The United States is blessed with an abundance of beaches. With so many to choose from, how do you pick one that matches your idea of paradise? Because while one person’s idea of the ideal beach vacation is nothing but blue water and empty sand for miles, another might prefer a bustling boardwalk or easily accessible water sports. Luckily, the good ol’ US of A has something for everyone in all parts of the country, so there’s sure to be one that’s near you.
We found eight very different beaches with eight very different personalities. With all they have to offer, one is sure to match your idea of the perfect getaway. So book your tickets and hotels now (keep reading to see how to find deals for NEA members!) to ensure you have the best unique beach vacation this summer.
1. If you want to enjoy local culture…
Head to the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, if you like to mix laid-back beach time with lively local culture. Isla Verde, Condado Beach and Luquillo Beach are all amazing beach destinations in Puerto Rico that mix culture with stunning beaches. Enjoy ample time relaxing on the island’s famed white sands, and enjoy outings such as visiting a rum distillery, doing a walking tour of Old San Juan, exploring the centuries-old fortress Castillo San Felipe del Morro and more. You’ll discover a place as alluring as its zesty mofongo (a garlicky plantain dish you’re sure to encounter everywhere).
NEA member travel benefits: Book a flight through the NEA Travel Program to Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport Puerto Rico (SJU), then check for great deals on hotel rooms. Sheraton Old San Juan average $141 per night and has a central location and a pool. For a boutique hotel with a unique personality, book a room at Hotel El Convento, for an average of $157 per night. Guests get complimentary access to El Convento Beach Club, located at a sister property.
Plan your itinerary: Discover Puerto Rico
2. If you want a romantic getaway…
The gracious Southern city of Savannah, Georgia, isn’t exactly beachfront—you’ll need to scoot across a couple of bridges to the sandy shores of Tybee Island for that. But Tybee’s broad golden beaches and waving sea oats more than make up for the slight detour. So do the enchanting Southern charms of downtown Savannah, which seems custom-made for couples. In this historic waterfront city, you can stroll among the Spanish moss-draped oaks and beautiful homes, linger over Low Country candlelit dinners and discover nightspots tucked in the old cotton warehouses along the Savannah River.
NEA member travel benefits: Visit NEA’s travel booking portal for the best prices on airfare to Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport (SAV), which is 28 miles away from Tybee Island. On the hotels booking page, you can find deals on hotels like Admiral’s Inn on Tybee Island (average of $184/night), which is a 5-minute walk from the beach and has a pool. For an average of $126/night, you can stay at the historic Planters Inn, right in the heart of Savannah and about 30 minutes from Tybee Island. Or, save money by staying a bit further away at the Rodeway Inn, which averages $69/night and is a 25-minute-drive to downtown Savannah and a 45-minute drive from Tybee Island.
3. If you’re looking for superior snorkeling…
About the only thing that can match the Aloha State’s dazzling tropical landscape is the equally dazzling world below the waves. Set sail for Maui, Hawaii, grab a snorkel and mask and marvel at fields of coral blooming like underwater wildflowers, twitching schools of Technicolor fish and sea turtles drifting past. Maui offers plenty of healthy reef and protected coves. Did we mention the average water temperature is in the upper 70s year-round?
NEA member travel benefits: Fly into Kahului Airport (OGG), the main airport for Maui. NEA’s travel booking portal is the best place to find great prices on airline tickets and hotels. Maui’s hotels can be pricey, but you can save money by staying at The Northshore Hostel Maui, which has private rooms that average $134 a night. For an average of $248 a night, you can be on the beach at Kaanapali Ocean Inn, which also has three pools, tennis courts, and rooms with refrigerators and private lanais.
4. If you need to please the kids…
Even the most stoic teens will be wowed by the dunes at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Michigan, rising hundreds of feet above the turquoise-hued waters of Lake Michigan near the delightful resort area of Traverse City. Trails guide you through the rolling sand hills and out to beaches that seem to stretch on forever. Lake Michigan’s waters along this scalloped shore are sun-warmed, swimmer-friendly and as clear as a windowpane. If the kids still have energy to burn, let them run wild on the Dune Climb, a barren 130-foot dune perfect for trudging, sliding, whooping and hollering.
NEA member travel benefits: It’s just about a 45-minute drive to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore from Cherry Capital Airport (TVC) in Traverse City and NEA’s travel booking portal offers great deals on airfare. The hotels booking page features deals like an average of $76 per night at Seasons Inn Traverse City, which has rooms with mini fridges and microwaves, a pool, and free breakfast. The Baymont by Wyndham Traverse City is another good option at an average of $104 per night, and it has an indoor pool, hot tub, and fitness center as well as free breakfast. If you want to be on the beach in Traverse City, book a room at Grand Beach Resort Hotel at an average of $205 per night.
