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Who Needs Hawaii? These 16 Beachfront Communities Are Just As Nice, And Much Cheaper

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While Hawaii frequently captures attention for its breathtaking scenery and lively culture when considering a beach getaway, there are many equally appealing coastal spots in the U.S. that come at a much lower cost.

Spanning from the East Coast to the West Coast and all points in between, these 16 seaside towns combine scenic splendor, delightful atmospheres, and cost-effectiveness that can compete with even Hawaii’s most sought-after locations.

Explore these more budget-friendly alternatives rather than traveling all the way to Hawaii.

Gulf Shores, Alabama

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Along the Gulf of Mexico, Gulf Shores is known for its sugar-white sand beaches, turquoise waters, and family-friendly attractions. With affordable accommodations and plenty of outdoor activities, it’s the perfect destination for budget-conscious travelers.

What to do: Spend a relaxing day soaking up the sun on the beautiful beaches, building sandcastles, and splashing in the gentle waves. Don’t forget to try some delicious seafood at one of the local restaurants, where you can taste fresh shrimp, fish, and crab. For some adventure, take a dolphin cruise to see these majestic creatures in their natural habitat or explore the nature trails at Gulf State Park, which are perfect for hiking and wildlife spotting.

Outer Banks, North Carolina

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Stretching along the North Carolina coast, the Outer Banks boast miles of pristine beaches, historic lighthouses, and picturesque towns. Whether you’re into water sports, wildlife watching, or simply relaxing by the sea, this barrier island chain has something for everyone.

While vacationing in the Outer Banks, North Carolina, there are a couple of must-do activities! First, don’t miss out on visiting the iconic Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. You can climb to the top for a stunning view of the coastline. After that, head to Jockey’s Ridge State Park, where you can try hang gliding or simply stroll along the massive dunes. Both activities offer unforgettable experiences that’ll make your vacation one to remember!

South Padre Island, Texas

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Located just off the southern coast of Texas, South Padre Island offers miles of pristine beaches, crystal-clear waters, and abundant marine life. From kayaking and kiteboarding to dolphin watching and beachcombing, there’s no shortage of activities to enjoy without breaking the bank.

Hit the beach and soak up the sun. You can swim, build sandcastles, or just relax with a good book. Don’t forget to try some delicious seafood at one of the local restaurants – fresh shrimp tacos or grilled fish are always a hit! Afterward, take a stroll along the boardwalk and enjoy the lively atmosphere.

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

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Myrtle Beach is a popular tourist destination for its bustling boardwalk, amusement parks, and vibrant nightlife. Despite its popularity, it remains relatively affordable compared to other beach destinations, making it a favorite among families and budget travelers.

Take a stroll along the beautiful Myrtle Beach Boardwalk. Enjoy the ocean views, grab some tasty snacks, and catch live entertainment. Another must-do is visiting Broadway at the Beach, a lively area filled with shops, restaurants, and attractions like Ripley’s Aquarium.

Destin, Florida

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Known as the “World’s Luckiest Fishing Village,” Destin is famous for its emerald-green waters and white sandy beaches. With a wide range of affordable accommodations, dining options, and outdoor adventures, it’s a top choice for budget-conscious travelers seeking a taste of paradise.

Spend a day soaking up the sun on the beautiful white sand beaches, where you can swim, build sandcastles, or simply relax with a good book. Adventure seekers should consider booking a snorkeling or diving excursion to explore the colorful marine life of the Gulf of Mexico. Don’t forget to indulge in fresh seafood at one of the local restaurants, offering delicious dishes like shrimp, crab legs, and fish tacos.

Cape May, New Jersey

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At the southern tip of New Jersey, Cape May is a charming seaside town known for its Victorian architecture, scenic beaches, and vibrant arts scene. Affordable bed and breakfasts, fresh seafood restaurants, and a laid-back atmosphere make it the perfect getaway for those seeking relaxation without the hefty price tag.

Start your day with a stroll along the picturesque Cape May Promenade, where you can enjoy the beautiful ocean views and maybe even spot some dolphins in the waves. Afterward, head to the historic Cape May Lighthouse to climb to the top and soak in panoramic views of the surrounding area. Later, explore the charming shops and galleries in the Washington Street Mall, perfect for picking up unique souvenirs or gifts.

Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

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Hilton Head Island is a premier destination for golf enthusiasts, beach lovers, and nature enthusiasts alike. With its pristine beaches, lush landscapes, and wide range of affordable accommodations, it’s no wonder why it’s often considered one of the best beach destinations in the U.S.

In the afternoons, explore the island’s bike trails, rent a bike, and pedal through lush forests and picturesque coastal paths. In the evenings, don’t forget to sample some fresh seafood at one of the island’s many restaurants, where you can enjoy delicious meals with a view of the ocean.

St. Augustine, Florida

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As the oldest city in the United States, St. Augustine boasts a rich history, charming architecture, and beautiful beaches. From exploring historic landmarks to lounging on the shore, there’s plenty to see and do without breaking the bank.

Visit the historic Castillo de San Marcos, a cool old fort where you can learn about the city’s past. After that, walk down St. George Street, a charming cobblestone road filled with shops, cafes, and galleries. Don’t forget to grab a yummy ice cream cone while you’re there! Later, head to St. Augustine Beach for some sun, sand, and relaxation.

