Travelers looking for an authentic Maine experience need look no further than Bar Harbor, Maine. A town that was once a retreat for the elite now offers affordable accommodations and activities at every price point. The free Island Explorer shuttle provides seasonal service to all three of the area’s public beaches. Tours and equipment rentals are available for a wide variety of watersports, including kayaking, canoeing, and paddleboarding. Abundant hiking and biking trails lead visitors along miles of scenic coastline. The perfect end to a perfect day is a lobster dinner at one of Bar Harbor’s many restaurants.
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 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?
TravelBird put together what it calls the Beach Price Index, an attempt to compare the cost of a day at the beach in 310 places around the world, accounting for water, food, sunscreen, snacks, and local currency. Some of those spots are in hard-to-reach locales, others offer beaches a bit more on the rugged side than powdery sand and swaying palms. But of the places you can reasonably fly to from the States -- and some even within the USA -- we’ve picked out 15 exceptional yet dirt cheap beach jaunts you can take this year.
The longest white sand beach in Hawaii can be found on “The Friendly Island” of Molokai. Most everything in Molokai revolves around the water. From snorkeling to scuba diving to surfing, watersports are the favorite activity of locals and tourists alike. Equipment rentals, instructors, and guides can be found near Kaunakakai Harbor. Landlubbers have many land-based activities to choose from as well, including hikes in the Kamakou Preserve or biking along the Waikolu Outlook. Guided mule rides in the uplands is another unique family-friendly experience. Hand-crafted souvenirs to remember your trip to off-the-beaten-path Molokai are available at small stores throughout the island.
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.
The reefs surrounding the islands are among the most biodiverse in the Caribbean, including dozens of species of coral and hundreds of types of fish. Above water, the islands shelter numerous bird species (such as red-footed boobies and pink flamingos) and also host nesting sea turtles. Los Roques’ reliable trade winds also make it a good spot for sailing and kitesurfing. As for deserted-island dreams, many posadas can arrange for a day trip or picnic lunch to one of Los Roques’ uninhabited islands.
The quintessential Maine vacation begins in Bar Harbor. The lobster rolls, sailboats and craggy cliffs of Acadia National Park are all here, but pictures don’t do justice to the spectacular landscape. If you’re looking for an outdoor adventure—whether that means a morning jaunt near the rocky shore or a challenging trail to the tip of a peak—you’ll find it in Bar Harbor.
Set on Oregon’s southern coast, Bandon is one of the best beach vacations out West you probably haven’t considered. It offers a gentle pace of life, with views so incredible you might not even get through your round of golf. It’s a year-round hub for hikers, cyclists, and wildlife fans, who come to watch migratory birds and the occasional seal or sea lion appear on the beautifully preserved beaches.