November 29, 2022

32 Cheap Beach Vacations for Travelers on a Budget

Cheap beach vacations

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.

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.)

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.

Tel Aviv, Israel

Tel Aviv‘s 16 beaches along Israel’s Mediterranean coast are easy to reach thanks to cheap flights from Europe. The environmentally friendly, Blue Flag-designated Metzitzim Beach beckons to surfers and kiteboarders in winter when daytime temperatures hover in the mid- to high 60s. Stop for a selfie with the playful statue of David Ben-Gurion (Israel’s first prime minister) doing a headstand at Frishman Beach, or explore the area using the city’s shared bikes or scooters. Tal by the Beach offers stylish rooms, with rates that include daily breakfast and bike rentals.

Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Cheap beach vacations can be hard come by, but tropical Punta Cana‘s turquoise water and palm-fringed beautiful beaches are often less expensive to visit than other Caribbean favorites. The region’s diverse international crowd – attracted by budget packages and charters – helps create a sophisticated atmosphere that can be fun for even budget-minded travelers. 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, such as 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 like pools, activities and plenty of restaurants.

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Sheltered from the Pacific Ocean by calm Banderas Bay, Puerto Vallarta‘s coarse gold sand and rocky palisades are ideal for water sports and eco-adventures. Resort and dining prices here are generally lower than what you’ll find in 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.

Penang, Malaysia

One of Malaysia’s top vacation destinations, Penang boasts picturesque beaches that overlook the Malacca Strait, plus historic George Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site divided into British, Chinese, Malay and Indian quarters. Plant yourself 8 miles away in Batu Ferringhi, a beachfront area with bargain hotels, multiple entertainment options and a night market known for serving terrific street food. With rooms at the Hard Rock Hotel Penang starting at around $70 per night, you can afford to Jet Ski, paraglide or windsurf when you’re not sunbathing.

Guardalavaca, Cuba

Savvy Cuba beachgoers are forsaking the high-priced international resorts at Varadero, a beach haven approximately 90 miles east of Havana, for this waterfront oasis less than 33 miles north of Holguín. In Guardalavaca, vacationers will find Playa Esmeralda, a white sand beach with emerald green water and thriving undersea reefs. Meanwhile, nearby Bahía Naranja features a popular dolphinarium with opportunities to swim with dolphins. Standard rooms at four-star, all-inclusive resorts like the Melía-affiliated Sol Río De Luna y Mares cost around $150 per night for two people, while local vacation rentals commonly go for less than $50 per night.

Kep Province, Cambodia

Since casinos began drawing Chinese gamblers to Sihanoukville, backpackers have moved to the southern Gulf of Thailand beaches in Kep Province. While five-star properties dot offshore islands, accommodations on the province’s pristine coast are comparatively cheap. Choose a basic room at a hotel or guesthouse, or treat yourself to a luxuriously appointed Khmer villa at the posh Samanea Beach Resort & Spa. Rates start around $200 per night for up to three people and include daily breakfast, afternoon tea and laundry service. Time your visit between November and August to avoid the height of Cambodia’s rainy season.

St. Paul’s Bay, Malta

Accessible via low-cost airlines, the Mediterranean island of Malta boasts fair weather, crystal-clear water and rock-bottom rates from November to April. Cheap hotels and furnished flats are available in St. Paul’s Bay in the Buġibba and Qawra neighborhoods. It is worth noting that you’ll need a beach chair for the rocky beaches and that both areas are close to restaurants and nightclubs. Explore more coastline with a weekly bus pass, or take a ferry to sister island Gozo for a daytrip. Ferries depart daily from Cirkewwa in Mellieha, a small town situated 5 miles northwest of St. Paul’s Bay.

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 $35 per night. Visitors can also use the free Green Book of South Carolina app to explore more than 300 regional African American landmarks.

San Juan, Puerto Rico

Airfares to Puerto Rico are generally cheaper than those for other islands. Americans don’t need a passport to enjoy a stylish San Juan condo, which may cost as low 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 nearby Carolina Beach (a traveler favorite).

Crete, Greece

The large island of Crete features numerous beaches and pleasant temperatures year-round, with highs in the 60s to mid-80s. Reliable public buses make it easy to visit the island’s famous Minoan archaeological sites and the Samaria Gorge. There are budget-friendly boarding houses and hostels in busy Rethymnon and outside of Chania, a picture-perfect city with a Venetian harbor. While visiting, you should make time to go see Elafonissi, one of the world’s most beautiful pink sand beaches.

Essaouira, Morocco

Travelers flock to Morocco’s western coast for the chance to ride camels, horses, surfboards and more at Essaouira’s beaches. With 18th-century fortified walls and stone gates, a fishing harbor, pastel stucco houses and souks to thrill bargain shoppers, Essaouira is an affordable and equally fascinating alternative to Marrakech that is cooler come summertime. Opt for the eclectic decor, hippie vibe and rooftop breakfasts at the classic Villa Maroc, or choose from a variety of affordable riads (traditional Moroccan houses) and Airbnbs in the old town.

