For many, the dream beach vacation involves snoozing on a quiet stretch of sand in some exotic (read:expensive) locale -- and we don't blame you. But the truth is, there’s no need to break the piggy bank to have a fabulous oceanfront getaway. Picking a budget-friendly hotel that’s not overrun with twentysomethings looking for a crashpad can be tricky, and more serene destinations tend to be more expensive. But we searched high and low, and these six affordable properties are great for those who want to spend some quiet, relaxing days on the beach -- without spending all their savings.
Steal #1: Bel Air Collection Resort & Spa, Cancun
Overlooking a stunning beach on the southern tip of the Hotel Zone, this adults-only property oozes tranquility. Its serene white and red decor -- accented by billowy curtains everywhere -- and its somewhat secluded location far from the booming Cancun nightlife, sets this boutique apart from the mega-resorts located just north of it. The Bel Air Collection has 155 chic, minimalist (if low-frills) rooms, trendy common areas, a wonderful spa, and a gorgeous infinity pool with ocean views. It’s a great pick for a relaxed, romantic getaway.
Steal #2: Albion, South Beach
An Art Deco landmark located two blocks from the beach and steps from the upscale Lincoln Road Mall, the 100-room Albion is one of South Beach's best bargains. Base-level rooms and bathrooms are small and a bit worn, but features are great: a clean pool, free Wi-Fi, room service, and comfortable beds.
Steal #3: Bougainvillea Beach Resort, Barbados
This 138-room Mediterranean-style resort gets its name from the local flower, which is ceremoniously placed in rooms upon arrival. The atmosphere is unpretentious, and reasonable prices make it a good value on the south coast of Barbados (which has choppier waters than the west coast). All rooms have kitchens or kitchenettes, or guests can opt to dine at two restaurants along the water. This resort prides itself on being eco-friendly, and amenities include a spa, fitness center, kids' club, and water sports.
Steal #4: Fairmont Mayakoba, Riviera Maya
The Fairmont is a gorgeous upscale hotel with amenities comparable to those at other luxury properties; however, rates are often a fraction of the price of similar Mexico hotels. Property highlights include beautiful, contemporary rooms, a high-end spa, a number of dining options, five attractive pools -- including a 10,000 square-foot main pool, a kiddy pool, and an adults-only pool -- and a great location on a white-sand beach just a few minutes north of Playa del Carmen.
Steal #5: Best Western Oceanfront – Jacksonville Beach, Jacksonville
The highlight of the 51-room Best Western is its oceanfront location, and free perks such as breakfast, Wi-Fi, and parking make it a great value. Room decor is sleek and fresh -- if not particularly stylish -- with dark furniture, bright white linens, and navy accents. And all rooms feature mini-fridges, microwaves, and flat-screen TVs. Extra amenities are limited here; there is a small outdoor pool and a fitness center that is a three-minute walk away. But for the price, this Best Western is a great value -- and the in-room massage treatments (for a fee) are an added luxury for such a budget-friendly hotel.
Steal #6: La Copa Inn Beach Hotel, South Padre Island
La Copa Inn Beach Hotel offers a great waterfront location on a popular beach at the southern end of South Padre Island's hotel sprawl. The hotel resembles the local La Quinta Inn, but is slightly more polished and has a nice outdoor pool with plenty of lounge space. Rooms are simple, but Wi-Fi and breakfast are included in the nightly rate, and some units offer balconies.