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26 Cheap Beach Vacations for Travelers on a Budget


Plan an affordable getaway to one of these stunning stretches of sand.

Many of the world’s best places to visit are beach destinations – and for good reason. Nearly twice as many people prefer relaxing vacations to active ones, according to travelers in 17 countries surveyed by market research company GfK. To help you find the beach vacation that best suits your needs, U.S. News selected several cost-effective locales around the world known for their gorgeous scenery, budget-friendly amenities and ample activities. (Note: Room rates and activity costs may vary depending on season and availability.)

Next:Clearwater Beach, Florida


Clearwater Beach, Florida

An incredibly popular shoreline among locals and visitors alike, Clearwater Beach overlooks the Gulf of Mexico and Clearwater Bay from a barrier island located about 25 miles west of Tampa. Its variety of bayfront motels and luxury resorts helps make it a more affordable beach vacation than other top Florida destinations like Miami and Sanibel Island. Transportation on the Clearwater Jolley Trolley and the Clearwater Ferry double as sightseeing tours. Plus, families can check out Pier 60’s free nightly sunset parties after lounging on the beach’s quartz sand. To save some more coin, purchase a Tampa Bay CityPASS; it covers entry to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium and several other nearby attractions.

Next:Punta Cana, Dominican Republic


Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Cheap beach vacations can be hard come by, but the tropical turquoise water and palm-fringed beaches of Punta Cana are often less expensive to visit than other Caribbean favorites. With low-season deals and kids-stay-free summer offers at numerous all-inclusive resorts, great values abound. Even in winter, several all-inclusive properties advertise room rates that are less than $300 per night for two people. Consider booking a garden view room at a large resort complex, like the Grand Palladium Bávaro Suites Resort & Spa or Grand Bahia Principe Punta Cana, for additional savings. You may have to shuttle to the beach, but you’ll enjoy access to all kinds of top-notch facilities, activities and restaurants.

Next:Puerto Vallarta, Mexico


Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Sheltered from the Pacific Ocean by calm Banderas Bay, the coarse gold sand and rocky palisades of Puerto Vallarta are ideal for water sports and eco-adventures. Lodging rates and dining prices here are generally lower than what you’ll find at high-end Cancun resorts, thanks to competition between all-inclusive resorts and boutique hotels. Las Caletas is a gorgeous private beach by day and an entertainment hub with a fun all-ages dinner show by night. In town, visit art galleries, museums, restaurants, nightlife venues and more around the seafront Malecón promenade and in the LGBTQ-friendly Zona Romantica neighborhood.

Next:Beaufort, South Carolina


Beaufort, South Carolina

The antebellum town of Beaufort, founded by British colonists in 1711, is an ideal base for families who want to admire waterfront plantation homes, learn more about Gullah art, play golf and try local seafood. Hunting Island State Park, which is located 18 miles southeast of central Beaufort, is a favorite nearby beach with a lodge and cabins, plus rustic campsites are available from about $45 per night with a two-night minimum. Visitors can also use the free Green Book of South Carolina app to explore more than 300 regional African American landmarks.

Next:San Juan, Puerto Rico


San Juan, Puerto Rico

Airfares to Puerto Rico are generally cheaper than those to other Caribbean islands, and Americans don’t need a passport to visit. Enjoy a stylish San Juan condo for as little as $125 per night during the peak winter season. Many Condado Beach properties, such as the family-friendly Embassy Suites by Hilton Dorado del Mar Beach Resort and the historic Condado Vanderbilt Hotel, feature recently renovated accommodations and amenities like pools, casinos, numerous eateries and more. Plus, there are now seven Blue Flag-designated beaches, including Carolina Beach (a traveler favorite).

Next:Huntington Beach, California


Huntington Beach, California

Self-proclaimed “Surf City USA” features an 8.5-mile stretch of sand that’s more affordable and less crowded than nearby Santa Monica or Los Angeles. At Huntington Beach, you can rent a wetsuit and sign up for surfing lessons, play volleyball or seat yourself near a bonfire and watch the sun set. Snap pictures of the 42-foot longboard at the Huntington Beach International Surfing Museum, or see the handprints and footprints of surfing legends at the Surfers’ Hall of Fame. Consider booking a vacation rental to save money, and keep in mind the old adage “May gray, June gloom” when timing your visit.

