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11 Budget-Friendly Beach Vacation Ideas

Planning a beach vacation? There are plenty of affordable beach destinations along the East, West, and Gulf Coasts that can work for any budget-conscious traveler. To help figure out which beach destination is right for you, check out this list of the 11 best coastal towns for a beach vacation in the U.S.!

Cannon Beach, OR

Sunset View of The Shore at Cannon Beach in Oregon. Photo by Instagram user@den_jara

Photo via @den_jara

  • Average High Temperature in Summer: 64 degrees
  • Average Nightly Hotel Cost: $600

Oregon may not be the first place you think of when it comes to a beach vacation, but why not test out the waters along the Oregon coastline? A small coastal town located in northwest Oregon, Cannon Beach stretches four miles along the Pacific coast. Featured in countless shows like The Goonies and Kindergarten Cop, Cannon Beach is a picturesque, affordable vacation spot with cool waters, colorful tide pools, and tufted puffins. Marvel at the rocky views of Oregon’s most recognizable landmark, Haystack Rock. Build sand creations during the Sandcastle Contest. Take a walk through history at the Cannon Beach History Center & Museum, where admission is always free! See Roosevelt Elk grazing in the meadows while hiking along the many Tillamook Head trails at Ecola State Park, and look for sea caves and waterfalls during low tide at Hug Point State Recreation Site. Stop by Driftwood Restaurant & Lounge for Driftwood Halibut or a Rib Eye Steak Sandwich. Or for other seafood in Cannon Beach, visit Tom’s Fish & Chips to order the 2 Pieces Fish & Chips basket, New England Clam Chowder, or Shrimp Caesar salad.

Cape May, NJ

Sunny Day at the Beach in Cape May, New Jersey. Photo by Instagram user @ajensen879

Photo via @ajensen879

  • Average High Temperature in Summer: 81 degrees
  • Average Nightly Hotel Cost: $116

Cape May is a beautiful Victorian seaside town on the southern tip of the Cape May Peninsula in New Jersey. Not only does this lively community have gorgeous beaches, but this vacation destination has plenty of inexpensive activities and hotels, which makes it one of the best affordable beach vacations on the East Coast. Learn about legendary abolitionist Harriet Tubman and the role Cape May played in ending slavery at the Harriet Tubman Museum. Get an inside look into Victorian architecture, and learn about the Physick family when you tour the Emlen Physick Estate. Stay on Sunset Beach in Lower Township to search for “Cape May Diamonds.” Looking for family-friendly activities in Cape May? Watch free movies on the beach on Thursdays, like Finding Nemo or Up. Go whale and dolphin watching from May to September on the Cape May Whale Watcher. Enjoy the amazing views of the Atlantic ocean while paddleboarding, hiking, or bird watching at the Nature Center of Cape May. Before a day of fun-filled activities on your beach vacation, fill up on Toast & Jelly, Two Eggs with Home Fries, a Fried Egg Sandwich, or other breakfast favorites at Oceanview Restaurant. Or sit on the patio while enjoying dishes like Steamed Mussels, Crab & Clam Pasta, or a Tavern Burger at The Blue Pig Tavern.

Daytona Beach, FL

  • Average High Temperature in Summer: 89 degrees
  • Average Nightly Hotel Cost: $134

Located on Florida’s Atlantic coastline, Daytona Beach is best known for hosting the Daytona 500, but there’s more to this coastal town than just car racing! Catch some sun and spend the day relaxing at one of the many white-sand Daytona beaches. Looking for water activities in this affordable Florida vacation spot? Try paddleboarding or snorkeling among the area’s artificial reefs to discover Daytona Beach wildlife like sea turtles, manatees, and more! Ride water slides, play laser tag, go-kart, and enjoy even more family-friendly activities at Daytona Lagoon Waterpark. Admire free exhibitions like Into the Universe of Collected Images at the Southeast Museum of Photography! Play an arcade game, watch street performers, or dine at Pizza King while wandering through Daytona Beach Boardwalk. Enjoy free live music in Daytona Beach and snack on Gator Bites or Crabby Patties at Caribbean Jack’s. Or savor unique eats like Sloppy Nachos, Fried Key West Shrimp, or a Boatload of Onion Rings at Sloppy Joe’s Restaurant & Bar.

