25 Best Affordable Beach Vacations in the U.S.
When travelers think of beach vacations, the word “cheap” is not the first thing that comes to mind. Many may be surprised to learn that the United States has dozens of beach getaways for solo travelers, couples, and families that are easy on the budget. Non-motorized watersports, hiking, biking, and exploring can all be affordable alternatives to otherwise pricey resort stays. Whether it’s California surfing, Maine tide pooling, or Florida snorkeling that excites the traveler, an affordable beach vacation awaits. These 25 US beach towns welcome visitors to an array of sights and activities for their next seaside getaway. Photo: Ian/Fotolia
Huntington Beach, otherwise known as Surf City U.S.A. is a mecca for surfers of all ages and abilities. Lessons and equipment rental are available for individuals and groups at the Banzai Surf School, an accredited member of the National Surf Schools & Instructors Association. Beachgoers who would rather catch some rays than catch a wave can stretch out on a beach towel along 10 miles of award-winning sandy shoreline. Beach volleyball is a popular waterfront sport and tournaments are held throughout the year. For bicycle rentals and burger baskets, tourists can hit one of the concession stands along the beach. Things to Do in Huntington Beach
With pet-friendly beaches, local brewery tours, and adventurous watersports, Virginia Beach is the ideal place for a family to find their own adventure. Visitors can navigate the city with a bike rental or take a stroll on the 3-mile boardwalk. Visitors looking for a tranquil place to unwind will find it at Chesapeake Bay Beach with its calm tide and lighthouses. For those looking to surf, kayak, or hike, Sandbridge Beach encompasses the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge and False Cape State Park, two natural spots that are great for the nature-inclined. Visitors who want fresh seafood will enjoy going on an educational and fun oyster tour with a local. Next read: Things to Do in Virginia Beach, 15 Best Dog-Friendly Hotels in Virginia Beach
»Mexico Beach, Florida
Mexico Beach is a small, lively coastal city in Bay County, on Florida’s Gulf Coast, known for its mile-long wonderful white sandy beaches, slow pace of life, and the nostalgic vibe of Old Florida. They made sure that the development is restrained and that everyone has a wonderful view of the beaches unobstructed by massive concrete towers. The stores are small, there are charming mom-and-pop eateries and boutiques, the waters are crystal clear, and the nature is lush and unspoiled. You can spend your time fishing, diving, swimming, shelling, kayaking, and parasailing, or you can stretch out on a beach chair under a colorful umbrella and enjoy a good book. Nature lovers can take one of many eco tours and go looking for ospreys, bald eagles, endangered sea turtles, or dolphins. There is always some festival to make things lively, such as the Fourth of July Best Blast on the Beach, Music in the Park, Beach Blast Triathlons, Gumbo Cook-Off, Art & Wine Festival, and Christmas Celebration of Lights.
History buffs will have plenty to see and do in Cape May. America’s first seaside resort town has over 600 well-preserved Victorian-era buildings, some of which now welcome guests as bed and breakfasts. Themed trolley tours led by the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts and Humanities are a popular activity for those who want to learn more about the fascinating history of this charming town. The “Painted Ladies” overlook the promenade and Cape May’s Convention Hall, which offers a year-round schedule of activities and entertainment. Past the promenade are miles of sandy beaches where visitors can soak up the sun. Things to Do in Cape May
This seaside village has a well-deserved reputation for being home to the best beach on the Oregon Coast. Its natural beauty even led to National Geographic listing it as one of the most beautiful places in the world! If beauty inspires art, it’s no wonder that Cannon Beach was also named one of America’s best art towns, and art enthusiasts will love the numerous festivals, galleries, and displays. Sculpture of a different kind can be seen at the town’s annual sandcastle contest held each June. Food is an art form itself, and the cafés, microbreweries, and restaurants serve up a selection of fresh seafood and local specialties. Oregon beaches
This popular vacation destination has nearly 2 miles of inviting sandy beaches along Florida’s Gold Coast. Watersports enthusiasts can rent equipment right on the beach or along Atlantic Avenue, the city’s main thoroughfare. Everyone from snorkelers to surfers will find a place that caters to them. The city’s parks and recreation department maintains more than 40 public parks and facilities that are open to residents and tourists including pools, sports fields, skate parks, tennis courts, golf courses, dog parks, and playgrounds that offer affordable fun for everyone! Dining options in downtown Delray Beach range from food trucks to four-star restaurants.
