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The 15 Best Affordable Beach Vacations in America

You don't have to spend big money to have big fun at the beach.

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Piggy bank with sunglasses on a beach next to a beach chairsimpson33/Getty Images

Have fun without spending a fortune

Nothing conjures the word vacation like a long stretch of sandy beach. But if you think that means spending big bucks, think again. Many of the best beach vacations are surprisingly affordable. From inexpensive family vacation destinations filled with amusement parks to romantic small towns perfect for long walks on the sand and fun vacation spots for singles, there are plenty of cheap beach vacation ideas in the United States—if you know where to look. This list rounds up your best options from coast to coast, and in between. And while we’ve recommended some budget-friendly hotels to stay in each area, you might also want to check out these beach house rentalsvacation cabins, affordable Airbnbs, and all-inclusive resorts. So, what are you waiting for? Pick your favorite, grab your sunscreen, beach umbrella, beach towels, and beach chairs—then, hit the road. Just be sure to check local guidelines and the hotel’s website ahead of time, since some pandemic restrictions may still apply.

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Cambria, Californiavia

Cambria, California

The California coast may not come immediately to mind when you think of budget-friendly beach vacation towns, but it’s actually home to plenty of affordable gems, including the captivating seaside village of Cambria. Located in San Luis Obispo County along the scenic California Highway 1 Discovery Route, Cambria is one of the best-kept secrets on the Pacific Coast. The town boasts architecture dating back to the late 1800s and Moonstone Beach Boardwalk, a mile-long, ADA-accessible path along the beach. Other area highlights include Hearst Castle, 100 roaming Clydesdales at Covell Ranch, and fantastic wineries like Stolo Family Vineyards.

While visiting this charming beach town, be sure to treat yourself to a slice of the famous olallieberry pie at Linn’s Restaurant. There are no chain hotels in Cambria, but there are a number of wonderful, affordable lodging options. One of the best is Oceanpoint Ranch, located right at Moonstone Beach. There, you’ll find ranch-themed rooms featuring upscale touches like wood-burning fireplaces and vaulted ceilings.

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The view from the Cascade head trail, north of Lincoln City, OregonPhoto ©Tan Yilmaz/Getty Images

Lincoln City, Oregon

Lincoln City, Oregon, combines long stretches of sandy beach with unique attractions such as the Lincoln City Glass Center, where visitors can buy pieces of art or work one-on-one with an artist to create their own glass masterpiece. The same artists also make the glass globes for Lincoln City’s Finders Keepers, a program in which gorgeous glass floats are placed on the beach for lucky tourists to find and take home. Lincoln City also happens to be one of the best spots for surfing. If you didn’t bring a surfboard, you can rent one and even take lessons at Safari Town Surf shop; they also rent kayaks, fat-tire bikes, and more. After a day on the beach, be sure to stop by The 101 Burger (located on—you guessed it—Highway 101) to enjoy the best hamburgers in town.

This affordable beach town has many great options for lodging, including beach house rentals and hotels at a variety of price ranges. One of the best places to stay is right on the beach at the Surftides Lincoln City, which has amenities like a restaurant, sports court, fire pits, an indoor pool, and a jacuzzi. Pack a beach bag and head to the shore for some beach fun!

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McGee Beach in Corpus Christi, Texas in MarchMoelyn Photos/Getty Images

Corpus Christi, Texas

Texas is full of wonderfully cheap vacation spots, but Corpus Christi stands out for having an incredible selection of truly terrific beaches, affordable lodging options, and a host of beautiful parks and free activities. While you’re there, explore the largest undeveloped barrier island in the world, the Padre Island National Seashore. You’ll find more than 70 miles of shoreline, beaches, dunes, and lagoons. As for Corpus Christi, it’s one of the best surfing destinations in the United States outside of California and Hawaii (and some even would argue it gives them a run for their money). In addition to breaking out your board, be sure to stop by the free Texas Surf Museum. Other highlights include tours of the museum housed within the USS Lexington, and the South Texas Botanical Gardens and Nature Center.

The Fairfield Inn and Suites Corpus Christi is a great, centrally located place to stay that’s just minutes from a number of beaches; it also offers budget-friendly amenities including free breakfast. But wherever you decide to stay and whatever you decide to do, don’t leave town without ordering fish and chips at Catfish Charlies. Trust us on this one!

RELATED: Texas Road Trips You Should Try to Take at Least Once

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Lighthouse and Visitor Center in Biloxi, Mississippitraveler1116/Getty Images

Biloxi, Mississippi

Biloxi is not only one of the best beach destinations in Mississippi—it’s also one of the most affordable. The highlight here is Biloxi Beach, where the sand is soft and white, and the Gulf of Mexico’s barrier islands ensure the warm waters are placid enough for swimming. Other draws in town include a plethora of casinos and historical sites such as the Biloxi Lighthouse. When your tummy starts to rumble, head on over to Shaggy’s, located right on the beach, for shrimp tacos and an oyster platter.

