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Cheap sunny holidays: budget-friendly destinations for sun and fun

Travel may be off limits for now, but that doesn't mean we can't make plans for the future. We hope that articles like this one will help you plan your next experience, whenever that may be.

The UK may be in lockdown for now, but that doesn’t stop us from daydreaming about the holidays that eventually await us. And we mean the whole package: sandy beaches, warm weather and prices that won’t drain our budget. From Spain and Egypt to Asia and the US, here are some great ideas for cheap beach holidays to book in the future, when the world reopens.

Note: Always consult local government guidelines and restrictions before booking travel. And make sure to use Skyscanner’s handy tools to look for flexible tickets so that you can book with confidence.

10 top destinations for cheap beach holidays

  1. Malaga, Spain
  2. Ibiza, Spain
  3. Algarve, Portugal
  4. Nice, France
  5. Pula, Croatia
  6. Antalya, Turkey
  7. Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt
  8. Bali, Indonesia
  9. Orlando, Florida, US
  10. Da Nang, Vietnam

Short-haul cheap beach holidays

1. Malaga, Spain

Malaga is perfect for cheap beach holidays

Southern Spain is bang-on for cheap beach holidays, and with many flights from the UK (lockdowns permitting), Malaga is both easily accessible and easy on the pocket. During summer, average temperatures in this artsy coastal destination – the birthplace of Pablo Picasso – range from 23°C to 26°C, perfect for lazy days on the beach, enjoying leisurely lunches and picking out your favourite yacht in the glitzy harbour.

Pick up a traditional sombrero or panama hat in the delightfully old-fashioned milliners, Ricardo del Cid Fernandez on Calle Caldereria. If you can drag yourself away from Malaga, then it’s a convenient starting point for exploring the rest of the Costa del Sol and Andalusia. The main coastal road, the A7, connects most of the major towns in this region of Spain. Hire a car and set off to glamorous, mountain-backed Marbella, just a quick half hour drive from Malaga.

Best beach?

With 15 beaches within its city limits and countless more down the coast, you won’t go long without sand between your toes in Malaga. Try sparkling-clean La Playa de la Caleta, a local favourite.

Top attraction?

Step back into Malaga’s North African past and explore Alcabaza, a Moorish castle built in the eleventh century, or the Castillo de Gibralfaro which sits on a large hill overlooking the city. Take the bus to the top if you don’t fancy sweating it out under the Spanish sun.

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Check out the latest news about travelling to Spain from the UK.

2. Ibiza, Spain

Despite its reputation, it's possible to have a cheap beach holiday in Ibiza

This small (it’s only 42km in length) Balearic Island has a big reputation. Famous for its super-clubs, all-night beach parties, and packed street bars, Ibiza is the go-to summer holiday spot for school leavers, ravers and all-round party animals from July to September. Most of the hardcore revellers head to Ibiza Town or San Antonio, where you’ll find the biggest nightclubs. Pacha and Amnesia are two of the island’s most famous clubs, regularly hosting top international DJs like David Guetta and Apollonia, but they can be pretty pricey places to party.

If you’re looking for rest and relaxation rather than all-night raves then head to the quieter resort of Santa Eulalia: enjoy the refined, laidback atmosphere and unwind with a chilled cerveza in one of the many waterfront bars you’ll find here. You may also find fewer crowds in Ibiza – and cheaper flights – towards the end of September, after the closing parties have finished up the season.

Best beach?

Families looking for cheap beach holidays in Ibiza should check out Cala d’Hort, a beach town in the west of the island where locals go to spend time building sand castles with the kids. There’s also a superb paella restaurant, Es Boldado, within walking distance from the sands.

Top attraction?

Don’t miss D’alt Villa, or Ibiza Town’s fortified upper portion, complete with cathedral, castle, former convent, and plenty of medieval lanes to get pleasantly lost in. See more Balearic beauty spots with our rundown of the best places to visit in the islands.

