12 Budget-Friendly Beach Vacations You Can Actually Afford

Looking to plan a relaxing beach vacation that promises fun without breaking the bank? Save on international airfare and book a trip right here in the United States! There are plenty of cheap beach destinations that will work for even the most budget-conscious traveler. We’ve put together a guide to the best affordable beach vacation spots in the U.S. that are perfect for families, couples, and solo travelers alike!

Bar Harbor, ME

Once an enclave for the wealthy, Bar Harbor is now an ideal spot for an affordable beach vacation. Though not as warm as more expensive, tropical destinations, Bar Harbor sees temperatures between the mid 70s and low 80s during the summer, so you can expect beautiful weather. There are three beaches in the area that are accessible via the free Island Explorer shuttle bus. Visitors to the island can also explore nearby Acadia National Park, which is home to two of the three beaches. Looking for something to do off the beach? Enjoy samples of wine at Bar Harbor Cellars, then walk along the beautiful Shore Path to watch the boats come in. Or grab a budget-friendly lunch at Mainely Meat BBQ and some craft beers at Atlantic Brewing Company.

How to Get There

Bar Harbor is about a 90-minute drive from Bangor International Airport (BGR). There is a shuttle service available from the airport to Bar Harbor if you’re looking for a cheaper alternative to renting a vehicle. During the summer months, Greyhound also has service from Boston to Bar Harbor.

Where to Stay

Quimby House Inn & Spa offers discounted rates during the week with rooms starting at $130 per night. Full-rated rooms will be closer to $199-$240 per night. For a more affordable stay, the Best Western Acadia Park Inn has perks like free breakfast and WiFi. Rates start around $139 a night. You can also camp at The Bar Harbor Campground, which offers RV hookups.

Biloxi, MS

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Tucked in the northern Gulf of Mexico is the city of Biloxi. This beach town has ample entertainment, southern charm, and is one of the best cheap beach vacation spots in the U.S. In fact, Biloxi Beach claimed the #1 spot on TripAdvisor’s list of affordable Gulf Coast beaches. Mild temperatures year-round means the water rarely dips below 60 degrees. Free parking, affordable dining, and fewer crowds make for a truly relaxing beach vacation. For an inexpensive day trip, book a ferry to the nearby West Ship Island, where you can take surfing lessons, go dolphin watching, and dip your toes in the blue-green waters.

How to Get There

The Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport (GPT) is the most direct option for traveling to Biloxi, and they have shuttle service available to a number of destinations in the city. You can also fly into New Orleans, LA (about 90 minutes away), Mobile, AL (about one hour away), or Pensacola, FL (about two hours away). Or Greyhound offers bus service to Biloxi from these cities for around $19-$44 for a one-way ticket.

Where to Stay

The South Beach Biloxi Hotel & Suites is one of only two beachfront hotels in the area with rates starting at $136 per night. The Holiday Inn Biloxi-Beach Blvd is newly renovated and includes free WiFi, a pool, and a free fitness center. Rates start around $125 per night. You can also camp near the beach at Gulf Beach RV Resort, where you’ll find amenities like a community room and pool. Rates are around $59 per night.

Cannon Beach, OR

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If you’re a fan of The Goonies, then you might be familiar with the rocky views of Cannon Beach and its famous Haystack Rock. Located about 90 minutes west of Portland, Cannon Beach stretches over four miles along the Oregon Coast. Affordable activities are everywhere, making it an ideal spot for a cheap beach vacation. Cannon Beach Farmers Market is just minutes from downtown and the perfect place to pick out items for a picnic lunch. Take a walk through history at the Cannon Beach History Center & Museum, where admission is always free! For a fun, laidback way to explore the beach, rent a FUNcycle. If you want more excitement, entrance into the nearby Oswald West State Park is free, and you can experience miles of hiking, biking, and beachfront trails.

How to Get There

Portland International Airport (PDX) is less than two hours east of Cannon Beach. Amtrack and Greyhound run morning and evening round trips from Portland to Cannon Beach for $34 per person.

Where to Stay

Located one block from the beach, the Inn at Cannon Beach offers great amenities like complimentary breakfast and free passes to Cannon Beach Yoga Arts. Rates start around $159 per night. If you want a more affordable overnight stay, try camping at one of the many campgrounds and RV parks in the area.

Cape May, NJ

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Cape May is a picturesque, Victorian beach town on the southern tip of the Cape May Peninsula in New Jersey. Not only does this lively community have gorgeous beaches, but it also has plenty of inexpensive activities and hotels, making it one of the best cheap beach vacations on the East Coast. Visitors can search for “Cape May Diamonds” on Sunset Beach located in Lower Township. Or take in a free movie on Stockton Beach. Enjoy bird watching, paddle boarding, and hiking at the Nature Center of Cape May, and afterwards grab a delicious hot dog from Hot Dog Tommy’s.

