There’s no need to splurge on a luxury beach hotel for this year’s summer vacation, thanks to a wave of relatively new – and affordable – beach hotels. Our favorites span the shores of six countries, boast smart design, prime waterfront real estate, all the conveniences you’d expect from a high-end resort, and, best of all, nightly rates that typically go for less than $300 (and, a few for less than $200!). The cherry on top: Our 10 luxury beach hotels for less are practically brand-new; all but one have opening dates within the past two years! Sprawl out in your own oceanfront suite in Mexico, test out the surf at an all-inclusive Costa Rican gem, or people-watch from your boardwalk-view balcony in Venice Beach, California. Waking up to the sound of crashing waves? Yes, please. Salty sea air and soft sand? Must have. Having extra cash for endless piña coladas served beachside in your private cabana? Well, that’s just smart planning. See our Luxury Beach Hotels for Less Slideshow for a preview of the winning resorts.
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Aqua Lotus Honolulu, Hawaii
Formerly the W Honolulu, Aqua Lotus Honolulu (www.aquaresorts.com/oahu-hotels/lotus-hotel-honolulu) packs the same stylish set up and hot ticket perks at a price tag that’s anything but ultra-luxe. Located away from the frenzy of Waikiki next to local favorite San Souci Beach, this Aqua encompasses 51 rooms – all with private lanais – featuring views of Diamond Head or the Pacific Ocean. Find your inner Zen with a free morning yoga class in the park then hop on one of Aqua’s beach cruiser bikes for a spin along the coast. If you’d rather just relax on the sand, Aqua provides chairs and umbrellas for the perfect beach day. Nightly wine hours take place in the lobby from 4pm to 6pm, while kids can partake in board games or Wii tournaments. Best of all, there are no hidden resort fees to take advantage of all the amazing extras Aqua has to offer. Summer rates from $198/night with the Aqua is 10 special, available through August 10; you’ll need to show a picture of yourself at age 10 at check-in to receive 10 percent off standard rates.
Hotel Erwin, California
With quintessential SoCal surf and a carnivalesque boardwalk (overrun with a colorful cast of local characters) at your doorstep, plus a hipster-magnet, party-hearty rooftop lounge just overhead, Venice Beach’s hip Hotel Erwin, part of the Cali-based Joie de Vivre chain, offers a home base that showcases a different face to Los Angeles. Primed for gawking at the funky and festive spectacle that’s come to define the nabe, guests can get in some bona fide beach time and a cultural fix, to boot. Revamped and rebranded in July 2009 (it was formerly a Best Western), most of the now luxury beach hotel’s 119 modern guestrooms offer private balconies (opt for one on the top floors for the best boardwalk and ocean views), colorful design schemes etched with eclectic art and California kitsch, and modern touches like iPod sound systems and comped Wi-Fi. The Barlo restaurant offers American dishes using locally sourced ingredients, while the rooftop lounge, High, is primed for Pacific sunsets – both have inspired a local following. Summer rates start from $269/night; call 14 days in advance for a 10 percent discount.
See our Los Angeles destination guide for more trip-planning information, then use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the lowest rates on flights, hotels, packages, and more travel deals.
Hotel Le Reve, Mexico
Avoid the hordes of tourists in Cancun at Hotel Le Reve, located seven miles north of Playa del Carmen at Playa Xcalacoco. This stylish, 25-unit hotel and spa combines European-style luxury with authentic Mexican details. Choose between private bungalows (the most spacious option) and luxurious suites in the main building. Although each room has its own unique look, all are decorated with striking handmade Mexican wall tiles and come with 400-thread-count sheets, terraces, and eco-friendly fruit soaps. The centerpiece of the resort is a large infinity pool laid with tiny blue tiles that overlooks the 78 yards of gorgeous white sand beach. Whether you prefer to just lay out in the sun or get your body moving, Le Reve has you covered with beach hammocks and lounge chairs as well as a beach volleyball court and kayak and snorkel rentals. The beachfront bar is open from 11am to sunset. Private dinners on the beach can be arranged, for a fee. Summer rates start from $197/night.
