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.
If you’re a fisherman, birdwatcher or stargazer at heart, Chincoteague should be at the top of your vacation bucket list. This barrier island off the coast of Virginia doesn’t have the bars, restaurants or commercial development that many coastal destinations attract, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be bored. Take advantage of the area’s hidden fishing spots, winding bike paths and sunrise kayak tours to immerse yourself in an untouched piece of natural paradise.
When you dream of an island getaway — the kind that comes complete with glittering hotels along a white-sand beach — you've got Honolulu in mind. Oahu's largest city and the state capital, Honolulu is home to many top attractions: sample a great dim-sum lunch in vibrant Chinatown or check out Aloha Tower, the city's landmark harbor-side clocktower surrounded by a marketplace brimming with shops and popular restaurants. Honolulu is also home to famed Waikiki Beach, located between the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor and Diamond Head. Just as you've seen in countless postcards, Waikiki's Beach's white sand runs along a 2-mile stretch of coast, flanked by dozens of high-rise hotels. The area is popular for sunbathing, swimming, surfing, body-boarding, picnicking, and outrigger canoeing. At the end of the beach is Diamond Head, one of the world's most famous volcanic rings. Although no diamonds were ever found here, the calcite crystals in the lava rock sparkle in the bright Hawaiian sunshine.
Located on the barrier island of Topsail, North Topsail Beach has a reputation for attracting a wide variety of coastal wildlife. Instead of high-rise buildings and towering condos, you’ll find exceptional fishing, unobstructed birdwatching and sea turtle nests on the beach. Book a jet ski tour to see striking views of the whole island from the water.
This small cliff-lined beach near one of the world’s cheapest beach towns is a secluded spot that, if you hit it on the right day, feels like your own private slice of paradise. The massive cliffs and small caves that sit just off the sand give it a deserted-island feel. On summer weekends you might find yourself sharing it with a good number of in-the-know locals.
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.
Oahu: When planning a vacation in Hawaii, the first step is to decide where to go. Each island is different, offering a choice of accommodation, activities and scenery. The most famous destination in Hawaii is Waikiki on the island of Oahu. It's home to numerous hotels and resorts, some right on the sandy shore and others a just a few blocks from it. Travelers come here for their honeymoon, on a family trip and to learn how to surf. The Royal Hawaiian is decorated all in pink. Because of its historic ambiance and romantic atmosphere, the hotel is especially popular with honeymooners. Next to the Royal Hawaiian is the 1,695-room Sheraton Waikiki which offers many rooms overlooking the ocean. If you are looking for a more secluded getaway, reserve a cottage at Turtle Bay on the north end of the island. The resort has two golf courses, a spa and a kid's club.
They don’t call this “The World’s Most Famous Beach” for nothing, but it’s so much more than the ultimate spring break destination. Clean, compact sand, trained lifeguards and areas designated for “on-the-beach” parking—no need to haul your gear all the way from the car—make this beach a great spot for families. The boardwalk and small theme park are both kid-approved attractions.
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.
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.
The value along the northern part of America’s Gulf Coast (don’t you dare call it the Redneck Riviera!) is easily the best in the country. The cheapest beach destination in the US, according to TravelBird, is Gulf Shores, where the beaches rock all the white sand and calm Gulf water of places further south in Florida, for a fraction the price. The quiet, funky beach town filled with pastel houses and legit-good food doesn’t gouge tourists, and is also home to a surprisingly diverse zoo. On Sunday, head a piece down the road to the (in)famous Flora-Bama bar.
From white sandy shorelines to first-class wineries, Pismo Beach has lots to offer vacationers. This classic beach town in California’s central coast sits right along the Pacific Highway, halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Pismo Beach has no shortage of outdoor activities as visitors have their pick of golfing, horseback riding, surfing, body boarding, and fishing. Suntanned shoppers can grab great deals at Pismo Beach Premium Outlets. Meanwhile, the award-winning boardwalk gives guests a chance to soak in the sun while satisfying their stomachs at the many restaurants and food stands.
This popular vacation destination has nearly 2 miles of inviting sandy beaches along Florida’s Gold Coast. Watersports enthusiasts can rent equipment right on the beach or along Atlantic Avenue, the city’s main thoroughfare. Everyone from snorkelers to surfers will find a place that caters to them. The city’s parks and recreation department maintains more than 40 public parks and facilities that are open to residents and tourists including pools, sports fields, skate parks, tennis courts, golf courses, dog parks, and playgrounds that offer affordable fun for everyone! Dining options in downtown Delray Beach range from food trucks to four-star restaurants.
Long a refuge for vacationing Midwesterners, Mackinac Island is a classic summer destination for families. Called "fudgies," after the island's famous treats, tourists come to Mackinac to embrace a nostalgia that warms and unites generations that seem increasingly disparate. From Michigan's Mackinaw City you arrive by pedestrian ferry—cars were banned on the island in the 1890s—and climb aboard a horse-drawn carriage to the Grand Hotel, one of North America's last great Victorian-era hotels, complete with stunning vistas, period flourishes, and history to match—five U.S. presidents have stayed here. Take a dip in the Esther Williams pool or sip a cocktail while watching the sunset in the Cupola Bar. For more nostalgic fun, take a horse-drawn carriage to the island's interior and dine at Woods Restaurant. Before your venison medallions arrive, try your hand at duckpin bowling at America's oldest operating alley (located in the buildling). Bicycle to Mission Point Resort for a seasonal drink from its cocktail garden, and paddle a kayak to the western side of the island to watch a sunset with the guides from Great Turtle Kayak Tours.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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Secluded Beach Vacations for Couples: The best secluded beaches are found on islands, some remote and some just a short boat ride away, such as the private islands in Florida. Honeymooners love quiet spots where they can have picnics, swim, surf, snorkel and scuba dive while enjoy plenty of privacy. Travel to the tropics is most popular in November, December, January, February, March and April. In September and October, you can usually find great deals to secluded beaches in Maui, Hawaii, Oahu, Kauai and the Big Island.
Jamaica is a top destination for couples celebrating their honeymoons and anniversaries, but it has beaches well-suited to travelers regardless of whether you’re celebrating something or not. You can find direct flights to Montego Bay from many cities, and Ocho Rios tends to be even more affordable than Montego Bay. You’ll find plenty of all-inclusive resorts here, but also small hotels that are near local restaurants and bars that offer cheap eats and drinks. While in the Ocho Rios area, you can spend lots of time on the sandy beaches and go hiking and swimming by waterfalls.
Come to Roque Bluffs for its crowd-free sand and pebble beaches, for glimpses of waterfowl, bald eagles, and plovers, or to kayak and fish your way around the gentle waters of Simpson Pond. Then why not wander the trails through the Roque Bluffs State Park to discover its orchards and fields? We can feel the stresses of real life melting away just thinking about it…