“Get me a stretch of sand and a hammock and I’m happy,” says Kirsty Hathaway of U.K.-based BeachTomato.com, a fashion and travel site focused on beach vacations. “Awaking to the sound of rumbling waves, completely immersed in nature and wildlife. This, for me, is the epitome of true escapism.”
Escapism looks a little different for everyone, but we can all agree that a reasonable price tag spells relaxation almost as much as a hammock and a cold one. So we’ve rounded up our favorite affordable beach resorts worldwide, each checking in between $50 and $250 per night.
After all, a beach vacation isn’t rocket science. The three key ingredients are simple: sun, sand, surf. It’s not all about the tanning butlers or 12-course molecular gastronomy tasting menus or the flat-screen pool-cabana entertainment systems. And it certainly isn’t about watching your bank account wash out to sea.
So what can you get that’s comfortably priced? How about Auberge Carnish, an airy modern cottage along a rugged curve of the Scottish coast where otters frolic in the misty dawn. Reclaimed merbau hardwoods and bath products of local lavender and seaweed bring the outside in. Price tag? $175 per night.
It’s also perfectly possible to splash out in a trendy destination like Panama, and still come in within budget. Donald Trump’s curving skyscraper in Panama City should do the trick—with a deep-soak tub and high thread count included. Pair that urban beach experience with a stay along the Pacific coast beaches—fantastic for surfing—at the rustic-but-stylish El Sitio (from $99 per night).
Further afield, you, too, can find your bliss among the beaches of Goa, India, which have welcomed bohemian types since the ’60s. Amarya Shamiyana, a collection of four Moghul-inspired tents in a palm-shaded oasis—just down the beach from Jade Jagger’s boutique—channels that carefree, chic spirit. The hotel bursts with color, from playful hand-painted damask murals to metallic beanbag chairs, and puts you within walking distance of the beautiful party people (from $110 per night).
Luxe-mod Peruvian surf breaks? Nouveau preppy Kennebunkport, ME? Avant architecture in Norway? Yup, we’ve got those too. So go ahead and dive in. The forecast is sunny for this choose-your-own-resort adventure.
B Ocean, Fort Lauderdale, FL
Free iPad rentals, white-on-white leather furnishings, cute naming conventions (B Active gym, B Nourished restaurant)—sound familiar? If it weren’t for the rates, you could mistake this hotel for a pricer single-letter chain (cough, W, cough). But we love how the 240-room B Ocean does affordable without nickel-and-diming guests. Wi-Fi is free, ocean views are standard, and spa services are a bargain.
Cost: From $189.
Don’t Miss: The self-serve Enomatic wine machine lets guests sample their way through a number of vintages.
Fishing Lodge Cap Cana, Dominican Republic
Just 10 minutes from Punta Cana airport on the new 33,000-acre Cap Cana development, this hotel is the ideal family getaway. You can swim right out of many of the 299 Mediterranean-style villas, which all have kitchens, sofa beds, and either a balcony or patio. Horseback riding, paintball, sailing, fishing, and the Jack Nicklaus–designed Punta Espada Golf Course are in easy reach.
Cost: From $198.
Don’t Miss: There’s no direct beach access because the lodge is situated around a marina. The upside is that you get to take a fun, two-minute boat ride to reach a private stretch of sand.
Magdalena Grand Beach Resort, Tobago
Although it’s situated in a gated luxury community of golf courses and vacation homes, there’s an untouched beauty to the surrounding nature trails and mangrove forests. That means guests at Magdalena Grand Beach Resort enjoy the thrills of back-to-nature adventure combined with the perks of a large resort development. All 178 rooms have marble baths, high-def flat screens, and ocean-view balconies.
Cost: From $210.
Don’t Miss: Little ones can learn about Tobago’s leatherback, hawskbill, and green turtles at the complimentary Kids Club, while parents score downtime at the adults-only pool.
