you can expect an experience of a lifetime. If you are looking for dream beach vacations, that's the way to go.
Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman, aka “Dr. Beach,” recommended this island just north of Clearwater Beach five years in a row, and it was the national winner in 2008. It’s an all-natural beach, ideal for swimming, sunning, and shelling. Take a private boat or the Caladesi Connection ferry to stroll the 3-mile beach, kayak its mangrove trails, or hike under live oaks. floridastateparks.org/caladesiisland
The most famous beach in the DR is also the cheapest in the Caribbean; once you get there, you can coast on $20 a day. The beaches here are all the bright white sand and turquoise waters of your Caribbean fantasies, and only a few hours flight from most US cities. It’s also home to some of the best golf courses in the islands, and a marine park where you can swim with dolphins or play with manatees.
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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.


Choose the rustic beauty of a Cancun eco-resort, the amenities of a high-rise hotel on the beach, or the convenience of one of the area's plentiful all-inclusive resorts. No matter where you choose to stay, you'll be close to some of Mexico's most glorious beaches, archaeological sites, and natural preserves. Catch a tan at famous beaches like Playa Chacmool and Delifines. And don't miss out on a chance to see Cancun's abundant sea life. Snorkeling offers an easy, inexpensive way to swim through the turquoise waters and float among bright-colored tropical fish. Visit Yamil Lu'um, a Mayan temple dating back to the 14th century. Golfers can hit the links at a number of beautiful and challenging courses. After dark, head to a cantina or one of dozens of nightclubs to dance the night away.

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.


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.
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