If you’re looking to treat your dried-out skin to a sunkissed and freckled facial, maybe it’s time to book a vacation to the beach. Sure, we might be in a recession, but that doesn’t mean we have to miss out on a little R & R. Take a look at some of our suggestions and set the itinerary for your much needed, affordable beach vacation.
1. Costa Rica
Why You Should Go: The very mention of Costa Rica brings to mind one thing: paradise. This country is home to a Disney-like cast of (wildlife) creatures — from howler monkeys to toucans. The beauty is incredible and the sluggish pace is seductive — it would be easy to live according to island time here. Whats there to do on vacation in Costa Rica? For starters, the question should be what isnt there to do, because there’s something for every type of traveler here. Active travelers can surf and snorkel, and adrenaline junkies have a myriad of ways to make their mothers worry. Try river kayaking or seeing the sights the extreme way: canopy tours will send you ziplining through trees and their tropical inhabitants. If thats a little too extreme for you, check out the view from above in a two-seater ultralight plane. Either way, youre guaranteed to get a whole new perspective on Mother Nature.
Where to Stay: Relax in the top eco-lodges after living life on the edge or shack-up in thatch-roof beach bungalows. Lapa Ros is not only environmentally conscious, but its cost friendly, too. The premier eco-lodge has gone totally green. It endorses innovative eco-friendly practices, including feeding organic waste to pigs in order to produce methane fuel.
Why You Should Go: Dominica is the Caribbean home to an unspoiled natural environment — this is its main draw. For many travelers, an island with no big beach resorts is a minus, but here, its a plus; tranquil oceanfronts will allow you to become the ultimate beach bum.
Where to Stay: Cocoa Cottage is also eco-sensitive and its hand-constructed wood lodging has a cozy treehouse feel. It might be basic, but it’s very comfortable. Staying here will make you feel like you belong in The Swiss Family Robinson. The nature-inspired dcor is made from recycled materials: bed frames from recycled spools, lamps from coconut shells, and flower pots from bamboo. Aside from its green stamp of approval, Cocoa Cottage is rustic and remote, which means its the perfect remedy for the winter chills.
Why You Should Go: When you dream of your ultimate vacation getaway, the Caribbean Islands is probably one of the first warm weather destinations that comes to mind, right? The island of St. Barths is the most popular of the chain, but its also the priciest. Dont have a lot of money to spend on a beach vacation? Not to worry, you can still experience island fever. Just venture to Saba — its been dubbed the hidden gem of the Caribbean. If laying on the shore and getting a tan are your vacation goals, Wells Bay and Cove Bay (above) are the perfect spots for you. And unlike St. Barths and some of its sister islands, all of the natives speak English, so theres no language barrier.
Travel Tip: Take a short boat ride over to Scilly Cay on the island of Anguilla. Trust us, you wont want to miss out on this. Scilly Cay is both an island and a restaurant because the only thing situated on the tiny, remote island is a restaurant. You cant make dinner reservations here, though, because they only serve lunch: no electricity on the island means that it’s only open during the daylight hours. Dont worry, the restaurant’s different approach wont compromise a fine dining experience, as all of the food is prepared fresh everyday. While you’re lingering over the menu, try the famous rum punch. Somehow, it always makes that difficult decision much easier. But, be careful: the drinks are strong and the blistering sun can render the effects of alcohol very deceiving.
Where to Stay: Cottage Club Hotel consists of a bunch of gingerbread-like bungalows. The price is right and the proximity to the downtown area is ideal. Bungalows sprawl down the side of the mountain — the cliff-side setting offers postcard-perfect views.
4. Phuket, Thailand
Why You Should Go: Phuket is an island destination that has definitely earned its bragging rights for sandy beaches and clear water. These beaches have it all for the sun seeker. Patong Beach (above) is the most famous (and the most infamous). This beach will take you from day to night with lounge bars and lots of restaurants. Patong Beach will put more mileage on you as a traveler, but its worth the long trip: once you’re there, the cost of food and other expenses is a bargain.
Where to stay: For cheap accommodations near Surin Beach (just a few feet away from the sand), stay at the Surin Bay Inn. This is the perfect place to call home while on vacation — it was voted one of the best value accommodations in Phuket.
5. Eleuthera and Exuma Islands, BahamasWhy You Should Go: A trip to Eleuthra and the Exumas islands in the Bahamas wont have you traveling very far to soak under the sun. Undeveloped beaches, secluded sandy coves, and turquoise water are these islands’ claims to fame, and the laid-back, easy-going pace of the islands guarantees a restful respite.
Eleuthra Island: The name of the island is Greek for freedom — very fitting, since its free from crowds and cruise ships. Leave your watch home and forget your BlackBerry while youre at it: the only thing you have to work about here is your tan. The best beach spot is Surfers Beach; it has some of the best waves on the island.
Exuma Island: Aside from bumming around on the beach, you might even get some star gazing done on this island — Johnny Depp (among other celebrities) has a vacation home here!
Where to Stay: Staniel Cay Yacht Club (above) is a low-key getaway for yachties and escapists. The cotton-candy-colored cottages have broad ocean vistas. It’s both comfortable and affordable.
6. The Florida Keys, FloridaWhy You Should Go: No passport required for this vacation. The Florida Keys may be in the U.S., but here, you’ll still feel like youre deep in the heart of the tropics. Key Largo is sandwiched between the Everglades and North Americas only living coral barrier reef. Snorkeling is the best way to swim beside sea life, but if you dont feel like diving into the ocean, try a glass-bottom boat ride — thousands of sea creatures will be visible right beneath your flip flops. You can’t miss the sunset at Mallory Square (above) in Key West — it will set the mood perfectly for a romantic getaway.
Where to Stay: Stay at the Key Largo Grande Resort and Beach Club. All rooms have a private balcony and private trails that lead to beach coves.
If you can’t stand the winter chill anymore, pack your bags and head for the beach because these destinations make getting a tan very affordable. Which tropical getaway will you be booking your next vacation to?