After a tough day of soaking in the sun and sights, rest your weary head at the La Quinta Inn & Suites by Wyndham Biloxi. It’s one of the best deals in town, with amenities including free breakfast and access to the pool. Speaking of Mississippi, if you’re hankering for an epic adventure, embark on this Great River road trip.

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San Juan, Puerto Ricovia

San Juan, Puerto Rico

It’s easier to visit Puerto Rico than you think. Since this beautiful tropical island is part of the United States, you don’t have to pass through customs or even bring a passport. Puerto Rico is home to many beautiful beaches, but the photogenic beaches in San Juan are among the most accessible since the capital city is home to a major airport. San Juan is also one of the best places in the United States for a cheap beach vacation, especially if you can use your miles to get there.

While in town, be sure to explore the historic architecture of Old San Juan and Castillo San Felipe del Morro, a citadel built between the 16th and 18th centuries. When you’re ready for lunch, try a tripleta, a sandwich of marinated meats, from one of the city’s food trucks. And at the end of the day, head to The Tryst Beachfront Hotel, located right on Condado Beach, where the most prized amenities include beach chairs with umbrellas, under which guests can sip cold drinks while burying their toes in the sand.

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Storm cloud over lake Ontario at Olcott, New YorkDebora Truax/Getty Images

Olcott, New York

Not familiar with Olcott? You should be! It’s a lively family destination located on the shores of Lake Ontario, and highlights here include Olcott Beach Carousel Park, where rides on a vintage carousel cost onlya quarter, and the Lakeview Village Shoppes on the boardwalk. It’s a great destination for fishing and just a short drive to the beautiful waterfalls at Niagara Falls State Park. While in the area, don’t miss the caramel corn Bye’s Popcorn. There may be a line, but it’s worth the wait!

Most of the hotels are in nearby Lockport, including the Best Western Plus Lockport, which has a pool, breakfast buffet, and family-pleasing amenities such as bicycle rentals. Looking for other options in this corner of the country? Here are more East Coast vacations you need to take at least once.

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Virginia Beach, Virginiavia

Virginia Beach, Virginia

Home to 14 miles of sandy beaches and some of the best attractions in entire state, Virginia Beach is dreamy—and a total dream for budget-minded travelers. Attractions include the Virginia Aquarium, the Ocean Breeze WaterPark, and the Virginia Beach Boardwalk, a five-mile-long oceanfront wooden promenade that takes you past museums, sculptures, and parks.

There are lodging options for nearly every budget in Virginia Beach, from affordable Airbnbs to luxury hotels. The Four Points by Sheraton Virginia Beach Oceanfront is reasonably priced, has stellar ocean views, and is within walking distance to the beach and aquarium. The rooms also feature family-friendly amenities such as microwaves and sofa beds.

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Ferris Wheel In City Against Cloudy Sky On Myrtle BeachMaciej Nicgorski/EyeEm/Getty Images

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

One of the best destinations for summer travel, Myrtle Beach and its surrounding area are home to more than 80 golf courses, a number of amusement parks, and Ripley’s Aquarium. But most people flock here for 60 miles of sandy seashore and a mile-long boardwalk. Myrtle Beach is also rich in arts and culture, and in fact, it hosts a number of music and arts festivals throughout the year.

For an excellent lodging value, check out the Holiday Inn Express Myrtle Beach–Broadway at the Beach. You always know what you’re getting with a Holiday Inn, and more than that, this one is all about location, location, location. It’s in the heart of Myrtle Beach on the Myrtle Beach Grand Strand, and during your stay, you’ll get free breakfast and have access to their great pool to cool off before heading up to your room.

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The Bridge of Lions illuminated tower piers stand over the Matanzas River between downtown Saint Augustine, FloridaJohn Coletti/Getty Images

St. Augustine, Florida

There’s a reason people head to Florida for beach vacations, and while there are many spots to choose from, this one tops our list of wonderfully cheap options to enjoy year-round. The oldest city in America, St. Augustine is home to white-sand beaches, sapphire blue waters, and some of the most stunning architecture you’ll ever see. Highlights include strolling along St. George Street with its cafés, antique stores, boutiques, and ice cream shops, and visiting Fort Mose Historic State Park, the site of the first settlement for free Black Americans in the country. Other can’t-miss destinations include the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument and the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum. And, of course, you can’t leave town without dipping your toes in the sand at St. Augustine Beach, which has a splash pad and fishing pier.

There are a number of fabulous, reasonably priced lodging options in town, including Villa Victor, an Ascend Hotel Collection Member. The hotel features large suites, and it’s located in the historic district, so it’s within walking distance to nearly everything.