Ocean City, Maryland

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Situated along the Atlantic Ocean, Ocean City is a bustling resort town known for its lively boardwalk, amusement parks, and sandy beaches. Despite its popularity, it remains relatively affordable compared to other East Coast destinations, making it a favorite among budget-conscious travelers.

Stroll along the famous Ocean City Boardwalk, where you can grab some tasty treats like caramel popcorn or saltwater taffy. Don’t forget to visit the amusement parks and arcades for thrilling rides and games. Afterward, head to the beach for some sunbathing or sandcastle building. If you’re feeling adventurous, try surfing or paddleboarding in the sparkling ocean waves and treat yourself to a delicious seafood dinner at one of the many restaurants overlooking the water.

Tybee Island, Georgia

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Just a short drive from Savannah, Tybee Island offers a laid-back atmosphere, pristine beaches, and plenty of outdoor activities. Its affordable accommodations and charming small-town vibe make it the perfect destination for budget-conscious travelers seeking a peaceful coastal retreat.

Spend a few hours soaking up the sun and splashing in the waves at the beautiful Tybee Beach. Whether you’re into swimming, building sandcastles, or just relaxing with a good book, this beach has something for everyone. After a day at the beach, trek along the Tybee Island Pier and Pavilion. Here, you can enjoy breathtaking views of the ocean, try your hand at fishing, or simply savor a delicious meal at one of the nearby seafood restaurants.

Cannon Beach, Oregon

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Cannon Beach is renowned for its dramatic coastline, iconic Haystack Rock, and artistic community. Its stunning natural beauty and affordable accommodations make it a hidden gem on the Oregon coast that’s perfect for budget travelers seeking a unique coastal experience.

After a day on the beach and visiting the iconic Haystack Rock, explore the charming downtown area filled with quaint shops, art galleries, and delicious seafood restaurants. Take in the stunning coastal views and maybe even catch a colorful sunset over the Pacific Ocean.

Virginia Beach, Virginia

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Virginia Beach is a vibrant coastal city known for its lively boardwalk, eclectic dining scene, and beautiful beaches. Its wide range of affordable accommodations and family-friendly attractions makes it a top choice for budget-conscious travelers looking to soak up the sun without breaking the bank.

Walk along the three-mile-long boardwalk, where you can enjoy the fresh ocean breeze and maybe grab a tasty snack from one of the vendors. If you’re a nature lover, head to First Landing State Park for some hiking trails and birdwatching. For some fun in the sun, hit the beach and try your hand at surfing or simply soak up the rays.

Pacific Beach, California

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In San Diego, Pacific Beach offers a laid-back vibe, stunning sunsets, and world-class surfing opportunities. Its affordable beachfront accommodations and vibrant nightlife make it a favorite among budget-conscious travelers seeking a taste of California’s coastal lifestyle.

Hit the beach and soak up the sun or take a refreshing dip in the ocean. After a day of beach fun, stroll along the boardwalk, where you’ll find cool shops, delicious eateries, and lively entertainment. Grab some tasty seafood or ice cream and enjoy the vibrant atmosphere. Plus, if you’re feeling adventurous, rent a bike or rollerblades and cruise along the scenic coastline.

Galveston Island, Texas

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Galveston Island is a historic seaside town known for its Victorian architecture, sandy beaches, and family-friendly attractions. Its affordable accommodations and rich history make it the perfect destination for budget-conscious travelers seeking a blend of relaxation and adventure.

Stroll along the Seawall Boulevard and enjoy the view of the Gulf of Mexico. Don’t forget to visit the historic Pleasure Pier for thrilling rides and delicious snacks. After a day of fun in the sun, treat yourself to some fresh seafood at one of the local restaurants, where you can savor the flavors of the Gulf.

Key West, Florida

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One of my favorite vacation spots, Key West is a vibrant island city known for its colorful architecture, lively nightlife, and breathtaking sunsets. While it may be more expensive than other destinations on this list, there are still plenty of affordable accommodations and activities to enjoy, making it accessible to budget-conscious travelers.

Soak up the sun on its beautiful beaches, like Smathers Beach or Higgs Beach. Grab your snorkel gear and explore the underwater world of the Florida Keys at spots like Fort Zachary Taylor State Park. After a day of fun in the sun, check out down Duval Street, where you can find lively bars, delicious seafood restaurants, and quirky shops. Don’t forget to catch the stunning sunset at Mallory Square while enjoying live music and street performances.

Santa Cruz, California

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Situated along the central coast of California, Santa Cruz is a laid-back beach town known for its surf culture, vibrant boardwalk, and scenic coastline. Its affordable accommodations and outdoor activities make it a favorite among budget-conscious travelers seeking a quintessential California beach experience.

Check out the beaches and enjoy some sunshine and waves (after all, you are in California!). Santa Cruz has beautiful sandy shores, perfect for swimming, sunbathing, or building sandcastles. Don’t forget to walk the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, where you can ride roller coasters, play games, and enjoy delicious treats like cotton candy and ice cream.

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