Ah, the beach. It's a glorious place where the warm sun shines for hours overhead, cold drinks perspire next to plush towels, and salt water and wind work in tandem to create perfectly wavy hair. But if you choose a popular beach instead of one of our cheap beach vacations, you may find it's also a place where crowds of people encroach on your space, flinging sand onto you while shaking out their towels and generally disrupting your relaxing vibe.
This year, do yourself a favor and forgo expensive beach destinations like Maui and Cape Cod in favor of one of these five cheap beach vacation spots. Because these are lesser-known destinations, it's easy to save money and escape the crowds while still enjoying everything you love about the beach.
Jekyll Island was once the playground of the uber-rich, drawing in vacationers with last names like Rockefeller, Vanderbilt, and Morgan. And while you can still find traces of its rich past—at the opulent Jekyll Island Club, for example—today the island is one of the most budget-friendly vacation destinations in the US, as well as one of the least crowded, with more than five miles of pristine beachfront to enjoy.
Cheap stay: Villas by the Sea Resort & Conference Center (from $75/night our deal). The homey suites are actually more like small apartments equipped with kitchens and living areas, making it easy to save even more $ since you have a place to prepare you own meals.
Cheap non-beach activity: Georgia Sea Turtle Center. Kids will love visiting the interactive museum, which features a rehabilitation center for injured turtles that need time to recover before returning to the wild.
Cheap eats: Doc’s Snack Shop is perfectly situated in the middle of the island’s Historic District, giving you the unique opportunity to chow down on hot dogs and barbecue where theRockefellers and Pulitzers once strolled.
For years, Texans have flocked to Corpus Christi to enjoy its more than 100 miles of beaches, but the area is still somewhat unknown to the rest of the country. As a result, it's a great place for cheap beach vacations. It has plenty of popular city beaches—such as the family-friendly, pedestrian-only North Beach—but it's also close to peaceful Whitecap Beach. Locals come to this white-sand beach when they want to escape the crowds on the busier beaches.
Cheap stay: Courtyard by Marriott Corpus Christi (from $160/night our deal). The centrally located hotel is near a wildlife refuge and about 20 minutes away from the quiet, local-favorite Whitecap Beach.
Cheap non-beach activity: South Texas Botanical Gardens and Nature Center, which has more than 3,000 species of orchids (from $8.75 with a Groupon)
Cheap eats: Pier 99 Restaurant, is an excellent reasonably-priced spot for seafood, including peel n’ eat shrimp starting at $9.99 per half pound.
If sand dunes and small-town charm are your thing, you can’t go wrong with a budget vacation in Rehoboth Beach, where both the sandy beaches and pristine waters are consistently rated some of the cleanest in the country. During the summer, the historic boardwalk offers plenty of cheap activities for families, including free concerts, and, as an added bonus, the city has no sales tax.
Cheap stay: Rehoboth Guest House (from $70/night with our deal). The quaint bed & breakfast doesn’t just serve up an adorably homey atmosphere complete with rocking chairs on the front porch, it also saves you some extra $ by providing a free continental breakfast complete with homemade baked goods.
Cheap non-beach activity: Enjoy some brews and live music at the original Dogfish Head Brewpub.
Cheap eats: JuiceFresh. In addition to its signature smoothies and healthy juices, this spot also serves up excellent savory fare, including homemade soups, wraps, and a killer fettuccini alfredo.
Since they're hidden among the remote, forested terrain with which many people associate the Pacific Northwest, beach towns like Seaside are relatively unknown to out-of-staters. Seaside is popular with young families, who especially love visiting the Seaside Carousel Mall and building sandcastles on the three-mile sandy beach. Nearby Cannon Beach provides a respite from all of the activity along with beautiful views of famed Oregon landmark Haystack Rock.
Cheap stay: Inn at Seaside (from $49/night with our deal). This hotel with a sauna is a 10-minute walk from the ocean and downtown.
Cheap non-beach activity: Seaside Aquarium, where kids can feed seals ($8/adult; $4/kid; kids 5 and younger free).
Cheap eats: Ecola Seafoods Restaurant and Market in Cannon Beach, where you can fill up on local seafood such as pacific cod (from $11.99) and razor clams (from $16.99).
The town of Hull—better known as the home of Nantasket Beach and the former summer home of President Calvin Coolidge—is located on a peninsula just an hour north of Cape Cod. As a result, it has much of the same picturesque scenery. Yet despite this, it doesn't have anywhere near the same number of visitors and is more affordable than Cape Cod. The highlight of Hull is its 3.2-mile-long white sandy beach, one of the longest in New England.
Cheap stay: Nantasket Beach Resort (from $87/night with our deal). Nantasket Beach is right outside the hotel, which features gas fireplaces in each room and a pool with a retractable roof.
Cheap non-beach activity: Northeast Surfing, where you can rent bikes for a day (from $34) and explore the peninsula—or even take your bike to Boston after a 40-minute ferry ride.
Cheap eats: Lobster Express, where you can get New England clam chowder (from $4) and buttery lobster rolls (from $12.99) made from fresh-off-the-boat seafood.