Whether you’re traveling with family, friends or solo, beach getaways satisfy travelers of all stripes. Since you can visit most public beaches for free and many cities have accommodation options for a broad spectrum of budgets, booking a sun-soaked getaway doesn’t have to come with sticker shock.
We round up seven sunny beach destinations that you can visit on a budget. (Note: Prices will vary depending on when you book and plan to travel.)
San Diego, California
San Diego has nonstop flights to and from more than 70 domestic and international cities, making it a convenient beach destination for those residing within the U.S. and beyond. In addition to having an impressive roster of free beaches and accommodations that cater to a wide range of needs and price points, the city also has a bounty of free activities, many of which cater to travelers with little ones in tow (think: sea otter watching and hiking). There’s also an economical bus system and downtown trolley for getting around, more reasons it is a lower-priced alternative for families than cities such as Long Beach and Santa Barbara.
While Cancún, Mexico, is home to many swanky hotels and resorts, the area offers a wider variety of places to stay to accommodate different budgets than Cabo San Lucas. That includes vacation rentals, resorts, boutique hotels and chain properties. Those who don’t mind the heat and humidity (that’s what pool and beach days are for, right?) and the occasional rainstorm will discover particularly great deals on lodging and flights from June through October, when there are still oodles of activities and thinner crowds in popular areas such as downtown Cancún and Playa Mujeres.
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If you love scuba diving and snorkeling, a trip to Curaçao should be at the top of your list. The reefs on the coast of the Caribbean island beckon explorers, while the white sands and Dutch-influenced architecture attract those seeking relaxation and cultural exploration.
To score the best deals on flights and accommodations, plan on visiting between May and November and staying at a smaller hotel that’s further away from the waterfront instead of a resort. While it depends on when you go, the island is still less popular than Caribbean destinations such as Jamaica, Martinique and Trinidad and Tobago. It also sports more wallet-friendly lodging, dining and activities as a result.
While cities on Florida’s East Coast like West Palm Beach and Miami may attract the most attention from travelers, the Sunshine State’s Gulf Coast has quieter seaside destinations with cheaper lodging and equally lovely (if not more beautiful) beaches. In fact, Sarasota’s Siesta Key — favored by locals for its sugary white sands, convenient concessions and plentiful parking — is regularly ranked as one of Florida’s best beaches.
To get there, visitors can fly into Tampa International Airport (about 60 miles north) or the Sarasota Bradenton International Airport. Book a hotel or resort in Sarasota or Bradenton; the latter of which tends to have lower rates (though the properties don’t tend to be as close to the waterfront).
Because the Greek island of Hydra (pronounced ee-dra) is smaller, quieter and less affluent than its sister island Spetses, a stay in the Aegean Sea hideaway can be easier on your bank account.
Situated less than two hours from Athens by ferry, there are no cars on Hydra (guests and locals get around on foot via water taxi), which means you can pay for less transportation. The lack of cars also makes the turquoise-water-framed landscape more tranquil and idyllic. Spend the afternoon relaxing on one of the tucked-away beaches, reachable by boat from the port of Hydra, or lingering over a glass of wine in one of the many waterfront cafes.
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The advantageous exchange rate for Americans makes Thailand a better destination for travelers on a budget than spots like Hawaii or the Caribbean. For example, $100 can pay for both a one-night hotel stay and a flight from Bangkok to many beach destinations in the country, including Phuket.
The island is only about a 90-minute flight from the capital city and is loved by travelers for its warm hospitality. It also offers pristine stretches of soft sand, gorgeous temples (there are more than 25) and plentiful activities and tours. Keep yourself busy with scuba diving, snorkeling and sailing on the Andaman Sea.
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
South Carolina beach towns are known for giving visitors access to golden sands, ample water activities and exquisitely manicured golf courses. Myrtle Beach has all of the above—plus a bevy of off-shore family-friendly activities that won’t break the bank. When crews are ready for a break from splash-worthy fun, they can ride the Myrtle Beach Skywheel, play a round of mini golf or check out Barefoot Landing, a waterfront entertaining destination that hosts free concerts and fireworks shows.