Mancora Marina Hotel, Peru
Mention Peru, and most people think of Machu Picchu. But the country’s northern Pacific coast beaches are becoming hot spots for surfers and sun-worshippers. Many congregate at this new hotel from architect Jordi Puig. In the main building's stacked wooden cubes, floor-to-ceiling glass walls bring light and views of the vibrant landscape in to stark white modernist rooms. Steps lead down to a 90-foot infinity pool stretching toward the ocean.
Cost: From $185.
Don’t Miss: Go whale- and dolphin-watching or deep-sea fishing on the hotel’s private yacht.
Stokkoya Sjosenter, Norway
Husband-and-wife sheep farmers converted this windswept curve of the Norwegian coast into an architectural landmark. Domes light underground bunkers carved into the landscape, each decorated with modern and vintage pieces, hand-painted murals, and art installations. Floor-to-ceiling glass entrances look out on Hosnasand Beach and the distant Halten lighthouse. And most days end with a soak in the barrel-like, wood-heated hot tubs.
Cost: From $112.
Don’t Miss: The catch of the day. Co-owner Roar Svenning used to be a scallop and sea urchin diver; he sources quality seafood for shockingly reasonable prices in the glass-fronted Beach Bar.
Le Rêve, Playa del Carmen, Mexico
An unpaved maze of roads leads the way to Le Rêve, an intimate, 25-suite boutique property with more romance and charm than its neighboring mega-resorts combined. Couples hang out in private hammocks by the garden suites, accented with colorful, locally sourced Mexican tiles. Bungalows come with private plunge pools overlooking a generous stretch of ocean. Snorkeling gear is on the house.
Cost: From $210.
Don’t Miss: Chef Mario Kauil offers a Mayan tasting menu that must be booked one night in advance. Give him your preferences, and Kauil will head for the farmers’ markets to create a one-of-a-kind meal.
El Sitio Hotel, Panama
Surfers are no longer the only ones lured to Panama’s Pacific beaches. Boldface names like Angelina Jolie have been spotted in the Pacific village of Pedasí, four hours from Panama City. That’s where you’ll find the rustic-but-stylish El Sitio Hotel. Accommodations range from rooms with bunk beds to oceanfront suites with private balconies; whitewashed walls, ceiling fans, and dark wood furnishings are a theme throughout.
Cost: From $99.
Don’t Miss: Surfing at Playa Venao, where conditions favor even beginners, and snorkeling around the marine park of Isla Iguana.
Pousada Patacho, Porto de Pedras, Brazil
Visiting the rustic beach towns in Brazil’s northeastern state of Alagoas feels like uncovering a fantastic secret (most tourists still head south to Bahia). Around São Miguel dos Milagres, the white-sand beaches are dotted with crystalline tide pools. The nearby light-filled Pousada Patacho beckons with five intimate, whitewashed rooms amid coconut palms and vine-draped terraces.
Cost: From $190.
Don’t Miss: Day-tripping throughout Alagoas. In the oyster-farming community of Vila Palateia, you can try bivalves plucked straight from the mangrove lagoon.
Akaryn Samui, Koh Samui, Thailand
There’s a gentle elegance to Akaryn Samui’s villas. Four-poster beds with 400-thread-count linens rest beneath whirring vintage-style fans. Sea breezes drift off of Hanuman Bay to your private garden and plunge pool. If you can rouse yourself from your outdoor daybed, there are sunrise and sunset yoga classes, a holistic spa, a boutique, and a tea salon.
Cost: From $208.
Don’t Miss: Head to a local market with the chef and learn how to shop for and cook some of the hotel’s Thai specialties.
B-Lay Tong Phuket, MGallery Collection, Phuket, Thailand
On the quieter northern end of Phuket’s Patong party beach, this hotel is the bottle-service-club alternative to area hotels with a more frat-like atmosphere. At night, the angular slate-gray exterior glows; the windows of 123 guest rooms are illuminated in jewel tones like yellow, purple, and blue. Interiors have low-slung beds and Eames chairs. Most first-floor rooms offer direct access to the pool, while upstairs suites overlook the Andaman Sea.
Cost: From $107.
Don’t Miss: There are four on-site bars, and Saturday brunch gets the party started early with oysters, grilled seafood, and a free bottle of wine served amid fluorescent street-art-style murals.