6 Budget-Friendly Beach Destinations


Summer is all about the beach escape — a well-earned break from the toil of the daily routine in a place where the day is ruled by the rise and fall of the sun. But have you truly earned it? According to American Express, the average American vacation costs $1,145 per person, or $4,580 for a family of four. If that price tag looks steep, let's consider your options.

Sure, you could forgo your annual vacation, but there's a price to pay for that, too. Studies show that vacationing can make you feel more restful and productive, improve your relationships, and boost your health. Neglecting to vacation, on the other hand — also known as being overworked — has been connected to depression, anxiety, insomnia, health problems, weight gain, and higher divorce rates. Perhaps your best bet is a trip to one of the nation's budget-friendly beaches. (See also: 6 "Tourist Towns" That Are Actually Great to Live In)

1. Cayucos, California

You won't find swanky tapas bars or hundred million dollar homes in this overlooked enclave on the California coast. Yes, like many California beach destinations, Cayucos has gorgeous ocean views and surf spots galore. But unlike the rest, it's not over-the-top expensive. It's also not ultra-crowded with tourists. Fill your days with walks on the newly renovated historic pier, visits to the acclaimed skate park, kayak excursions down the coast, horseback riding adventures on the beach, or afternoon wine tasting. Laid-back and slow-moving with many dog and kid-friendly beaches, hotels, and restaurants — yes, you really can bring Sparky out to eat — Cayucos makes for a great, no-frills getaway for the entire family.

2. Gulfport, Mississippi

In Gulfport, where the median home value is just $175,700, miles of sandy beaches are bordered by a boulevard populated by hotels and casinos. Though badly battered by Hurricane Katrina, this relatively undiscovered portion of the Gulf Coast has been rebuilding itself as a lively destination for beach-goers, fishermen, golfers, gamblers, and lovers of nightlife and live music. And, for now, that not-so-distant memory of Katrina's wrath keeps the prices here low. For $29, you can buy a roundtrip ferry ride to Ship Island, home of Mississippi's most scenic beaches. Located 11 miles south of Gulfport, this pristine barrier island is the ideal setting to soak up the sun, picnic, and unwind.

3. Pensacola, Florida

Florida is home to more coastline than any other continental state. And while many of the Sunshine State's beach destinations will empty your wallet, Pensacola was seemingly made for the bargain-minded. In addition to its affordability, this westernmost city in the Florida panhandle is known for its crystalline water and long stretch of powdery white sand beaches. A 20-minute drive from the city's downtown will get you there, though there is a public beach accessible from downtown, as well.

In addition to beaches, Pensacola boasts a collection of pre-Civil War brick fortresses. The Gulf Breeze Zoo is home to 900 animals, while the National Naval Aviation Museum features a collection of more than 150 warbirds. Budget motels and inexpensive condominium vacation rentals are plentiful both in the Pensacola beach area and downtown — and so are budget-friendly dining options.

4. Matagorda, Texas

Matagorda is home of miles upon miles of untouched beaches. It's almost as if no one knows they're here. For the budget traveler, that's good news because it means you can score a waterfront motel room for $75 per night. Apart from the beach, there isn't much to Matagorda. But if you're looking for scenic solitude on a budget, this is where you'll find it.

5. Rehoboth Beach, Delaware

Situated just two hours from Washington, D.C., Rehoboth Beach boasts a mile-long boardwalk along a beautiful beach as well as numerous food, entertainment, and shopping options within walking distance of the coast. In addition to the beach, the Rehoboth area has lots to offer, including the Tanger Outlets, which has 160 stores, as well as golfing, fishing, and hiking on a number of local nature trails. And with a number of no-frills rentals such as the Anchorage Motel, you can rent a room for less than $100 — even during the high season.

6. Keansburg, New Jersey

This bayside town offers mesmerizing beachfront of the New York City skyline, calm waters for swimming, a fishing pier to cast your line, scenic walking trails — and a median home value of just $162,000. This bargain town on the famed Jersey Shore is undertaking a huge streetscape revitalization project that promises to enhance building facades and improve walkways, something that's bound to lure in even more small businesses and vitality in the coming years. For now, room rentals at the quaint, family-owned Holly Hill Motel come as low as $69 per night.

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Guest's picture
Mike @ blogsofstuff.com

I remember Ocean City, MD having some budget friendly options and many restaurants fed children under 12 for free with a paying adult which was a big savings.

Guest's picture

I need pay my rent and my bills and my car payment

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