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Cheap beach destinations

12 affordable short-haul seaside getaways  

Turn your beach holiday daydreams into reality with one of these 12 fantastic destinations that won’t break the bank. Whether you want to surf the Atlantic waves of the Algarve, build sandcastles with the kids or sip on a frozen cocktail on the sandy beaches of Ibiza, we have something for everyone. From lively resorts to quiet hideaways, there’s a place – and a price – to suit you.

  1. Croatia
  2. Turkey
  3. Portugal
  4. Bulgaria
  5. Morocco
  6. Montenegro
  7. Greece
  8. Malta
  9. Cyprus
  10. Spain
  11. The Canary Islands
  12. The Balearic Islands

1. Croatia

Rich in culture and history, with thousands of beautiful beaches, and less than three hours from the UK, Croatia is a great choice. On the Dalmatian coast, explore Zadar, which is famous for its Roman and Venetian history, and is within easy reach of quiet, pine-fringed beaches. Alternatively, there’s Split with an exciting mixture of history – the Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site – and modernity. It also has plenty of beaches, including the lively Bačvice, Split’s oldest official bathing area. Meanwhile, on the Istrian peninsula, Pula is worth considering for its impeccably-preserved Roman amphitheatre and the white pebble beaches on the wooded Verudela peninsula. 

Best beach: the white sands of Sakarun Beach on Dugi Otok island off the coast of Zadar. 

2. Turkey

Known for its turquoise seas, the resort city of Antalya on the Mediterranean coast has a wide choice of hotels to suit every budget. Hot summers and mild winters ensure it's an ideal year-round destination. Marmaris is another Mediterranean holiday spot well worth visiting. Green-cloaked mountains protect the sandy beaches from prevailing winds, making it excellent for water sports. Offshore, several small islands offer more secluded getaways. Then there’s the famous Bodrum on the southwest coast. With its castle, various museums, excellent restaurants and plenty of sandy beaches, it’s a great choice for mixing up a beach holiday with other activities.

Best beach: the 6 sandy kilometres of Marmaris' pine-shaded Icmeler beach. 

3. Portugal

As one of western Europe’s cheapest holiday destinations, Portugal is an obvious pick for a budget beach break. For surfers, the Algarve offers some of the world’s best – and most challenging – waves. It’s also the perfect spot for families: try Vila do Bispo with its enchanting blue and white houses. Vila do Bispo is also home to Burgau beach, known for the little pools that form at low tide, which are perfect for rockpooling with small children. And don’t overlook the western Portuguese coastline. Sesimbra is a fishing town just 40km from Lisbon that’s popular with Portuguese holidaymakers while in Costa Nova you’ll find some enchanting striped houses along a ribbon of land between a lagoon and the beach.

Best beach: the cliffs, coves, sea stacks and emerald waters of Praia da Marinha in the Algarve. 

4. Bulgaria

Bulgaria’s Black Sea coastline is an appealing alternative to the more usual budget beach holidays. Sometimes described as Europe’s best value resort, Sunny Beach Resort is a great option for anyone who wants to watch the pennies without skimping on beautiful sandy beaches, Blue Flag-certified swimming, an array of water sports and, after dark, some world-famous DJs. The sheltered bay makes the beaches ideal for families with young children and nearby water parks are an added bonus. Pomorie Beach is a quieter option that’s popular with older couples while wilderness lovers might head for Bolata Beach. 

Best beach: for sheer variety of entertainment plus the quality of the beaches, it's hard to beat Sunny Beach Resort. 

5. Morocco

As well as medinas, souks and desert sunsets, Morocco has beautiful beaches. Many of the stretches of golden sand along its mid-Atlantic coastline have far-reaching views towards Spain. Lively Agadir is one of the most popular spots, and with good reason. The beach is sheltered and benefits from lifeguard patrols in high season, palm trees shade its promenade and, overlooking it all, the Oufella ruins (better known as the Kasbah) are a must-visit. If you’re a wind surfer or kite surfer, you might prefer nearby Essaouira with its strong winds. To relax at the end of a day’s surfing, Essaouira’s fortified medina and the harbourfront, home to traditional fishing vessels, are enjoyable places for a wander.

Best beach: Plage d'Agadir thanks to its soft sand, picturesque mountain views and sheltered bay. 

6. Montenegro

If you’re looking for somewhere a little bit under the radar, Montenegro could be the perfect beach holiday destination for you. Its Adriatic coastline is home to gems such as the resort towns of Bečići and Budva. With sandy unspoiled beaches, crystalline waters and an array of hotels and entertainment options, it’s no surprise that Budva is Montenegro’s most popular seaside destination. Jaz Beach is good for families with children or, for those who don’t mind a short walk out of town, the lush green cliffs of Mogren Beach are a picturesque alternative. Plaža Ričardova Glava is another option that’s worth trying, not least to enjoy a drink in front of the beautiful Old Town.  