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Gulf Shores, AL

Beach and ocean in Gulf Shores at daybreak. Photo by Instagram user @dream0ndana

Photo via @dream0ndana

  • Average High Temperature in Summer: 88 degrees
  • Average Nightly Hotel Cost: $178

Gulf Shores, Alabama is the perfect beach vacation spot along the Gulf Coast! Whether you decide to stay in a hotel or camp along the Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, this Gulf beach vacation destination is perfect for any vacation on a budget! Bump or spike a volleyball or dig your toes into the beautiful white sands of Gulf Shores Main Public Beach. Learn how to build sandcastles and sea-creature sculptures at Sand Castle University. Spend the day fishing, dine at ByWater Beachside Beach Bar & Grill, or walk the pier at Gulf State Park Pier. Looking for free things to do in Gulf Shores? Check out Gulf State Nature Center, Gulf Shores Museum, or ride the Ferris wheel at The Wharf for a small fee. Taste fresh-caught seafood like The Big Kahuna, Paradise Island Fried Pecan Flounder, or Steamed Crab Legs from Bahama Bob’s Beach Side Cafe. Stop by for a Gulf Redfish or Crawfish Mac & Cheese paired with a Spiked Strawberry Lemonade or Scratch Margarita at The Beach House Kitchen and Cocktail. Or enjoy amazing views of the Gulf while dining on coastal favorites like Shrimp BLT, Gulf Shrimp & Grits, or Honey Roasted Baked Chicken at Foodcraft.

Huntington Beach, CA

Boardwalk over tan-red sand looking out toward the ocean. Photo by Instagram user @mmaaddzz

Photo via @mmaaddzz

  • Average High Temperature in Summer: 71 degrees
  • Average Nightly Hotel Cost: $28

Looking for an affordable beach vacation along the California coast? Visit Huntington Beach! Sunbathe, fish, catch waves, or enjoy a sunset walk with your furry friend at Huntington State Beach or Bolsa Chica State Beach. Bike the trails, play disc golf, and more at Huntington Central State Park. Learn about the history of surfing and attend free events in Huntington Beach like the Surfin’ Sundays concert series at the Huntington Beach International Surfing Museum. Marvel at the magnificent views of the Pacific Ocean at Huntington Beach Pier, the heart of this affordable beach vacation spot. Wake up to views of the harbor and dine on Country Fried Steak and Eggs, a Breakfast Quesadilla, or Build Your Own Stuffed Croissant at Pelican Isle. Order a Beach Boy Breakfast Burrito or Loco Moco for Sunday brunch at Duke’s Huntington Beach, a Hawaiian-inspired restaurant named after legendary surfer Duke Kahanamoku. Enjoy Swordfish, Mahi Tacos, or a Beach Bum Burger at Sandy’s Beach Shack. Or fill up on Italian favorites like Focaccia Pizza, House Meatball Sandwich, or Cheese Manicotti at Massimo’s Pizza.

Myrtle Beach, SC

Beach Goers Sunbathing and Swimming on a Sunny Day at Myrtle Beach. Photo by Instagram user @deepanjan90

Photo via @deepanjan90

  • Average High Temperature in Summer: 89 degrees
  • Average Nightly Hotel Cost: $141

Plan the ultimate beach getaway at Myrtle Beach, one of the best summer vacation spots for families. This budget-friendly vacation spot is home to 60 miles of sandy beaches, 90 world-class golf courses, beachside hotels, and a range of free things to do in Myrtle Beach! Attend one of the many events in Myrtle Beach like the Music on Main concert series or Surfside Beach Farmers Market. Looking for kid-friendly activities under $25? When the tide is low, Collect shark teeth and seashells during low tide at Myrtle Beach State Park. Pick up souvenirs and unique finds at Hudson’s Surfside Flea Market. Enjoy jaw-dropping views of Myrtle Beach while on a helicopter ride from Helicopter Adventures. Find a variety of local shops, restaurants, and the iconic SkyWheel at the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk & Promenade. Try a Seafood Boil, Fried Fish Sandwich, or Shrimp PoBoy at Big Mike’s Soul Food. Marvel at oceanfront views while chowing down on classic American fares like Onion Straws, a Shrimp Bummwich, or Hot Dog at Bummz Beach Cafe. Indulge in Fried Grouper, Cajun Salmon, or Fried Bay Scallops at Mrs. Fish Seafood. Savor German and Austrian delicacies like Sauteed Liver or Jaeger-Schnitzel at Old Cafe Vienna.

