This summer, life's a beach — especially for young people. In a survey conducted by Discover, millennials prefer a beach (30 percent) over a road trip (11 percent), cruise (6 percent) or any other type of vacation.
Vacationers can make splash at these popular beach destinations, where prices are low over the summer.
1. Asbury Park, New Jersey
Asbury Park has been experiencing a renaissance, now with a hip hotel, modern restaurants and cool attractions (like Asbury Lanes bowling alley and concert venue, which opened in May) and more crowds, thanks to a revitalized waterfront. Ranked No. 1 as Budget Travel's coolest small town in America last year, it's the former stomping ground of iconic American musician Bruce Springsteen, who's first studio album is entitled "Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J."
Asbury Park is easy to get to via rental car or NJ Transit (an hour and half from Manhattan's Penn Station, $16.25 for a one-way ticket). You can also catch a ferry (like Seastreak) from New York City, which can take up to an hour one-way for $46 round-trip.
There are plenty of Airbnbs, where rentals can go as little as $75 a night, and doubles at the only luxury hotel, The Asbury, are $210 a night during summer. The hotel has "quad" (four bunk beds) and "octo" (eight bunk beds) accommodations that bring the rate down a lot cheaper per person. A quad averages $280 per night ($70 per person) and octo averages $580 per night ($72.50 per person).
The Berkeley, an oceanfront hotel, has summer weekday rates with savings up to 25 percent Sunday through Thursday — $129 a night standard doubles are $97 a night with the discount.
Great cheap eats abound, like Pop's Garage serving crowd-pleasing tacos, from chorizo to al pastor (two tacos for $6).
2. Sayulita, Mexico
Sayulita, about an hour north of Puerto Vallarta, is a charming, low-key beach town that remained undiscovered by tourists until recently (cruise lines now offer walking tour shore excursion). Even with more foot traffic, it's still very cheap year-round, and it's crawling with young hippies, yogis and surfers, especially in summer when flights are affordable to Puerto Vallarta (direct, round-trip fare from LAX is around $260). Summer is rainy season, but the rain usually starts in the morning and lasts a short time.
In Sayulita, you can get a fish taco for 80 cents from beach vendors, a Pacifico beer for $1 and rent a surfboard for $6 from the surf school shops that line the beach. Entire apartments (with multiple bedrooms) are as little as $40 a night.
A 20-minute walk to Sayulita town is Playa Escondida, a tucked-away, 25-room resort with outdoor pool and a hidden beach. The smallest double is $160 but can fit four people, as the site suggests. You may recognize the resort as many reality shows have filmed here, like every season of ABC's Bachelor in Paradise.
Or there's Punta Monterrey, just 20-minutes drive up the coast. Right on a private beach, this rustic resort has cabins and bungalows with rates starting at $80 per person per night. The rate includes all home-cooked meals (produce and ingredients come straight from the garden in their jungle, as well as free use of kayaks, and another hidden beach you can have all to yourself with a short hike through the jungle (the resort straddles jungle and beach).
3. Daytona Beach, Florida
One of TripAdvisor's 20 most affordable U.S. beach destinations, and the No. 1 attraction in Florida according to Travel Channel, Daytona Beach, Florida, is more than a spring breaker's stomping ground. It's very family friendly with a small theme park and scenic boardwalk, and the cheap prices makes it a magnet to budget-minded beach lovers.
Daytona Beach is an hour drive from Orlando, Florida; travelers are known to add the beach town to their Walt Disney World vacations, either as a full day trip or overnight. Doubles at beachfront resorts are as low as $80 per night. Hard Rock Hotel Daytona Beach recently opened, and the introductory rates are still a steal for summer with doubles at $149 per night, which includes complimentary use of guitars and on-demand yoga via entertainment system.
Daytona is full of fun, campy dining spots with retro or tiki themes — like Jimmy Hart's Hall of Fame Bar and Tiki Deck and Burgey's Tiki Hut — that offer bang for your buck. A 1/2-lb beef burger at Burgey's is only $9. Local haunt Mai Tai Bar, with live music and blazed-up tiki torches, offers happy hours from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. where domestic pints are $2.50.
4. Santa Teresa, Costa Rica
Costa Rica has two seasons: December to April is dry season (high season) and May to November is rainy season (low season). Low season is the cheapest time to visit, when flights can be half off. It's approximately $800 to $1,000 round-trip from major cities like Atlanta and non-direct flights are slightly cheaper, about $500 to $700, from west coast cities like Los Angeles and Seattle. It's not uncommon to call hotels directly and further negotiate nightly rates. Many people prefer rainy season as the rain is short, and rain makes the rain forests and jungles more vibrant and lush. Best of all? Fewer crowds.
Santa Teresa, a laid-back beach town on the southern coast, is what makes Costa Rica beaches famous, and it's what you typically see when looking at brochures. The sprawling, white sand beach has unobstructed views of the Caribbean Sea, and the sunsets are the best in the country. The New York Times recently called Santa Teresa "the next Tulum."
Even with this attention, and just like Tulum, prices are affordable considering the town is run by young folk, mostly ex-pats, and visited by young people. You can get away with meals that cost under $10 at restaurants like Mufra's and Zwart, and local surfers walk around selling fresh baked goods (like empanadas) on the beach for less than $1.
Airbnbs are very cheap here. You can rent a private room as little as $30 a night, or even a three-bed cottage for $56 a night.
5. Phuket, Thailand
Phuket, Thailand is an exotic beach destination for summer, and it's notoriously cheap year-round. Recently, tickets to capital city Bangkok have been going for $400 in various US cities, and they're still a cheap $545 for summer (from Los Angeles), according to Kayak Explore Tool. From Bangkok, you can hop on a quick, one-hour flight to Phuket from several airlines, like Nok Air or Thai AirAsia, as low as $15 one-way.
Once you arrive, you'll find famous Thai street food, like pad thai, for under $1, ubiquitous street markets selling everything from cheap souvenirs, handmade jewelry and accessories, produce and sodas (less than $1) and idyllic beaches where you can get get hour-long, famous Thai massages for less than $12.
Phuket is well known for affordable nightlife too. Bars, clubs, lounges and even outdoor markets are open until late, and you can get around by foot, depending on where you're staying, or hop in a tuk tuk (motorized rickshaw) for a cheap ride home. You can always bargain prices with the driver, which is part of the culture there.
Villas are famously cheap in Phuket. You can rent an entire apartment in Phuket Town for as little as $26 a night, or a 2-bedroom villa with private pool for $48 per night. You can even afford to splurge on a beachfront villa with private pool, like this 3-bedroom (accommodating six guests) for $379 a night. With 6 people, that's $63 per person per night.
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