13 best cheap beach vacations in the USA

The best destinations for cheap beach vacations in the USA, from the parties of Daytona Beach to the lush nature of Cannon Beach, and a special tip for budget travelers.

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cheap beach vacations usa

Spending the holidays by the sea in the United States doesn’t have to be expensive! This is a massive country with lots of coastlines, so there are plenty of possibilities to have cheap vacations in the USA.

Sure, famous places like San Diego, CA, or the tropical beaches of Hawaii are on the expensive side (although there are ways to save money in those places too). 

But there are many options for enjoying a USA beach vacation on a budget. This article will list some of the best destinations in the country for you to enjoy the best Summer of your life.

From quiet beaches surrounded by nature to lively beaches with amusement parks and pool parties, to family-friendly beaches and more, there is a cheap beach vacation for everyone.

And here's a special travel hack for those who want to travel cheap and have an amazing experience: try doing a volunteer program during your trip (also known as work exchange).  In this type of travel, you exchange a few hours of work for free accommodation and other perks, such as meals and tours.

If you're interested, just go to the Worldpackers website and browse through the volunteer positions available at the destination of your choice, or around the area. To make it easier, I'll include a few of these work exchanges in the list below. Shall we?

Cheap beach vacations USA: the best destinations

Here are my favorite cheap beach vacations in the USA:

  1. Miami, FL
  2. Myrtle Beach, SC
  3. Huntington Beach, CA
  4. Virginia Beach, VA
  5. St. Augustine, FL
  6. Cannon Beach, OR
  7. Hampton Beach, NH
  8. Sleeping Bear Lakeshore, MI
  9. South Padre Island, TX
  10. Pismo Beach, CA
  11. Ocean City, MD
  12. Nag’s Head, NC
  13. Daytona Beach, FL

Want to know more about each of these beach destinations? Keep reading!

1. Miami, FL


cheap beach vacations usa

The best thing about beach vacations is that the main attraction is usually free: the beach! In a city like Miami, Florida, where clubbing and eating out can be a bit pricey, you can actually enjoy the area on a budget.

Hanging out on South Beach, touring art museums, looking for street art, and soaking in the multicultural atmosphere are all free activities in Miami. 

There are also lots of cheap happy hours so you can eat and drink on a budget. Miami makes for one of the best cheap USA beach vacations in Florida.

For more budget travel inspiration, check out our article What are the cheapest vacation destinations.

2. Myrtle Beach, SC

South Carolina is overall, a very cheap state to visit in the USA. So if you’re looking for a cheap family beach geataway in the USA, the bustling Myrtle Beach is an amazing option. 

Full of amusement parks, arcade games, beaches, boardwalks, family-friendly restaurants, and souvenir shops, Myrtle Beach is a fun and affordable place to visit.

3. Huntington Beach, CA


huntington beach

One of the best beaches in the US for surfing, Huntington Beach is a much cheaper place to visit than other locations in California

There are lots of free activities here, such as enjoying the waves, the parks and gardens, the nature, the pier, and more. You can also try surfing lessons or check out the International Surfing Museum.

4. Virginia Beach, VA

Another one of the best cheap beach vacations in the east coast USA is Virginia Beach. This historic town has a massive beautiful beach and lots of other attractions.

From the local boardwalk and the lighthouse to the museums, parks, boat tours, and Chesapeake Bay nature, there is plenty to see and do. 

You can find hotel rooms in Virginia Beach for less than $100 per night, which is quite cheap for the USA.

5. St. Augustine, FL

St. Augustine is a historic, multicultural town that is one of the best offbeat vacation spots in the USA. It is supposedly the oldest city in the country, and the 17th Century landmarks and old colonial architecture reflect the area’s history. There are also, of course, stunning beaches to enjoy.

If you want to try a work exchange in St. Augustine, you can work at a local property. In exchange for a few hours of light morning housekeeping and cleaning, you get free stay and can enjoy the area after work.

Keep reading: US solo travel: 22 best places to travel alone and 7 amazing mountain vacations in the US.

6. Cannon Beach, OR


cannon beach is one of the cheapest beaches in the usa

Most people probably wouldn’t think of Oregon as a popular beach vacation spot, but there is a hidden gem here. Cannon Beach is a small city on the ocean in northwest Oregon, and it is framed by rugged wilderness.

