Best Affordable Beach Resorts
“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.
Related: America's Best Beach Hotels
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.
Related: 27 Affordable Beach Resorts
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).
Related: 12 Affordable Private Island Resorts
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.
Don’t Miss: The self-serve Enomatic wine machine lets guests sample their way through a number of vintages.
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.
Don’t Miss: Little ones can learn about Tobago’s leatherback, hawksbill, 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.
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.
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.
Auberge Carnish, Outer Hebrides, U.K.
With the emerald hills of Scotland at its back and the turquoise sea at its front, this serene five-room cottage hotel on the Isle of Lewis draws hikers, sailors, surfers, and divers. Reclaimed merbau hardwoods and bath products of local lavender and Hebridean seaweed bring the outside in. Guests gather by the lounge’s wood-burning fireplace or recap the day’s adventures over fig and walnut pudding at dinner.
Cost: From $175.
Don’t Miss: Take an early morning stroll on one of the 20 nearby beaches and try to spot the area’s playful sea otters.
Papaya Playa, a Design Hotels Project, Tulum, Mexico
You’ve heard of pop-up shops and restaurants. Now meet the pop-up hotel, developed by the Berlin-based Design Hotels brand. Papaya Playa’s 99 thatched-roof cabanas are outfitted with local textiles and hammocks and attract visiting artists, designers, and DJs. They collaborate at a beach amphitheater, spin at Mayan full moon parties, and share freshly baked bread from the clay oven.
Cost: From $50 for bunk beds and a shared bathroom; from $75 for queen-bed casitas with private bathrooms.
Don’t Miss: The entire hotel. It’s scheduled to be open until May 2012, with a possibility for an extension. But we wouldn’t take our chances.
Be Playa, Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Washed concrete walls with Spanish typographic murals, plank flooring, and white platform beds make cool-and-collected Be Playa your loft away from home. Spring for the $50 upgrade to a Junior Suite to bask in the sexy bedside, deep-soak whirlpool tubs and hammocks on your very own balcony.
Cost: From $117.
Don’t Miss: Dangle your toes in the water while surveying the steamy pool scene from one of the vintage wrought-iron chairs around a reclaimed sewing machine table in the shallow end.
Tides Beach Club, Kennebunkport, ME
This renovated pink Victorian on Goose Rocks Beach is showing off a new preppy-glam look. Rooms are done up in seaside tones like aqua and coral, with geometric patterns, the occasional zebra rug, and products from designer Jonathan Adler. A jewel-box bar serves oysters and bubbly and lobster service at fish-stick prices.
Cost: From $250.
Don’t Miss: Ride the hotel’s beach cruisers to sister property Hidden Pond for a massage in its treehouse spa or marshmallows around the nightly bonfire.
Amarya Shamiyana, Goa, India
There is no better place to tap into the boho exoticism of Goa than at Amarya Shamiyana, a collection of four Moghul-inspired tents in a palm-shaded oasis just down the beach from Jade Jagger’s boutique. The hotel is a riot of color, from playful hand-painted damask murals to metallic beanbag chairs and Pucci-esque pillows—many available for sale in the Nana Ki tented on-site boutique.
Cost: From $111.
Don’t Miss: La Plage, a short walk down the beach, is quite possibly the world’s most fashionable beach shack. Goa’s glamour set congregates here for French food courtesy of a Cordon Bleu–trained chef.
Lords South Beach, Miami
This new gay-friendly hotel stands out among the South Beach crowd for its cheeky, fun design sense—a giant polar bear holding a beach ball greets guests in the lobby. Rooms may be modest in size, but they make a big splash with yellow striped upholstery and large silkscreen prints of Cleopatra. It’s a quick stroll to the beach, and even quicker to access the hotels’ trio of pools on a semi-secluded patio.
Cost: From $115.
Don’t Miss: The Cha Cha Rooster bar bedecked with gold tiles; it’s the perfect place to grab a drink and mingle with fellow guests.
Avani Bentota Resort & Spa, Sri Lanka
Eager to move on after a protracted civil war, Sri Lanka has hit that intriguing sweet spot—when a place is stirring with change but not yet overrun. Bentota, on the beach-lined southwestern coast, is one center of activity. Noted architect Geoffrey Bawa designed this building, which was renovated and renamed Avani in late 2011. The 75 rooms are large and contemporary, with rain showers and private patios. Some face the palm-ringed pool, with the shimmering Indian Ocean beyond.
Cost: From $180.