How to Get There

Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) is about 90 minutes from Cape May and has the most carriers for travelers flying in from different cities. Travelers can either rent a car and drive to Cape May, or bus service is available for around $18 one way. Cheaper airfare is available if you fly on Spirit Airlines into Atlantic City International Airport (ACY), which is less than an hour from Cape May. Bus service from Atlantic City to Cape May is also available for as little as $5.70 one way.

Where to Stay

Cape May has some great hotel specials throughout the year. The Carroll Villa not only offers food vouchers, but it also has specials like the Spring Fling package, which includes half-off booking specials, complimentary trolley tour, and wine tasting tickets. The family-owned Historic Hotel Macomber is centrally located and offers beautifully detailed rooms with late summer rates around $164. Or stay in a cabin, teepee, or your own RV at the Beachcomber Camping Resort.

Clearwater, FL

Looking for a cheap beach vacation in Florida? Forget Key West and think Clearwater! Clearwater Beach was just named as the 2018 Best Beach in the U.S. by TripAdvisor. There are tons of inexpensive activities to do here, such as shelling, exploring the Beach Walk Promenade, and enjoying sundown festivities on Pier 60. You can also go kayaking in Sand Key Park. And no trip to Clearwater is complete without a visit to see the dolphins at Clearwater Marine Aquarium!

How to Get There

St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport (PIE) is less than a 30-minute trip from Clearwater Beach. Shuttle and taxi services from the airport to Clearwater are available, as well as bus service on Pinellas Suncoast Transit for as little as $2.25 a trip.

Where to Stay

The Seaside Inn & Suites offers great package deals and amenities like a pool, patio, and free WiFi. Book with the Seaside Sip & Save package for rates as low as $149 per night. The Residence Inn-Clearwater Downtown offers great perks like free breakfast and WiFi. Rooms start around $159 per night. For an even more affordable stay, the Clearwater RV Resort is centrally located and has free WiFi. Daily rates start around $47.

Galveston, TX

Galveston has 32 miles of sandy seashore and plenty of budget-friendly activities, making it the perfect place for an affordable beach vacation! Take the Galveston Island Ferry to Bolivar Peninsula, or watch the ships come into the harbor on Pier 21. Explore Downtown Galveston, where there are more than 100 boutiques, galleries, and restaurants. Head to East Beach for festivals and live concerts. If you’d like a little more excitement, Schlitterbahn has more than 30 waterpark attractions stretched over 26 acres of land. And you can’t forget to visit local favorite Shrimp N’Stuff for some crawfish tails!

How to Get There

Houston residents can hop in the car and arrive at Galveston in about an hour. If you’re coming in from outside the Houston area, William P. Hobby Airport (HOU) is about 50 minutes from Galveston, while George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) is about 90 minutes away. Shuttle service from both airlines to Galveston is available for as little as $25 per person. The Island Transit bus service also runs from Houston to Galveston with round trip tickets around $9.

Where to Stay

Located just one block from Seawall Blvd, The Beachcomber Inn has great perks like free breakfast, coffee, and WiFi. Rooms start around $90. The Quality Inn & Suites Beachfront is another excellent hotel choice with great amenities and rates starting around $86. Of course, you can always skip the hotels and stay in an RV on the beach instead! Dellanera RV Park has water, electrical, and sewer hookups, as well as free WiFi. Rates are around $41-$59 per night.

Myrtle Beach, SC

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Dreaming of a beach vacation, but don’t want to spend too much? Consider Myrtle Beach! Sixty miles of sandy beaches, 100 golf courses, beachside hotels, and a range of affordable activities promise a luxurious vacation at a fraction of the cost. Take advantage of free events like the Music on Main concert series and the Beach Boogie & BBQ Festival. There are also tons of activities under $25 like shelling at Myrtle Beach State Park, miniature golf, and even helicopter rides! Budget-friendly hotels and discounted activities make Myrtle Beach one of the best summer vacation spots for families, too!

How to Get There

Fly into Myrtle Beach International Airport (MYR) on carriers like Frontier and Spirit Airlines for low-priced tickets. The airport offers a shuttle service that takes riders to various points in Myrtle Beach, including hotels. Shuttle tickets range between $20-$69.

Where to Stay

The Dayton House Resort offers discounts of up to 24% during the off-season, plus perks like complimentary WiFi and in-room kitchenettes to help you save on dining out. The Grande Shores Resort also offers deals and specials, including perks like free tickets to area events.

Outer Banks, NC

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Off the coast of North Carolina is a chain of barrier islands known as the Outer Banks. These beautiful islands include more than 100 miles of beach lines that are divided into the Northern Beach Towns and Hatteras Island Villages. Thanks to the variety of affordable activities throughout the area, the Outer Banks is a great place for a cheap beach getaway. Visitors to the Outer Banks can look for sea turtles along the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, or go hiking and birding at Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. Refuel after a long day with a delicious meal from Eduardo’s Taco Stand in Ocracoke, or try some local seafood at Miller’s Waterfront Restaurant in Nags Head.

