The Best Beach Vacations Close to the U.S. — Just A Few Hours From Home

There are so many beautiful beach vacation destinations just a few hours away from the United States. With places like Mexico and the Caribbean just a short plane ride away, it can be hard to decide where to go for the best beach getaway for you and your family.

Additionally, there are a few other beach destinations you may want to consider visiting that are within the United States. Whether you want to visit the classic American beach towns for your next trip or a variety of nearby international destinations, we’ve got you covered.

The amazing beaches of some of the Caribbean islands like Jamaica are just a quick 1.5-hour plane ride from Miami, while some of the islands of The Bahamas are only 45 minutes away from Florida by plane. A chance to experience sun, sea, sand and Caribbean ambiance will be more than worth this short trip!

Expert tip: Looking for some excitement on your beach vacation? Try scuba diving, kayaking, paddleboarding, or take a boat tour from some of the white sand beaches of the Caribbean! These and many more water sports can easily be accessed through some of the all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean. And don’t forget, that going all-inclusive means unlimited cocktails!

In this article on the Sandals blog:
Beach vacation destinations in the Caribbean
Beach vacation destinations in Mexico
Beach vacation destinations in the USA

Best beach vacation destinations in the Caribbean

The Caribbean is loved for its stunning natural attributes, including waterfalls and beaches, as well as its crystal-clear waters. If you want to hit the beach without long travel times from the US, these amazing beach destinations will surely blow you away!

1. Exuma, The Bahamas

From Miami: 1.5 hours

From New York: 5 hours

From Los Angeles: 7.5 hours

The Bahamas is a vacation hotspot with hundreds of islands and cays and almost as many amazing beaches. Exuma - which is to the south of New Providence and its capital city of Nassau - is one of the most visited islands of The Bahamas. Here you’ll find many amazing beaches such as Coco Plum Beach and Tropic of Cancer Beach. These beaches are as natural as they come, and they provide a glimpse into the undeniable beauty of The Bahamas.

Also, in Exuma, you can visit the famous Pig Beach on Big Major Cay (also known as Pig Island) where you can get the beach experience you’ve been craving, but with a twist! At Pig Beach, beachgoers can meet and interact with the famous swimming pigs of The Bahamas. You’ll be delighted as they swim towards you and your party as you arrive on the island by boat. Even if you don’t fancy interacting with the pigs, spending some time at one of the beachfront all-inclusive resorts in Exuma is still a great way to get in a luxurious beach experience on these islands.

Expert tip: There are loads of interesting things to do in Exuma including golfing on Sandals’ award-winning golf course at Sandals Emerald Bay in Great Exuma!

2. Grace Bay, Turks & Caicos

From Miami: 2 hours

From New York: 3.5 hours

From Los Angeles: 5 hours 45 minutes

The Turks & Caicos Islands are not as far away as you might think. This destination is popular for beach vacations because there are many islands you can explore during your stay. Islands like Providenciales, where the stunning Grace Bay Beach is located, give you all the comforts of home wrapped up in a gorgeous Caribbean package.

Paradise in its true form, Grace Bay Beach is around three miles long and can be found to the north of Providenciales. This beach frequently makes the list of best beaches in the Caribbean and it’s easy to see why. In fact, Grace Bay Beach was once voted 2nd in Trip Advisor’s ranking of the World’s Best Beaches.

For vacationers looking to spend plenty of time at the local beach, Grace Bay Beach offers powdery white sand, which always seems so intricately placed, and clear and calm waters. The extensive length of this beach ensures it never seems overly crowded and the exquisite turquoise water is hard to resist dipping into. This is the perfect beach destination for families and pretty much anyone who enjoys the ocean.

Good to know: Planning on diving at Grace Bay Beach? There are some great coral reefs about a mile offshore from Grace Bay Beach where you can spot tropical fish, turtles, lobsters, stingrays, and more.

