When travelers think of beach vacations, the word “cheap” is not the first thing that comes to mind. Many may be surprised to learn that the United States has dozens of beach getaways for solo travelers, couples, and families that are easy on the budget. Non-motorized watersports, hiking, biking, and exploring can all be affordable alternatives to otherwise pricey resort stays. Whether it’s California surfing, Maine tide pooling, or Florida snorkeling that excites the traveler, an affordable beach vacation awaits. These 25 US beach towns welcome visitors to an array of sights and activities for their next seaside getaway.
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.
While most Americans have never heard of it, Fernando de Noronha is regarded by many Brazilians as having the most beautiful beaches in the country—and that’s saying a lot coming from a nation full of sand and sun connoisseurs. With its steep bunny-ear hills that soar up from undeveloped white and gold beaches, Fernando de Noronha might look more at home alongside Bora Bora and the other islands of French Polynesia than it does hundreds of miles from mainland Brazil. But unlike those Pacific islands, Fernando de Noronha is cheaper and easier to get to, at least from the East Coast of the U.S.
These barrier islands offer miles of pristine beaches along a coastline accented by amazing architecture. The natural splendor of Seabrook Island with its rich equestrian history, Isle of Palms’ upscale yet charming developments, and Kiawah Island’s alluring attractions make this area wonderful for a relaxing getaway to a semi-tropical setting. Sullivan's Island is the closest beach island to Charleston, and Folly Beach boasts some of the best East Coast surfing. Isle of Palms Sandy beaches, serene scenes and close proximity to city attractions make Isle of Palms an ideal vacation spot. A local marina provides a place to plan a fishing trip or rent a kayak. Kiawah Island Boasting unspoiled beaches, superior biking trails and natural beauty, this gated community is perfect for a beach vacation built around recreation. Seabrook Island Seabrook Island offers visitors an uncrowded and tranquil escape. A local equestrian center and nearby marina provide unique recreational experiences, while two golf courses and a tennis club ensure that visitors will have plenty of fun between relaxing on the beaches and enjoying the Atlantic breezes. Sullivan's Island Featuring historic forts, a one-of-a-kind lighthouse and breathtaking beach views, Sullivan’s Island is a picturesque paradise. Folly Beach Riding the waves on the East Coast doesn't get any better than surfing at the Washout in Folly Beach. While Folly Beach is known for its nostalgic air and beachy, laid-back vibe, it's only a 15-minute drive from the rich culture and Southern charm of historic downtown Charleston. Wild Dunes A gated community on the northern tip of the Isle of Palms, Wild Dunes offers gorgeous beaches, natural beauty and abundant resort amenities—all in a peaceful setting away from the crowds. -->
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.
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.
Myrtle Beach has made a name for itself as a thrilling waterfront destination with endless options for entertainment. Book a vacation rental to save money on the front end, and spend that extra cash on memorable experiences like a ride on the Myrtle Beach SkyWheel, a baseball game at TicketReturn.com field, or a game of mini golf at one of 40 different courses. Pre-book your tickets to Ripley’s Aquarium or 5D Moving Theater to save yourself some hassle.
Named the “Most Beautiful Place in America” on ABC's Good Morning America by 100,000 public votes, Sleeping Bear Lakeshore is an outdoor-lover’s dream. During a visit to Sleeping Bear, vacationers can explore the area’s natural wonders, including sandy beaches, deep forests, shimmering lake views, and bluffs jutting 450 feet over Lake Michigan. Sleeping Bear makes the perfect camping destination while also offering a choice of charming inns, bed and breakfasts, resorts, and hotels at affordable rates. Other attractions include an island lighthouse, hiking on the Manitou Islands, or exploring the historical maritime village.
Mendocino is a fun and funky destination for a drive north of San Francisco that takes in the majesty of the redwoods and the magic of the Pacific Coast Highway. Perched on scenic headlands overlooking the ocean and the Big River, this laid-back town is full of quirky shops and surrounded by parkland where you can hike, bike, and camp in splendid settings from old-growth forests to driftwood-covered beaches. The exclusive, 48-room Heritage House Resort sits on 37 acres of unspoiled Mendocino coastline, offering couples the option of unwinding on a private beach, cuddling on Duxiana beds in oceanview rooms, or drifting away at the resort’s soon-to-open spa. Book it here: Heritage House Resort.
Asbury Park has been experiencing a renaissance, now with a hip hotel, modern restaurants and cool attractions (like Asbury Lanes bowling alley and concert venue, which opened in May) and more crowds, thanks to a revitalized waterfront. Ranked No. 1 as Budget Travel's coolest small town in America last year, it's the former stomping ground of iconic American musician Bruce Springsteen, who's first studio album is entitled "Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J."
