Low-Key Locales: U.S. Beaches Off the Beaten Path
When most people describe their perfect summer vacations, they invariably mention over-crowded beaches, monstrously expensive dining options, and plenty of souvenir merchants begging for their hard-earned dollars.
But if you're the kind of traveler who prefers secluded surroundings, immaculate landscapes and breathtaking views, you might like one of the serene beachy vacations suggested by Doug Stallings of Fodor's. Stallings has worked in the travel publishing industry for over two decades, so he's an expert on choosing the perfect destination to suit anyone's tastes (however strange those tastes may be).
READ: 8 Celebrity Vacation Spots (And Their More Affordable Equivalents)
So for all you beach goers who favor peace and tranquility rather than overrun tourist traps, check out Stallings' best beach picks:
Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, Miami, Florida
"All the way at the end of Key Biscayne, at 1200 South Crandon Boulevard, is a wide, peachy-brown beach with usually gentle waves. The picnic area is popular with local families on weekends, but the beach itself never feels crowded. The park also includes miles of nature trails; bike, boat, beach char/umbrella rentals; and casual dining at the Lighthouse Café. You can fish off the piers by the marina, too. Come here for an escape from city madness."
Read more about Billy Baggs Cape Florida and plan your trip here.
Butterfly Beach, Montecito, California
"This hidden gem of a beach sits unassumingly in front of the iconic Four Seasons Resort — The Biltmore Santa Barbara in Montecito. It's filled with locals (including the many celebrities that call Santa Barbara home, or vacation-home) picnicking on the sand with a four-legged friend in tow (it's dog-friendly and they're even allowed off-leash). Because it's off the beaten path a bit, you'll find you can really spread out. Plus, the entrance and parking are free!"
Click here to book a stay at the Biltmore Resort Santa Barbara.
Caladesi Island State Park, Fla.
"Quiet, secluded, and still wild, this 3½-mile-long barrier island is one of the best shelling beaches on the Gulf Coast, second only to Sanibel. The park also has plenty of sights for birders—from common sandpipers to majestic blue herons to rare black skimmers—and miles of trails through scrub oaks, saw palmettos, and cacti (with tenants such as armadillos, rabbits, and raccoons). The landscape also features mangroves and dunes, and the gradual slope of the sea bottom makes this a good spot for novice swimmers and kids. You have to get to Caladesi Island by private boat (there's a 108-slip marina) or through its sister park, Honeymoon Island State Recreation Area, where you take the hourly ferry ride across to Caladesi. Ferry rides cost $14 per person."
Check out a review of Caladesi Island State Park at Fodor's.
Chatham, Cape Cod, Massachusetts
"The 2,500-acre Monomoy Islands (now Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge), a fragile nine-mile-long barrier-beach area south of Chatham that is accessible only by boat, is a haven for bird-watchers and an important stop along the North Atlantic Flyway for migratory waterfowl and shorebirds — peak migration times are May and late July."
Learn more about the Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge.
Hunting Island, South Carolina
"Secluded Hunting Island State Park has about three miles of public beaches — some dramatically and beautifully eroding. It harbors 5,000 acres of rare maritime forests. Nonetheless, the light sands decorated with driftwood and the raw, subtropical vegetation are breathtaking. Stroll the 1,300-foot-long fishing pier, among the longest on the East Coast, or you can go fishing or crabbing."
Start planning your trip to Hunting Island here.
Little St. Simons Island, Georgia
"Little St. Simons Island is 15 minutes by boat from St. Simons, but in character it’s a world apart. The entire island is a privately owned resort; there are no telephones and no TVs. There are seven miles of undisturbed beaches, where you can swim in the mild surf, fish from the dock, or seine for shrimp and crab in the marshes."
Fodor's has the details on the Lodge on Little St. Simons.
Pfeiffer Beach, Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, Calif.
"Through a hole in one of the gigantic boulders at secluded Pfeiffer Beach, you can watch the waves break first on the sea side and then on the beach side. Keep a sharp eye out for the unsigned, ungated road to the beach: it branches west of Highway 1 between the post office and Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. The 2-mile, one-lane road descends sharply."
Read more about Pfeiffer Beach in Big Sur.
Playalinda Beach, Titusville, Fla.
"The southern access for the Canaveral National Seashore, remote Playalinda Beach has pristine sands and is the longest stretch of undeveloped coast on Florida's Atlantic seaboard. Hundreds of giant sea turtles come ashore here from May through August to lay their eggs. Fourteen parking lots anchor the beach at one-mile intervals. From Interstate 95, take Exit 249 and head east. Bring bug repellent in case of horseflies, and note that you may see some unauthorized clothing-optional activity."
Begin here to plan a trip to Playalinda Beach.
Polihale State Park, Kekaha, Kauai, Hawaii
"The longest stretch of beach in Hawaii starts in Kekaha and ends about 15 miles away at the start of Napali Coast. At the Napali end of the beach is the five-mile-long, 140-acre Polihale State Park. In addition to being long, this beach is 300 feet wide in places and backed by sand dunes 50 to 100 feet tall. Polihale is a remote beach accessed via a rough, five-mile haul-cane road (four-wheel drive preferred but not required) at the end of Route 50 in Kekaha. Be sure to start the day with a full tank of gas and a cooler filled with food and drink. It may be "busy" at times, especially on weekends and holidays when it's popular with local campers, but it never feels crowded."
Learn more about Polihale State Park.
Waianapanapa State Park, Hana, Maui, H.I.
"Small but rarely crowded, this beach will remain in your memory long after your visit. Fingers of white foam rush onto a black volcanic-pebble beach fringed with green beach vines and palms. Swimming here is both relaxing and invigorating: Strong currents bump smooth stones up against your ankles while seabirds flit above a black, jagged sea arch. There are picnic tables and grills. At the edge of the parking lot a sign tells you the sad story of a doomed Hawaiian princess. Stairs lead through a tunnel of interlocking Polynesian hau (a native tree) branches to an icy cave pool — the secret hiding place of the ancient princess. You can swim in this pool, but beware of mosquitoes. In the other direction a dramatic three-mile coastal path continues past sea arches, blowholes, and cultural sites all the way to Hana town."
Can't spell Waianapanapa? Just click here to learn more.