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3. Algarve, Portugal

The Algarve is ideal for cheap beach holidays

When in search of cheap beach holidays, don’t overlook the Algarve. You can swim in the Atlantic Ocean off one of the 100 beaches in this southern Portuguese region. The easiest (and cheapest) way to get there is to fly to Faro. You can kick off your Portuguese beach tour straight from the airport with a trip to Praia de Faro, just a short ride on the airport bus. The beach here is so big that you’re guaranteed a spot to throw down your towel, even at the height of the summer holidays.

Another city to stop in is Albufeira. Once a small fishing village, it’s now a burgeoning holiday favourite for many Brits, largely because of its beautiful beaches, the most popular of which is Praia dos Pescadores next to Albufeira old town. Grab a few suitably tacky souvenirs along Avenida Sá Carneira, before heading to Teodosio restaurant for traditional Portuguese piri-piri chicken that puts Nandos in the shade. Public transport is limited (although the train connecting Lagos with the Spanish border is relatively convenient) so the best way to explore the Algarve is typically by car.

Best beach?

If you want to escape the swarms of tourists on package holidays in Albufeira then head to the smaller beaches of Praia do Lourenço or Praia da Galé, a 10-minute drive from the centre of the city.

Top attraction?

Look out for Ria Formosa, a beautiful coastal park made up of a lagoon, several islands and two peninsulas. The geographical variety here almost guarantees you a wildlife sighting, whether it’s a rare flamingo, a shoal of seahorses, or a chameleon.

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4. Nice, France

Nice is perfect for cheap beach holidays, despite its glitzy reputation

Fancy a few nights quaffing champagne, riding around in fast cars and eating some of the finest cuisine in the world? Well, it’s certainly an option in the French Riviera. But when your mission is ‘cheap beach holidays’ you can swap expensive fizz for supermarket Prosecco, Lamborghinis for a local Lignes d’Azur bus, and first class for cheap holiday flights and hotels. And Nice is a beautiful place to enjoy the sunshine without spending a fortune.

For budget eats, stock up at the daily market in Vieux Nice or Cours Saleya. Buy all the ingredients to make your own traditional tuna sandwich, a pan bagnat, (baguettes start from around €1) to take on a picnic atop one of the many vantage points, including Mont Boron. Other local specialties include socca (chickpea flatbread), pissaladiere (a sort of pizza topped with anchovies, olives, and onions) and of course, salade Nicoise (tuna salad). When you’re not stuffing your face, check out Nice’s art galleries, including those dedicated to the works of Marc Chagall and Henri Matisse.

Best beach?

Head down the coast to Antibes or Cannes if you want smooth white sand. Nice has its fair share of pretty beaches, but you may need to go private to find a nice shady spot off the uncomfortably hot pebbles.

Top attraction?

France is famous for its wine, so it would be rude not to give it go while you’re here. Turn it into an educational opportunity with a trip to the Château de Bellet vineyard and learn about the winemaking process, before sampling some of the goods, bien sur.

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Cheap sunny holidays off the beaten track

5. Pula, Croatia

Pula is a great destination for cheap beach holidays

Croatia is fast-becoming a superstar for Brits looking for cheap beach holidays abroad, but it still receives only a tiny proportion of tourists compared to Spain or France.

Hot summers (average temperatures for June to August are between 25°C and 28°C), an abundance of beaches and islands dotted along the Istrian and Dalmatian Coast (there are 1,185 of them!), and low in-resort costs make Croatia an ideal alternative to better-known summer destinations. Interested? Then you should set your sights on Pula, a small though well-storied town on the tip of the Istrian peninsula and its pretty Italianate neighbour, Rovinj. Both have gorgeous harbours with much scope for cycling, walking, and people-watching. Visit the beautiful beaches and protected parkland in nearby Premantura (8km from Pula), a popular spot for scuba divers and mountain bikers.

Best beach?