3. Dickenson Bay, Antigua

From Miami: 3 hours 15 minutes

From New York: 4 hours 10 minutes

From Los Angeles: 9 hours 15 minutes

Dickenson Bay in Antigua is a beautiful, sheltered bay that is as convenient as it is picturesque. Dickenson Bay beach is on the northwestern coast of the island, and it is loved for its beautiful white, fine sand, calm waters, the availability of water sports, and especially the swim-up bar in the middle of the ocean!

If you decide to spend your vacation near Dickenson Bay Beach, you can definitely get into some water sports activities and even take a trip on a glass-bottom boat. Lounge on the beach with a perfectly positioned beach chair beneath an umbrella rental to work on your tan while reading a good book. When you get hungry, pop into one of the beachfront restaurants like Coconut Grove Restaurant, which is open for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or just for drinks. For the best Dickenson Bay Beach experience, stay at one of the all-inclusive resorts in Antigua where you can take your beach vacation to the next level!

Expert tip: A swim-up bar experience at Dickenson Bay Beach is a vacation must. You can also enjoy the swim-up bars and up to 11 themed restaurants at Sandals Antigua.

4. Seven Mile Beach, Jamaica

From Miami: 1 hour 40 minutes

From New York: 3 hours 50 minutes

From Los Angeles: 7 hours 40 minutes (with 1 stop)

Situated in Negril, on the western shore of Jamaica, Seven Mile Beach really does have a way of taking people to a whole different world. This is the most popular beach in Jamaica and one of the top reasons to visit Negril. As the name suggests, this beach is quite extensive — the four miles of shoreline of Seven Mile Beach meet with three more miles of beach in an area known as Bloody Bay. Every inch of this beach is really incredible to see - so beautiful that many consider it one of the best beaches in the world.

At Seven Mile Beach, you’ll be able to enjoy calm, cool seas, and great conditions for diving and water sports. Water sports and dive equipment can be rented on the beach, and if you plan on spending the day here, you’ll have plenty of options for places to eat with so many restaurants, bars, and even a few all-inclusive resorts in Negril nearby.

5. Pigeon Island Beach, St. Lucia

From Miami: 3.5 hours

From New York: 4 hours 25 minutes

From Los Angeles: 9.5 hours

Pigeon Island in the north of Saint Lucia is a great option if you’re looking for a vacation destination where you can spend your days on more than one beach. Though the beach areas on Pigeon Island are along the same coast, they are separated by rocks and various other man-made features. One of these areas is near the town of Gros Islet, while the second is near Sandals Grande St. Lucian Beach Resort and Spa, one of the popular all-inclusive resorts in St. Lucia. Two smaller beaches can be found inside the Pigeon Island National Park, which you can access for a fee of $8 USD per person.

As a whole, Pigeon Island Beach is great for swimming, snorkeling, and just soaking up some sun. You can take boat tours around the area to get closer to the reefs or just to admire the beauty of this space. While on Pigeon Island, you might also want to explore Fort Rodney (a relic of the American Revolutionary War), get acquainted with the hiking trails, and admire the scenery inside the park.

Expert tip: While on Pigeon Island why not take advantage of the opportunity to visit one of the Caribbean’s best golf courses, the Sandals St. Lucia Golf & Country Club, which is both award-winning and family-friendly.

6. Sandals South Coast Beach

From Miami: 1 hour 40 minutes

From New York: 3 hours 50 minutes

From Los Angeles: 7 hours 40 minutes (with 1 stop)

While there are many widely known public beach options in Jamaica, there are also private beaches like Sandals South Coast Beach that you can visit while on the island. The perks of this beach in Whitehouse, Jamaica, which is owned by Sandals Resorts, are that it is kept well-manicured at all times and is very rarely crowded. This beach spot is definitely easy on the eyes and there are plenty of lounge chairs which you can settle into to take in the truly tropical views. For extra safety, there are lifeguards and security officers on the beach. Sandals guests can access this beach for free whenever they feel like it. This kind of exclusivity certainly ups the appeal of an all-inclusive beach vacation on this island!

Expert tip: The offshore reef at Sandals South Coast Beach is a great snorkeling spot for both beginners and advanced divers.

