8 Affordable Beach Vacation Spots
If you’re feeling burned out and some serious relaxation, there’s nothing quite like the beach to help you reset. Sand, sun, and surf are instantly soothing for even the most high-strung among us – and the chance to work off the anxiety of daily life is just as beneficial to your health as the chance to bond with friends or family.
The best part? Beaches are free. Traveling and staying near one is the only part that costs money – and if you play your cards right, even that can be affordable on almost any budget. We’ve assembled a list of low-cost destinations with beautiful beaches so you can start planning your getaway today.
Cheap Beach Vacations
1. Oxnard, California
At Oxnard, you can lounge on Malibu quality beaches without the Malibu price tag. Plus, unlike the beaches a little farther South, you can face West on the shoreline for some iconic sunsets. Channel View park has a nice water break for calmer waves to swim in, and you get a nice view of Anacapa Island across the water. Enjoy a break from the waves by exploring historic downtown, or take a tour through the Carnegie Art Museum
2. Virginia Beach, Virginia
A longtime destination for family beach trips, Virginia Beach features a three-mile stretch of boardwalk to enjoy plenty of art and entertainment between bouts in the ocean. You can also visit nearby First Landing State Park and see where Jamestown settlers first landed in 1607, or check out the Cape Henry Lighthouses for an incredible ocean view. Swim with dolphins or enjoy the food and Southern culture in town. Book in advance, and you can find a hotel for less than $50 a night.
3. South Padre Island, Texas
South Padre is a barrier island off the Gulf Coast of Texas with calm water great for swimming. Accommodations are cheap, and there’s plenty of affordable ways to enjoy your stay. Aside from the classic beach activities, you can enjoy bird watching from a five-story watchtower at the Birding and Nature Center. And budding marine biologists can learn about dolphins at the Dolphin Research and Sealife Nature Center, or check out sea turtle rescue efforts at Sea Turtle Inc.
If you find an affordable flight, you don’t have to worry about renting a car – public transportation can take you from one end of the island to the other for free. Just make sure you aren’t around during Spring Break – the crowds can be heinous.
4. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Myrtle Beach has been a popular family destination for decades. Whether you stay in a resort or a budget motel, there are tons of affordable options for accommodations, and plenty of budget airlines fly into the nearby airport. Families can enjoy boardwalks with arcades, shops, and restaurants, or comb the beach and go for a swim. Of course, many visitors are drawn to all the golf courses designed by various celebrities, and you can find good deals if you plan ahead.
5. Gulf Shores, Alabama
Most people don’t realize that Alabama has miles of white sandy beaches with fewer tourists than the nearby Florida beaches. If you want a relaxing vacation in a beach town with warm water and gentle waves, Gulf Shores may be the place for you. You can find campgrounds nearby, or even on the beach at Gulf State Park. Or if you prefer, choose one of the many vacation rentals along the beach, and rent a bike to explore local restaurants and shops.
6. Seaside, Oregon
There are cheap accommodations aplenty in this West Coast resort town. Hike through the forest and up the coast to Tillamook Rock for a spectacular view from the lighthouse. After you’ve worked up your appetite, you can eat some of the incredible, fresh seafood just about anywhere. Check out the Art Walk, a two-hour tour of local galleries on the first Saturday of the month to soak up some local culture while you’re there. While you probably won’t want to swim in the cold water, you can surf, play volleyball, fish, and enjoy countless other beach activities during your stay.
7. Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
If you’ve already got a passport, Puerto Vallarta offers some incredible deals on all-inclusive resorts that boast beachside views, outdoor pools, and tons of free entertainment. Look for deals online, book in advance, and stay during the offseason, and you can snag a flight, lodging, food, and entertainment for as little as $150 a night. It may seem like a lot, but you won’t have to worry about planning or any extra spending unless you choose to venture out for souvenirs. Plus, cleaning staff on site keep the rooms tidy for you, so you have even more time to relax. The private, pristine beaches ensure you have soft sand to relax in, and with all the planning taken care of, you won’t have to stress about anything.
8. Lake Michigan
Not every beach getaway has to be on the ocean. Lake Michigan is enormous, and depending on the weather, you may even see sizable waves. And thanks to Michigan State Parks, you can get great deals on beachside cabins, or pitch a tent and rough it. And the peak season doesn’t start until late in June, so you can beat the crowds and still enjoy warm weather. Beyond your shoreside fun, you can find plenty of hiking and cycling. And if you stay on the Chicago side of the lake, you can even get in some sightseeing in the Windy City without the cost of a hotel room.