10 beach destinations that will feel far away from anything you want to leave behind, no long flights required.
In case you haven’t heard, 2022 is the year of travel.
According to The World Travel & Tourism Council (W.T.T.C.), travel will reach pre-pandemic levels in 2022. “Our latest forecast shows the recovery significantly picking up this year as infection rates subside and travelers continue benefiting from the protection offered by the vaccine and boosters,” Julia Simpson, the president and chief executive officer of the W.T.T.C., told The New York Times. “As travel restrictions ease and consumer confidence returns, we expect a welcome release of pent-up travel and demand.”
This type of travel has been unofficially dubbed “revenge travel”: the desire to make up for the time stolen by Covid, rising gas prices, and other recent challenges that have kept many travelers grounded.
And for those who didn’t travel a ton before the pandemic or had a habit of putting off trips until some unspecified later date, being cooped up might have shown them what they were missing and risking by staying put. (Think of all the places you could have visited between the start of the pandemic and now. Actually, don’t do that – it’ll just make you mad.)
All of this leads us to our next advice: Book some trips! Maybe it’s finally time to take that dream European jaunt you’ve been putting off for years, or perhaps you’re going on a budget-friendly family camping trip this summer.
But, if you’re anything like us, you’re craving a really relaxing jaunt, to help wash away the tension that’s built up over the past few years of unrest. That kind of craving calls for a beach vacation.
The best beach getaway consists of endless opportunities to sit in the sand (or by the pool) where the only recurring stressor is what your next meal will be. But ideally, there’d be some sort of some cultural immersion, too, in case you get bored of the beach (seemingly impossible, but you might need a break).
Many of us are still choosing to wear masks on planes, and an ultra-long plane ride in a mask is no fun. (Actually, a long plane ride after you haven’t flown in a few years can be a bit of a shock, regardless of your mask stance.) To that end, we’ve found 10 exotic beach destinations that are close to the U.S. — less than 5 hours by plane from various parts of the country — that will still feel far away from anything you want to leave behind.
Best Beach Vacations and Hotels Near the U.S.
The exquisite islands of the Bahamas are just a few hours away by plane for many Americans, and the hardest part about planning this trip will be picking which island to visit. If you’re traveling with kids, Nassau is the obvious choice with its endless activities. But if you’re on an adults-only vacay, we challenge you to avoid the obvious and opt for Grand Bahama Island. This equally exotic island is developed enough to offer high-end hotels but not so touristy that it’s lost all the local charm. We recommend visiting Port Lucaya for handmade straw goods and nighttime music and dancing. For hotels, the Pelican Bay Hotel has the amenities you want but in a small-ish, boutique-style resort. It’s right by Port Lucaya, sits steps away from the beach, and has enough outdoor pools to satisfy each water-loving person in your party.
If you want something more off the beaten path, Eleuthera is home to endless pink beaches and rustic resorts and is a brief flight from Miami. We’re suckers for Marriott’s French Leave Resort, which is a villa-filled property along the crystal clear, azure waters of Governors Harbor. It has the amenities of a high-end resort but the villas make the experience anything but a typical hotel stay.
Sint Maarten/Saint Martin
There are two sides to this island — the French and the Dutch. While you can’t go wrong with either pick, we prefer the Dutch side, Sint Maarten, for its famous Maho Beach. This is the beach you’ve seen in YouTube videos; landing at the airport next to this beach, the planes fly past so low, it seems like you could touch them (but don’t worry, you definitely can’t). For the same reason and more, we recommend staying at the Sonesta Ocean Point or Maho Beach All-Inclusive Resort, Casino and Spa (two connected hotels that are adults-only and family-friendly, respectively), which are right on that beach but blocked off so that you aren’t packed inside the sea of tourists who flock there each day from all over the island.
Too close for comfort? There are other famous beaches within walking distance that see a lot less air traffic. These two attached resorts’ views get better and better as you explore the property’s nooks and crannies. The on-site restaurants range from casual to uber romantic, and the swim-up bar offers entertainment for days. The Ocean Point Resort even has swim-out rooms with private or shared pools. But we do recommend venturing off the resort — rent a kayak to transport yourself to the tiny, uninhabited (but catered by two restaurants) Pinel Island.
Unlike some tropical havens, St. Lucia offers more than just a gorgeous stretch of sandy beach. This Caribbean island is brimming with dramatic mountainscapes (perfect for hiking off those local rum punches), a 19,000-acre National Rain Forest, hot springs, and best-in-class snorkeling excursions. This lush island is a top destination for honeymooners, but you’ll find plenty of adventure, relaxation, and special moments around every corner even if you’re not newly hitched. St. Lucia’s home to exceptional five-star resorts including Sugar Beach and Jade Mountain, but the chocolate lovers that we are, we’re fans of the Rabot Hotel by Hotel Chocolat which has an eco-friendly, barefoot-luxury vibe. Situated on a working cacao farm high up in the hills of the jungle with sprawling views of the Piton mountains, the resort features wellness classes, like yoga, and an exclusive “Tree to Bar” experience that’ll give you a first-hand glimpse into how cacao is ethically harvested for use in the British brand’s chocolates.