Outer Banks, NC

Longside Dock in the Ocean in Outer Banks, North Carolina. Photo by Instagram user @mattseyeg

Photo via @mattseyeg

  • Average High Temperature in Summer: 85 degrees
  • Average Nightly Hotel Cost: $120

Off the coast of North Carolina is a chain of barrier islands known as the Outer Banks (OBX). More than 100 miles of beaches are divided by three islands: Northern Beaches, Hatteras Island, and Roanoke Island & Dare Mainland. Thanks to the variety of budget-friendly activities throughout the area, OBX is a great place for an affordable beach getaway! For more than 100 years, the lighthouses in Outer Banks have helped sea travelers as they sail the Atlantic Ocean, so make sure to visit Bodie Island Light Station, Cape Hatteras Light Station, and the Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station. Look for sea turtles along the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, go for a hike, and bird watch at the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. Refuel after a long day with a Cowboy Bro Burger, Steak Philly, or Surfs’ Up Tuna PoBoy from Bros Sandwich Shack. Try fresh Snow Crab Legs, Sunset Flounder, or a Crab Cake Sandwich at Miller’s Waterfront Restaurant. Fill up on a Swiss Mushroom Burger, Arty’s Baby Burger, or Baja Burger at Art’s Place. Or head to Duck Pizza for Cheesy Bread, Aloha pizza, or The Dabbler pizza.

Pensacola, FL

Sunny Day on the White Sand Beach at Pensacola Florida. Photo by Instagram user @rebelflicks

Photo via @rebelflicks

  • Average High Temperature in Summer: 89 degrees
  • Average Nightly Hotel Cost: $177

Located along the Florida Panhandle, Pensacola is a beautiful waterfront city and one of the most affordable beach towns to visit! Wondering when is the best time to visit Pensacola? While spring break and hot summer months are popular, plan your beach vacation to Pensacola in mid-September and October for quiet beaches and attractions. Swim among colorful tropical fish and coral reefs in the warm Gulf of Mexico water at Pensacola Beach. Explore Historic Pensacola attractions like the Pensacola Museum of History in Old Pensacola Village. Admire exhibitions like Into the Mirror: Carrie Ann Baade or Taking a Line for a Walk at Pensacola Museum of Art. Birdwatch on the Great Florida Birding & Wildlife Trail or walk the trails at the 42-acre nature preserve, Bay Bluff Park. Devour Baked Oysters, Cajun Shrimp, or Blackened Grouper while listening to free live music at Peg Leg Pete’s. Feast on Fried Green Tomatoes, a Smokin’ Blues Brisket Sandwich, or Big Country Fried Steak at Five Sisters Blues Cafe. Make your way to O’Riley’s Irish Pub for brunch favorites like Corned Beef Hash or O’Riley’s Traditional Breakfast paired with a Tully Irish Coffee. End your day with a sunset dinner overlooking the marina with a bowl of Seafood Gumbo or Grits & Grouper at The Oar House.

South Padre Island, TX

Palm trees and the South Padre Island sign with blue, pink, and yellow beach umbrellas. Photo by Instagram user @davidlanceres

Photo via @davidlanceres

  • Average High Temperature in Summer: 90 degrees
  • Average Nightly Hotel Cost: $106