Next:The Florida Panhandle


The Florida Panhandle

Sunny days in the mid-50s (on average) boost the winter appeal of Florida Panhandle beaches, and excellent conditions in the spring, summer and fall make this area a great beach destination. Vacations in this area are often affordable, but they are generally cheapest from November to February. Choose Panama City Beach’s 27-mile beach for its budget-friendly hotels, restaurants and clubs. Head to Pensacola to see a Blue Angels air show and tour the National Naval Aviation Museum. Or, split the cost of a vacation rental with friends in Rosemary Beach, a scenic enclave with a beautiful beach, shops and eateries, or Grayton Beach, a sleepier community that overlooks the Gulf of Mexico.

Next:Puerto Plata and Cabarete, Dominican Republic


Puerto Plata and Cabarete, Dominican Republic

A bustling, historic port on the windy northern coast of the Dominican Republic, Puerto Plata is a hot spot for windsurfing and kitesurfing. There are many guesthouses and Airbnbs in Puerto Plata with rates as low as $50 per night – plus an array of all-inclusive resorts along Playa Dorada for every type of budget. In nearby Cabarete, backpackers will find top-notch kitesurfing conditions at Kite Beach, as well as a lively nightlife scene. Lifestyle Holidays Vacation Resort’s Puerto Plata and Cabarete properties, which sit less than 20 miles away from the World War II-era Jewish settlement at Sosúa, are some top affordable accommodation options with ample on-site amenities.

Next:Old Orchard Beach, Maine


Old Orchard Beach, Maine

While wealthy New Englanders vacation in Kennebunkport, budget-conscious families head to kid-friendly Old Orchard Beach to camp or stay in more affordable hotels in this East Coast destination. About 15 miles southwest of Portland, the town offers a 7-mile stretch of sand where visitors can stroll, sunbathe or explore the historic fishing pier that was built in 1898. The water is often too cold for swimming between May and October, but that’s no problem since there are various nearby shops and restaurants to occupy your time – plus New England’s only beachfront amusement park, Palace Playland.

Next:Port Aransas, Texas


Port Aransas, Texas

Port Aransas, which sits on Mustang Island approximately 40 miles east of Corpus Christi, is a laid-back beach city where visitors can enjoy everything from shelling, fishing and kayaking to barbecues and pirate-themed cruises. Smaller and less developed than more well-known Gulf beach destinations like South Padre Island and Galveston, Port Aransas features quaint motels with discounted rates.

Next:Cancún, Isla Mujeres and Playa del Carmen, Mexico


Cancún, Isla Mujeres and Playa del Carmen, Mexico

With reasonably priced flights and scores of all-inclusive resorts, Cancún, Isla Mujeres and Playa del Carmen boast some of the cheapest tropical beaches near the U.S., plus a rich culture that includes Mayan archaeological sites like Chichén Itzá and El Rey Ruins. Spring breakers and travelers on tight budgets can avoid downtown dives and eye-catching timeshare deals by staying at newer, highly regarded properties in Cancún’s Hotel Zone. For small seafront inns, tacos and nightlife in a walkable town, head roughly 40 miles southwest to Playa del Carmen. Or, take the ferry from Cancún to Isla Mujeres to spend a day at Playa Norte. Just note: Adults-only resorts tend to be more expensive.

Next:Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama


Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama

Located on Alabama’s Gulf Coast, Gulf Shores and Orange Beach are prime spots for bird watching, hiking along nature trails, searching for seashells and kayaking on the Coastal Alabama Back Bay Blueway. For free entertainment, cruise around Gulf State Park on a complimentary bike (available through the park’s bike-share program), learn about the history of the area at the Gulf Shores Museum or get a better understanding of the local flora and fauna at the Gulf State Park’s Nature Center. Surprise the kids with a ride on the Ferris wheel at The Wharf in Orange Beach or a round of mini golf, both of which are well-priced. Travelers can often find special promotions to save money on lodging.