Don’t Miss: Brief Garden, a few miles inland, where landscape architect Bevis Bawa (Geoffrey’s brother) once lived. Wander the grounds and the house—full of eclectic sculpture and art—and linger over a cup of local tea.
Maison La Vallette, Valletta, Malta
If your idea of a beach retreat prioritizes café culture and fab design over fish shacks and jungle, look to the fortified harbor city of Valletta—and this historic town house. Maison La Vallette combines baroque flourishes like brocade upholstery and gilded chandeliers with Alessi furnishings and original wood beams. Guests have the run of the place, which includes a living room and a kitchen. It’s a few blocks from the rocky seashore, where ferries depart for neighboring islands.
Cost: From $125.
Don’t Miss: The Blue Grotto, a series of sea caverns on Malta’s southern coast.
Cass House Inn & Restaurant, Cayucos, CA
The tiny surf town of Cayucos is refreshingly underdeveloped, with vintage shops, a 1,000-foot pier, and longtime institutions like the restored 1867 Cass House. Each room has standout features, whether cast-iron soaking tubs, canopy beds, fireplaces, or a private terrace. The farm-to-table restaurant serves four-course dinners infused with herbs, vegetables, and fruit from the garden.
Cost: From $165.
Don’t Miss: Browsing at the antique-filled boutiques along Ocean Avenue, among them, Rich Man Poor Man (146 N. Ocean Ave.) and Remember When (152 N. Ocean Ave.).
—David A. Keeps
Trump Ocean Club International Hotel & Tower, Panama City, Panama
Latin America’s new it destination is Panama, and its mascot is the starchitect-designed, sail-like Trump Ocean Club. Everything is over the top, from the slick service (customized mini-bars, personalized stationery) to the soon-to-open private island beach accessible by sailboat. You’ll spend most of your time on the 13th-floor deck, where cabanas surround five infinity pools with views of the water and the tony Punta Pacifica neighborhood.
Cost: From $240.
Don’t Miss: The fresh Latin-Caribbean seafood at Tejas, which goes from fishing boat to plate in less than a day.
Ananyana Beach Resort & Spa, Panglao Island, Philippines
It takes effort to reach the beaches of Panglao Island—an hour-long flight from Manila to Bohol Island followed by a 25-minute drive. But the payoff comes when you check-in to Ananyana Beach Resort, where the 12 luxe thatched-roof huts have bamboo-framed king-size beds and the lounge is outfitted with regionally made rattan and abaca furniture. The resort has a prime spot on a mile-long stretch of beach.
Cost: From $220.
Don’t Miss: Take a resort boat out for dolphin watching, diving amid the drop-offs of Balicasag Island, or a sunset dinner on deserted Puntod Island.
Love Hotel, St. Martin
The French couple William and Muriel Demy fell in love with St. Martin on their first visit and eventually bought a beachfront villa, opening it as the Love Hotel in 2008. The seven-room property has light-filled rooms with no pretensions and simple dark wood furniture built by William. For lunch, order from the hotel café’s chalkboard menu that touts everything from Carib beer ($4) to Ruinart champagne ($100).
Cost: From $142
Don’t Miss: On Tuesdays, Grand Case Boulevard turns into a huge block party with calypso music, dancing, and the island’s best street-food vendors.
Beach House, St. Philip’s, Newfoundland
The windblown landscapes of Canada’s easternmost island include plenty of beach—and lovely hideaways like this red, Cape-style mansion perched on a rugged crag on the Avalon Peninsula. It has two whitewashed cottages and seven chocolate-hued suites—all with private patios that look out onto the Atlantic. Look out for humpback and minke whales.
Don’t Miss: Renting a kayak for a trip to nearby Cape Broyle, where you’ll find hidden coves and waterfalls.
The Beach House, a Holiday Inn Resort, Hilton Head, SC
This newly redone beachfront property is one of several Holiday Inn Resorts that have been popping up around America since 2006. As a result, The Beach House now has 202 updated guestrooms with cool blue décor, while a brand-new lounge and restaurant serves up low-country dishes paired with views of the Atlantic Ocean.
Cost: From $129
Don’t Miss: Hilton Head’s natural side. The island counts more than 50 miles of scenic biking and hiking trails.
Rosalie Bay Resort, Dominica
The brainchild of American-born Beverly Deikel and her Dominican partner, Patris Oscar, the eco-friendly property is a microcosm of the island—and its first great place to stay. Set on 22 lush acres, its 28 cottages, each with carved mahogany and red-cedar four-poster beds, face onto a rocky beach or the Rosalie River. One of the world’s few carbon-negative resorts, Rosalie Bay not only relies on solar panels but has its own wind turbine, organic gardens, and spring-fed onyx-colored swimming pool.
