Top picks for the best cheap beach vacations in the USA

Looking for a beach vacation that doesn't break the bank? Staying in a condo or a beachside rental is the perfect way to enjoy all the benefits of being by the sea without shelling out big bucks in resort fees, parking passes, and pricey meals out. From the Atlantic to the Pacific—and with the Gulf of Mexico in between—we’ve picked out some of our top spots where you can find a great deal on a rental near the shore. These spots don’t just boast great beaches, they’ve also got loads of entertainment options for every taste and budget.

Affordable rentals in Pensacola

On the Panhandle of Florida, Pensacola Beach is a great affordable option close to airports and right off major highways. With Santa Rosa Island separating the mainland from the Gulf of Mexico, this area has peaceful, protected beaches that make it a hit for families. The main attraction—miles of sand and emerald green water—is completely free, and you can while away hours swimming, sunbathing, or boogie-boarding. Many condo rentals provide amenities like beach toys, beach reads, and even boards, and some also have pools, hot tubs, tennis courts, and play areas for those times when you need a break from the sand.

Budget finds in Myrtle beach

Myrtle Beach is the crown jewel of South Carolina’s Grand Strand, a 60-mile stretch of beaches and seaside towns that offer a plethora of options to suit everyone’s taste and budget. Besides the beaches, this bustling town features a lively boardwalk with rides, food, and entertainment. Myrtle Beach is popular with those looking for a cheap beachside rental partly because there are so many options for places to stay, ranging from large villas with space for a big group to budget condos that offer sofa beds. And once you've gotten your fill of beach time, you’ll find entertainment galore, from golf courses and historical sites to nature preserves and shopping centers.

Cheap beach stays in Gulf Shores

With its sugar-white beaches and gentle waters on the Gulf of Mexico, the Alabama city of Gulf Shores offers up its pleasures at a much lower price than Gulf Coast resorts further south and east. You’ll find numerous condo options here—many close to the beachfront—that come with full kitchens, bunk beds, pull-out couches, and balconies overlooking water. Other amenities such as in-unit washers and dryers and on-site boat docks help defray vacation expenses. There’s plenty to do here besides laze around on the sand. There are trails, a golf course, a pier, and even a zipline for the family to try out. Nature lovers will enjoy watching sea turtles at Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, and history buffs may enjoy a visit to Fort Morgan.

Affordable fun in South Padre Island

While the words most associated with this sunny Texan isle are “spring break,” it’s a great year-round option for a cheap beach getaway also. The waves are gentle and shallow, making the beaches here a perfect playground for visitors of all ages. If you snag a cheap condo here, you’ll be able to save money preparing meals at home and doing laundry right in your apartment. This will free up more of your budget to enjoy attractions like Schlitterbahn Waterpark and Beach Resort by day, and the lively nightlife of the clubs and bars at night. If you prefer a quieter form of entertainment, you may want to climb the 5-story watchtower at the South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center or get a ticket to a boat ride with the South Padre Island Dolphin Research & Sealife Nature Center.

California on a budget in Huntington beach

California may not leap to the mind when you think of cheap beach destinations, but it is possible to find a great deal on a condo or villa close to the beach, even right in Orange County. Huntington Beach, a mecca for surfers and those interested in surfing history and culture, is one town that boasts a laid-back vibe, plenty of entertainment, and beautiful beaches—as well as a wealth of affordable accommodation options. You can make use of amenities like coffee machines, full kitchens, garages, and patios with views. Although it may seem impossible to tire of the waves, there’s lots to do away from the beach here, too, such as hopping on the legendary Route 1 to marvel at the stunning views over the Pacific.