2018’s 11 Most Budget-Friendly Beach Destinations in the U.S.

Now that summer is in full swing, soaring temps have us craving a refreshing beach with cooling breezes to beat the heat. Unfortunately, with so many Americans thinking the same thing, finding an affordable beach getaway can be difficult. So, we did a ton of research to create this list of the 11 most budget-friendly beach destinations in the U.S. Staying stateside saves you money on travel, and these locales go a step further with several value-packed hotels, inexpensive activities, and cheap dining options. Some are primed and ready for your summer vacation, while others are best suited for a winter escape. Regardless, all are great picks for a sandy getaway that won't wipe out your bank account -- so you can lie out on the beach worry-free.

 

1. Pensacola, Florida


Although the temps here are a little chilly for a March spring break, Pensacola is a top budget beach getaway anytime from April (when the average highs are in the mid- to upper 70s) to October (with July highs hovering at a toasty 90 degrees). Numerous airlines service the Pensacola International Airport, and the white-sand beaches are lined with affordable hotels and restaurants. While several hotels sit along Pensacola Beach, travelers can save some money by staying in Pensacola proper and driving 15 to 20 minutes to the sand. Unique features for this locale include numerous sunken ships for divers, and air shows by the Blue Angels, an elite crew of jet-fighter pilots.

Value Hotel Pick: Hampton Inn Pensacola Beach

Hampton Inn Pensacola Beach is a 181-room, budget hotel set on a Gulf of Mexico beach in Pensacola. Accommodations range from basic rooms to suites with slightly more upscale finishes — the best rooms have balconies with views of the water. There are two outdoor pools and a Tiki-style bar that lend a fun, family-oriented vibe.

2. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina


Myrtle Beach is one of the best options for a budget beach getaway in the U.S, particularly once May’s warmer weather hits. The destination offers visitors one-of-a-kind nightlife, more than 100 golf courses, and 60 miles of sandy shoreline — all at inexpensive prices. Flying here doesn’t put a huge burden on the wallet, and it’s an easy enough drive from cities such as Charleston, Charlotte, and Augusta. This locale may be known to get a bit jam-packed during the summer, but hotels account for this with massive pools and water park complexes. Plus, many properties feature condo-style accommodations with kitchens and living rooms, so guests can save some cash and cook themselves.

Value Hotel Pick: Dunes Village Resort

Designed to appeal to kids and families, Dunes Village Resort is a 456-room, mid-range hotel on a wide stretch of beach with activities such as four water slides, a pirate ship-style playground, lazy river, indoor and outdoor pools, and lots of games.

3. Puerto Rico


Though it has a tropical, Caribbean vibe, Puerto Rico is a U.S. commonwealth, so flights to the island from the mainland are often inexpensive, especially when compared to those to nearby islands like Turks and Caicos. Despite suffering destruction from Hurricane Maria in 2017, Puerto Rico is up and running, eagerly welcoming tourists. Here, huge malls, golf courses, and casinos meet tropical rainforests and beautiful white-sand beaches. Well-preserved 15th-century Spanish forts also loom over charming towns with colorful colonial buildings. Although luxury resorts are widespread, many budget-friendly options can be found both on the beach and within charming towns.

Value Hotel Pick: Coconut Palms Inn

For those wanting to be near the surfer buzz of Rincon but don’t want to pay a premium, Coconut Palms Inn is a fine choice. The hotel offers beachfront accommodations within a five-minute drive of the restaurants, shops, markets, and attractions in Rincon, with eight quaint rooms that include free Wi-Fi, air-conditioning, and mini-fridges.

4. Gulf Shores, Alabama


Particularly popular during spring break, Gulf Shores occupies some of Alabama’s 32 miles of Gulf Coast. The wide, white-sand beaches are gorgeous, the water is warm in the summer months, and firework displays take place for the Fourth of July. When tourists aren’t splashing in the surf or playing in the sand, they can take advantage of the city’s family-friendly attractions such as the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo, fishing pier, water park, and golf courses. Affordable mid-range hotels and vacation rentals — many of which have kitchens, outdoor pools, and laundry facilities — fill the area.

Value Hotel Pick: Best Western On The Beach

Geared to vacationers perhaps looking to save a little money, this 93-room mid-range hotel delivers satisfactory rooms with a prime beachfront location on the Gulf of Mexico. While the beach is the big attraction, the indoor pool serves guests well on rainy days. Nice lounge chairs and umbrellas are available for a fee. Beachfront rooms have small balconies and great views.

5. Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina

Beach at Sandpeddler Inn & Suites/Oyster

Bordering South Carolina, Wrightsville Beach is one of North Carolina’s overlooked beach destinations, which is perhaps why it’s often one of the cheapest summer getaways in the area. Only 20 minutes from Wilmington, Wrightsville is a relaxed beach community where most of the action takes place either on the sand or on Crystal Pier, where visitors can fish, walk, and even practice yoga. Water sports such as stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking, and windsurfing are popular pastimes, and numerous inexpensive bars and restaurants are available to refuel.

Value Hotel Pick: Sandpeddler Inn & Suites

The two-and-a-half-pearl Sandpeddler Inn & Suites is a classic gem just across the street from the ocean and Crystal Pier in Wrightsville Beach. Each of the 21 rooms here is a one-bedroom condo with a full kitchen (or kitchenette) that’s individually owned and decorated, and all offer a furnished balcony or terrace with ocean views. The hotel caters to families and couples looking for a simple place for a laid-back beach vacation.