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Lake Chelan and the Okanogan-Wenatchee National ForestMark C Stevens/Getty Images

Lake Chelan, Washington

Lake Chelan is an incredibly popular vacation destination in Washington, and for good reason. The 55-mile-long lake is a stunner surrounded by vineyards and mountains. One of the most beautiful lakes in America for swimming, it’s also a big destination for camping, fishing, and wine tasting. Other standouts in the area include the recently opened Lakeside Surf, a surfing facility that’s home to the world’s largest standing wave. Families also love spending a day or two at Slidewaters Waterpark, strolling the walking trails at Chelan Riverwalk Park, and enjoying the delicious, gourmet pies at Local Myth Pizza. There are plenty of reasonably priced hotels in town, including the Apple Inn Motel, which has a pool, shuttle service, and guest barbecue facilities.

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Deserted beach with lifeguard chairs and trees in background on Presque Isle on Lake Erie Susan Vineyard/Getty Images

Erie, Pennsylvania

The best way we can describe Erie, Pennsylvania? It’s like the choose-your-adventure version of cheap beach vacation destinations. It’s a great destination for singles, couples, or families—there’s really that much diversity there. The area is home to family-pleasing attractions such as Waldameer Park & Water World and the Erie Zoo, but there are also wineries and museums in the region to appeal to adults. Regardless of which type of vacation you’re taking, Presque Isle State Park is a must for your to-do list. The park is actually a 3,200-acre peninsula of sandy beaches, walking trails, trees, and wildlife on Lake Erie—and it’s completely gorgeous.

There are a number of affordable lodging options in this corner of Pennsylvania including the Hampton Inn & Suites Erie Bayfront, located next to the Erie Maritime Museum. This affordable hotel offers free breakfast, a pool, a rooftop terrace, and views of the bay.

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Morey Piers At Beach In The Wildwoods Against SkyShri Bhat/EyeEm

Wildwood, New Jersey

Visitors to Wildwood enjoy all the amenities you’ll find at more expensive beach towns—without the steep prices. Enjoy five miles of sandy beach and a two-mile boardwalk with shops and arcades, to start. Then head to Morey’s Piers and Beachfront Water Parks for waterslides and nearly 100 amusement-park rides. For lodging, one of the best values in town is the Riviera Resort & Suites. Kids will love the pool, but most importantly, it’s located right across from the beach. If you fall in love with the area, it might become your new go-to. Find out why this woman goes on the same family vacation in New Jersey every year.

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Lake Geneva, Wisconsinvia

Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

Wisconsin is filled with some of the prettiest lakes in the country, and Lake Geneva is right at the top. It’s home to beaches of golden sand, and the shoreline is dotted with stately and stunning 19th-century mansions. You’ll do your best gawking from the middle of the water on a tour with Lake Geneva Cruise Line. Other highlights in the area include shopping at the boutiques and galleries downtown, golfing at one of the area’s many beautiful courses, and, of course, playing on the lake.

Prices for lodging vary pretty widely, but there are many affordable options, including the Abbey Resort, located on the shores of Lake Geneva. The resort offers a pool, bicycle rentals, and babysitting services to accommodate adults who want a little alone time—which will come in really handy if you want to book a few indulgent services at the on-site Avani Spa.

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Lake Superior Coast At Presque Isle Park Marquette Michiganehrlif/Getty Images

Marquette, Michigan

Nestled on the shores of Lake Superior, Marquette is home to 77 waterfalls, the scenic Marquette Bay, and lovely, historic architecture. There are a number of sandy beaches, including McCarty’s Cove and Little Presque Isle Beach, and in general, it’s a beautiful spot for kayaking, especially around the Black Rocks of Presque Isle. It’s also a great area for hiking.

Where should you stay? It depends on what you want: The area is home to a number of scenic campsites and affordable hotels. The Superior Stay Hotel has reasonable prices, free breakfast, and off-site activities like bowling and canoeing available.

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Hotels and attraction along the shore in Daytona BeachPgiam/Getty Images

Daytona Beach, Florida

Daytona Beach may be famous for racing, but it’s also home to 20 miles of beautiful white-sand beaches. In fact, visitors can even buy a pass to spend the day driving on the beach because who needs a beach chair when you’ve got a car? Other attractions in town include Tuscawilla Park, which features a disc golf course, zip line, and lovely walking trails. And of course, Daytona Beach is home to Daytona International Speedway, host of the Daytona 500.

Hotels here are surprisingly reasonable, given the area’s attractions. The Boardwalk Inn and Suites is incredibly budget-friendly, and it has amenities like free parking, a pool, and rooms with a view. While you’re in the Sunshine State, you’ll also want to check out the best Florida beaches locals want to keep secret.

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Tamara Gane
Tamara Gane is a regular contributor to Reader's Digest. She's a travel expert who takes an average of 30-40 trips a year and covers vacation destinations, luggage, road trips, air travel, and hotels.