If you’re craving a dreamy beach vacation, here are our must-see seven picks for stress-free spots to relax and unwind. From the crystal waters of the coast of Bali to the vibrant snorkeling and surfing in Puerto Rico, each of these stunning locations has precisely what you need for a perfect getaway.
Did you know that being outdoors and in open, relaxing spaces can reduce stress and blood pressure? Walking along a serene shoreline is a perfect way to get your steps in while rewarding you with calming blue waters to look at, and it helps decompress from Zoom meetings and hectic work-life schedules. Science aside, who doesn’t enjoy sitting in a cabana soaking up some sun while reading a good book?
Now, more than ever, setting up time for personal relaxation is becoming more important. But, when it comes to planning an ideal beach holiday, sometimes it is more complicated than a long weekend to a picturesque destination. These are the top 7 getaways you should book right now.
Key West, Florida
Get that laid-back island vibe without ever leaving the mainland by heading to the southernmost point of the United States in Key West, Florida. Perfect for simply relaxing at a slower pace, the beautiful beaches are always welcoming. Rent a car from Miami or Fort Lauderdale and take the easy 4-hour drive, crossing the famous Seven Mile Bridge, then park and opt for a beach cruiser for the rest of your trip.
Key West beaches are truly the most laid-back on this list. It’s home to the Hemmingway House, with its iconic polydactyl cats, and where you can tour the gardens. You can also try stand-up paddle boarding or kayaking in the calm waters or soaking up the sun while lying on one of the public beaches. Or enjoy the island’s easygoing bars and overall feeling, inspiring some of Jimmy Buffets’ greatest hits.
Traveler Tip: Remember, Florida is known for its snowbirds, so consider heading to Key West in the shoulder seasons, like March through May or September through November, for a less crowded, more relaxed experience.
There are many quick flights from the East Coast to many Caribbean islands for a dreamy beach vacation, but Puerto Rico is one of the best. From pristine white sands to fun outdoor activities from snorkeling and surfing to hiking the El Yunque rainforest, it’s the perfect island landscape for anyone seeking an adventurous trip.
When you’re ready for some history, visit the historic inner city of Old San Juan, with well-preserved Spanish colonial architecture and historical sites dating back to the 16th century. Meander through Calle San Sebastián, a famous street for nightlife with bars and clubs featuring live music and dancing. The area also features a variety of restaurants and cafes offering outdoor seating and great views of the city.
Traveler Tip: US citizens do not need a passport to enter Puerto Rico, speeding up the time entering or exiting the country. However, we recommend having an updated Real ID card and carrying your passport if you plan to hop to other islands. With quick nonstop flights out of New York daily, jet-setting to a dreamy destination like Puerto Rico for a long weekend is a perfect beach holiday from the East Coast.
If you want iconic beaches, lush tropical jungles, and volcanic peaks, Hawaii is an iconic vacation spot. Hike to incredible vistas and flowing waterfalls, and depending on what island you’ve decided to visit, there’s even a chance of seeing an active volcano.
One of the most exciting things about Hawaii’s beaches is that there are no private beaches (except for Federal land). All beaches are accessible to the public as part of common law and as you travel along the coast, stopping from one beach to the next is an adventure. Along with the breathtaking views, the rich culture of traditional Hawaiian villages and customs is not to be missed. Make sure to immerse yourself in the Polynesian history
Traveler Tip: When it comes to a quick trip to Hawaii, it can be tempting to pack as much in as possible by hopping from island to island, but for true relaxation, give yourself a few days on just one of the islands. See how we spent nine days on Oahu on a budget.
Cabo San Lucas
Just a 3-hour direct flight from Los Angeles, this enclave of stunning Mexican coastline is the perfect quick weekend getaway from the West Coast. Here, you’ll find rocky cliffs that meet the clear waters of the Pacific Ocean with miles of shoreline lined with luxury resorts. Shorter than a flight to Hawaii, you can usually find a room at a 4+ star resort for a three-day weekend whenever you need a tropical destination.
You can simply relax at the cabana overlooking the infinity pool or go swimming with dolphins, take a fishing tour, or enjoy a sunset boat cruise. After a quick 1-hour shuttle ride from the local airport, flying into and getting to your destination is stress-free. And once relaxing in Cabo, there’s no shortage of nightlife, local restaurants, and bars, with easy taxi services to get about. A spontaneous trip to Cabo always makes for an unforgettable beach destination.