Koh Samui, Thailand

Koh Samui, the second-largest island in Thailand’s Chumphon Archipelago, is a noted wellness, honeymoon and family escape with first-class facilities. Hotels range from simple accommodations (costing less than $50 per night) to posh resorts like the Four Seasons. Many properties offer affordable rates throughout the year, but you’ll find the cheapest options for a family beach vacation on Maenam Beach or near the busier Bophut or Chaweng beaches. Just be sure to pack a rain jacket in case of showers: Travelers can expect a tropical shower typically every day from May to September and monsoon rains in October and November.

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 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 deciding when to visit.

Antalya, Turkey

Antalya, on southern Turkey’s Mediterranean coast, offers several budget-friendly options. These range from sprawling resorts that overlook the action-packed Lara Beach to family-run hotels in quieter settings – such as Çirali Beach, site of an ancient Lycian town. Although November to March may be rainy and see temperatures drop into the 40s, great values keep Antalya busy all year. In addition to more than 200 Blue Flag beaches, Antalya boasts incredible archaeological sites, terrific Turkish cuisine and a lively nightlife scene at harborside bars.

Bocas del Toro, Panama

Situated off of Panama’s northwestern coast, the nine main islands that comprise Bocas del Toro province are home to some of Central America’s most environmentally pristine tropical beaches. Stay near relaxing Playa Estrella, surf at Red Frog Beach and visit Cayos Zapatillas to see endangered sea turtles. Also, save time for hiking, snorkeling, diving or bird-watching. Although prices continue to rise as retirees discover the islands’ charm, many affordable hostels and small hotels are still available on Isla Colon.

Goa, India

You may recognize some of picturesque Goa’s luxury resorts and beaches from their appearances in world-famous Bollywood films like “Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa” and “Ek Duuje Ke Liye.” While prices here peak between Christmas and New Year’s – when international visitors jam Goa’s beach shacks and clubs – there are always bargains for every taste. Backpackers and partiers flock to Calangute Beach in North Goa for water sports, rowdy bars, a lively flea market and cheap hotels. Meanwhile, South Goa’s Mobor Beach offers windsurfing and beach biking opportunities, as well as multiple youth hostels.

The Florida Panhandle

Sunny days in the mid-50s (on average) boost the winter appeal of Florida Panhandle beaches, and excellent temps and conditions in the spring, summer and fall make this area a great beach vacation option. 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 Show and tour the National Naval Aviation Museum. Or, book a vacation rental and split the cost with a group of friends or families 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.

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 also 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.

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.

Port Aransas, Texas

Port Aransas, which sits on Mustang Island approximately 30 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.

Cancun, Isla Mujeres and Playa del Carmen, Mexico

With reasonably priced flights and scores of all-inclusive resorts, Cancun, 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 Cancun’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 Cancun to Isla Mujeres to spend a day at Playa Norte. Adults-only resorts tend to be more expensive.

Orange Beach, Alabama

Active families can enjoy Orange Beach’s sandy Gulf Coast shoreline and activities throughout the majority of the year. Take toddlers exploring in a two-person cat boat with a guide, or book an inshore or back bay fishing charter with older children. Families can also look for innovative kids programs at the Gulf Coast Center for Ecotourism & Sustainability. Luxury beachfront condos that sleep up to six people often cost as little as $130 per night in winter, when it’s too chilly to swim.

North Shore, Oahu, Hawaii

Located less than 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 Alii Beach Park and Sunset Beach, which both offer superb surfing waves and picnic areas.

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 that start at $45 per person, per night. There are also small motels and hotels with pools that offer affordable rates.

Willemstad, Curacao

Curacao‘s capital city 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 Curacao’s more remote cove beaches, snorkel the reefs or hire a boat to reach Klein Curacao, an island paradise found 15 miles from Curacao.

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.

Martinique

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. Martinique is served by both major and low-cost airlines, and the island’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 multitude of festivals. Top beaches to visit include Plage des Salines and Grand Anse d’Arlet.

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 year-round.

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

With mild to warm temperatures year-round, vacationers can enjoy outdoor activities such as playing golf, fishing, enjoying the boardwalk, going parasailing, and, of course, a plethora of water sports. Located on South Carolina’s northern coast, Myrtle Beach is a less expensive option than other coastal 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 be as low as $79 per night.

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 nominal fee). As with most places, you can save money by not visiting Virginia Beach during major holidays, in the summer, or on weekends. For money-saving tips on hotel rooms, opt for a room that is just off the boardwalk or a book a vacation rental or condo to split with friends or your family.

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), fans can take a behind-the-scenes tour of the Daytona International Speedway instead for only $25 per adult, and kids 4 and younger can visit for free.

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