Cost: From $150
Don’t Miss: Take a two-hour hike (organized by the hotel) on moss-covered trails to the hundred-foot-high Victoria Falls.
Blue Lantern Inn, Dana Point, CA
About an hour’s drive south of Los Angeles, the Blue Lantern Inn is where New England tradition meets kicked-back southern California. Neutral tones decorate the 29 airy rooms, many of which overlook the Pacific. French doors open to the ocean air in the downstairs sunroom, where a breakfast of artichoke quiche and fluffy pancakes is served. Spend your day biking along the point’s coastal paths, playing board games in the library, or reading in the gazebo or at the beach.
Cost: From $175.
Don’t Miss: Set sail from Dana Point Harbor for a dolphin- and whale-watching safari with Captain Dave.
—Travel + Leisure
Sea-U Guest House, Barbados
Opened by former travel writer Uschi Wetzels, this two-story plantation-style hotel on Barbados’s windswept eastern coast has hammocks on the wide verandas and sweeping ocean panoramas. But it isn’t for everyone. There's no air-conditioning in the Main House (it is available in the 3-room Cottage, however) or television, guests share a single phone, and mosquito repellent can come in handy at sunset. Easygoing Americans and Europeans guests who seek out this place get to know each other over family-style meals.
Cost: From $124
Don’t Miss: The Flower Forest Botanical Gardens beckons with more than 50 acres filled with tropical flora, from sago palms to birds-of-paradise.
—Travel + Leisure
Hotel Roomer, Bonaire
A young Dutch couple, Martin Franken and Nicole Roomer, run this 10-room inn just south of this Dutch Antillean island’s main town, Kralendijk. It’s not much to look at from the road, but there’s an inviting pool in the courtyard, lounging space under the thatched-roof bar, and bright rooms accented in yellows, reds, and greens. In the evening, order the fish Creole or garlic shrimp, cooked on the spot by local ladies in a hut beside the pool.
Cost: From $100
Don’t Miss: Lac Bay, where the steady trade winds and warm, shallow water are great for beginner windsurfers. Rent gear at Bonaire Windsurf Place.
Dune Hua Hin, Thailand
The tiny size of the five-room Dune Hua Hin makes for intimate service, even if its pool and restaurant are on the wee side. That’s a small price to pay for sexy, minimalist rooms right on a coveted stretch of beach along the Gulf of Thailand.
Don’t Miss: Spotting langurs and macaques at Khao Sam Roi Yot nature reserve, an hour away.
Anacaona Boutique Hotel, Anguilla
Robin and Sue Ricketts, who helped create and manage such luxurious island hotels as Malliouhana and Cap Juluca. Now the Ricketts have embarked upon a new project: the 27-room Anacaona Boutique Hotel, a stylish and affordable alternative on an island that is known for its sky-high prices. The modern, tropical rooms (Frette linens; gold and lime pillows; iPod docking stations) look out onto one of two swimming pools, and those on the upper floors have vistas of the sea. The mile-long Meads Bay beach is just steps from the property.
Cost: From $250
Don’t Miss: The Ricketts host frequent cultural events, including appearances by island musicians, actors, and historians.
Malecón House, Vieques, Puerto Rico
Located directly on the Malecón—the island’s seafront promenade—in the tiny village of Esperanza, the duplex property inhabits a restored former private home with 10 comfortable, contemporary interiors. Each of the whitewashed rooms is air-conditioned—many with promenade-front balconies and others facing a tranquil, tropical flower–filled garden.
Don’t Miss: Enjoying a breakfast of ripe local fruits and homemade muffins served on the hotel’s airy patio. Head to Esperanza’s numerous nearby cafés for heartier dining options.
Milarepa Hotel, Costa Rica
Each of the four bungalows at Milarepa Hotel, on the southern coast of the Nicoya Peninsula, is outfitted with teak furniture and antique four-poster beds with mosquito netting, imported from Indonesia. Surrounding the resort are miles of deserted pale-gold beaches and natural tide pools for swimming. For meals, on-site, open-air Soma restaurant serves a blend of southern French and Costa Rican cuisine.
Cost: From $142
Don’t Miss: Costa Rica supports 4 percent of the earth's wildlife species; see how many you can spot in the sub-tropical jungle of Cabo Blanco National Park, just 3 kilometers away.
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.
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.