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.
Pine Knoll Shores, located on North Carolina’s Crystal Coast, is home to fewer than 1,500 people. But don’t be deceived by its size: this gem of a town is a treasured family vacation spot. You’ll be dazzled by the beaches, not to mention the nature reserves—including the Theodore Roosevelt Natural Area, which features a trail that winds through fragrant pine trees and ends with a stunning view of the sound.
About an hour’s drive south of Los Angeles, the Blue Lantern Inn is where New England tradition meets kicked-back southern California. Neutral tones decorate the 29 airy rooms, many of which overlook the Pacific. French doors open to the ocean air in the downstairs sunroom, where a breakfast of artichoke quiche and fluffy pancakes is served. Spend your day biking along the point’s coastal paths, playing board games in the library, or reading in the gazebo or at the beach.

The beachfront resorts along Northwest Florida's Emerald Coast, or condos in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama, offer incomparable views of the Gulf of Mexico. Private homes on Hilton Head Island overlook the greens at championship courses where the pros play. Oceanfront condos in Myrtle Beach put you just steps from the sandy shores of the Grand Strand.
As Memorial Day weekend approaches, our brains instinctually begin to daydream about the beach. Summer vacation planning might mean returning to a seashore that's been a family tradition for years or heading to a new beach you've always wanted to visit. If you're still undecided about where to head this summer, here's a look at the 10 best beach vacation destinations in the U.S.
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.
To find the best cheap beach vacation, think local, someplace where you can drive to, like a nearby ocean beach or a lake, perfect for a weekend getaway. The cost of transportation is often the highest percentage of the trip expense, especially with a family. If you pick a spot where you can drive, the holiday will be much cheaper. The second place to save money is accommodations.
Santa Monica, CA: There is more to Santa Monica than its world famous three and half miles long spectacular beach, but that is where you have to start your visit to understand the spirit of this fun, relaxed and exciting coastal town. After you shake the sand from your feet, stroll along the iconic Santa Monica Pier for a cold drink, fantastic views of the ocean and a visit to the aquarium to see what lives under water all around you. For a nice meal and a bit of shopping, walk through the tree-lined shady pedestrian Third Street Promenade in downtown Santa Monica. If you are travelling with kids, take them to the Looff Hippodrome for some fun rides or drive up the Santa Monica Mountains to stretch your legs, take in spectacular views and breathe fresh, cool mountain air.
Pine Knoll Shores, located on North Carolina’s Crystal Coast, is home to fewer than 1,500 people. But don’t be deceived by its size: this gem of a town is a treasured family vacation spot. You’ll be dazzled by the beaches, not to mention the nature reserves—including the Theodore Roosevelt Natural Area, which features a trail that winds through fragrant pine trees and ends with a stunning view of the sound.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
Hang 10 with your finest friends in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, which hosts surfing camps and lessons year-round in one of the best watersports destinations on the East Coast (and is a short drive from Wilmington). Combine mind, body and spirit at the Women’s Surf, SUP, & Yoga Retreat in August, where you’ll learn to surf and standup paddleboard, or just sign up for a lesson while you’re in town: they’re offered daily between Memorial Day and Labor Day. The waters off the laid-back village of Wrightsville Beach are also a great place to kayak or sail; fuel up for your next activity with coffee and acai bowls at the newly opened Sun Days Cafe; get an afternoon espresso and shop for gorgeous shark teeth jewelry at The Workshop, and then settle in for outrageously delicious, Panamanian-inspired cuisine (and cocktails) at Ceviche's.The perfect stay on Wrightsville Beach is the Blockade Runner Beach Resort, a classic 60s beach hotel redone in great boutique style (and the new culinary home of star chef Jessica Cabo).

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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.
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One-size-fits-all isn’t usually a winning strategy for planning an multigenerational getaway, so the Lodge at Kukui’ula on Kauai has transformed the typical resort tour desk into a personal island concierge to customize activities that meet the needs of every family. Start by booking one of the resort’s cottages, bungalows or villas, all standalone accommodations where you can have your whole group under one roof. Resort highlights include a Tom Weiskopf-designed golf course, a spa, and farm-to-table dining; when you’re ready to explore the Garden Island of Hawaii your built-to-order tour options range from hiking to hidden waterfalls and on the Kalalau Trail, to sailing a traditional Hawaiian canoe. 

International beach vacations were once reserved for that unapologetically wealthy tech scion in your freshman dorm who casually mentioned his “summer on the Côte” while everyone else hoped to scrounge gas money to Panama City. And, true, trips to St.-Tropez aren’t exactly going at a deep discount these days. But that doesn’t mean you can’t take a solid beach trip on a moderate budget -- inside the United States, especially.
There’s a reason San Diego consistently ranks as one of the most family-friendly beach destinations in the States: it’s beautiful, it’s affordable, and you’ll never run out of things to do—especially if you bed down at the funky Hotel La Jolla. The high-rise hotel sports a retro coastal design (think: wood paneling, '70s beach photography, and mid-century furniture), and features an outdoor pool, spa services, a poolside bar, and a bike and hula hoop-borrowing program. A popular place to start the weekend is The Cottage—a sunny eatery known for its lively atmosphere and mouth-watering lemon ricotta pancakes. Grab your camera and continue on to La Jolla Cove to watch sea lions bathe on sandstone rock formations, or check out the latest exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art.
Phuket, Thailand is an exotic beach destination for summer, and it's notoriously cheap year-round. Recently, tickets to capital city Bangkok have been going for $400 in various US cities, and they're still a cheap $545 for summer (from Los Angeles), according to Kayak Explore Tool. From Bangkok, you can hop on a quick, one-hour flight to Phuket from several airlines, like Nok Air or Thai AirAsia, as low as $15 one-way.
An unpaved maze of roads leads the way to Le Rêve, an intimate, 25-suite boutique property with more romance and charm than its neighboring mega-resorts combined. Couples hang out in private hammocks by the garden suites, accented with colorful, locally sourced Mexican tiles. Bungalows come with private plunge pools overlooking a generous stretch of ocean. Snorkeling gear is on the house.
Located just several miles up the coast from Ormond, Flagler Beach boasts excellent fishing and equally beautiful views of the Atlantic. It’s the perfect place to send a kite soaring or take an early-morning bike ride at low tide. Trek through beautiful natural terrain at Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area, where you might spot some wildlife as you kayak through the mangroves.
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.
One-size-fits-all isn’t usually a winning strategy for planning an multigenerational getaway, so the Lodge at Kukui’ula on Kauai has transformed the typical resort tour desk into a personal island concierge to customize activities that meet the needs of every family. Start by booking one of the resort’s cottages, bungalows or villas, all standalone accommodations where you can have your whole group under one roof. Resort highlights include a Tom Weiskopf-designed golf course, a spa, and farm-to-table dining; when you’re ready to explore the Garden Island of Hawaii your built-to-order tour options range from hiking to hidden waterfalls and on the Kalalau Trail, to sailing a traditional Hawaiian canoe. 
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. 
Uninterrupted ocean views, stunning scenery, minimal crowds, and good old peace and quiet. If that sounds like your idea of vacation heaven, then keep reading. We’ve found 17 places across America that offer all this and more. And not just cities or towns, but specific beaches that are known for total relaxation—and minimal crowds. Some of our picks have a low-key village feel, others are so remote you’ll probably be able to add human-spotting to your list of activities.
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