The immediate coastline around Pula has mostly rock and pebble beaches, albeit photogenic ones. But if you’re looking for a sandy place to stretch out, try Bijeca Beach this summer, located in Medulin and 10km south east from the centre of Pula.

Top attraction?

Discover the area’s Roman heritage with a trip to the Arena, the sixth largest surviving amphitheatre in the world. Many of the stones were taken by locals to build their homes but, luckily, enough survive for you to wander around and explore the caverns below.

Discover more of this gorgeous region in our guide to the best of Pula and Rovinj.

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6. Antalya, Turkey

Antalya is a perfect destination for cheap beach holidays

The largest city on the Turkish Med coast, Antalya, is a great destination for cheap beach holidays. A five-hour flights away, Turkey is slightly further afield but makes a good value destination. You’ll be happy if you like it hot: temperatures in Antalya hit highs between 30°C and 34°C.

There are many ways to get around the city, but one mode of transport unique to Turkey that you should try is the dolmus. A crammed minibus, crawling along the curbs waiting to be hailed down so the driver can stuff a few more passengers on board, they’re not the most comfortable ride but you’ll get an insight into local life and save a few euros on taxi fares at the same time. Blag a ride to Kaleiçi, Antalya’s old quarter. Enter through Hadrianus Gate and try not to get lost in the maze-like streets as you work your way around restored Ottoman dwellings. Stay the night here at one of the many intimate hotels, like the seven-bedroom Minyon Hotel.

Best beach?

Take some air down at Konyaalti Beach, an easy tram ride from the city centre heading west. With stretches of pristine sands, the Bey Mountains in the distance and water-sports, a marine animal park and a water-slide park close by, there’s plenty to keep you and your family blissfully busy during the holidays.

Top attraction?

Don’t miss Antalya’s answer to the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Broken Minaret, standing in the midst of the ruined Korkut Mosque. Other impressive historical sites include the fluted minaret at Yivli Minare and the Ottoman clock tower in Saat Kulesi.

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7. Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt

Sharm el Sheikh is a great destination for beach holidays

The charm of Sharm, or at least one of them, is that it boasts blazing sunshine pretty much all year round, with temperatures staying around 30°C from May to October. You can also fly straight to the resort via Sharm El Sheikh International Airport, making it a straightforward option for cheap sunny holidays abroad.

The heat means that staying close to water is preferable, from keeping a bottle handy to picking a hotel with a stellar swimming pool. Na’ama Bay draws the largest number of tourists, with its clubs, cafés and shops, and is a popular holiday destination for scuba divers and sun worshippers alike. Some of the world’s best scuba sites lie just beneath the warm waves of the Red Sea: Tiran, Ras Mohammed, and the SS Thistlegorm wreck are just a few world-class reefs accessible from Sharm by a two-hour boat ride. Prefer to stay on terra firma? Spend Arabian nights out in the Egyptian desert on a Sinai Safari, guided over the sands by a Bedouin, the local nomadic tribespeople. Packages start at about £240 per person and include sights like the Ein Hudra Oasis and Al hedouda, Sinai’s largest dune, as well as food, drink and your very own camel.

Best beach?

You can sit on the hotel-owned beaches (though not on the chairs or at the tables) without staying there, but if you want a comfortable beach experience in Sharm, go for a top beach hotel. Booking a room separately can be affordable enough to rival cheap package holidays, even at swish resorts like Royal Oasis Na’ama Bay which has its own complimentary transport to the beach.

Top attraction?

Pick a tour with a stop at St. Catherine’s Monastery on the side of Mount Sinai, for an unforgettable climb (preferably as the sun rises) up to this ancient holy site, where Moses was said to have received the Ten Commandments.

