20 Glorious Beach Breaks You Can Actually Afford
Virginia Beach, VA
One of the most popular beach towns on the east coast, Virginia Beach sits at the mouth of Chesapeake Bay. There’s plenty to do here, even in the off-season. The busy Virginia Beach Boardwalk is one of the area’s main attractions and is the perfect place for walking, biking, and enjoying live music and views.
Cost Of Getting There: Roundtrip flights from most major U.S. airports start at around $300. You’ll fly into Norfolk International Airport, which is about a 20-minute car ride from Virginia Beach.
Where To Stay: Beach Spa Bed and Breakfast combines Southern hospitality with a chill beach vibe. The cozy rooms start at around $160 during peak season. Off-season rooms run in the low $100 range. Why not indulge in a relaxing spa treatment, too?
Home to some of the most breathtaking beaches in the world, Maui is the place for your fantasy paradise vacation. If you like adventure, try your hand at snorkeling or windsurfing, or simply relax in the sun. But don’t miss the opportunity to hike Haleakala Crater, the dormant volcano that is Maui’s highest point.
Cost Of Getting There: On the more expensive side, roundtrip tickets from New York start at $600 on Hawaiian Airlines. Coming from Los Angeles is a bit less expensive; around $550. April, May, September, and October are the best times to find cheap flight deals according to govisithawaii.com.
Where To Stay: Since you’re shelling out for flights, save on accommodations at the Maui Seaside Hotel. The rooms are clean and comfortable with nightly rates starting at $130. The hotel is near many gorgeous state parks and restaurants favored by locals. It’s a great laid-back and affordable option for Maui.
Brackley Beach provides a quiet escape into nature. In this magical place, you can relax on the many miles of pristine beaches. Perhaps take a trip to the nearby Dunes Studio Gallery for island art and delicious, unique cuisine? The beach town is also home to Prince Edward Island’s only drive-in movie theater.
Cost Of Getting There: Roundtrip flights to and from New York City start at $279 with Air Canada. Flights land at Charlottetown Airport, just 15 minutes from Brackley Beach.
Where To Stay: Shaw’s Hotel and Cottages offers beautiful views of Brackley Bay. Private cottages start at $140; standard rooms go for about $112 a night, depending on the season.
Hampton Beach is the busiest beach community in the state of New Hampshire, and as an added bonus, the ocean water is among the cleanest in the country. There are fun events planned in town nearly every night during the high summer seasons. The town also offers activities all year-round, like September’s Seafood Festival and the famous holiday parade in December.
Cost Of Getting There: New Yorkers can make the five-hour drive, but if you live further away, you can fly into Manchester-Boston Regional Airport about an hour away. Flights from most major airports around the country fall in the $200-$300 range.
Where To Stay: Ashworth’s by the Sea is right on the beach, as its name suggests. Clean and comfortable rooms start around $150 per night. The hotel has a seasonal rooftop bar from which you can admire the beautiful and bustling Hampton Beach.
Nestled off the southernmost tip of Texas, South Padre Island is an ideal location for a laid-back beach escape. The only island in Texas, South Padre features 34 miles of soft, white sand and was named one of the world’s most beautiful barrier islands by Fodor’s.
Cost Of Getting There: Round-trip tickets from major U.S. cities run in the $400 range. Most flights will land in Valley International Airport, and it’s about an hour’s drive to the island.
Where To Stay: La Copa Inn Beach hotel was rated the number-one South Padre Island hotel on TripAdvisor. Recently renovated, it offers comfort and convenience. Score a deal on a room for around $128 a night.
When thinking about possibilities for beach vacation spots, don’t overlook the Great Lakes. Saugatuck is home to Oval Beach, one of Lake Michigan’s most beloved beaches. The small shore town also offers incredible art galleries and the historic Mount Baldhead, a hiking trail with breathtaking views of the surrounding area.
Cost Of Getting There: Flights from New York start at $309 round-trip. You’ll land at Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids, and from there, it’s a 45-minute drive to Saugatuck.
Where To Stay: This beach town is known for its B&Bs, but staying at the waterfront cottages can cost a pretty penny. Try The Starlite Resort, which offers standard rooms starting at around $167 a night. The hotel is located just minutes from downtown and the beach, so you’ll have easy access to the best of both worlds.
Isle of Palms is one of five islands off the coast of historic Charleston. Its nearly 2,880 acres include championship golf courses, marinas for boating trips, a thriving local business district, and miles of beaches perfect for relaxation and rejuvenation. Consider renting a car so you can travel into downtown Charleston — just 12 miles away — for tours, great shopping, and amazing restaurants.
