A destination guide to beachfront rentals

Perhaps you're looking to wax down the board and ride the fabled barrels of California? Maybe you're after sun, sea, and sand courtesy of the Florida tropics? Whatever side to the US coast you're pining for, this guide runs through some of the hottest destinations for beachfront rentals in the country.

Soak up the rays in beachfront rentals in Florida

Florida isn't America's beloved beach destination for nothing. Come winter, the sun remains strong and the temperatures balmy in the Southeast, bringing snowbirds from the Rockies and the Midwest and New York. There are also two separate coasts to pick from, going from the sparkling dunes of the Atlantic to the manicured barrier islands of the west shore.

There's something for all in Panama City Beach

In Panama City Beach, the whole of S Thomas Drive and Front Beach Road come peppered with countless condominiums and villa complexes. There's enough there to cater to all sorts of travelers, no matter if it's a family looking to splash around the pools and slides of the Shipwreck Island Waterpark or Spring Breakers set on the lively bars of the promenade.

Between Destin and Miramar Beach

These two hot spots on the Mexican Gulf have loads of water-view rentals between them. Modern apartments for families have large lounges and kitchens; there are pads for groups with multiple bedrooms, and you can find rooms in resort complexes that enjoy oceanside pools and private bars. Of course, white-sand shores and turquoise waters are just a few steps away from it all.

A taste of the Atlantic in Fort Lauderdale

Hop over to the far side of the Sunshine State and you can find Fort Lauderdale's abundance of coastal mansions and wave-washed apartments. Facing the Atlantic, its beaches are abuzz with volleyball players and tanning bodies. But the rentals here are also sandwiched between the chic boutiques and cool bars of Las Olas Blvd and Old Fort Lauderdale – the place to be on the weekend.

Discover the Pacific with beachfront rentals in California

The surf's up and the vibes are always good in California. A legendary place to seek out beachfront rentals, it's home to roaring waves and glitzy sand stretches. It's where names like the Big Sur and Malibu line the coast, roller skaters whiz this way and that, and there's usually somewhere to strut the boardwalk with a hotdog in hand.

San Diego's got plenty up its sleeve

Although San Diego is a big city, it's got the feel of a low-key beach destination, particularly if you pick out one of the beachfront rentals that line Coronado or La Jolla. Those areas are really self-contained villages, fringed by yellow-tinted West Coast sands, peppered with surf shops, and host to the occasional historic lighthouse or sea lion-lazing cove.

Quintessential SoCal in Malibu

Just the name Malibu is usually enough to get folks thinking of clinking cocktails in swish bars, strutting palm-lined boulevards, and soaking in the Cali sun. Look for your stylish pad in this happening town along family-friendly Zuma Beach for days of playing by the Pacific, or go for Surfrider Beach for something more gnarly.

Magical Monterey

The gateway to the jaw-dropping Big Sur and the home of the acclaimed Monterey Bay Aquarium – look out for the stinging jellies and schools of anchovy fish there – Monterey is a taste of coastal California's wilder side. Vacation homes pepper the cliffs and poke out from the pine forests down by Carmel-By-The-Sea and Point Pinos, if you're after somewhere secluded just away from town.

Families are drawn to beachfront rentals on the Gulf Coast

Aside from the Sunshine State and good-vibes SoCal, there's also the wide arc of shoreline known as the Gulf Coast to explore. Some of it pokes into Florida, but other sections run through Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, offering some buzzy family destinations with oodles of beachfront rentals.

Make a splash in Gulf Shores

Alabama's favorite family escape by the waves comes in the form of Gulf Shores. Grab yourself one of the cozy condominiums that run the length of the main beach and you'll have a pad that spills straight onto the sand. It's common for the options there to have shared swimming pools – you know, just in case you don't want to get salty.

Galveston has beachfront rentals galore

Galveston's Seawall Boulevard stretches on past this tried-and-tested resort's buzzy center with a wide array of beachfront rental options. There are charming Victorian homes for families, ringed by timber decks, along with modern condos where balconies look out over the Gulf of Mexico. Most are within walking distance of the Strand National Historic Landmark District and its hodgepodge of 1800s architecture and antiques shops, while a short drive can reveal the immersive science exhibits of Moody Gardens.

Get active in Orange Beach

There's a run of plush vacation pads fringing the dunes just behind the boardwalk at Orange Beach. Modern and contemporary, they have a distinct Southern charm and draws like self-catering kitchens. Many are also sandwiched between the region's popular golf courses and water sports marinas, where you can launch fishing charters or dolphin-watching excursions.