A resort town located off the southern coast of Texas, South Padre Island is known for its clear waters, white-sand beaches, and fun things to do! Great for an off-season summer vacation with friends or family from September to February, South Padre is an affordable beach town packed with activities for your next summer vacation. Fish for speckled trout and blue marlin in the Gulf of Mexico. Go ziplining or ride horses in So Padre in Island Adventure Park. Stroll through aquatic displays and educational “Turtle Talks” events to learn more about the wildlife rehabilitation efforts at Sea Turtle Inc. Explore the outdoors on the beautiful 1,500-foot Laguna Madre Nature Trail, or go on a dolphin watching tour! Wake up early for breakfast with favorites like Huevos a La Mexicana, Lemon Blueberry Pancakes, Two Egg Breakfast, and more at Grapevine Cafe. Stop by Blackbeards’ Texas for Gulf Oysters, Fish Tacos, or 8 oz Bourbon Strip Steak. Or if you’re in the mood for Cajun cuisine in South Padre, enjoy Fried Zucchini, Boiled Crawfish, or Red Snapper Rockefeller from Daddy’s Cajun Kitchen.

Virginia Beach, VA

Surfer on the Water at Virginia Beach. Photo by Instagram user @cityofvabeach

Photo via @cityofvabeach

  • Average High Temperature in Summer: 85 degrees
  • Average Nightly Hotel Cost: $120

As one of the best beach towns in America, Virginia Beach is a fun vacation spot with a lot of history! Located where the Chesapeake Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean, this coastal Virginia town marks where the first English colonist landed, and offers tours of historic places like Thoroughgood House or First Landing State Park. Be sure to see the largest collection of World War I and World War II military aircraft at The Military Aviation Museum. Snag some friends to walk, bike, or rollerblade the Virginia Beach Boardwalk—and remember to get a picture with the King Neptune statue. Climb the Cape Henry Lighthouse, visit the Cape Henry Memorial, or see the first railroad to Cape Henry. Discover exciting Contemporary art with photography exhibitions like The Art of the Vibe 3 or collaborative environmental sculpture projects like Sites Unseen at the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art. Spend the day picking a bushel of fresh berries in the southern farmlands of Pungo. Enjoy beachfront dining in Virginia Beach and munch on Hush Puppies, Shrimp Arugula Salad, or Fresh Tuna Sandwich from Chix on the Beach. Save room for a scoop of Very Banana ice cream, Ice Cream Cannoli, or Hot Fudge Sundae at Gerald’s Ice Cream Bar.

Wrightsville Beach, NC

Sandy beach boardwalk surrounded by tall green grass. Photo by Instagram @ka_bliss

Photo via @ka_bliss

  • Average High Temperature in Summer: 87 degrees
  • Average Nightly Hotel Cost: $192

Located east of the city of Wilmington, Wrightsville Beach is a great place for summer beach vacations! Visitors can find affordable activities to keep them busy while on vacation. Catch waves at one of the many Wrightsville Beach surf spots, or cast a line at Johnnie Mercers Fishing Pier. Walk Wrightsville Beach Historic Square for shopping, self-guided home tours, and other popular attractions in Wrightsville Beach. Experience the history of Wrightsville Beach by seeing artifacts, signs, and more at the Wrightsville Beach Museum of History. Get your morning started with Avocado Toast paired with Carmel Macchiato or a Cold Brew with Coconut Water from The Workshop. Find some of the best seafood in Wrightsville Beach at places like Shark Bar and Kitchen—and be sure to order one of their famous margaritas. Stop by Bluewater Waterfront Grill for Crab Mac And Cheese, NC-Style Calabash Platter, or Whole Fried Fish. Or heck out Baja-inspired dishes like Veggie Tostada, SoCal Carne burritos, or Malibu Shrimp tacos at Tower 7.


Looking to store your beach gear after your summer getaway is over? Extra Space Storage has convenient storage facilities throughout the U.S. to help with your self storage needs. Find cheap storage units near you!

Travel and weather statistics from Budget Your Trip and U.S. Climate Data

Beach Vacations: 11 Budget-Friendly Ideas

About Mike Beutler

Mike Beutler is a writer and digital content specialist who transitioned to self storage in 2020 after several years in the airline industry. His travels cultivated a passion for exploring cities across the U.S. and abroad and inspired him to learn more about practical insights for urban living. With 14 moves under his belt, both locally and cross-country, he also has a passion for minimalism and organization, and sharing tips to help others make any space feel like home while staying organized.