Next:North Shore, Oahu, Hawaii


North Shore, Oahu, Hawaii

Located about 27 miles northwest of Honolulu, the North Shore’s small towns fill with surfers from October to March. In fact, many compete in the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing every November and December. Even then, deals are available at Haleiwa’s accommodations. The town boasts proximity to the famous Banzai Pipeline at ‘Ehukai Beach Park, as well as Kahuku’s food trucks and Ali’i Beach Park and Sunset Beach, which both offer superb surfing waves and picnic areas.

Next:Outer Banks, North Carolina


Outer Banks, North Carolina

The Outer Banks, a 200-mile stretch of barrier islands, features more than 100 miles of beaches. Kill Devil Hills and Kitty Hawk, where the Wright Brothers first flew an airplane, are home to popular surfing beaches, while Duck boasts pet-friendly sands. Groups can find multibedroom vacation homes, small motels and hotels with pools that offer affordable rates.

Next:Willemstad, Curaçao


Willemstad, Curaçao

The capital city of Curaçao boasts pastel-hued Dutch colonial architecture, canals, museums and beautiful white sand beaches. Airbnb’s rental villas average around $125 per night in the winter, though couples studios go for much less. Rent a car to explore Curaçao’s more remote cove beaches, snorkel the reefs or hire a boat to reach Klein Curaçao, an island paradise found 15 miles southeast of the main island.

Next:Cannon Beach, Oregon


Cannon Beach, Oregon

Although Cannon Beach’s water is too cold for most swimmers, its dog-friendly hotels and rugged Pacific Ocean shoreline attract beach strollers and dog walkers in droves. Located 80 miles northwest of Portland, this relaxing beach town features 4 miles of beaches, postcard-worthy Haystack Rock and a plethora of art galleries. The oceanfront Hallmark Resort & Spa Cannon Beach is a budget-friendly property known for its great views and comfortable rooms with full kitchens.

Next:South Padre Island, Texas


South Padre Island, Texas

You won’t have to dish out too much dough to have tons of fun in South Padre Island. For unique outings, check out the Sea Turtle Art Trail or the Sandcastle Trail, go on a dolphin-watching tour or visit the Coastal Studies Lab. Embark on a nature walk or learn about marine ecosystems at the South Padre Island Birding, Nature Center & Alligator Sanctuary. When it comes to lodging, the island offers a variety of affordable beach house rentals.




The French island of Martinique faces the calm Caribbean Sea to the west and the more active Atlantic Ocean to the east, with sandy beaches along the southern coast. Served by both major and low-cost airlines, Martinique’s affordability, French flair, less touristy atmosphere and delicious Creole cuisine draw Europeans and Canadians in droves. Martinique also boasts highly regarded rum, excellent dive sites, five marinas and a multitude of festivals. Top beaches to visit include Plage des Salines and Grand Anse d’Arlet.

Next:San Diego


San Diego

Affordable Pacific Beach, part of San Diego’s Mission Bay region, is popular with young travelers. The 3-mile-long boardwalk is the place to stroll, watch surfers, ride scooters and bike. It also features the Crystal Pier Hotel, a boutique property with historic bungalows and a fishing pier. Families will likely prefer North Pacific Beach’s calmer surf and year-round lifeguards. What’s more, visitors can find budget-friendly accommodations throughout the year.

Next:Myrtle Beach, South Carolina


Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

With warm temperatures year-round, Myrtle Beach offers vacationers tons of outdoor activities, such as golf, fishing, parasailing and other water sports. Located on South Carolina’s northern coast, Myrtle Beach is a less expensive option than other seaside spots in the state, such as Hilton Head or Kiawah Island. Save some money by going to Broadway at the Beach and Barefoot Landing, which offer free live entertainment, kids activities and fireworks during the summer. Some hotels, such as the Beach Cove, offer heavy discounts for customers that pay in advance online with a three-night minimum. Room rates can dip as low as around $75 per night.