Once home to sea captains and ship builders, Dennis Port Village is now known for its coffee shops, boutiques, markets, and sandy south side beaches that overlook Nantucket Sound. This quaint village invites visitors to eat at one of its many New England-style restaurants and enjoy a post-dinner concert on the Village Green. Dennis Port is also a popular spot for windsurfers and kite boarders, who use the southwesterly breezes along the sound’s shoreline to their advantage. Overnight guests who want a true Cape Cod experience can stay in one of Dennis Port’s cozy bed and breakfasts or charming inns.
Flagler Beach prides itself on its laidback retro vibe. Casual beachfront restaurants and coffee shops set the tone for a relaxing vacation in this Atlantic Coast town. Even the local winery is on the beach. Residents and visitors have free access to the municipal fishing pier and more than 6 miles of sandy shoreline. Nature lovers can hike the Coastal Strand Trail to get an up-close look at the local ecosystem. Visiting the local art galleries and gift shops are a great way to while away an afternoon before heading back to the beach for an evening cocktail and live entertainment. Things to Do in Flagler Beach
Photo: Gregory Johnston/Fotolia
Set among the cranberry bogs it’s well known for, Harwich delivers an authentic Cape Cod experience with bonfires on the beach, boating, and baseball. The village has six fresh water beaches and 17 saltwater beaches along Nantucket Sound. Permits for bonfires are issued by the Recreation and Youth Commission. Boats can be rented with or without a captain at NautiJane’s in East Harwich for a relaxing day at sea. Sports fans can spend an afternoon watching the Harwich Mariners take on another team from the Cape Cod Baseball League followed by a casual dinner of local favorites at Brax Landing in Harwich Port.
The longest white sand beach in Hawaii can be found on “The Friendly Island” of Molokai. Most everything in Molokai revolves around the water. From snorkeling to scuba diving to surfing, watersports are the favorite activity of locals and tourists alike. Equipment rentals, instructors, and guides can be found near Kaunakakai Harbor. Landlubbers have many land-based activities to choose from as well, including hikes in the Kamakou Preserve or biking along the Waikolu Outlook. Guided mule rides in the uplands is another unique family-friendly experience. Hand-crafted souvenirs to remember your trip to off-the-beaten-path Molokai are available at small stores throughout the island.
Sixty miles of beautiful beaches welcome visitors to this popular vacation spot. Guests of the town’s many campgrounds, condos, bed and breakfasts, and resorts will enjoy the plethora of activities Myrtle Beach has to offer. Kids and adults can go scuba diving or surfing using their own equipment or rental equipment from one of the local shops that outfit watersports enthusiasts. Those who feel the need for speed will love going parasailing or taking a ride on a jet ski or banana boat. Attractions like a 5D theater, Ripley’s Aquarium, a trampoline park, and the SkyWheel, a Ferris wheel with glass-enclosed gondolas, provide endless entertainment opportunities for the whole family. Things to Do in Myrtle Beach
For travelers looking for a vacation without breaking the budget, Nags Head, North Carolina, provides the ideal family holiday. Single family cottages are plentiful in this historical Outer Banks beach town just south of Kitty Hawk. Nags Head boasts 11 miles of sandy shoreline and has much to offer in terms of watersports. During a trip to Nags Head, visitors can go fishing off two public piers, sailing or kayaking along the coast, snorkeling past sunken shipwrecks, or hang gliding above the sandy dunes of Jockey’s Ridge State Park. This destination works for couples, solo travelers, or families.
The city of Newport in Oregon has lots to offer at a reasonable price. The rugged seacoast provides the perfect place for exploring tide pools, hunting for fossils, or spotting a grey whale. Guests can drop by the city’s two lighthouses, one of which is the largest in the state. The Oregon Coast Aquarium houses all sorts of sea creatures, from sharks to sea otters. The museum’s Secrets of Shipwrecks exhibit dives into the mysteries of the deep with lots of activities for children. The nearby Hatfield Marine Science Center continues the educational afternoon, letting visitors examine local marine life in touch tanks or gaze at a giant Pacific octopus.
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»Ocean Isle Beach
Families have visited Ocean Isle Beach for generations. This small seaside town in North Carolina's Brunswick Islands accommodates all kinds with its pristine, quiet beaches. The laidback atmosphere makes Ocean Isle ideal for a relaxing beach vacation with plenty of restaurants, outdoor decks, and waterfront views. Located just minutes away, the award-winning Silver Coast Winery hosts tastings, tours, and events. Active travelers will love a kayak trip through the marsh or an afternoon zip line through the canopy at the Shallotte River Swamp Park. Rainy days are spent at the Museum of Coastal Carolina exploring eye-catching sea exhibits and a planetarium.