From cliffs and caves to unique local birds and nearby national parks, this spot is heaven for people who love exploring nature. 

The temperatures are also a bit cooler up here, so those who want to experience the beach without the heat should definitely consider Cannon Beach.

Want to keep traveling around the area after hitting the beach? Check out all the volunteer opportunities in Oregon.

7. Hampton Beach, NH

New England is generally quite expensive, but there are some gorgeous beaches up here that can be enjoyed on a budget. Hampton Beach in southern New Hampshire is a summer favorite among locals in the New England region. 

The beach itself is huge, with tons of space for surfing, playing sports, fishing, and more. Small cozy cottages, local seafood restaurants, and arcades surround the sand, making it one of the best cheap USA beach vacations for families in New England.

8. Sleeping Bear Lakeshore, MI


cheap beach vacations usa

This is an unexpected beach vacation because it’s on a lake and not the ocean. But the Great Lakes actually make an incredible beach getaway, especially if you live in the midwest and don’t want to travel far.

This beautiful area in Michigan has giant sand dunes for climbing, peaceful rivers for kayaking, dense forests for hiking, and plenty of relaxing beaches for soaking in the summer sun. 

Nestled between the freshwater lake and the forest, this is a gorgeous spot to go for a mix of adventurous, outdoorsy activities and a chill vacation on the beach.

9. South Padre Island, TX

All the way down in Southern Texas near the Mexican border lies South Padre Island, another one of the best cheap beach vacations in the USA. With lots of wildlife, a consistently warm climate, and many family-friendly activities, this is the perfect affordable place for a beach vacation in the south.

The water is calm and warm, great for paddleboarding, kayaking, taking boat tours, or swimming with young kids. If you’re an animal lover, consider horseback riding on the beach, visiting the sea turtle rehabilitation center, or birdwatching.

10. Pismo Beach, CA


pismo beach is a cheaper california beach

Located in the middle of California, almost an equal distance between Los Angeles and San Francisco, is Pismo Beach. This rugged and beautiful beach city is a cheaper alternative to the more popular beach vacations in the Golden State

There are lots of free ways to enjoy the scenery here, including hiking trails, state parks, and other green spaces.

Though Pismo Beach is cheaper than places like San Diego, it is still in California, meaning it’s more expensive than many of the other beach vacations on this list.

Luckily, there are over 80 California work exchanges to choose from, so you can work in exchange for accommodation and save lots of money. Here aree some examples: 

11. Ocean City, MD

Located on the Atlantic Ocean in Maryland, Ocean City is a popular choice for cheap beach vacations in the USA. It’s pretty touristy, and it's perfect for those who love the hustle and bustle. 

The long, sandy beach is bordered by a long boardwalk that is always full of entertainment. There is a theme park, arcade games, restaurants, souvenir shops, cafes, ice cream stands, and plenty of budget accommodation options.

So if a quiet vacation on the beach isn’t quite enough for you, Ocean City is a fun, exciting, and lively place to visit.

12. Nag’s Head, NC


nag's head is another good choice for cheap beach vacations in the usa

Nag’s Head is a popular beach vacation spot in North Carolina. Surrounded by marsh, sand dunes, walking trails, and wildlife, there is lots of nature to explore here when you’re done enjoying the beach.

North Carolina is generally a pretty cheap state to visit, so it’s easy to stay in Nag’s Head on a budget. 

To save more money and have fun making new friends, check out work exchanges in Sunbury, located a 1.5-hour drive from Nag’s Head. You can help some locals restore a historic building in exchange for your accommodation.

13. Daytona Beach, FL

Popular among college students and families alike, Daytona Beach in Florida is one of the best cheap beach vacations on the East Coast USA

Daytona has miles and miles of soft, white sand that is perfect for lounging with friends, playing sports, and suntanning. There is also a boardwalk, an amusement park, and plenty of entertainment, including free outdoor concerts in summer.

It's good to know that during the weeks of spring break, you’ll find Daytona Beach packed to the brim with partying college students. So if you want a wild experience, you’ll have one here. If you want a more relaxed beach vacation, visit anytime outside spring and you’ll find a more chill atmosphere. 

Are you surprised at how many affordable beach vacations in the USA are there? Read our article on How to travel cheap in the USA and start planning your trip!



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