We’ve never found a beach we didn’t love, so to help us narrow down the list, we asked Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman, better known as Dr. Beach, to lend us his expertise. Every year, he picks America’s top 10 beaches after considering factors such as sand softness, water temperature, pollution, and views. Dr. Beach is currently the director of Florida International University’s Laboratory for Coastal Research, but when he isn’t working, he retreats to his favorite seashore, Cape Florida State Park.
Deep in the heart of the Caribbean, the island nation of Jamaica has miles of unspoiled beaches, lush rain forests, and green mountains — it's been called "the biggest little island in the world" for good reason. The edges of the island are lined with resorts, while the interior is verdant and blossoming with all manner of flora and fauna. Laze on the sugar-soft sands of any one of Jamaica's many beaches or take an invigorating hike through the lush Blue Mountains. On the west end of Jamaica, Negril boasts seven miles of beaches and serene waters to go swimming, snorkeling, or jet skiing in. At night, the discos are packed in Negril. You can also swim, play golf and tennis, and go to the spa at most of the island's resorts, and explore Jamaican culture in the city centers. In Kingston, Jamaica's capital, reggae fans can take a tour of the Bob Marley Museum at 56 Hope Road. In town, don't miss your chance to taste authentic Jamaican street food — try some spicy jerk chicken and wash it down with a Red Stripe.
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.

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.

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.


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.
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.
Wellfleet sits on a strip of land just two miles wide, flanked by pretty beaches and kettle pools. It’s criss-crossed with nature trails, where adults and children alike can learn about Wellfleet’s natural environment. Back in the quaint town center you’ll find many tiny art galleries, and you’ll want to stop and taste the famous Wellfleet oysters, too. Check out secluded Bound Brook Island Beach, one of the most tranquil places in Cape Cod, and consider finishing the day with a relaxed sunset sail.
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