Cost Of Getting There: Round-trip flights from New York start as low as $148. You’ll land at Charleston International Airport, which is about a 40-minute drive from Isle of Palms.
Where To Stay: Put the money you saved on your cheap flight towards a stay at Wild Dunes Resort, the top-rated accommodation on the island. A one-bedroom condo starts at $256 a night.
Punta Cana offers everything you ever wanted in a tropical vacation, from water sports and spa treatments to horseback riding and tennis. Oh, and of course, the beach. Get acquainted with the native wildlife at Manati Park and experience the local culture by visiting Altos de Chavón, a modern-day artist’s village.
Cost Of Getting There: Round-trip flights from NYC start at around $440. Flights from other major U.S. cities fall in the $300-$500 range.
Where To Stay: AlSol Luxury Village is located in Cap Cana, a private resort area in Punta Cana. Offering breathtaking views at every turn, AlSol’s design includes 300 villa-style suites starting at just $125 a night.
Nestled off the Gulf of Mexico, Gulf Shores is a 32-mile stretch of soft, white sand beaches and clear blue waters that you’d never expect to find in Alabama. Spend your days zip-lining, golfing, fishing, or splashing around in the water. Come nightfall, sample the regional cuisine while enjoying the musical stylings of hometown celebrity Jimmy Buffett.
Cost Of Getting There: Roundtrip airfare from most major U.S. cities will cost around $400. You can fly into either the Mobile Regional Airport or Pensacola International; both are about an hour’s drive from Gulf Shores.
Where To Stay: Situated right on the beach, Phoenix All Suites Hotel offers the best of both worlds; the luxury (and privacy) of a condo and the amenities of a hotel. Rates start at around $135 a night.
For a perfect domestic beach vacation, hit North Carolina’s Outer Banks. There, you’ll find open-sea beaches, gorgeous state parks, and the best seafood North Carolina has to offer. Climb the tallest brick lighthouse in America at Cape Hatteras or go fishing off Jennette’s Pier. You don’t even need to leave the country for this slice of paradise.
Cost Of Getting There: A round-trip plane ticket from New York will cost in the $300-$400 range. You’ll land at the Coastal Carolina Regional Airport, which is about a three-hour drive from the Outer Banks.
Where To Stay: Check into Ocracoke Harbour Inn, which offers 16 rooms and seven suites on beautiful Silver Lake, in the heart of the fishing village of Ocracoke. Nightly rates run around $140.
There are many reasons to love the U.S. Virgin Islands — not the least of which is that you don’t need a passport to visit if you’re a U.S. citizen. But with clear skies, emerald waters, and plenty to do, ease of travel is just a bonus. Go surfing in Hull Bay, hit the duty-free shops, or take a tour of Blackbeard’s Castle. The island of St. Thomas is only 32 square miles, but it definitely packs a lot in.
Cost Of Getting There: Airfare from New York will cost you about $300 roundtrip, depending on the time of year. (For the best deals, travel in the summer.)
Where To Stay: Sugar Bay Resort & Spa is a nice beachside resort with all the amenities and incredible views of the ocean. Rooms can be found for under $200 a night, and an all-inclusive option is also available.
If the touristy scenes of Mexico and the Caribbean don’t do it for you, consider hightailing it to Panama. Everything about the coastal town of Pedasi is tranquil. Here, you’ll find idyllic mountain views, immaculate beaches, a bustling downtown area, and activities galore: horseback riding, snorkeling, surfing, fishing, diving, and more.
Cost Of Getting There: Flights from major U.S. hubs to Panama City are available for around $300. From there, it’s a short $70 flight to Pedasi.
Where To Stay: El Sitio Playa Venao offers 14 rooms of varying size and amenities. Perch yourself on a comfy hammock and spend the afternoon just watching the waves. If you get bored, all the activities mentioned above are close at hand. Standard rooms can be found for as little as $90 a night.
With incredible snorkeling reefs, white beaches, cool stores and cafes, and arty boutique hotels, Playa Del Carmen is a hub for hipsters with wanderlust. Popularized by backpackers who sought spotless sands, it’s a chilled-out beach town with a slightly hippie-esque atmosphere. Better yet, it’s a short drive from Cancun — a major city with plenty of direct flights — but has none of the spring break-style cheesiness.
Cost Of Getting There: Roundtrip flights from major U.S. cities to Cancun start at around $315.
Where To Stay: Booking.com has some seriously good deals if you’re flexible with your dates. Try Hotel Kinbe, a stylish outpost just feet from the beach with minimalist rooms, a pool with a waterfall, and nightly rates as cheap as $57.
