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.
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.

Girls who grew up loving horses will be in heaven in Del Mar, California, a San Diego suburb that’s home to the exquisitely beautiful Del Mar Race Track, the Del Mar Horse Park (a mecca for riding events), and the Fairmont Grand Del Mar resort, which has its own equestrian center and stable of horses reserved for guests. Racing and riding stays can be built around golf outings, spa treatments, surf lessons, dining at the hotel’s Relais & Chateaux Addison restaurant, and late-night dancing at Club M. The Del Mar racing season only runs a few precious weeks each year, but visit anytime to enjoy miles of riding and hiking in the Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve, located just outside the windows of your luxury Fairmont suite. Book it here: Fairmont Grand Del Mar.
Wyndham Vacation Rentals offers the largest selection and variety of vacation rentals on Northwest Florida’s beautiful Emerald Coast. -->Northwest Florida's Gulf Coast is renowned for its soft, sugar-white sand and clear, emerald-green water. Featuring top-ranked beaches along the gorgeous coastline of the Gulf of Mexico, along with attraction-rich cities and charming beach communities, Northwest Florida is the perfect destination for your beach vacation. We offer thousands of vacation rentals in Northwest Florida, including gulf-front condos and full-service resorts. Our luxurious private homes can accommodate family reunions and groups of just about any size. Our Vacation Specialists are ready to help you plan your Florida Panhandle beach vacation.  
If you’ve always dreamed of carving up the surf like a pro, Surf City’s family-friendly beach—where the summertime waves are small and gentle—is the ideal spot to take a lesson or two. Pack up your beach gear before sunset to catch the vivid clouds from stroller-friendly Surf City Pier. And don’t forget to pop into the souvenir shop for some hand-dipped ice cream.
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.

We know what you’re thinking: a beach in the middle of America? While the Show Me State is technically landlocked, the city of Osage Beach—located a stone’s throw away from Lake of the Ozarks State Park—is such an affordable destination that we couldn’t leave it out of this round-up. The park itself has miles of shoreline (plus two beaches designated for swimming), which means you’ll still catch plenty of rays.
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.

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
They say ’twas a bold man that first ate an oyster, but you don’t have to be an adventurer to enjoy a drive along the Virginia Oyster Trail. Virginia produces more farm-raised oysters than any other U.S. East Coast state, and the Oyster Trail combines a lovely drive on the Eastern Shore with an opportunity to meet local oystermen like those at Topping, Virginia's Rappahannock Oyster Co., who will show you how they bring these magnificent mollusks from water to table (don't miss the company's Merroir Tasting Room, shown here). For oysters fresh off the reef, the Dog and Oyster Vineyard in Irvington is a great choice—after all, this is Virginia wine country, too. After a day of shucking and slurping, the Tides Inn in Irvington keeps you close to the water: the resort is set on a peninsula between Chesapeake Bay and the Rappahannock and Potomac rivers—in other words, oyster central. (In the fall, Tides Inn offers a cool oystering experience package worth returning for.)
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.

You’ve heard of pop-up shops and restaurants. Now meet the pop-up hotel, developed by the Berlin-based Design Hotels brand. Papaya Playa’s 99 thatched-roof cabanas are outfitted with local textiles and hammocks and attract visiting artists, designers, and DJs. They collaborate at a beach amphitheater, spin at Mayan full moon parties, and share freshly baked bread from the clay oven.
You don’t have to go to the Caribbean or Fiji to get a taste of private-island romance: Palm Island, located on Florida’s Gulf Coast between Sarasota and Fort Myers, is only reachable by boat and seems much farther away than the six minutes it takes to cross the Intracoastal Waterway from the mainland. The Palm Island Resort has about 100 villas in five clusters around the island, each centered on public areas that include pools, hot tubs, a clubhouse, and other amenities. The island also has a full-service marina (so boating and fishing are never far away), and the tennis center offers lessons and equipment rentals. A one-bedroom beach villa would be perfect for a couples getaway just steps from the sand, and one of Florida’s best seafood restaurants, Leverock’s, is just a short water-taxi ride away.
Looking for the next Costa Rica? Just head down the coast a few miles to Panama and the Isla Bastimentos, part of the Bocas del Toro archipelago in the Caribbean Sea, a 20-square-mile island that’s a microcosm of some of Panama’s top tourism offerings. Here you’ll find virgin rainforests home to sloths and monkeys, offshore coral gardens and mangrove islands perfect for snorkeling, and stunning beaches pounded by Hawaii-sized waves.
Sanibel Island is a beachcomber’s delight, one of the best beach vacations for finding beautiful seashells that wash up on its sands. Residents here are conservationists and work hard to preserve the natural beauty of their home, so it’s a great place to find an undisturbed spot for a bit of quiet contemplation. Try the perfectly chilled-out Bowman’s Beach for shelling, paddling, or settling down with a good read.
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