18 Best Budget Beach Vacations USA


Sun, sand and sand

A few days at the beach can be a great way to escape the rigors of everyday life and enjoy simple pleasures – collecting seashells, watching the sunset, and perhaps surfing or exploring tide pools. But not all beach vacations are the same. For those looking to stay within a strict budget and still have a memorable getaway, here are 18 options of Best Budget Beach Vacations USA

Top 18 Best Budget Beach Vacations USA

1. Indiana Dunes, Indiana

Budget Beach Vacations USA

Indiana Dunes, Indiana

True, there’s no ocean in Indiana, but there is Lake Michigan. Indiana Dunes is home to 15 miles of world-class shoreline and sandy beaches. Beyond the beach, activities include biking, hiking along more than 70 miles of trails and bird watching for 350 migratory species. Bailly Homestead and the Chellberg Farm, dating back to the 1800s, are also located within the Indiana Dunes National Seashore. Three-star stays in the area can cost as little as $99 per night.


2. Rock Harbor Beach, Massachusetts.

Cape Cod is practically synonymous with “beach vacation,” but locals consider Rock Harbor Beach in Orleans to be one of the most charming and affordable spots in the area. It’s also said to be a great family beach, and during low tide there’s plenty of room to explore and run around. Rock Harbor Pier is home to the lifeboat that inspired the Disney rescue movie “The Finest Hours.” Cape Cod is incredibly popular in the summer, and the prices show it – but Airbnb offers options in the Orleans area for less than $200 per night, and some as low as $83. The key is to book well in advance.


SEE MORE: Top 10 Best Gulf Beaches in Florida


3. Mission Bay, California

Budget Beach Vacations USA

Mission Bay, California

Mission Bay, a year-round sunny destination, is famous for its 27 miles of beaches and free boardwalks and water activities of virtually every kind, including sailing (rentals start at about $34), kayaking (from $23), and paddleboarding ($28). Surrounded by quirky and colorful beach communities, this San Diego landmark has countless inexpensive dining and nightlife options. Belmont Park, a quintessential boardwalk amusement park with one of the oldest roller coasters in the country, is a short walk away and admission is free. Finding affordable hotels has become more challenging in this popular beach area, making home-sharing platforms a better option. Airbnb lists single rooms for as low as $83 per night, or entire guesthouses for about $148 per night.


4. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Budget Beach Vacations USA

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

This family-friendly coastal area is easy to reach by plane or car, and there’s plenty to do between trips to 60 miles of wide, soft sand. Brookgreen Gardens tickets include a zoo, botanical gardens, history and sculpture. There is also a weekend flea market that hosts more than 250 vendors. Two-star accommodations at the Sea Dunes Oceanfront Hotel start at less than $100 per night, while the three-star Captain’s Quarters Resort – the top-rated kid-friendly resort in Myrtle Beach – offers mid-summer rooms for $109 per night. The resort includes indoor and outdoor pools, lazy rivers, bowling and a game room.


5. Chincoteague Island, Virginia

Budget Beach Vacations USA

Chincoteague Island, Virginia

An island resort famous for its oyster beds and clam beds, Chincoteague is ideal for beachcombing, fishing, hiking and biking and offers easy access to the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, a 14,000-acre nature preserve with stunning nature trails. There is also a lighthouse that is free to explore. Lodging on Chincoteague Island is especially inexpensive in private campgrounds, with sites at Tom’s Cove Park starting at $36 per day without hookups and $48 per day with hookups. Chincoteague Island KOA offers everything from glamping (glamping campsites) in a luxury safari tent to small cabin rentals. There’s also a swimming pool, playground and dog park.


6. Colonial Beach, Virginia

Less than two hours outside of Washington D.C., this free public beach along the Potomac offers a variety of inexpensive activities, including free fishing from the town pier, kayaking, bike rentals and Friday Night Art Walks downtown. Golf carts can be rented and driven around this low-key town. For history buffs, the George Washington Birthplace National Monument is a short drive away. Accommodations include motels, rental homes, cabins and campgrounds. Expanding your search for waterfront lodging on Airbnb can make it as cheap as $95 per night.


7. Pere Marquette Beach, Michigan

Michigan may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think “beach vacation,” but Muskegon’s Pere Marquette Beach on Lake Michigan is free – and the largest in West Michigan. It has playgrounds, sand volleyball courts, a restaurant and access to both lighthouses and the Muskegon Channel. It is also home to the USS Silversides, a World War II museum and submarine ($15 for adults, $10.50 for children 5-18). Downtown Muskegon offers a variety of affordable restaurants, two breweries and a regular farmers market. Hotels can be found for less than $150 per night.


8. Ventura County, California

Budget Beach Vacations USA

Ventura County, California

Escape Santa Barbara to the north and Malibu to the south and head to the much more affordable beaches of Ventura County. Accommodations are cheaper in the area’s less glamorous beach towns, where vacationers enjoy free street parking, daytime lifeguards, piers, volleyball courts, and beaches that rival the beauty of more exclusive spots nearby. Top beach options include Port Hueneme Beach Park (where there are picnic tables, grills, volleyball courts and a 24-hour fishing pier), as well as Surfer’s Point Beach, Emma Wood State Beach and Silver Strand Beach, known for its surfing, fishing and family-friendly atmosphere.