Photo: claudia hake/Fotolia
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Located along Florida’s Atlantic Coast just north of Daytona Beach, Ormond Beach gained its claim to fame as the “Birthplace of Speed,” where Henry Ford first tested his automotive innovations. Today, Ormond Beach hosts annual events with reenactments of its early racing days along sandy speedways. Still, Ormond manages to maintain its small-town tranquility and doesn’t allow vehicles on the northern end of the beach. Vacationers can spend the day swimming and sunbathing or go canoeing and fishing. Ormond Beach accommodates a variety of budgets, with options like upscale vacation rentals and reasonably priced motels.
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Osage Beach provides an ideal lake and outdoor destination. Located right in the heart of Missouri, Osage Beach has lots of deals for a variety of visitors, including couples and families, with affordable vacation packages that are available online. Attractions in Osage range from world-class boating to golfing, fishing to shopping, and beyond. Whether you are looking for a quiet getaway or a lovely long weekend, Osage has lots to offer with its lakeside resorts, restaurants, and entertainment venues. The community hosts festivals throughout the year, including its seasonal celebrations, car shows, art exhibits, holiday parades, fishing and golf tournaments, and wine tastings.
Photo: jon manjeot/Fotolia
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Located in the Big Island’s Puna region, Pahoa has become Hawaii’s unofficial hippie capital, attracting scads of new agers and bohemians to its shores. Pahoa provides an alternative to Hawaii’s typically pricey beach vacations while still having lots to offer. Scuba divers will enjoy abundant dive opportunities, and snorkelers can explore the sea life at the Kapoho tidepool. A lush rainforest once grew in the nearby Lava Tree State Park, but the volcano has left behind burned-out stone imprints of the trees and is an excellent place to explore. In addition, the concentration of historical buildings and false-front stores gives the Pahoa boardwalk a “Wild West” vibe.
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On the far reaches of Florida’s westernmost coast sits Pensacola, an ideal place for travelers looking to avoid the megaresort and theme park atmosphere found in other parts of the state. This seaport city makes a great vacation destination for relaxing by the beach. Visitors can explore art galleries, dine on delicious food, and learn a bit about history in its colonial downtown district dating back to the 16th century. As the home of the Gulf Islands National Seashore, Pensacola has fantastic fishing and boating. Inland watersports include canoeing along the Blackwater River. The city also boasts a proud military heritage, as showcased in its National Museum of Naval Aviation and Pensacola Naval Air Station. Things to Do in Pensacola
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»Cheap Beach Vacations: Pine Knoll Shores
The Crystal Coast of North Carolina has over 85 miles of coastline, including Pine Knoll Shores, a serene beach town with maritime forests. Pine Knoll Shores hosts a range of affordable accommodations to suit different budgets, such as condominiums, houses, and several hotels. Travelers can save by purchasing group deals and other travel packages available online. The region has no shortage of things to do, with activities like boating, fishing, and hiking. The North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores offers aquatic adventures for the entire family with exhibits featuring sharks, river otters, and a rare white sea turtle.
Photo: Pine Knoll Shores
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From white sandy shorelines to first-class wineries, Pismo Beach has lots to offer vacationers. This classic beach town in California’s central coast sits right along the Pacific Highway, halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Pismo Beach has no shortage of outdoor activities as visitors have their pick of golfing, horseback riding, surfing, body boarding, and fishing. Suntanned shoppers can grab great deals at Pismo Beach Premium Outlets. Meanwhile, the award-winning boardwalk gives guests a chance to soak in the sun while satisfying their stomachs at the many restaurants and food stands.
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»Sleeping Bear Lakeshore
Named the “Most Beautiful Place in America” on ABC's Good Morning America by 100,000 public votes, Sleeping Bear Lakeshore is an outdoor-lover’s dream. During a visit to Sleeping Bear, vacationers can explore the area’s natural wonders, including sandy beaches, deep forests, shimmering lake views, and bluffs jutting 450 feet over Lake Michigan. Sleeping Bear makes the perfect camping destination while also offering a choice of charming inns, bed and breakfasts, resorts, and hotels at affordable rates. Other attractions include an island lighthouse, hiking on the Manitou Islands, or exploring the historical maritime village.
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The area of South County, Rhode Island, consists of more than just picturesque beaches where swimmers and sports enthusiasts can enjoy over 100 miles of coastline: The county also has tons of cultural offerings. With art showings, antique stores, and musical events in the works all year round, South County offers visitors cultural experiences paired with a breathtaking landscape. The area also isn’t short on great libations, and local breweries and wineries can be found on almost every corner. For visitors who want to experience the outdoors, sporting activities like biking, boating, golfing, and surfing are a great way to enjoy the county’s lovely scenery.