See our Riviera Maya destination guide for more trip-planning information, then use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the lowest rates on flights, hotels, packages, and more travel deals.
Hotel Riu Guanacaste, Costa Rica
With the azure Pacific surf on one side and lush, green woodlands on the other, Hotel Riu Guanacaste (www.riu.com) showcases Costa Rica’s stunning coastline. The first Costa Rica hotel in the beach-focused Riu chain, this 701-room all-inclusive resort opened in October 2009 on Playa de Matapalo in Guanacaste, a region known for its lower humidity and dry forests. Although Costa Rica’s western beaches are naturally more rugged than its Caribbean shores, the region’s ecological diversity and the Riu’s impressive list of amenities easily overcome any white-sand envy. The luxury beach hotel’s all-inclusive price covers all meals, snacks, and drinks (both alcoholic and non), plus a handful of outdoor sports like windsurfing and kayaking. And for an extra charge, the hotel will arrange excursions like hiking to nearby volcanoes, diving to explore underwater volcanic rock formations, and sportfishing for massive sailfish and roosterfish. Guests who want to learn to dive get to test the waters with one complimentary intro course in the hotel pool. Those who just want to relax can easily do so on property, thanks to two swimming pools, five bars (including one swim-up option), four restaurants, beachside lounge chairs, and a Jacuzzi and steam bath. All-inclusive rates start from $257/night, based on double occupancy.
Hyatt Regency Curacao Golf Resort, Spa and Marina, Curacao
Sandwiched between the Caribbean Sea and Spanish Waters Bay, the Hyatt Regency Curacao Golf Resort, Spa and Marina boasts prime, white-sand real estate on an island that’s known more for cosmopolitan Willemstad than smooth, sandy oceanfront. The 350-room property (including standard rooms with plasma-screen TVs and balconies and upgraded "Sea Traditions" units that offer perks like butler service and access to a separate pool) opened in late April 2010 and promises to sate almost any traveler’s itinerary on Curaçao. Families should come for the resort’s Camp Arawak, which brings the littlest vacationers to some of the island’s top environmental and historical attractions – think archeological expeditions, cave hikes, and a sea creature petting zoo. For grown-up adventure, everything from windsurfing to scuba diving to golfing on the resort’s namesake 18-hole Pete Dye championship course is up for grabs. Local influence and culture also seeps into the luxury beach resort’s dining and amenities. SHOR, one of three resort restaurants, collaborates with island farmers to serve American fare from fresh, locally sourced ingredients, while the Atabei Spa infuses its treatments and house-made products with native plants and herbs. Summer rates start from $139/night.
Lifestyle Resort Danang, Vietnam
One of the newest properties on Vietnam’s prized central coast, the 186-room Lifestyle Resort Danang opened in March 2010, and boasts nearly 2.5 miles of unspoiled sand on Bac My An beach – not to mention a swimming pool with bar and full-service restaurant and lounge overlooking the South China Sea. Accommodations run the gamut from petite rooms with two twin-sized beds to private, two-bedroom villas; all come stocked with bathrobes and slippers, in-room minibars, and private balconies. On property, guests can choose from a hearty roster of activities like biking along Da Nang’s nearly 20 miles of coastline, playing tennis on one of two courts, and kayaking the sea’s challenging, wavy waters. The luxury beach hotel is close enough to the ancient town of Hoi An (about 20 miles away) for guests to spend the day exploring the UNESCO World Heritage village with its crumbling bridges, historic homes, and vibrant infusion of French culture, and be back at the resort in time for an evening dip and dinner. Summer room rates start from $200/night.
