Taking a beach vacation can be the perfect way to unwind and escape the pressure of work and home. Although many beach destinations can be expensive, there are also many that are budget-friendly. This article describes 10 inexpensive beach destinations where travelers can relax without worrying about the cost.
If your thoughts drift to lapping ocean waves and stretches of warm, powdery sand while you’re sitting in your work cubicle, it’s time to plan a vacation. Escaping to the beach can be an excellent way to forget the pressures of everyday life and relax in a luxurious, care-free setting. Still, a trip to a popular beach destination can put a serious strain on your wallet. Fortunately, digging your toes into the sand doesn’t have to cost a fortune. These 10 beach destinations offer the opportunity to rejuvenate without leaving you worried about how you will pay for your getaway:
1. Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica
Costa Rica is well known for its lush tropical landscapes and high-end eco-tourism excursions. It is also known for luxury resorts that charge exorbitant rates. Nestled away from the major tourist spots in southeast Costa Rica, though, Puerto Viejo de Talamanca offers a scenic, relaxed atmosphere for a fraction of the cost of a resort stay in San Jose or Puerto Jiminez. The bungalow-style rooms south of town might not offer the kind of obsequious service you’d get at the Four Seasons, but for about $85 (£60) per night, they’re more than adequate. This town’s beaches stretch to the border of Panama, giving you miles of soft brown sand and Caribbean waves.
The food in Puerto Viejo won’t disappoint. Thanks to the town’s rich history and diverse influences, you’ll find affordable options including Italian, South American, Caribbean, and traditional Costa Rican fare. There are also several bars where you can mingle with the locals and enjoy a spectacular sunset on the patio. Be sure to visit the Jaguar Rescue Center, one of the few places in the world where you can actually walk into a monkey cage and interact with the animals up close.
2. Tulum, Mexico
Playa del Carmen has been a popular vacation spot for decades; however, the appearance of all-inclusive resorts in the 90s made vacationing here an expensive proposition. Just south of Playa del Carmen, though, Tulum offers the same incredible views for much less. There are only a few hotels to choose from. However, you can typically score a room at the Posada Dos Ciebas for about $60 (£43) per night. Likewise, the dining options in Tulum are limited but surprisingly affordable.
The beaches of Tulum are pristine and, as you might expect, significantly less crowded than those of Playa del Carmen. If you grow restless, step away from the beach and take a tour of the town’s Mayan ruins or attend a Temazcal, which is a traditional sweat lodge ceremony. You can also participate in a yoga session on the beach – a perfect way to start your morning.
3. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
If you live in the eastern United States, visiting Myrtle Beach is an excellent way to enjoy an oceanside getaway without the expense of air travel. The all-suite resorts along the beach can be pricey during peak season; however, there are many smaller hotels in North Myrtle Beach where you can snag a deal. During the shoulder season, prices at even the beachfront resorts can dip well below $100 (£70) per night.
While you’re in Myrtle Beach, you’ll enjoy a vast stretch of coastline that reaches from Murrell’s Inlet to North Myrtle Beach. The areas south of the city are typically uncrowded and give you an opportunity to soak in the sun undisturbed. While ticket prices for attractions like jet pack tours and Ripley’s Aquarium can be expensive, catching a live concert on the Boardwalk or browsing the boutiques at Barefoot Landing is a budget-friendly way to spend an afternoon. Head to North Myrtle beach for a wide range of seafood, barbeque, and pizza joints that offer delicious food at affordable prices.
4. Placencia, Belize
Known for its 16-mile stretch of white, powdery sand, Placencia is a favorite among travelers visiting Belize. Located at the southern tip of a narrow peninsula, this tiny village welcomes visitors with spectacular views and a laid-back atmosphere. Although lodging options are few, you can enjoy an air-conditioned cabana for about $90 (£65) per night – be sure to book well in advance if you plan to visit Belize during peak season.
With a population of less than 500, Placencia isn’t exactly a hub of nightlife or tourist activity. Still, if you’re looking for a place to truly unwind, this village is sure to please. If you need a break from beach lounging, join a half-day kayak excursion of the Monkey River. As you travel through the mangroves, you’ll likely spot howler monkeys, manatees, and possibly even a few crocodiles. For a culinary treat, enjoy authentic Taiwanese fare at Blue Crab or take in the beach front views at De’Tatch Seafood Bar.
5. Destin, Florida
With hundreds of miles of beaches, it is little wonder that Florida attracts millions of sun worshipers each year. Many of the popular spots, though, come with exorbitant price tags. If you’re looking for an affordable beach vacation, skip the lure of Miami Beach and head to the Florida panhandle. Destin, a fishing village, along the Gulf of Mexico, offers visitors more than 100 miles of pristine white sand. Wake up early and head to the beach for a spectacular sunrise as you watch fishing boats head out for the day or cast your own line in the water to catch grouper and snapper.
