When Cristina Behrens travels to Santa Barbara, CA, to see clients, she likes to stay somewhere that’s convenient for meetings and—almost more important—convenient to a morning jog on the beach.
After trying just about every top-notch hotel in the city, the L.A.-based investment manager was surprised that her favorite—the Hotel Milo—cost as little as $139 a night. “My assistant booked me there for the first time about five years ago,” Behrens says. “I have not stayed anywhere else since.” And why would she? Her home away from home is located downtown, sits directly across from the beach, and has two outdoor pools and complimentary bikes for guests’ use.
In most beach destinations, hotel rates rise exponentially the closer you get to the shore. But it’s a mistake to assume that any place on the water will carry four-star prices—or high-end accommodations. With that in mind, we collected 25 hotel gems scattered along both coasts that met two criteria: value and thoughtful charm.
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Some, like the Georgianne Inn in Georgia, are smaller, seaside properties that have inspired legions of loyal fans. Others, such as the Postcard Inn in Florida, had past lives as motels but have found new energy as renovated boutique hotels, with retro décor and amenities that walk the line between high-end and quirky (think beach cruisers, kites, or a self-serve wine machine). Yet they all share starting rates below $200 a night.
To be fair, sometimes getting that lower rate means booking during the shoulder or low season—like fall in Florida or winter in California—or during select nights of the week. But when we looked at the high season price tags for these hotels, some still maintained impressively low rates and others went up modestly.
Best of all, these sense-of-place properties tend to attract a loyal following. Mike Rosano, a stay-at-home dad from Connecticut, says his family has been vacationing for years at Maine’s Dunes on the Waterfront (starting at $175), after stumbling across an ad. He keeps coming back, he says, because he loves “falling asleep to the sounds of the surf and how ‘away from it all’ we feel. Simply put, it’s priceless.”
Read on for a list of our top 12 beachfront hotels across the U.S. with rates that start under $200.