Rancho Pescadero, Mexico
Situated on the sandy Pacific shores of Baja California (1.5 hours north of San Jose del Cabo International Airport), Rancho Pescadero, opened in November 2009, comes with just 27 oceanfront suites and all the delightful luxuries of a small luxury beach hotel: canopied beds, private patios, coffee delivered to your room each morning. The hotel’s 2-mile stretch of beach is technically public, but the secluded location means you’re not likely to find more than half a dozen people on the sand at one time. Rancho Pescadero supplies all the beach essentials and then some, from beach bags and sunscreen to bar service and binoculars for whale-watching to curtained siesta beds with individual fire pits. There’s plenty to do on the water, too, including kayaking and fishing, and you’ll be hanging ten in no time with on-site surf lessons ($75 for 1 hour, $120 for 2 hours). Free daily yoga sessions and a two-room spa round out the experience. Kids must be 18 or older to stay at the hotel. Summer rates start from $200/night, with a two-night minimum stay.
The Seagate Hotel & Spa, Florida
Delray’s Seagate Hotel & Spa made a splash when it opened in November 2009 – it’s already racked up numerous accolades and we’re joining the bandwagon. This Florida property (about 15 miles from Palm Beach) scores big points in our book for its sophisticated boutique-hotel feel (think 154 rooms done up in mahogany woodwork with marble-and-stone bathrooms and private bars, and a beachy-chic lobby with 5,000-gallon aquarium). While the actual hotel is not technically on the beach (it’s a block away in Delray Beach town), the hotel offers complimentary trolley service to and from its own private beach club, located just a few clicks down Atlantic Avenue. The Seagate Beach Club reminds us of a casual country club, what with its own oceanfront pool, cabana rentals, two oceanview restaurants, clubhouse, and exclusive privileges like private beach access, towel and chair service, beverage service, water sports rentals, and complimentary Wi-Fi. When you’re not whiling away the hours sipping cocktails beachside (or poolside), try out the spa, complete with a Bikram Yoga studio, back at the hotel and dine at the on-site Atlantic Grille for fresh New American fare like rib pork chop with honey-grainy mustard glaze and sweet potato puree. Summer rates start from $159/night.
Sheraton Rhodes Resort, Greece
Formerly the Imperial Rhodes, the 401-room Sheraton Rhodes opened in summer 2010, after an extensive makeover. Pillow-top mattresses and marble bathrooms are some of the slick room features; many also have private balconies overlooking the Aegean Sea. Located on the largest of the Dodecanese isles in the eastern Greek islands chain, the Sheraton enjoys a few football fields worth of prime beach property, albeit pebbly, with complimentary cushioned sun beds and umbrellas. Those feeling active can hit the surf á la jet ski, windsurfer, or pedal boat. The luxury beach hotel’s five pools (four outdoor, one indoor) include a dedicated children’s pool, while tennis, squash, a playground, and a game room are also available. Sample Mediterranean and Italian cuisine at the hotel’s several restaurants, then head for an après-dinner drink at the lounge bar. Summer rates start from $150/night.
See our Greek Islands destination guide for more trip-planning information, then use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the lowest rates on flights, hotels, packages, and more travel deals.
Sole East Resort, New York
Montauk – situated on the easternmost tip of the South Fork in Long Island – was long a fringe destination, overlooked by the chic Hamptons crowd, known more for surfers and fishermen than celebrity sightings and summering Manhattanites. The stylish Sole East Resort (www.soleeast.com) is a sign of change: Poolside DJs and mimosa-fueled weekend brunches define the hotel. Even so, accommodations are appropriately laid-back. The refashioned American Tudor home contains 69 bungalow-style rooms, each outfitted with stark white furnishings, 300 thread-count linens, and Aveda bath products; hammocks set up in the gardens offer daytime respite. Montauk’s beach and village center are accessible via a speedy bike ride (a fleet of on-site “beach cruisers” are available for rent) or a fifteen-minute walk, though sun-seekers need not travel far to catch rays, chow down, or party on: Oversized beds surround a heated outdoor pool; the poolside lounge and restaurant, Backyard, dishes locally caught seafood and farmers’ market-fresh veggies; and weekend pool parties (in season) bring out guest DJs, summery cocktails, and barbecued treats. Rooms from $269/night. For a cheaper option, try Sole East Beach, a beachfront property just 15 minutes away from the resort. Rates start from $189/night, and guests have full access to the resort’s facilities and services.