By Evie Carrick
August 27, 2019
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Just because you can’t afford an overwater bungalow or a Maldives hotel with private butler service, doesn’t mean you can’t take a beach vacation. Once you’ve paid for flights and lodging, beach vacations are surprisingly simple. Head to the beach with a case of beer and sandwich fixings and you’ve got lunch and the day’s entertainment.

It sounds simple and affordable — but many Americans haven’t quite caught on. A survey by Bankrate.com reported that 39 million Americans won’t be going on a summer vacation this year because they think they can’t afford it. The same survey found that those planning to get away were expecting to pay $1,979 for the experience.

With that in mind, we’ve come up with a list of affordable beach vacations that splurge on the good stuff without breaking the bank. The cost of getting there is excluded, but these wallet-approved vacations take into account lodging, activities, and food, although for the latter, we’re expecting you to skip that over-priced pitcher of poolside margaritas.

Utila, Honduras

If you’ve ever dreamed of living the island life, here’s your chance. The island of Utila sits off the coast of mainland Honduras, and this dreamy, grass hut with high ceilings and sunny windows provides the ultimate home base. At the nearby Hot Spot Cafe, you can pick up a fresh-fruit smoothie for $1.50 or grab a fully-loaded breakfast bagel for under $3.

If you want to take a break from the beach, you can tour the Utila Iguana Conservation Project for $3 and see the endangered Utila Iguana "Swamper," which is only found in the mangrove swamps of Utila. For dinner, head to RJ’s for a mound of Caribbean BBQ for less than $15. For dessert, head to La Cueva for a taste of their banana-infused rum.

Lodging: $16 a night assuming you share with a friend

Activities: $3 for a visit to the Iguana Conservation Project

Food: $20 for breakfast, dinner, and dessert drinks

Bradenton, Florida

John Coletti/Getty Images

Avoid spending another forgettable night in a sterile hotel room by booking a vintage ‘71 Airstream that’s conveniently parked near Florida’s Palma Sola beaches and Anna Maria Island beaches.

Spend the day at the beach or rent a kayak and launch from either the Robinson Nature Preserve or the Emerson Point Preserve. Reward yourself with a late-lunch or early-dinner at Anna Maria Oyster Bar and nosh on onion straws and coconut shrimp. After the sun drops, kick back around the fire pit or take a dip in the property’s hot tub.

Lodging: $15 a night assuming you share with a friend

Activities: $15 for a two-hour, tandem kayak rental

Food: $17 for a late lunch

Nice, France

If you can’t decide between a European excursion and a beach vacation, the French beach town of Nice delivers both in a tidy package.

From your chic studio apartment, head toward the coast and cruise along the Promenade des Anglais. After you’ve worked up an appetite, dip into the city’s old quarter to pick up fresh bread, cheese, and fruit at the outdoor Cours Saleya Market, and head to the beach for the ultimate French picnic. After you’ve gotten your fill of sun and surf, swing by the iconic Chez Palmyre for a three-course, 18 Euro ($20) meal.

Lodging: $22 a night assuming you share with a friend

Activities: Free

Food: $20 for dinner and $8 for beach provisions

Kuta, Bali

The surfer guy or gal in all of us will flourish on the Indonesian island of Bali. Flights may be expensive, but for less than $25 you can stay at the Mercure Kuta Bali across from Kuta Beach. Load up on the hotel’s free breakfast, rent a board, and give it a go. After a day on the water, sink your teeth into a few tacos at Johnny Tacos and wash it all down with a margarita.

Lodging: $25 a night assuming you share with a friend

Activities: $15 for a two-hour surfboard rental

Food: $10 for tacos and a drink

Sayulita, Mexico

The beach is only a seven minute walk away, but you may never want to leave this hillside escape in Sayulita. Spend the day nestled on the beach with a book and when hunger calls, grab a couple tacos and a beer (or two!) at The Real Fish Taco.

Before you head home for the day, swing by the town’s farmers market, Mercado del Pueblo, for goods to make an evening meal using fresh, local ingredients.

Lodging: $25 a night assuming you share with a friend

Activities: free

Food: $20 for tacos, beer, and groceries

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