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»Cheap Beach Vacations: Surf City
Surf City is the cultural center of Topsail Island, a long barrier island off the coast of North Carolina. For visitors looking to surf in the aptly named city, there are plenty of sporting goods stores to suit your needs. The larger area is known for its organic blueberry farms, with some farms allowing guests to come out and pick their own fresh pesticide-free blueberries. Guests can unwind in Surf City’s cozy bed and breakfast spot overlooking the ocean waves. For the outdoorsy types, the area has an array of campgrounds where visitors can pitch a tent or park their RV.
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The fishing town of Wells, Maine, is made up of harbors, beaches, and nature reserves. From modest fishing boats to luxurious yachts, boat owners can dock at Wells Harbor. The coastline provides almost 4 miles of beaches. The longest stretch, Wells Beach, is almost a mile long, and here guests can enjoy the view from the sandy dunes and grassy knolls. In the summertime, music concerts in the gazebos are common and always free. The town is also home to an annual chili festival, where chili makers can compete in the World Chili Championship Cook-Offs.
Photo: Enrico Della Pietra/Fotolia
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»West Palm Beach
Known for its Broadway-quality entertainment, outlet stores, and a 23-acre zoo, West Palm Beach has got something for everyone. Visitors can spend the day checking out one of the four entertainment and shopping districts, all of which offer a variety of shops, shows, and dining choices. Theatergoers are bound to have a great time at one of the acclaimed performing arts centers. For art lovers, West Palm Beach is home to the renowned Norton Museum of Art. With great weather no matter the season, West Palm Beach is the perfect place to enjoy outdoor entertainment. It’s also the annual home of Florida’s largest waterfront music festival. Things to Do in West Palm Beach
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25 Best Affordable Beach Vacations in the U.S.
- Huntington Beach, Photo: Courtesy of kgrif - Fotolia.com
- Virginia Beach, Photo: Courtesy of HT777 - Fotolia.com
- Mexico Beach, Florida, Photo: Courtesy of mokee81 - Fotolia.com
- Cape May, Photo: Courtesy of jonbilous - Fotolia.com
- Cannon Beach, Photo: Courtesy of tusharkoley - Fotolia.com
- Delray Beach , Photo: Courtesy of lunamarina - Fotolia.com
- Dennis Port, Photo: Courtesy of steffstarr - Fotolia.com
- Flagler Beach, Photo: Courtesy of Gregory Johnston - Fotolia.com
- Harwich, Photo: Courtesy of Marc - Fotolia.com
- Molokai, Photo: Courtesy of DirkR - Fotolia.com
- Myrtle Beach, Photo: Courtesy of jpeacockcad - Fotolia.com
- Nags Head, Photo: Courtesy of travelview - Fotolia.com
- Newport, Photo: Courtesy of tusharkoley - Fotolia.com
- Ocean Isle Beach, Photo: Courtesy of claudia hake - Fotolia.com
- Ormond Beach, Photo: Courtesy of onlymag - Fotolia.com
- Osage Beach, Photo: Courtesy of jon manjeot - Fotolia.com
- Pahoa, Photo: Courtesy of georgeburba - Fotolia.com
- Pensacola, Photo: Courtesy of Cheryl Casey - Fotolia.com
- Cheap Beach Vacations: Pine Knoll Shores, Photo: Pine Knoll Shores
- Pismo Beach, Photo: Courtesy of Bon - Fotolia.com
- Sleeping Bear Lakeshore, Photo: Courtesy of Ian - Fotolia.com
- South County, Photo: Courtesy of Steven - Fotolia.com
- Cheap Beach Vacations: Surf City, Photo: Courtesy of ericosuave - Fotolia.com
- Wells, Photo: Courtesy of Enrico Della Pietra - Fotolia.com
- West Palm Beach, Photo: Courtesy of CrackerClips - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of Ian - Fotolia.com
Travelers looking for an authentic Maine experience need look no further than Bar Harbor, Maine. A town that was once a retreat for the elite now offers affordable accommodations and activities at every price point. The free Island Explorer shuttle provides seasonal service to all three of the area’s public beaches. Tours and equipment rentals are available for a wide variety of watersports, including kayaking, canoeing, and paddleboarding. Abundant hiking and biking trails lead visitors along miles of scenic coastline. The perfect end to a perfect day is a lobster dinner at one of Bar Harbor’s many restaurants.
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