5. If you want lots of water sports options…
The long and lanky barrier island of Padre Island, Texas, stretches south from Corpus Christi along the Gulf of Mexico for 100 miles. Much of it is pristine national seashore, where warm waves wash on near-empty sands favored by birds and beachcombers. Beyond the national seashore and separated by the Mansfield Channel lies the more developed south end with 34 miles of uninterrupted beach. It seems everyone finds a way to play in the sun-kissed waters here. South Padre Island offers ideal conditions for learning how to stand-up paddleboard, surf, kiteboard, windsurf and parasail. The South Padre Island Visitors Center can direct you to local businesses offering lessons, rentals, guided fishing tours and dolphin watches.
NEA member travel benefits: Reserve a flight into Brownsville South Padre Island International Airport (BRO) via the NEA Travel Program. On the hotels booking page, you’ll see deals like Ramada by Wyndham & Suites South Padre Island for an average of $85 a night, which is just a few minutes’ walk to the beach and has a pool, hot tub, and complimentary breakfast. Spend a little more ($141 a night, on average) for Pearl South Padre and you’ll be right on the beach, with access to water sports and boats, the on-site spa and a sparkling pool.
6. If you long for unspoiled vistas…
A 1-hour ferry ride from the mainland, Block Island, Rhode Island, greets visitors with sturdy New England charm. Clapboard homes, farmsteads and ancient stone walls stand tall along its wave-washed shores. Crescent Beach begins right near the ferry dock, earning its name with a 2.5-mile-long sweep of sand. For wild beauty, head southeast on the 7-mile-long island to Mohegan Bluffs. Green clay headlands rise 200 feet above the Atlantic Ocean like the emerald cliffs of Ireland. Take in the grand views, then descend the long staircase to a swath of beach that wraps along the cove and continues out of sight.
NEA member travel benefits: Book a flight on NEA’s travel portal to Providence T.F. Green Airport (PVD) and then take the ferry for the day from Point Judith or Newport. Score great hotels prices through the NEA Travel Program, like an average of $133 per night at Hamilton Village Inn in South Kingstown or an average of $148 per night at Holiday Inn South Kingstown, which has an outdoor pool and fitness center.
7. If you want to dig your toes into the softest sands…
Even in a state amply endowed with lovely beaches, the barrier island of Siesta Key, Florida, 60 miles south of Tampa, is a standout. You’ll understand why when you cross the bridge from Sarasota and kick off your shoes on its Gulf of Mexico shore. Siesta’s nearly pure quartz sand hardly feels like sand at all: It’s brilliant white, squeaky as cornstarch and soft as sifted flour. Siesta Key’s wide public beach stretches on for miles, so let those sands sift through your toes as long as you’d like, distracted only by stalking shorebirds and dolphins wriggling through the aquamarine waters.
NEA member travel benefits: For great airfare prices, reserve a flight through the NEA Travel Program to Sarasota Bradenton International Airport (SRQ), a 25-minute drive to Siesta Key, or fly into Tampa International Airport (TPA), a 1.5-hour drive away. On the hotels page of NEA’s travel booking portal, you’ll find great deals on properties like Tropical Beach Resorts (average of $174/night), which has rooms with kitchenettes and patios and is just a 5-minute walk to the beach, and the boutique Capri at Siesta (average of $184/night), which has private access to Crescent Beach, a courtyard with barbecue grills, and a spacious heated outdoor pool.
8. If you’re intrigued by a beach with a backstory…
Don’t let the name dissuade you: Nothing is disappointing about Cape Disappointment State Park in Washington State. The nearly 30 miles of broad tawny beach unfurl north from this headland jutting out into the Pacific Ocean. Meriwether Lewis, William Clark and the Corps of Discovery culminated their grueling 29-month exploration of the West near this point in 1805. The excellent Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center tells the story of their journey. Other park attractions include two lighthouses, miles of hiking trails, campgrounds and 28 miles of that seemingly endless sand beach, ready for your own discovery.
NEA member travel benefits: Visit the airfare section of the NEA Travel Program to find competitive pricing on flights into Portland International Airport (PDX), a 2-hour drive to Cape Disappointment State Park. Stay just outside the park and right by the ocean in Long Beach at the charming Shelburne Inn, which is an average of $142 per night on the hotels page of NEA’s travel portal. For a more resort-like feel, check out the pet-friendly Chautauqua Resort, previously known as Chautauqua Lodge, which has complimentary bicycles for guests plus an heated indoor pool, hot tub and sauna, and an outdoor sand volleyball court, plus the option of condo-style rooms with ocean views. Prices on NEA’s travel portal average $140 per night. For rooms with a little more style, opt for the boutique Adrift Hotel & Spa (average of $180 per night), which features painted murals, natural-wood headboards with memory foam beds and some rooms with bunk beds. There is an on-site spa, pool, game room and restaurant, and it’s a short walk to the Long Beach Boardwalk.