There are about 221,208 miles of coastline on the planet, and where ever there’s a shore, there’s the potential for a beach getaway. While you may not be packing up your bikini for a trip to Antarctica’s Southern Ocean anytime soon, there’s a whole world’s worth of tremendous beaches out there to explore. Swim through a tunnel to the hidden beach in Mexico’s Marieta Islands, or take a boat to Thailand’s Maya Bay beach (made famous by the 2000 Leonardo DiCaprio film The Beach). Venture out to Australia’s Fraser Island, the largest sand island in the world, to admire the colors of Rainbow Beach, an effect caused by the mineral-rich sand. Take a picture in front of the iconic granite boulders surrounding Anse Source d’Argent beach in the African archipelago of Seychelles, deep in the Indian Ocean. Or try a city-side beach in one of Barcelona’s hippest quarters, Barceloneta, whose fame stretches back centuries—it was even mentioned in Don Quixote. Who says beach culture and high culture can’t mix?
If you're looking for a beach vacation destination that offers active summer sports as well as easy access to a city famous for its history and quirky charm, check out Hilton Head Island. Located 45 minutes from Savannah, Georgia, it has carved a niche with its focus on golf, tennis, biking and nature walks, along with a plentiful supply of hotel rooms (major resorts include Marriott, Sonesta, Omni and Disney) and condo and house rentals in all price ranges. Day trips to Savannah add antiquing, historic home tours and lowcountry cuisine (shrimp and grits, anyone?) to the mix.
Brimming with art galleries, shingled storefronts and charming mom-and-pop restaurants, Cannon Beach has become one of Oregon’s must-see beach towns. And thanks to the area’s abundance of natural scenery, you won’t have to shell out your savings to keep busy. Hit the more than five miles of sand between Ecola Creek and Arch Cape for unbeatable views of Haystack Rock, one of the state’s most recognizable landmarks, or bike the 16-mile trail to Manzanita, stopping to take in dramatic coastal views in Oswald West State Park. After, grab a broiled shrimp sandwich and a slice of apple walnut cake from Lazy Susan Café, then check out the town’s buzzy art scene at White Bird Gallery, the oldest fine arts gallery in the area. After a long day of exploring, rest your head at The Ocean Lodge, an affordable family-friendly resort with 45 water-facing rooms, a free continental breakfast, and a cozy library stocked with books and movies.
Kauai: The island of Kauai in Hawaii offers several great options. The St. Regis Princeville has a sandy shore and luxury accommodations. The Resort Butler service at The St. Regis includes guest welcome upon arrival, personalization of the guest suite, unpacking and dining reservations. Sheraton Kauai Resort offers snorkeling, landscaped gardens and a choice of rooms and suites.
Big Sur is California’s most beautiful and unspoiled stretch of coastline, with the legendary Highway One running between the central coast’s dramatic cliffs and the vast, protected swath of Los Padres National Forest. The 59-room Ventana Big Sur resort blends effortlessly into the rolling coastal hills, bluffs, and redwood groves, channeling New Age spirituality with luxury amenities like outdoor Japanese hot baths, daily guided walks of the 243-acre property, and programs that focus on HoloSync, Quartz Bowl, and Drum Circle music therapy. Hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, diving, and windsurfing are among the many options when you’re ready to explore. Book it here: Ventana Big Sur.
Total Cost: The cost of your trip will depend on the room rate, airfare, train tickets, or gas, if you are driving. Some top beach vacation destinations will be more expensive and others will be cheaper also based on the availability of food. If the only place to get dinner is the resort restaurant, you can expect to spend more than if you can go to a local café. Be sure to factor in the cost of activities and spa treatments because they can add to 100s of dollars per day. Look for all inclusive packages in major resort destinations like the Caribbean, Thailand, Bali, Maldives and other beach trip ideas.
Most Roatan tourists come for the diving and snorkeling, which is among the best in the Caribbean. Besides the coral reefs, you can explore shipwrecks and go on dives specifically to swim with sharks and dolphins. You can also visit a butterfly garden, go horseback riding on the beach, shop at local art galleries, or just relax at one of several open-air seafood restaurants and bars.
There may be no better place in the Caribbean to live out your castaway fantasies than Los Roques, an archipelago of 42 sandy islands and about 300 mangrove islets and rocks located 80 miles off the coast of Caracas, Venezuela. Protected as a national park since 1972, the vast majority of Los Roques islands are uninhabited. Those that are inhabited have little development—there’s no facility for large cruise ships, and local posadas, or inns, often have just a handful of rooms.
Families should look for family-friendly resorts which offer facilities such as kids’ clubs, protected beaches with calm water, pools, kid-friendly restaurants and connecting rooms. During the summer holiday season (May, June, July and August), many resorts offer extra activities for family travelers which are typically not available during other times of the year. If you plan your family getaway on the fringe of the busy and off-season, you can find great packages and deals.