Best international beach destinations
Total Cost of a Week for Two: $2,010
Mazatlán was one of Mexico’s most alluring beach destinations in the mid-20th century, and is once again, thanks to restoration efforts. Break away from the Zona Dorada (Golden Zone), the traditional tourist area, and instead wander the city’s old town and the Malecón, a four-mile stretch of boardwalk along the beach whose bars and restaurants still evoke the ’50s.
Many of the city’s hotels sit on Playa Las Gaviotas, which has calm waters sheltered by picturesque islands—but it also draws most of the area’s tourists. Try nearby Playa Olas Altas for a more relaxed local beach spot, though high waves means it’s often better for surfers than swimmers. Or hop on the ferry for a five-minute journey to Isla de la Piedra, where you’ll find long stretches of beautiful beaches bordered by coconut groves.
Hoi An, Vietnam
Total Cost of a Week for Two: $2,684
A coastal town situated on the Eastern Vietnam Sea, Hoi An offers a historical backdrop for its pristine, white sand beaches. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the city has roots that can be traced back to a 15th-century fishing port. Just four miles away from the city’s historic center is An Bang Beach, a laid-back beach lined with restaurants and resorts. Most will rent you a cabana for a few dollars, or give you one for free if you dine there. Cua Dai Beach, just a few miles away, with its super-fine, white powdery sand, used to be the city’s top beach but has suffered severe erosion in recent years.
Total Cost of a Week for Two: $2,734
Jimbaran Bay, a 20-minute drive from Ngurah Rai International Airport (Bali’s main airport), is home to some of the most picture-perfect beaches in the world, with calm water and white sand. Located on Bali’s southwestern coast, Jimbaran is also home to Tegal Wangi, a cliff beach with stunning views. Luxury resorts, such as the Four Seasons and the InterContinental, dominate the hotels scene, although there are a few mid-range options. Kuta Beach, just minutes from the airport, offers a more budget-friendly beach options, but it is generally more crowded and a bit of a party scene.
Total Cost of a Week for Two: $2,584
The western side of Phuket, Thailand’s largest island, is spotted with wide beaches and dramatic rock formations, earning the spot worldwide fame as a beach destination. Thanks to the throngs of tourists that flock there, some of those areas may not be as relaxed and pristine as you imagine. Patong, the island’s most developed beach, is known as much for its nightlife party scene as for its water activities. For a quieter feel, try the popular but undeveloped Kamala Beach, which has coral reefs on its north side. Those seeking less touristy spots should cruise around Phang Nga Bay to reach spectacular sheer limestone cliffs, caves, and remote beaches, or visit Sirinat National Park to view some of the prettiest stretches of pristine beach and sea turtle nesting areas.
Total Cost of a Week for Two: $2,009
At first glance, this South American beach destination conjures the feel of Miami Vice, with soaring skyscrapers on the water’s edge in Bocagrande, the city’s longest beach. But Cartagena has several great beach options—including Castillogrande, with is slightly grayish volcanic sand, and La Boquilla, a fishing village four miles to the south that sits beside a mangrove swamp.
If you’re looking for the traditional crystal-clear water and golden sandy beaches, head to Isla Baru, and its most famous beach, Playa Blanca. It’s about an hour by boat from Cartagena, so most people come for the day via a tour to snorkel and sunbathe.
This article originally appeared in Money.