8 US Beach Vacations That Aren't Budget-Busters

·7 min read

Getting away to a glittering sandy beach is the perfect midsummer reset—and we're pretty sure ocean air has been scientifically proven to be good for the skin and soul, right? That said, hitting the most famous tropical hotspot beaches can get expensive, fast.

So, if you're in need of a coastal getaway that won't bust your vacation budget, check out these beautiful, affordable beach towns right here in the United States—for a seaside vacation that won't send you back home in debt.

Fort Lauderdale, FL

This beautiful beach is located on the southeastern coast, making it the perfect destination for a tropical feel. It's an ideal place to find fun things to do that are off the beaten path and affordable to boot—from full moon parties to mermaid shows to nighttime Everglades tours. If you're super adventurous, you can head to Island Water Sports for free surf and paddleboard lessons on Saturday mornings.

If you're a nature fiend who loves horseback riding, birdwatching, tubing, and more, be sure to visit Hugh Taylor Birch State Park. Did you know Fort Lauderdale is known as the Venice of America? You can take your vacation experience to a whole new level and see the sights via water taxi.

There are so many fun, free things to do in Fort Lauderdale as well: festivals, museums, beautiful parks, and nature centers. Be sure to book your vacation between June and August for the biggest savings on hotels and flights.

Gulf Shores, Alabama

Alabama is known for its delicious food and humid summers, but did you know that they also have some of the finest beaches in the United States? One of the best budget-friendly places to visit is Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, which offers boating, birdwatching, wildlife viewing, and more. The best times to go (read: easiest on your wallet) are March to May and September to November.

There are also plenty of adventurous paid activities available for prices you won't see in the more popular beach areas (looking at you, Florida). Have an exhilarating experience parasailing over the ocean blue at Blue Sky Parasail, paddleboard the day away with the help of Ike's Beach Service, or venture out onto the turquoise waters on a dolphin cruise.

Tybee Island, Georgia

Who knew you could escape to an Island just 20 minutes from downtown Savannah? Tybee Island is a barrier island that has been a popular getaway since the 1800s. It offers over three miles of shimmering beaches, with magnificent palm trees swaying on the shore. It's a great place if you're searching for a more low-key destination.

Tybee Island also offers a once-in-a-lifetime experience of hunting for megalodon teeth on its beaches—you read that right. You can even keep the teeth as keepsakes. You can also visit the island's Marine Science Center for just $10.

Make sure you take time out to visit the Tybee Island lighthouse, which is the oldest lighthouse in Georgia. For the best deals, visit during September (after Labor Day) through the early part of November.

Virginia Beach, Virginia

Virginia is for beach lovers. Spend the evening watching the sun kiss the sea as you stroll down the three-mile concrete boardwalk or take a sunset dolphin kayak tour.

Virginia Beach also offers one of the most unique parks around: Mount Trashmore was a former landfill that has been transformed into a gorgeous park featuring two lakes, playgrounds, a skate park, and more.

There are plenty of low-cost places to see in Virginia Beach, such as the Cape Henry Lighthouse, which only costs $10 to visit. Or get in touch with mother nature at the majestic First Landing State Park. You can swim, hike, paddleboard, and go bird watching for little or no fee.

Schedule your beach-bound vacation between March to mid-May for lower rates on hotels.

Folly Beach, South Carolina

Charleston is known for its quaint, walkable, pastel-painted downtown filled with elegant shops, renowned restaurants, and rooftop pools at high-end hotels. What Charleston is not known for, however, is being super affordable. But if you think it's too expensive to visit, you're just not looking closely enough.

For some of the best beaching around, head to the ever-affordable Folly Beach, where cheap beach parking is aplenty and you can go ham on fresh fish tacos at seaside stands without breaking the bank. You can picnic, splash around, and even rent surfboards to get the kids hanging ten in no time. Rental cottages around Folly start around $150 per night—and that will get you a substantial house for you and your family.

Of course, you can always split the difference: Go glam at one of the downtown hotels—like the ever-stunning Hotel Bennett, which even offers a children's teatime in its ostentatious pink champagne bar—and save your savings for those lazy (and affordable) beach days. The best of both worlds!

Old Orchard Beach, Maine

Switch it up from the southern route and head north to Old Orchard Beach to enjoy an old town with a new twist. Old Orchard Beach features one of the last oceanfront amusement parks, Palace Playland, which has everything from a gondola ferris wheel to the thrilling pendulum-motion ride.

Enjoy a day at the lovely pier that extends 500 feet over the ocean and is flanked by restaurants. Watch sparkling fireworks from the pier at night during the summer months, get in touch with your inner pirate at Pirate's Cove Adventure Golf, lace up your hiking shoes and head to Cliff Walk for an advanced hike—or even do a bit of fishing if you'd like.

The cheapest time to visit is in September, but you can take a great trip for less money if you avoid going during the main holiday times.

Westport, Washington

Ready to hang ten and skip the crowds? Then cruise over to Westport Beach in Washington. Whether you have always wanted to learn to surf or you're already a daily wave rider, this beach is where you'll want to be. Westport has three main surf breaks that can accommodate any skill level.

This cozy beach town also offers a variety of dining, from seafood to pizza and more. Get a bird's eye view of the sea and town when you climb the Westport Viewing Tower. And speaking of breathtaking views, be sure you visit Grays Harbor Lighthouse, too.

Although the cheapest and least crowded time to visit is September, you can still have an affordable getaway even if you go in the summer—if you plan it right.

Seal Beach, California

Seal Beach is just a little over 20 miles from L.A. and is a great way to see SoCal in a more low-key (and affordable) location than, say, the Venice boardwalk. You can spend your days soaking up the sun, surfing, and swimming.

When you're not lying by the shore, you can take a stroll down the second-largest wooden pier in the state. If you love to bike, take a spin down down the San Gabriel River Bike Trail. This trail is 28 miles long and runs along the San Gabriel River. Then, satisfy your taste for sweets at the Crema Café in downtown Seal Beach; grab delectable scones, cookies, and macarons.

Visit this beautiful beach town between January and March and August and November to cut costs.

These gorgeous beaches offer fun activities and relaxing getaways that won't bust your budget. Simply avoiding peak season for these destinations can save you a bundle—as can booking hotels that are across the street (or all the way downtown) rather than oceanfront. The little things add up, after all—and what's the best way to afford more vacations? Prioritizing spending on the travel perks that are important to you, while taking the budget route for the rest.

Please keep in mind that each of these destinations may still be following restrictions and guidelines due to COVID-19, so be sure to check before visiting. Some places may require masks and social distancing or have limited capacity available; most businesses will have their most up-to-date guidelines posted on their website. Happy traveling!