Traveler Tip: The resorts have a wide variety of on-site restaurants, but grabbing a taxi and finding something out of the resort can be a fun trip through town. Head down to the marina for fresh fish or further up the coast for rooftop restaurants with incredible views.
The Greek Islands
Transport yourself back in time while also experiencing some of the most stunning beaches in the world. The Greek Islands are renowned for their fine white sand, crystal-clear waters, and picturesque views. Each of the islands scattered through the Aegean and Ionian Seas are unique from the others offering exciting views, shopping and nightlife.
The abundance of activities you can discover on the Greek Islands is only limited by your time there. From diving into the pristine waters or viewing the ruins of ancient places like the Palace of Knossos on Crete, it’s easy to become entranced with the history and beauty of this island. After a day of soaking in the sun, venture into the traditional towns and villages to taste amazing cuisine, fresh seafood, and traditional dishes.
Traveler Tip: The Greek Islands are best visited from late spring through fall. Although beautiful in the winter months, you may not find as many places open for businesses in the slower season.
If you’ve got a week to relax to the sound of crashing waves, look at flights to Bali. Also known as the Island of the Gods, it is a tropical paradise known for its beautiful beaches, lush jungles, and vibrant culture. Walk from white sands to shorelines made of black volcanic ash, then take in the island’s culture and history by exploring traditional Balinese villages and seeing the beautiful temples, traditional dances, and ceremonies.
While relaxing in Bali, treat yourself to one of their famous massages and spa treatments along with sunrise yoga for a truly relaxing beach holiday. Bali is the perfect destination if you’re looking for a tropical paradise with a rich cultural heritage.
Traveler Tip: All visitors are required to have a valid passport with at least six months remaining before expiration. So before booking your dream trip, double-check your travel documents.
The Azores are a group of nine islands off the coast of Portugal. With incredible volcanic landscapes, their black beaches are a once-in-a-lifetime destination. Similar to Hawaii, but off the coast of Europe in the Atlantic Ocean, the Azores may be quicker to travel to depending on where you live in the US.
Immerse yourself in a rich culture and customs. Learn about the island’s history and culture by visiting the local museums, attending festivals, and trying local food. Go whale watching; the island is known for its abundance of marine life all year long. Or hike through lush forests with orchids and wild ferns to spectacular summits.
Altho stunning, this is not a crowded party destination. The Azores are an idea for nature-conscious travel that truly wants to disconnect and rejuvenate their senses.
Traveler Tip: The Azores are known for frequent rain, so pack an umbrella and raincoat for exploring the islands.
When to Get the Most Out of Your Trip? Go Off-Season.
Want to find the best time of year for the most bang for your buck? Look for off-season times to travel. Other than peak hurricane seasons, most of these locations have great weather all year round for sitting and soaking up the sun.
You could save thousands of dollars by being flexible and improvisational. Consider mid-week travel for cheaper flights and hotel rates. And if you’re feeling incredibly spontaneous, last-minute room rates can be the best value.
And avoid, at all costs, traveling during peak times like spring break, when resorts are crowded and prices are at a premium.
What to Pack in a Carry-on for a Beachy Destination
Stop overpacking and consider what you need for a relaxing vacation. When you break it down, you can fit everything you need in one carry-on suitcase.
- Two bathing suits
- One cover-up
- One nice dress or jumpsuit or casual slacks and button-up shirt*
- Three skirts or shorts
- Three tops, the lighter and more breathable, the better
- Casual walking shoes, open-toed sandals if possible
- One pair of nicer shoes you can still comfortably walk in
Always check resort guidelines for the evening dinner dress code, as most resorts request men wear long pants to dinner.
Escape to a world of crystal clear waters, white sandy beaches, and delicious local cuisine. From quick getaways to weeklong sabbaticals in breathtaking destinations, these vacations offer the ultimate relaxation and rejuvenation. Don’t wait any longer; book your dream beach trip for the ultimate getaway experience!
Kita Roberts is a world-traveled photographer, award-winning chef, and content creator writing for GirlCarnivore.com, PasstheSushi.com, and RomanticWeekendGetaways.com