7. Sandals Montego Bay Beach

From Miami: 1h and 40m

From New York: 3h and 50m

From Los Angeles: 7h and 40m (with 1 stop)

If you’re looking for a more private beach experience at a destination that’s trendy and active, you’ll be able to find exactly that at Sandals Montego Bay Beach in Jamaica. This private beach in Montego Bay, is owned by Sandals Resorts, which means that if you stay at one of Sandals’ all-inclusive resorts in Montego Bay, you’ll have quick and easy access to the best beachside spots.

The shores of Sandals Montego Bay Beach are always immaculately clean, making for the perfect beach ambiance. The waters are as calm and clear as you would expect from a serene beach such as this, and palm trees sway ever so gently reminding you all the while of how lucky you are to have a moment like this in paradise.

You’ll feel safe at the beach here, with lifeguards on hand. Plus, you can easily get to other nearby attractions in Montego Bay, including Doctor’s Cave Beach, or even Dunn’s River Falls, which is a little over 1.5 hours from Montego Bay.

Best beach vacation destinations in Mexico

Mexico is not only known for its nightlife, but also its highly sought after beach destinations and luxury resorts. The beaches in Mexico are easily accessible from both the west and east coast making it a short flight from most major US cities.

1. Isla Holbox, Mexico

From Miami: 1h and 50m

From New York: 4h and 10m

From Los Angeles: 4h and 30m

Isla Holbox is located on the Yucatan Peninsula, off the north coast of Mexico. It is about two hours north of Cancun and can be easily accessed via ferry. It is much more relaxed than its counterparts in Cancun and Playa del Carmen. Additionally, there are stunning stretches of sand in the downtown area of Playa Punta Cocos which make for beautiful views of the sunset.

2. Cozumel, Mexico

From Miami: 1h and 45m

From New York: 5h and 50m

From Los Angeles: 6h and 10m

Cozumel is known for being one of the best family beaches in Mexico. This island is located off of the southeastern coast of the country, just off the Yucatan Peninsula. This beach is highly popular with families because of its calm waters and close proximity to the downtown area. There are also plenty of family-friendly excursions along the waters in Cozumel. You can find some of the best scuba diving and snorkeling opportunities here.

3. Isla Mujeres, Mexico

From Miami: 1h and 50m

From New York: 4h and 10m

From Los Angeles: 4h and 30m

Isla Mujeres is easily accessible from the coast of Cancun. You can visit this beach destination as a quick day trip from the mainland or as a full week long getaway. The views of the white sand beaches and turquoise water are absolutely unbeatable. The popular beaches in this area are lined with bars, calm waters, and other fun excursions.

Best beach vacation destinations in the USA — No passport needed

Looking to vacation somewhere a little closer to home? There are plenty of beautiful beach destinations in the United States that you can easily visit. Spanning both the east and west coast of the country, here are some of our favorite beaches that United States citizens can travel to without needing your passport.

1. San Diego, California

From Miami: 4h and 45m

From New York: 5h and 20m

From Los Angeles: 2h 30m (drive)

San Diego is one of the best vacation spots on the west coast for beach lovers. The city has tons of different types of beaches — the traditional sand and sea, cliff side, and bustling tourist towns. San Diego is perfect for either a weeklong visit or a quick weekend away if you live in California. It is easily accessible by plane from all major cities in the United States and easily drivable from most large cities in Southern California.

2. Hilton Head & Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

From Miami: 4h and 10m

From New York: 2h and 10m

From Los Angeles: 7h 50m (with one stop)

Hilton Head and Myrtle Beach are both gorgeous beach towns on the coast of South Carolina. If you are looking for the traditional boardwalk and beach experience, Myrtle Beach is your perfect option. If you’re after a more elevated beach experience, Hilton Head offers golf courses, luxury resorts, and delicious restaurants.