Next:Virginia Beach


Virginia Beach

This coastal city in southeastern Virginia, where the Chesapeake Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean, features a 3-mile boardwalk, the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center and the Old Cape Henry Lighthouse. Visitors can enjoy the beautiful beaches, hiking, state parks, wildlife refuge and a few museums for free (or for a nominal fee). As with most places, you can save money by avoiding Virginia Beach during major holidays, in the summer or on weekends. To lower your lodging costs, opt for a hotel room that is just off the boardwalk or a book a vacation rental or condo to split among friends or family.

Next:Daytona Beach, Florida


Daytona Beach, Florida

Have some fun in the Florida sun without the high prices of Miami Beach by visiting Daytona Beach instead. In the summer, visitors can attend free concerts at the Daytona Beach Bandshell, explore the 23 miles of white sand beaches or visit one of the national car racing landmarks or museums. If a ticket to watch the Daytona 500 race doesn’t fit your budget (they can go for more than $400), take a behind-the-scenes tour of the Daytona International Speedway instead for only $25 per adult (kids 4 and younger can visit for free).

Next:Tybee Island, Georgia


Tybee Island, Georgia

Charming Tybee Island is less than 20 miles southeast of Savannah, Georgia. The 3-square-mile island is jam-packed with inexpensive activities. Visitors can stroll the beautiful beaches, explore the island by bike, go fishing or hunt for megatooth shark fossils. For sprawling views, climb to the top of the Tybee Island Lighthouse, Georgia’s oldest and tallest lighthouse, for $12 per adult and $10 per child (ages 6 to 17). Children younger than 5 enter for free. To learn about sea life in the area, check out the Tybee Island Marine Science Center (closed on Mondays and Tuesdays). For budget-friendly overnight accommodations, book a cabin at River’s End Campground.

Next:Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, Florida


Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, Florida

Chill on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea. This vintage, seaside town is only 7 miles from Fort Lauderdale, but it offers a much slower pace than the city. Explore the walkable town on foot, picnic at Washingtonia Park, snorkel along Anglin’s Pier Reef Snorkel Trail, head to El Prado Park to enjoy the beach or shop at the farmers market. If you do want to hitch a ride, hop on the free Pelican Hopper shuttle. You won’t find any high-rise buildings here – only boutique hotels and midcentury modern architecture. The Plunge Beach Resort offers discounted room rates for repeat guests and residents of Florida, Georgia, New Jersey and New York.

Next:Ocean City, Maryland


Ocean City, Maryland

For a memorable beach getaway, head to lively Ocean City. There are plenty of free things to do on this 10-mile East Coast beach; spend the day enjoying the sun, surf and sand, or stroll along the Ocean City Boardwalk to peruse the shops and indulge in a tasty meal. Families and kids at heart will want to visit the seasonal Jolly Roger at the Pier amusement park, which boasts carnival rides, games and fishing. For more wallet-friendly entertainment, drive to nearby Assateague Island to see wild ponies, or check out the Ocean City Life-Saving Station Museum or the Art League of Ocean City. Ocean City offers campgrounds, vacation rentals and hotels to fit most budgets.

Next:Wildwood, New Jersey


Wildwood, New Jersey

Set on the Jersey Shore, Wildwood is a 5-mile island with white sand beaches, a bustling boardwalk, carnival rides, water sports and vibrant nightlife. Take advantage of activities that won’t cost you a penny, like playing beach volleyball, building sandcastles, flying a kite, going for a swim or simply relaxing in your beach chair with a good book. No-frills motels start at around $150 per night, and you may be able to stretch your trip budget with coupons in Wildwood’s Family Value Book, which you can find online.

Next:Why Trust U.S. News Travel


Why Trust U.S. News Travel

Sharael Kolberg is a U.S. News & World Report contributor with knowledge of cheap beach vacation destinations. Having lived in Hawaii for several years, she had to find inexpensive activities and accommodations – or she’d have gone broke. Kolberg used her interviewing and researching skills to curate this list of cheap beach vacations around the world.

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Bernard Greenhall
Bernard Greenhall

Bernard is a sports and physical education expert with years of experience. He's passionate about promoting health and wellness through physical activity, and he's worked with athletes and non-athletes alike to help them achieve their fitness goals. Bernard holds a degree in Physical Education and is dedicated to staying up-to-date with the latest trends and research in his field.

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