Situated only 650 miles off the coast of North Carolina’s Outer Banks, this sunny paradise is just over two hours from both New York City and Boston by plane. But just because it’s a quick flight from the East Coast doesn’t mean this British overseas territory is any less tropical than some of the other destinations on this list. In fact, the sunny island’s known for its pink sand beaches, turquoise waters, limestone caves, and rich history. Stay at the Hamilton Princess hotel, dubbed “the pink palace” by locals, and step back in time into a century-old fortress that was used as a communications center for Europe and America during World War II. (Mark Twain even visited.) Whether you want to sit by the hotel’s sprawling beach club with a mojito in hand or head out on a boat tour around the island to learn about its rich history, there’s no shortage of things to do for couples, families, and history buffs alike. And be sure to make a visit to the town of St. George, a UNESCO World Heritage site, which is home to stunning colonial architecture that dates back to the early 17th century.
Located in Central America, Belize features a few beach destinations to choose from. Most flights will arrive in Belize City, but if you’re looking for sun, sand, and surf, we recommend taking the quick 25-minute flight to the area of Placencia in the southern part of the country. There, amidst palm tree-lined beaches, you’ll discover Itz’ana Resort & Residences, a design-forward hotel with every amenity under the sun. Whether it’s a spa treatment, yoga or chocolate-making class, river tour, horseback riding, deep-sea fishing, or Mayan archeological site visit to nearby Nim Li Punit that’s on your agenda, you won’t *belize* (sorry) the array of activities you can indulge in. The resort also offers a package where you can double up your stay with a visit to their sister property, Ka’ana Resort, a boutique hotel with a focus on sustainability that’s located right in the heart of the jungle near the town of San Ignacio.
Jamaica has a lot to offer. You can allow yourself to be swallowed whole by a luxurious all-inclusive resort. You can have a more culturally immersive experience by bopping between some of the bustling towns on the island. Or you can take to the water and parks to explore Jamaica’s natural offerings. Of course, you could also combine all three: If you’re looking for any or all of those experiences, we’d point you to the Grand Palladium Jamaica Resort and Spa, as it’s located close to gems like Montego Bay, Negril, and more, but has so much to offer on the property, including multiple pools, a private beach, and a multifaceted spa that will impress and destress. Not to mention that the architecture of the hotel is captivating, especially at sunset, so simply walking along the property is a real treat. But, as tempting as it is to stay put, make sure you leave the hotel to explore the local gastronomy, the Jamaican way of living, and the topography of the island.
Turks & Caicos
If you’re looking for an idyllic, world-class beach retreat, Turks & Caicos needs to rise to the top of your list. The island’s home to Grace Bay beach, a 3-mile stretch of silky white sand, clear blue waters, and colorful reefs, which helped it earn the ranking of number one beach in the world. Along the Providenciales shoreline, first-class resorts, restaurants, spas, and boutiques line up one after the next underneath the soft blue sky (often without a cloud in sight). Basically, there’s no shortage of fun or relaxation to be had here. The all-inclusive Alexandra Resort located right on Grace Bay is a great option for families — kids 12 and under stay and eat for free. They have one- to four-bedroom suites, four restaurants, and even a Caribbean jerky hut right on the beach. The pristine and utterly romantic Seven Stars Resort & Spa is another wonderful option on Grace Bay beach if you’re traveling as a couple. No matter where you choose to stay, rest assured you’re unwinding on the very best of the best beaches in the world.
Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
There’s a multitude of reasons everyone from celebs to trendy teens to golf enthusiasts count Cabo San Lucas, Mexico as their second home. For one, it’s an easy and quick flight from multiple hubs in the U.S., west or east coast. It also has something to offer nearly every demographic, with high-end luxury resorts, celebrity-chef-run restaurants, world-class golfing, secluded beaches, and Vegas-vibe nightlife. To get a taste, book a stay at the JW Marriott Los Cabos Beach Resort & Spa, a beachfront location in San Jose del Cabo, where the Sea of Cortez meets the Pacific Ocean. It’s home to a 27-hole golf course, six restaurants, and a decadent design style that travels from the lobby to the rooms.
The Cayman Islands are made up of three islands: Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac, and Little Cayman. You’ll want to stay on the largest of the three, Grand Cayman, which is known for its family-friendly resorts, shoreline restaurants, and epic snorkeling sites. Head straight to Seven Mile Beach for a stay at the luxurious Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort, which claims to embody “endless summer” vibes, and reviewers vouch for that. After a long day of travel, grab a watermelon spritz and watch the sky light up into a fiery red at Vista, their beachfront bar, during sunset. Come morning, make a choice between breakfast in bed, by the pool, or right on the silky white-sand beach. The island’s also famous for its tax-free shopping, so if you’re looking to splurge on some name-brand jewelry, this is the perfect place to save some money. Maybe you’ll decide to put those extra savings toward a decadent spa treatment at the La Prairie Spa inside The Ritz Carlton. Whatever’s on the agenda, rest assured you’ll return home with a fabulous tan and relaxing memories spent by turquoise blue waters.