3. The Jersey Shore, New Jersey

From Miami: 2h and 50m

From New York: 1h and 40m (drive)

From Los Angeles: 5h 15m

There’s a reason that the Jersey Shore is one of the most popular beach destinations in the United States - it has just about everything. Relaxed boardwalk beach towns, exciting nightlife, and luxury resorts. Additionally, there are great opportunities for parasailing over the Atlantic at the Jersey Shore during the summer months. The Jersey Shore is also easily accessible from most large locations on the East Coast, being only a 1 hour and 40 minute drive from New York City.

4. Cape Cod, Massachusetts

From Miami: 3h and 20m

From New York: 3h and 20m flight or 4h 40m drive

From Los Angeles: 8h (with one stop)

Cape Cod is one of the United States’ quintessential beach towns. It is known for its cozy, small town vibes, unique eateries, and local boutiques. Additionally, there are some beautiful beaches located along the coast of Massachusetts at Cape Cod. While staying here, be sure to try some of the local seafood dishes, as that is what they are most known for.

5. Oahu, Hawaii

From Miami: 11h and 10m (with one stop)

From New York: 9h and 30m

From Los Angeles: 5h 20m

Hawaii is obviously known for its stunning white sand beaches, iconic scenery, and luxury resorts. Oahu has some of the best beaches in the state with the famous Waikiki Beach located on this island, as well as other stretches of sand that are just as beautiful. Here, you can experience Hawaiian culture, delicious food, and tons of new experiences. If you’re a surfer, you’ll love the waves on the Hawaiian beaches.

6. Outer Banks, North Carolina

From Miami: 2h and 20m

From New York: 1h and 45m

From Los Angeles: 7h 30m (with one stop)

Outer Banks is another popular beach destination within the United States. It is easily accessible from many major cities with either a flight or a short road trip. These small islands are surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean off of the coast of North Carolina. They have great shipwreck scuba diving spots, open sea beaches, and plenty of beautiful state parks to visit. There is truly something for everyone in the Outer Banks.

Bonus beaches — Private islands in the Caribbean!

Sandals Royal Bahamian Private Island

The already luxurious Sandals Royal Bahamian adds to the luxury with a private island that guests can get to via a short (5 minute) ferry ride. On this private offshore island, Sandals Barefoot Cay, guests can visit a spa that offers massages and beauty treatments, spend time in private cabanas and dive into the clear, blue waters for the most incredible snorkeling. A visit to this private island is perfect for a romantic date, or just basking in the Caribbean sunshine.

Insider tip: Sandals guests have access to some of the most interesting things to do in Nassau and can easily plan tours through the resort.

Sandals Royal Caribbean Private Island

It’s not every day the opportunity to vacation on a private island comes around. At Sandals Royal Caribbean in Montego Bay, you’ll have access to a remote island for the entire duration of your stay. This private island has additional amenities including a Thai restaurant, swim-up bar, a spa, private cabanas, a beautiful beach, and amazing snorkeling opportunities.

This resort/private island combo is perfect for couples who want to get away from it all. Passion and romance will come to life as you both experience the heights of island extravagance on one of the private offshore islands in the Caribbean.

Expert tip: Snorkeling in Montego Bay is highly recommended as this is a sure way to experience the beauty of Jamaica beneath the waves.

Shake it up for your next beach vacation

You don’t have to travel very far to have the wind in your hair, sand between your toes, and the most mesmerizing beachside views. Forget Maui or Oahu, and imagine yourself on one of the beautiful, sandy beaches of the Caribbean! There are many beach destinations there to choose from - all you’ll need to do now is choose the best one for you.

You can go for one of the islands with popular beaches that are loved by all who visit, islands with relatively secluded beaches, or even those with resorts like Sandals Royal Bahamian and Sandals Royal Caribbean with their own private island. In fact, Sandals’ all-inclusive resorts can be found at many of the best beach vacation destinations in the Caribbean, combining luxury, quality inclusions, and stunning beaches.

Whichever you choose, you’re sure to have plenty of beach time and adventure!

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About K. Williams, T. Thompson & W. van der Hoop.

A collaboration between seasoned travel writers, boasting over 30 years of collective experience in Caribbean travel.