6. Cape May, New Jersey


Cape May sits on the southernmost tip of the Jersey Shore, but don’t get it confused with the infamous show. Sure, it has plenty of the inexpensive restaurants and bars that are often associated with the area, but this Victorian resort beach town is a family-friendly locale for those on a budget. New Yorkers in particular will save a bundle by choosing it over the Hamptons. This summer destination is less than a three-hour bus ride or drive from the city, or a couple hours longer if taking the train. Almost all hotels have inexpensive rates, and activities range from parasailing and paddleboarding to brewery and lighthouse tours.

Value Hotel Pick: Sea Crest Inn

On the quiet end of Cape May, this budget hotel has a convenient beachfront location near downtown and a variety of comfortable room types. Property highlights include a heated pool, whirlpool, and picnic area. No room allows more than three guests, so adults and couples are the norm here, though children are welcome.

7. Virginia Beach


Thanks to its miles of beaches, Navy presence, and affordable restaurants and bars (although you can still find places to splurge), Virginia Beach finds itself as one of the most-visited summer beach destinations in the U.S., especially during holiday weekends like Memorial Day and Labor Day. The beach here is known for being a prime spot for surfing, and the city hosts tons of surfing competitions throughout the warmer months. Families should add the Virginia Aquarium and Ocean Breeze Waterpark to their itinerary, while couples may prefer hitting the links at one of the many golf courses or simply strolling the boardwalk.

Value Hotel Pick: Belvedere Beach Resort

Popular with budget-conscious visitors to Virginia Beach, the Belvedere Beach Resort is more of an inn than an actual resort, though it does have a pool and direct beach access. All 50 rooms have a nautical theme and look out over the ocean.

8. South Padre Island, Texas


This island, reachable from the Texas mainland via Route 100, is wildly popular during spring break, mostly because it’s cheap and high temps are typically in the mid-70s by mid-March. Co-eds from various Southern colleges flock to its beaches, and South Padre hosts a massive annual spring break shindig — complete with DJs and crowds of nearly 20,000. Families can also find plenty to do here, though. Dolphin watching, water parks, kiteboarding, sailing, and ample inexpensive dining options are all available. Hotel rates are higher in the peak months, but they’re still largely affordable.

Value Hotel Pick: Hilton Garden Inn South Padre Island

The Hilton Garden Inn South Padre Island has a scenic, oceanfront location with easy access to gorgeous, sandy beaches via a charming boardwalk. Rooms are comfortable with spacious balconies — some with ocean views, some with city views.

9. Delray Beach, Florida


An inexpensive alternative to Boca Raton (which is a 12-minute drive south), Delray Beach welcomes beach lovers year-round, as average highs hover around the mid-70s. It’s well-known for “The Avenue,” where visitors can find value-friendly hotels, restaurants, and lively bars. At its end sits the long public beach. Aside from swimming and surfing, folks can dive or snorkel at a shipwreck just off the coast. Other activities include observing wildlife at the Wakodahatchee Wetlands, fishing, and visiting the Japanese Gardens.

Value Hotel Pick: Wright by the Sea

Wright By The Sea is a moderately priced hotel of apartment-style suites in Delray Beach. The 29 rooms range from studios to two-bedroom apartments and all contain a full kitchen set-up. Right off the ocean, the hotel is convenient for vacationers looking for a quiet beach getaway.

10. Huntington Beach, California


With 10 miles of coastline, Huntington Beach is an affordable alternative to more expensive California beach towns like Santa Monica and San Diego. Huntington Beach lives up to its nickname, Surf City USA, with waters ideal for surfing, a laid-back vibe, and ample water- and land-based activities. Travelers with pets have access to a dog-friendly beach, and the annual Surf City Surf Dog competition is a must-see. Whale watching, trails and horseback riding at the 365-acre Huntington Central Park, and plenty of cheap dining options — including tasty taco shops — keep travelers of all ages busy.

Value Hotel Pick: Ocean Surf Inn & Suites

Travelers looking for a no-frills, affordable beach getaway in Sunset Beach will find just that at the two-and-a-half-pearl Ocean Surf Inn & Suites. It’s located across from the ocean and Green Belt park, with decor that’s beachy and cheerful.

11. Folly Beach, South Carolina


Basically part of Charleston — which is known for its delicious food, mild winters, and historic sights — Folly Beach is where locals and visitors hit the South Carolinian sand when the weather really warms up. Located on an island, Folly Beach is called “the edge of America” by locals, but it’s only 15 minutes from downtown Charleston. In addition to swimming and surfing, travelers can spend their days fishing, jet-skiing, dolphin watching, and filling up on delicious seafood. Fun bars and restaurants are found near the pier, and most entertainment comes relatively cheap.

Value Hotel Pick: Tides Folly Beach

Tides Folly Beach is a solid mid-range hotel with an excellent waterfront location between Center Street and Folly Beach Pier. Its 132 rooms can accommodate two to four guests and are spacious with beachy decor. Helpful on-site facilities include a full-service restaurant with lounge and dining space, indoor and outdoor bars, a year round heated pool, room service all day, and a cafe selling Starbucks coffee, light snacks, and souvenirs.

What to Bring to an Affordable Beach Vacation: Beach Tote

Having a large interior and a cute, boho exterior, this beach tote will be the perfect addition to your next beach vacation.

With additional reporting by Lara Grant.

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