Best beach: Jaz Beach for its water sports, restaurants and cafes, and surrounding poplar forests. 

7. Greece

Greece’s variety of beaches – both on the mainland and its islands – ensure the perfect holiday to suit all tastes. Crete is a great pick for anyone looking to combine beachside fun with an exploration of the country’s ancient past. Kos also has plenty of ancient Greek and Roman history plus numerous sandy beaches. Kardamena is a good choice if your nightlife matters as much as the quality of your beach. Meanwhile, Corfu’s mountainous interior, Venetian history and wide choice of resorts ensure its ongoing appeal. Sidari’s sandy beach, nightlife and nearby water park is a popular choice. For something quieter, Kalami, once home to the Durrells, is a scenic hideaway in the north-east.

Best beach: the pink and white sands, and two shallow lagoons, of Crete's Elafonissi Beach. 

8. Malta

Mild winters and predictably warm summers ensure Malta’s year-round appeal. Although the island has plenty of resort towns, the hilltop town of Mellieha in the north is a laid-back alternative. At the bottom of the hill, and easily accessible thanks to a regular bus service, it has its own long sandy, gently-sloping beach that’s ideal for small children. For a different vibe, try Sliema, also in the north of the island. Once a fishing village, today’s Sliema still contains traditional Maltese buildings while its promenade is a great place to enjoy a morning run. Nearby St Julian's has some excellent bars, making this a popular destination for travellers wanting a combination of great beaches and a great nightlife scene.

Best beach: the sandy cove of Golden Bay on the north-west coast.  

9. Cyprus

An island with something for everyone, Cyprus is a great choice for a beach holiday. Paphos in the southwest is as popular with families as it is with history buffs wanting to delve into the island’s fascinating past. Several of Paphos’ beaches have Blue Flag status, including the small but well looked-after beach of Pachyammos. Perhaps better known by its stellar reputation as a party destination, Ayia Napa also has more than a dozen Blue Flag beaches that are perfect for relaxation before another night on the town. Then there’s the island’s largest resort, Limassol, which is an excellent choice if you want to intersperse beach activities with tours of the area’s wineries.

Best beach: the soft white sands of Makronissos Beach, set on a peninsula shaped like a dolphin's tail. 

10. Spain

Always popular, the Spanish mainland has any number of beach options. The aptly-named Costa del Sol in Andalusia offers the perfect combination of beautiful old towns and exciting resorts such as Marbella, Torremolinos and Benalmádena. Costa del Sol’s main city, Malaga, with its cathedral and Moorish citadel, is the place to go for a dose of culture – plus it has its own lively beaches with crystal-clear waters. Further to the north, in Catalonia, the Costa Brava also lives up to its name with rugged, unspoiled cliffs, impressive stretches of pine forest and brilliantly blue seas. It’s a great place to enjoy coastal walking and also offers some of Spain’s best dive sites, including Cadaqués.

Best beach: overlooked by a castle, Tossa de Mar on the Costa Brava is a beautiful sandy beach with a special roped-off area for swimmers. 

11. The Canary Islands

For reliable, year-round sunshine, it’s hard to beat the Canary Islands. The southern coast of Gran Canaria is popular with those holidaying with young children thanks to its shallow seas and family-friendly resorts like Puerto Rico de Gran Canaria. White sand-seekers should head to Corralejo in Fuerteventura, which is home to some spectacular sand dunes as well as being great for kitesurfing. Meanwhile, anyone wanting to experience the archipelago’s famous black sand beaches could try Benijo in Tenerife or Los Clicos in Lanzarote. Less-visited islands include La Palma, which is an excellent base for whale watching trips. 

Best beach: the lagoons in Fuerteventura's El Cotillo are peaceful, scenic and ideal for swimming.

12. The Balearic Islands

Shallow seas make Menorca ideal for families. The water's clarity also makes it great for diving, and its picturesque coves are even better in real life than on Instagram. Also popular with families, Majorca has a bit of everything. Its mountainous interior attracts hikers, while its cliffside roads lure cyclists. Palma has shopping and culture aplenty and its beaches span the gamut from large resorts with every conceivable facility to tucked-away coves you’ll share only with seabirds. Then, living up to its party island reputation, there's Ibiza. It also has a UNESCO-listed Old Town and some lovely quiet beaches just right for recuperating after a heavy night. Finally, Formentera’s white sand beaches and clear seas are made for nature-lovers. The luckiest might even see flamingos on the salt flats. 

Best beach: the turquoise waters of Cala Macarella in Menorca. 

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