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The Best Budget-Friendly Beach Destinations

Planning an awesome seaside escape doesn't have to break the bank—and we've got the picks to prove it.

The Blue Waters of the Pacific Ocean Coastline Along the Beach of La Jolla, California.Richard A McMillin/Shutterstock

La Jolla Cove, California

For a taste of the tropics without the price tag or need for passport consider La Jolla Cove. Just 25 minutes north of San Diego, this idyllic inlet is surrounded by cliffs. Its calm, protected waters are teeming with a diversity of marine life. No surprise, it’s a mecca for diving and snorkeling. Skip the five-star resorts and book a stay at the Scripps Inn, which is affordable and highly rated by guests. Don’t miss more of the best beaches in America.

Galveston, Texas. Cityscape colors in spring season.GagliardiImages/Shutterstock

Galveston, Texas

Galveston is blessed with 30 miles of sun-drenched shores and warm weather from mid-April until October. Head to the revamped Pleasure Pier for rides, games, and food. Admission to the Galveston Arts Center is free, so is the ferry to Port Bolivar. Moody Gardens is a kid-centric playground with a rainforest, aquarium, and 3D theater. Pro tip: You can save big bucks by purchasing a combo pass online. Don’t miss these 20 family beaches to visit this summer.

Fort Lauderdale Beach. Florida. USA. Mia2you/Shutterstock

Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Golden sands and canals plus a wealth of stores and restaurants make Fort Lauderdale the ultimate vacation spot. Many airlines offer inexpensive fares. Once there, water taxis are a low-cost and convenient method of transport. Spend the morning sunbathing, stop for an afternoon cocktail along the promenade, then head to Las Olas Boulevard for people-watching followed by dinner and dancing.

Beautiful Adriatic Beach and Lagoon with Turquoise Water near Split, Croatiaansharphoto/Shutterstock

Split, Croatia

Split remains among the most unique and affordable places in Europe. It may be less “bright and shiny” than Dubrovnik, but it makes up for it in well-maintained public beaches, fresh fish, and relaxed ambiance. Hotels start at $76. Plus, there’s a ton of stuff to do that’s free. Spend your days exploring the rocky coastline, swimming in the Adriatic Sea, and gawking at Diocletian’s Palace. Feast on fried sardines and squid; wash it down with dirt-cheap beer. If you like Split, you’ll love these other magical Mediterranean islands.

The blue lagoon in Puerto Platalaesperanza/Shutterstock

Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic

Puerto Plata has some of the clearest water in the Dominican Republic and lots of activities for kids of all ages. The area is also home to family-friendly resorts like Iberostar Costa Dorada. “This is your classic all-inclusive with tons of amenities and restaurants,” explains Hudson. “And the rates are extremely reasonable—especially during the shoulder season.” A recent search showed $166 per night in July. Don’t miss these other beaches with crystal clear water.

Cannon Beach overlook from Ecola State park at sunset, Oregon coast, Oregon State, USA.Anton Foltin/Shutterstock

Cannon Beach, Oregon

A 90-minute drive from Portland lies Cannon Beach. Streets are filled with cafés as well as shops selling souvenirs and taffy. Though prices rise in July and August, you can still find a cozy lodging that won’t break the bank—three-star stays are approx $165 a night. Or enjoy the nice weather and discounts in early September when rates drop.

Digital art paint, Cape May Lighthouse New JerseySylvie Corriveau/Shutterstock

Cape May, New Jersey

Cape May is beloved for its ocean views, historic lighthouse, and Victorian-era architecture. Accommodations range from charming B&Bs and quaint inns to boutique hotels and landmark resorts. Proximity to New York and Philadelphia make it a great weekend getaway. Driving? “Bundling your rental car and hotel saves an average of 15 percent,” explains Christie Hudson, senior communications manager at Expedia. Find out other charming beaches that the locals want to keep a secret.

Waves breaking midday against rocky jetty with blue sky along coastline at Hermosa Beach, CaliforniaLori Cooper OToole/Shutterstock

Hermosa Beach, California

Looking for an economical, less touristy alternative to Santa Monica? Set your sights on its chill neighbor, Hermosa Beach. This SoCal community is within easy reach of the city, yet offers a laid-back vibe. Take advantage of the amazing waves with a surf lesson. Carve out time for the historic pier as well as numerous eateries and bars nearby. No shoes, no shirt, no problem. Cover-ups and flip-flops are the attire of choice. P.S. These summer vacation packages are worth the money.

Beach at Caribbean sea in Playa del Carmen, MexicoPatryk Kosmider/Shutterstock

Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Situated between Cancun and Tulum, Playa del Carmen is a picture-perfect paradise. Swaying palm trees dot the white sand. Turquoise waters and coral reefs beckon aquatic adventurers. Beyond its natural splendor is a slew of cultural attractions, including the Frida Kahlo Museum. Despite its popularity, there are still deals to be had—particularly during off-peak months—which means more money for margaritas. Don’t miss these other popular travel destinations in Mexico.

View of Myrtle Beach South CarolinaStacieStauffSmith Photos/Shutterstock

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Myrtle Beach is a favorite of spring breakers, golfers and families alike. There are enough exciting activities to keep you entertained for several weeks. Stroll along Grand Strand, a 60-mile stretch of seashore. The boardwalk boasts arcades, souvenir stands, and an old-fashioned amusement park—expansive vistas from the top of SkyWheel are not to be missed. See a show at The Carolina Opry Theater. Wondering where to stay? Overnight options run the gamut from value to all-out luxurious. Find out more top summer getaways across the country.

in australia people in bondie beach and the resort near oceanlkpro/Shutterstock

Sydney, Australia

Sydney brims with beautiful beaches and epic surf spots. Sure, airfare won’t come cheap, but hear us out. Savvy jet-setters can avoid the crowds and save coin by visiting during low season—which, conveniently enough for folks in the United States, happens to be May through August. If you’re not opposed to shared quarters, grab a bunk at Bondi Backpackers, a recently renovated hostel steps away from the shore. Check out more amazing beaches to add to your bucket list ASAP.

Lindsay Cohn
Lindsay Cohn is an avid traveler who has visited 45 countries across six continents and writes about travel for Reader’s Digest as well as USA Today, Fodor’s, Travel + Leisure, Brides and PureWow. Beyond travel, she covers a variety of lifestyle topics including beauty, wellness and design. Her work has also been published on Well+Good, Elle Decor, Martha Stewart, Domino and Mindbodygreen. Follow her on Instagram @lindsay_cohn