Although condo and resort development has increased in Destin in recent years, there are still plenty of affordable places to stay. The Wingate, for example, offers rates well below $100 (£70) per night during the off-season. Live country and blues performances are plentiful throughout the year, and you’ll find numerous dockside cafes where you can chat with the locals and enjoy some of the freshest seafood available.
6. Half Moon Bay, California
San Francisco and Monterey, which are two popular vacation spots for visitors traveling to Florida, are expensive locations with steep restaurant and lodging prices. Between the two, though, you’ll find one of California’s hidden beach gems. Located in San Mateo County, Half Moon Bay is home to numerous beaches where you can amble for miles without seeing another human being. Cowell Ranch State Beach, which is about a 10-minute walk from the highway, is an exceptional spot for spreading out a beach towel, uncorking a bottle of wine, and enjoying a romantic sunset. You can also visit Ano Nuevo State Reserve, where you’ll have the opportunity to see elephant seals in a picturesque, natural setting.
Half Moon Bay and the surrounding villages are home to intimate cafes that focus on fresh, organic ingredients. You’ll also find accommodations ranging from
hostel rooms for $20 (£15) a night to bed-and-breakfast rooms for about $70 (£50) per night. If eco-tourism is your cup of tea, you can rent a bungalow tent at Costanoa for about $115 (£85) per night and enjoy spa treatments and horseback riding.
7. Negril, Jamaica
Negril is among the most popular beach towns in the Caribbean for good reason. The seven-mile stretch of beachfront offers some of the most spectacular sunset views you’ll find in the Western Hemisphere. Negril is also one of the most affordable places to stay and play in the Caribbean – a beach front room at White Sands, for example, costs only about $80 (£57) per night even during peak season. The rooms include kitchenettes, which means you can feast on fresh fruit and Jamaican specialties away from the crowded restaurants and cafes.
After a day of beach lounging, head to the cliffs and watch the divers plunge from the top as the sun sets. Of course, the beach fun doesn’t end when the sun goes down – you can sample inexpensive rum and party with locals and tourists into the wee hours of the morning. Live reggae performances are almost everywhere in Negril, so it’s hard to forget that you’ve escaped to “island time.”
8. Outer Banks, North Carolina
Admittedly, Outer Banks has its share of pricey resorts and expensive tourist activities. Still, there are plenty of budget-friendly options at this popular tourist destination. For easy access to the beach, head to Cedar Island and check in to the Driftwood Motel, where you can enjoy comfortable accommodations for about $65 (£45) per night. The area, which stretches for almost 200 miles along the Atlantic Coast, offers picturesque barrier islands where you can explore unspoiled scenery and spot native wildlife.
While you’re visiting Outer Banks, stop by Kitty Hawk, the location where Wilbur and Orville Wright’s first flight took place in 1903. There are also plenty of opportunities for water sports such as kayaking, kite-boarding, and scuba diving. On Roanoke Island, you’ll find the North Carolina Aquarium, which is an excellent place to spend a rainy day or enjoy time with your little ones. Some of the restaurants in the developed tourist areas can be pricey; however, you’ll find casual cafes and fish taco stands where you can sample fresh fare at a much more affordable price. The United States’ heel along the Gulf of Mexico is an excellent place to lounge in the sand without spending a fortune.
9. Gulf Shores, Alabama
Alabama isn’t exactly known for pristine beaches, but the state’s heel along the Gulf of Mexico is an excellent place to lounge in the sand without spending a fortune. You won’t find luxury resorts or spring break revellers, but you will find quiet stretches of immaculate sand with incredible views of the Gulf of Mexico. Condos and rental homes are available for less than $100 (£70) per night and weekly rates during peak season rarely exceed $1,000 (£700).
Of course, seafood is a staple of the local cuisine in the Gulf Shores. A seafood po’ boy at King Neptune’s will only set you back about $10 (£7). Gulf Shores Steamer, consistently ranked one of the area’s top restaurants, offers a heaping seafood platter for two for $35 (£25). If you’re looking for a break from beach lounging, head out to Gulf State Park, where you can see native wildlife while you hike along natural landscapes. Golf, fishing, and water sports are also popular area attractions.
10. Huntington Beach, California
Orange County is primarily known as a place to spot celebrities and soak up the sun at posh Laguna Beach. Just north of Laguna, though, you’ll find a relaxing spot to enjoy a break from life without the steep prices in Huntington Beach. Just steps from the beach, you can find affordable accommodations along Pacific Highway – Sun n’ Sands Motel, for example, offers comfortable rooms for about $129 (£95) per night. There are plenty of restaurants, including affordable casual eateries, within walking distance.
Surfing is the primary attraction here – with eight miles of beach front, you won’t have trouble finding a place to try your surfing skills without hordes of onlookers. If you’d rather watch, head over to the pier near the International Surfing museum to see experienced surfers tackling the waves. You’ll also find eclectic retail boutiques and intimate art galleries in the town’s downtown district.
With so many affordable beach destinations to choose from, you can enjoy a tranquil beach vacation without compromising your budget. Whether you want an all-night party or a chance to settle in with a good book by the ocean, a rejuvenating beach getaway is within your budget.