For a tropical retreat, try Costa Rica, which, despite its growing popularity and uptick in development, remains largely undisturbed, natural, and affordable. Book ahead and get a cheap and cheerful B & B; there’s no point in splashing your cash for a room when you’re going to be spending all of your time out exploring. And here, we guarantee that’s exactly what you’ll be doing.
Cost Of Getting There: Roundtrip flights from major U.S. cities to San Jose start at around $350.
Where To Stay: Located in Montezuma (on the southern tip of Costa Rica), Amor de Mar is an 11-room guesthouse surrounded by tropical greenery and only five minutes from the beach. Doubles are available from around $55 per night.
The most easterly point in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Saint Croix is a teeny, tiny island that offers everything you could possibly want from a tropical beach break: sun-kissed seas, talc-like sands, blue skies, palm trees, and quality piña coladas.
Cost Of Getting There: Roundtrip flights from major U.S. cities are available for around $360; depending on your departure city, you may have to change planes in Miami or Saint Thomas.
Where To Stay: Hotel Caravelle in the historic town of Christiansted is a great and affordable option, with nightly rates from $119 and rooms with harbor views.
There’s no doubt Hawaii can be seriously expensive, but tucked away between pricey resorts and five-star hotels is Kona, a sleepy village on the Kohala Coast, where you can eat local, stay cheap, stroll along black lava beaches, and appreciate great surf and snorkeling — in other words, have an authentic trip to Hawaii for a fraction of the price you’d expect.
Cost Of Getting There: Roundtrip flights from the LAX start at around $550.
Where To Stay: Use a site like Booking.com to find a cheap deal at Kona Guest House. With four rooms (some with ocean views), tropical surroundings, a “micro spa” where massages are available, and rates from around $76 a night, it’s a steal.
On the eastern side of the island, Culebra is a sleepy coastal town with a vibrant local culture and a beautiful tropical setting. Walk for miles along undisturbed white sands and paddle in warm, clear water with tropical fish nipping at your ankles. (Culebra is an especially great spot for snorkeling and diving, with all its reefs and shallow water.) In the evenings, soak up Culebra culture, eat seafood with locals, dance to gentle guitar music, and take a moonlit dip.
Cost Of Getting There: Roundtrip flights from New York to San Juan hover around $245; from there, take a short flight to Culebra for $105 (roundtrip). You can also drive 90 minutes from San Juan and take an inexpensive ferry to the island. (More info can be found here.)
Where To Stay: Mamacita’s is a warm and friendly 10-room guesthouse with clean rooms, a tropical bar, and cheap nightly rates. Call for pricing.
The island of Jamaica is beautiful, easily accessible, and relatively affordable. Eat cheap at roadside shacks serving the best jerk chicken and pork you’ve ever had in your life, discover natural wonders like the magnificent Blue Hole, spend your days paddling in the ocean, and dance the night away between hefty sips of Jamaican rum.
Cost Of Getting: There: Roundtrip flights to Montego Bay from major U.S. cities start at around $400.
Where To Stay: Located on the beach, the 74-room Fisherman’s Point Resort offers one-bedroom suites for as little as $85 per night, plus all the standard hotel amenities, a freshwater pool, and an on-site restaurant and bar.
Placencia has all the workings of a perfect tropical beach break but without the sky-high price tag. Crystal waters, tropical reefs, and luscious rainforest canopies are omnipresent, wrapped around bright and beautiful budget beachfront resorts which you can reserve for under $120 a night. What’s there to do? Swim and soak up the sun, of course.
Cost Of Getting There: Roundtrip flights to Belize City from major U.S. hubs start at around $300.
Where To Stay: The aptly named Maya Beach Hotel is right on the beach, so you can roll out of bed and straight into the sea. Air-conditioned rooms with queen-size beds start at $149 per night.
Saint John is an island of two tales: There are the world-class resorts, where guests arrive by private jet, and then there are more modest, wallet-friendly options that are perfect for the rest of us. Take Maho Bay, a calm stretch on the North Shore of the island, where the beaches are long and the water’s calm, and there are ample opportunities to snorkel, and eco-friendly accommodations for the earth-lover on a budget.
Cost Of Getting There: Pick your dates right and you can find roundtrip flights for under $300 — try American Airlines for the best prices.
Where To Stay: Concordia Eco Resort has a variety of eco tents (which are like tree-houses on the hillside), with all of the basic facilities you need. They sleep up to five people and cost around $135 per night.
Alice Tate & Justine Goodman