Surrounded by the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, the Homestead Resort (shown here) sits in isolated splendor on the shores of Lake Michigan, with miles of beaches for strolling or stargazing. A great destination for active couples, the resort has pools, tennis, golf, a spa and fitness center — even a compact ski area. The ancient and wonderful landscape of Sleeping Bear Dunes includes 64 miles of lakefront, a lovely scenic drive, and 400-foot-high sand dunes overlooking the deepest freshwater late in the world. You can visit nearby islands by ferry or explore the restored ghost town of Glen Haven, once a popular steamship stop on Lake Michigan.
Surf City is the cultural center of Topsail Island, a long barrier island off the coast of North Carolina. For visitors looking to surf in the aptly named city, there are plenty of sporting goods stores to suit your needs. The larger area is known for its organic blueberry farms, with some farms allowing guests to come out and pick their own fresh pesticide-free blueberries. Guests can unwind in Surf City’s cozy bed and breakfast spot overlooking the ocean waves. For the outdoorsy types, the area has an array of campgrounds where visitors can pitch a tent or park their RV.
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.
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.
Sayulita, about an hour north of Puerto Vallarta, is a charming, low-key beach town that remained undiscovered by tourists until recently (cruise lines now offer walking tour shore excursion). Even with more foot traffic, it's still very cheap year-round, and it's crawling with young hippies, yogis and surfers, especially in summer when flights are affordable to Puerto Vallarta (direct, round-trip fare from LAX is around $260). Summer is rainy season, but the rain usually starts in the morning and lasts a short time.
This pretty South Carolina barrier island offers ten miles of rolling sand dunes and sea grasses, not to mention pristine and mercifully quiet golf courses. One of the best beach vacations for families, Kiawah Island is kid-friendly but not overrun—just what you need to chill. Try Kiawah Beachwalker Park where you can walk through pine trees and yucca plants before emerging onto the sands.
Maui is nicknamed "The Magic Isle," and with good reason. In addition to its famous beaches (Kaanapali, Wailea and Makena to name a few), this Hawaiian island is home to Haleakala (a surreal volcanic crater that's 10,023 feet above sea level), Molokini (a crescent-shaped offshore lava formation offering superb snorkeling, Upcountry (a lush area with historic cowboy towns and lavender farms) and Hana (a remote spot perched on black-lava landscape and accessible solely via the twisting, turning Hana Highway). Add in humpback whales (from November to March), spinner dolphins and a half dozen golf courses and Maui has something for everyone.
This new gay-friendly hotel stands out among the South Beach crowd for its cheeky, fun design sense—a giant polar bear holding a beach ball greets guests in the lobby. Rooms may be modest in size, but they make a big splash with yellow striped upholstery and large silkscreen prints of Cleopatra. It’s a quick stroll to the beach, and even quicker to access the hotels’ trio of pools on a semi-secluded patio.
Or there's Punta Monterrey, just 20-minutes drive up the coast. Right on a private beach, this rustic resort has cabins and bungalows with rates starting at $80 per person per night. The rate includes all home-cooked meals (produce and ingredients come straight from the garden in their jungle, as well as free use of kayaks, and another hidden beach you can have all to yourself with a short hike through the jungle (the resort straddles jungle and beach).
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.
Myrtle Beach has been a favorite beach destination on Atlantic Coast for decades. This is a wonderful place to visit for families, and there are lots of golf courses and nightlife options for adults too. Flight prices are often reasonable here to drive the tourism industry, and it’s also an easy drive from many cities in the South and Mid-Atlantic coast. There are lots of hotels here, but also look into condo-style vacation rental options if you’re traveling with a few other people.
The area of South County, Rhode Island, consists of more than just picturesque beaches where swimmers and sports enthusiasts can enjoy over 100 miles of coastline: The county also has tons of cultural offerings. With art showings, antique stores, and musical events in the works all year round, South County offers visitors cultural experiences paired with a breathtaking landscape. The area also isn’t short on great libations, and local breweries and wineries can be found on almost every corner. For visitors who want to experience the outdoors, sporting activities like biking, boating, golfing, and surfing are a great way to enjoy the county’s lovely scenery.
Iron Springs Resort can put you in touch with the natural wonders of the Pacific Northwest whether your heart is drawn toward the deep woods or the sea. Clifftop cabins look out onto the wide sands of Copalis Beach, Washington, where you can fish, dig for razor clams (shown here), or walk for miles. Hop in a canoe or kayak for a paddle up the Copalis River to see a haunting “ghost forest” created by earthquakes, hike the 100-acre oceanfront resort’s groomed trails, or get a little wild and venture into the peaceful, ancient Hoh Rain Forest within nearby Olympic National Park.
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.
Oahu is expensive but has some of Hawaii's most inviting beaches. Head to Waikiki Beach, where the water remains relatively calm and lifeguards are always present. When you need a break from the beach, trek the kid-friendly Makapu'u Point Lighthouse Trail or explore some of the island's historic sights, such as the Battleship Missouri Memorial. Read More »
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.
Ormond Beach’s clean, uncrowded oceanfront features white sand, well-trained lifeguards and regular dolphin sightings. Family-friendly amenities like ample public restrooms and easy parking makes this stretch of shoreline the perfect spot to plant your beach umbrella. The area is full of gems like Peach Valley Café, a beloved local breakfast spot, where the apple fritters come highly recommended. Plan a day trip to Orlando (major attractions like Disney World are just an hour away!), or play a round at one of the area’s reasonably priced golf clubs.
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 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.
Mention Peru, and most people think of Machu Picchu. But the country’s northern Pacific coast beaches are becoming hot spots for surfers and sun-worshippers. Many congregate at this new hotel from architect Jordi Puig. In the main building's stacked wooden cubes, floor-to-ceiling glass walls bring light and views of the vibrant landscape in to stark white modernist rooms. Steps lead down to a 90-foot infinity pool stretching toward the ocean.
A private, pristine shore located a few miles outside Saint Augustine, Crescent Beach is known for its soft, sugar-fine sand and tranquil atmosphere. Walk the beach early in the morning to spot natural treasures like whole seashells, sand dollars and starfish. Drive into Saint Augustine for a day of mini-golf and shopping before retreating to this quiet haven for another day of savoring the sun.
Opened by former travel writer Uschi Wetzels, this two-story plantation-style hotel on Barbados’s windswept eastern coast has hammocks on the wide verandas and sweeping ocean panoramas. But it isn’t for everyone. There's no air-conditioning in the Main House (it is available in the 3-room Cottage, however) or television, guests share a single phone, and mosquito repellent can come in handy at sunset. Easygoing Americans and Europeans guests who seek out this place get to know each other over family-style meals.
Whether you're into surfing, sailing or touring Gilded Age mansions, Newport is a beach vacation destination with a star-spangled pedigree. Its largest beach, Ruggles, is sweeping crescent of sand favored by surfers, while its historic Thames Street is lined with antique shops, pubs and seafood restaurants. Choose from an array of romantic inns (The Chandler at Cliff Walk and Forty 1 North, for instance) or full-service hotels (Newport Marriott or Hotel Viking). For active sightseeing, stroll or jog the scenic 3½ -mile Cliff Walk with grand mansions on one side and the sailboat-studded waters of Narragansett Bay on the other.