How to Get There

Norfolk International Airport (ORF) is a little more than two hours north of the Outer Banks, while the Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU) is about four hours west. Car rental and shuttle services to The Outer Banks are available at ORF, and train service is available from Raleigh to The Outer Banks for as little as $25 per ticket.

Where to Stay

If you’re planning on a long vacation, Sun Realty has vacation rentals ranging from $795-$2,000 per week. The Baymont Inn & Suites in Kitty Hawk includes free perks like continental breakfast, WiFi, and a pool. Rates start as low as $125 a night. Or you can enjoy a night under the stars at any number of affordable campsites.

Pensacola, FL

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Located in the Florida Panhandle, Pensacola is a beautiful waterfront city and one of the most affordable beach towns. Spend the day sunbathing and swimming in the warm Gulf of Mexico waters at Pensacola Beach. Take advantage of activity deals like BOGO bowling at DeLuna Lanes or discounted Sunday ticket prices at museums like the Pensacola Children’s Museum or Pensacola Museum of Art. Go bird watching on the Great Florida Birding & Wildlife Trail, then grab a bite to eat at Peg Leg Pete’s where you can hear live music from the Pensacola Beach concert series.

How to Get There

Pensacola International Airport (PNS) has nearly 17 direct flight options, making it easy to get your beach vacation started right away! There are also a number of shuttle and car rental options from the airport that can get you where you need to go.

Where to Stay

There are plenty of budget-friendly hotels around the Pensacola area. Book a week-long stay at Eden Condominiums, or stay at the Margaritaville Beach Hotel and enjoy amenities like a pool, free parking, and complimentary beer tickets.

Santa Cruz, CA

Nestled along the California coastline, Santa Cruz has over 30 beaches and tons of cheap activities to choose from, making it an affordable beach vacation spot! See some of the beautiful sunsets on the West Coast at Natural Bridges State Beach, visit the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum, hike and bike along the trails at Lighthouse Field State Beach, or enjoy thrill rides at the amusement park on the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Indulge in some Mediterranean fare from local favorite Laili, or enjoy happy hour brews in the beer garden at Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing.

How to Get There

San Jose International Airport (SJC) is about 50 minutes north of Santa Cruz and has service from many major carriers. For budget-minded travelers who don’t want to rent a car, there is bus and train service available from San Jose to Santa Cruz with prices starting as low as $9.

Where to Stay

If you’re traveling to Santa Cruz in the summer, stay in the affordable Surfside Apartments. Amenities include an eat-in kitchen, comfy beds, and close proximity to Downtown Santa Cruz with rates around $120-$230 per night. Travelers looking for a simple stay near the Boardwalk can book rooms at America’s Best Value Inn & Suites-Boardwalk for as low as $80 a night.

South Padre Island, TX

South Padre Island is a resort town famous for its clear waters, 34 miles of white-sand beaches, and exciting nightlife. Ocean fishing, bird watching, surfing, and parasailing are just a few activities you can enjoy while on the island. Visit Sea Turtle Inc. to see rehabilitated sea turtles, explore the outdoors on the beautiful 1,500-foot Laguna Madre Nature Trail, or go on a dolphin tour! Make sure to visit Ceviche Ceviche, a local hot spot known for its fresh ceviche.

How to Get There

Three airports serve South Padre Island: Valley International Airport (HRL)Brownsville South Padre Island International Airport (BRO), and McAllen International Airport (MFE). These options are anywhere between 30 and 90 minutes to the island. Valley International Airport also offers free shuttle service.

Where to Stay

South Padre Island Ramada Resort offers spacious rooms, great amenities, complimentary breakfast, free parking, and more. Hilton Garden Inn South Padre Island is the #1 rated hotel on TripAdvisor with rooms starting around $162 per night. If you’d rather sleep under the stars, you can even stay at one of many budget-friendly campgrounds on the island.

Virginia Beach, VA

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One of the most popular East Coast beach vacation destinations is Virginia Beach. You can explore Sandbridge Beach, Chic’s Beach, and Oceanfront Resort Beach for free. Other affordable activities include climbing the Cape Henry Lighthouse, visiting the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art, and picking a bushel of fresh berries in the southern farmlands of Pungo. Try some fresh local seafood at Blue Seafood & Spirits, or have delicious fish tacos during happy hour at Waterman’s Surfside Grill.

How to Get There

Norfolk International Airport (ORF) is within 30 minutes of Virginia Beach, and shuttle service is provided to the area. Bus service is also available from the airport to Virginia Beach for a low as $11 one way.

Where to Stay

Earning the TripAdvisor Certification of Excellence, the Econo Lodge on the Ocean hotel is the #1 rated hotel on the site. Rooms start at $152 per night. For a truly affordable and one-of-a-kind experience, camp in the First Landing State Park for around $24 a night or rent a cabin from $94-$139 a night.

Whether you’re traveling with friends, family, a partner, or going on a solo adventure, there are tons of beach vacations to explore that are budget-friendly and stress-free. Or if you’re interested in a summer vacation that’s off the beaten path, check out these unique vacation ideas!