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We all deserve a beach vacation from time to time, and the USA is home to hundreds of places perfect for a seaside getaway. Think days spent relaxing amid crystalline waters, sugar-like sands, and swaying palm trees, and evenings sipping on cocktails with a backdrop of gorgeous sunsets.
From dabbling in watersports to having fun at amusement parks and dining out, there’s always plenty of things to see and do when at the beach. But you don’t need to break the bank in order to guarantee a memorable vacation.
If you are looking for a cost-effective trip, check out these destinations for the best budget beach vacations.
Where Are the Best Beaches in the USA?
The National Ocean Service estimates that the United States has over 95,000 miles of shoreline. As such, you can find a beach from the Atlantic to the Pacific coastlines to the Great Lakes and everywhere in-between.
Maybe you want to hit the quintessential surf towns of California or go snorkeling along Florida’s sun-drenched coast. Perhaps you prefer to explore the Jersey Shore or take long, scenic walks along the rugged shoreline of Oregon.
Whatever your idea of the ultimate beach destination is, you can rest assured that you can vacation on a budget and enjoy it without digging deep into your hard-earned savings.
The 10 Best Budget Beach Vacations in the USA
1. Cannon Beach, Oregon
National Geographic once voted this beach town on the Oregon Coast as one of the 100 Most Beautiful Places on Earth. With dramatic sea stacks perched in the ocean, nine miles of golden sands, rock pools teeming with aquatic creatures, and a colony of tufted puffins, it’s easy to see why. Nearby Ecola State Park has hiking trails and picnic sites while waterfalls tumble onto the sand from Hug Point.
2. Cape May, New Jersey
Few beaches in the USA are as refined as Cape May. It’s a delight to stroll along the golden sands and through the Cape May Wetlands State Natural Area to the historic Cape May Lighthouse. You won’t want to miss the Victorian-era grandeur of the Emlen Physick Estate. There are paid tours, or you can amble around the estate at will and save some cash to splurge on delicious meals at the same time.
3. Daytona Beach, Florida
A carnival-like atmosphere permeates the air all year round at the self-proclaimed World’s Most Famous Beach. You’ll always find somewhere to lay down a towel on the 23 miles of hard-packed sands. Surfing, the Daytona International Speedway, and shopping and entertainment on the Daytona Beach Boardwalk are just some of the ways to have fun. You can catch free summertime concerts at the Daytona Beach Bandshell, too.
4. Gulf Shores, Alabama
Gulf Shores presents one of the best budget beach vacations if you crave the simplicity of the beach and ocean. Divide your time between kicking back on powdery sands and splashing around in gentle waves. When you aren’t doing that, you can visit two free parks. Gulf State Park has complimentary bike rentals and free lakeside camping, while Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge is home to turtles and trails.
5. Huntington Beach, California
Surf City USA is one of the best beaches for experiencing the nation’s surf culture. You can invest in surf lessons or watch the action unfold for nothing from Huntington Beach Pier. The Huntington Beach Bike Trail is a pleasant way to witness the laidback vibe of the city, either on foot or by bike. Arrive in summer for the US Open of Surfing for the chance to see the world’s best surfers on the beach, for free.
6. Indiana Dunes National Park, Indiana
On the southern shores of Lake Michigan, the Indiana Dunes National Park is proof that the best budget beach destinations aren’t always at the seaside. With 15 miles of sandy shoreline and 50 miles of walking trails, vacations here are all about getting back to nature. Swimming, bird watching, kite-flying, picnicking, and camping are just a few of the things that set the scene for a budget-friendly trip.
7. Ocean City, Maryland
There’s never a dull moment at this Atlantic coast seaside resort at the heart of South Carolina’s 60-mile Grand Strand area. Dolphin spotting, frisbee, swimming, and volleyball are all popular activities to enjoy for free and on the cheap. Meanwhile, the boardwalk is lined with amusement arcades, souvenir shops, and varied restaurants. You might want to save a few dollars for a ride on the Myrtle Beach SkyWheel.
8. South Padre Island, Texas
Tranquil waters lap at the pristine beaches of South Padre Island, a small slither of land close to the Texas-Mexico border. Watersports and wildlife spotting are big draws to this stunning spot. You can put your holiday funds to good use by being part of conservation programs and tours at Sea Turtle Inc and South Padre Island Dolphin Research & Sealife Nature Center. There’s even a free shuttle service on the island.
9. Virginia Beach, Virginia
Accessible water-sports, pet-friendly beaches, mouthwatering seafood, and rich wildlife make Virginia Beach a much-loved seaside escape. Blue crab, oysters, and scallops are abundant, so you won’t have to break the bank to satisfy food cravings. Hike trails in Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge and False Cape State Park for free outdoor fun. Then save yourself the cost of a hotel by camping at First Landing State Park.
10. Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina
If a serene ambiance combined with excellent surfing, fishing, and boutique shopping is your idea of fun, then Virginia Beach could be for you. When you aren’t in the water or chilling on the sands, you can get active at the sports courts in Wrightsville Beach Park. The free Wrightsville Beach Museum of History offers a chance to brush up on local history.
Discover the Best Beaches in the USA on a Budget
There are literally hundreds of beaches throughout the USA to explore alone, as a couple, with the family, and with friends. From world-famous spots to hidden gems, all can be easy on the pocket with some thoughtful planning. Once you know where you want to go, see how much you should save for your vacation.
And see how Monorail can help you start saving for your next beach trip.
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