9. South Padre Island, Texas

Budget Beach Vacations USA

South Padre Island, Texas

A mega-popular spring break destination due to its affordability, this resort town at the tip of Texas offers accommodations for around $100 per night in 2-star hotels. South Padre Island also boasts a wealth of free and inexpensive activities, including the 1,500-foot elevated boardwalk of the Laguna Madre Nature Trail, which crosses four acres of marshland and offers an ideal spot for watching shorebirds and migratory birds. Animal lovers should also head to Sea Turtle Inc, a rehabilitation center where admission is $6 for adults and $4 for children. (Children 4 and under are free).


10. Virginia Beach, Virginia

Budget Beach Vacations USA

Virginia Beach, Virginia

With three miles of boardwalk and 14 miles of free beaches, inexpensive restaurants and bars, Virginia Beach is popular and affordable. Just strolling around the resort area is entertaining, with street performers, live music and festivals, but there are also 4,000 acres of state parks and national wildlife refuge in the area. The Virginia Beach amusement park is free to enter. Visitors purchase tickets for about $1.10 per ride, or they can buy unlimited-use wristbands for $25 to $40. Rooms near the beach can cost less than $100 per night, even during the summer months.


11. Ocean City, Maryland

Budget Beach Vacations USA

Ocean City, Maryland

This classic beach town and its miles of wooden boardwalk are within easy reach of Washington, D.C., Baltimore and Philadelphia and offer free family activities six nights a week during the summer. Options include movies on the beach, concerts, dance parties and fireworks. Sundaes in the Park combines live music, ice cream and spectacular sunsets. Budget beachfront motel rooms start at about $160 per night during the summer.


SEE MORE: 15 Best Cheap Vacation Spots in the US


12. Keansburg Beach, New Jersey

This secluded beach along the Jersey Shore features a boardwalk, amusement park and water park. Another kid-friendly destination, the Keansburg amusement park offers combined admission to a Runaway Rapids water park and amusement park with arcades, go-karts and rides, starting at $52. Individual ride tickets are less than $1, and the water park itself is $27. The beach is free admission and offers a view of the New York City skyline. There is also a fishing pier and plenty of inexpensive restaurants. Budget motels in the area can be found for less than $100 per night.


13. Cannon Beach, Oregon

Budget Beach Vacations USA

Cannon Beach, Oregon

A popular weekend getaway outside Portland, Cannon Beach has miles of picturesque sandy beach with dramatic rock formations (National Geographic named it one of the “most beautiful places in the world” in 2013). Nearby is Ecola State Park, which offers scenic and hiking opportunities, as well as intertidal explorations, surfing and wildlife viewing for a $5 day pass. The town of Cannon Beach is a postcard-worthy community on the Oregon coast, known for its art galleries, specialty stores, public art and restaurants, and entire apartments and cottages are available from Airbnb for less than $200 per night.


14. Destin Beach, Florida

The “luckiest fishing village in the world” is located on the Florida peninsula, on a stretch known as the Emerald Coast, and is often referenced by the travel media as one of the best and most affordable beaches in the country. The waters appear to be a brilliant emerald green and the dazzling bright white sand, composed entirely of crushed Appalachian quartz, resembles sugar. Three regional airports (Destin-Fort Walton Beach, Pensacola and Panama City Beach) make Destin easily accessible. While there are a handful of hotels offering summer rates under $200 per night, Airbnb might be a better option, as budget-friendly options are more plentiful. The city’s seafood is top-notch – catch your own and cook it to save money – and low-cost chain restaurants abound, too.


15. Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Budget Beach Vacations USA

Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

For anyone looking for an all-inclusive resort vacation, the Dominican Republic, specifically Punta Cana, remains an excellent low-cost option. Dazzling beaches with clear blue waters, coconut palm trees and pristine white sands look out over the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean. The shallow waters of the area, surrounded by a reef, are ideal for beginner divers. All-inclusive accommodation packages including airfare can be found for approximately $1,200 for a six-night vacation.


16. Mazatlan, Mexico

Budget Beach Vacations USA

Mazatlan, Mexico

Mexican beach getaways appeal to everyone from raucous college students to newlyweds, retirees and families with children – but they often don’t come cheap. Still, it is possible to vacation inexpensively on a beach south of the border, and Mazatlan is a good choice. Located on the central Pacific coast and with an international airport, Mazatlán has 50 miles of beaches and plenty of casual, inexpensive dining. Free activities in the area include exploring the Malecon boardwalk, which is one of the longest in the world and stretches north from Olas Altas Beach. Other notable attractions include Old Mazatlan and El Faro, which is one of the tallest lighthouses in the world and includes a new glass-bottomed observation deck. Budget hotels here abound, with even three-star hotels costing well under $100 per night.


17. Miami Beach North, Florida

The glitz and glamour associated with Miami doesn’t necessarily bring to mind frugal travel. But avoiding South Beach and planning ahead can make affordable travel to Miami possible. North Beach offers the area’s most affordable restaurants and accommodations, as well as Art Deco architecture that’s free enough to leave you open-mouthed. Fast food marks the area, along with plenty of opportunities for people-watching (both locals and tourists). Check out the free entertainment in the area and often family-friendly. Private access Airbnbs are available for less than $100 per night in the area.


18. Clearwater Beach, Florida

Along Florida’s central Gulf Coast lies Clearwater, which lives up to its name. This affordable beach destination consistently ranks among Florida’s best beaches, and it’s easy to see why: well-maintained facilities, daytime lifeguards, excellent year-round weather, fine sands and clear, blue waters. There are numerous free and inexpensive activities, many of which will please children and adults alike, from nature walks to musical performances. Beach access is free, but parking is not free. Stays at two-star hotels can be as low as $74 to $98 per night. Airbnb offers apartments, bungalows and cottages for less than $100 per night, some as low as $73 per night.