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Cheap beach holidays in dreamy locations for longer getaways

8. Bali, Indonesia

Bali is a great destination for cheap beach holidays

One of 17,000 islands in the Indonesian archipelago, Bali, also known as the Island of the Gods, is a pretty heavenly place – think lush green rice terraces, clifftop temples, volcanic peaks and swathes of golden sands. Most of the resorts are concentrated in the south of the island, particularly in Kuta, Denpasar (where you’ll arrive at Bali Airport) and Seminyak. Kuta is crowded each year largely with Aussie tourists and surfers hoping to catch some waves along the beach. You’ll find the usual spattering of souvenir shops, fast food joints and cheap bars in Jalan Legian street and Poppies Lane, an area popular with backpackers and party-goers.

For more high-end hangouts, head to Nusa Dua, a 20- to 30-minute drive from Kuta and spend the day in a five-star hotel spa at the St. Regis Bali Resort, or dine in one of the many Michelin star-quality restaurants in this exclusive bay. And that’s just the coast. Ubud (central Bali) is considered the cultural hub of the island, home to some of the finest examples of Indonesian arts and dance.

Best beach?

It’s hard to know where to start, since Bali seems encircled by near-perfect beaches, but to really escape the crowds, head to one of the smaller islands offshore. Nusa Penida is known for its colourful snorkelling and diving opportunities, while Nusa Lembongan is a good place to chill in front of spectacular mountain views back across the water.

Top attraction?

There are plenty of temples and palaces to check out in Bali, but if you’ve only got time for one, make it Puri Saren Agung, the Royal Water Palace in Ubud, the perfect setting for a traditional dance performance on an open-air stage surrounded by lily pad filled ponds.

We’ve got lots more ideas for what to do in Bali: check out our local’s guide to the island.

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9. Orlando, Florida

Orlando is a great place for cheap beach holidays

The big, brash attractions at Disney World and the rest of Orlando’s theme parks attract armies of British families that take their summer holidays in Florida year after year. Drive 35 minutes southwest of downtown Orlando and see your kids’ faces light up as you enter through the gates of Walt Disney World, which encompasses Magic Kingdom Park, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon.

But there’s more to the Sunshine State than mega mice and rollercoasters. Another ticket you might consider purchasing is a Go Orlando Card. It covers more than 30 other attractions in Orlando, including the Kennedy Space Center and the Dali Museum, and can save you up to 50% compared with paying on the door.

Best beach?

Cocoa Beach is Orlando’s closest stretch and something of a surfers’ paradise. But there are also some gorgeous spots along the Gulf Coast, from Clearwater to Naples, the lesser-known Panhandle, the Gold Coast resorts like West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale, as well as the Florida Keys.

Top attraction?

Away from the clamour of Disney World, try a glide around the Florida swamps on an airboat tour. It may be more peaceful but it’s no less exciting, as you could get to see anything from a bald eagle to a Florida alligator. Kissimmee Swamp Tours are located around 45 minutes from central Orlando.

Read about more alternative attractions in our article, 7 things to do in Orlando, Florida (that aren’t theme parks).

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10. Da Nang, Vietnam

Da Nang is a great destination for cheap beach holidays

This one is for more adventurous lovers of tropical temperatures and palm-fringed sands. The opening of a number of luxury resort hotels has propelled Vietnam into the spotlight, while the low cost of food and travel once you get here makes it one of the top cheap holidays abroad.

Da Nang is arguably the most popular coastal resort and it’s the country’s third-largest city, though it’s nowhere near as chaotic as the capital, Hanoi. To get there, fly to either Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City and either catch a local flight or take the train. There are varying ticket types, from bunk-bed sleeper carriage to wooden bench in cattle-class, so price depends on what conditions you fancy enduring for the 15-hour train journey!

Once you’ve arrived, collapse on one of the many heavenly beaches, or refuel in one of the seafood restaurants that line Pham Van Dong street. One of the best is Trieu Chau, just one block up from the beach, serving steaming bowls of lau Thai lan, a spicy Thai-style fish soup.

Discover more of the country’s diverse attractions with our pick of where to go in Vietnam.

Best beach?

My Khe is popular with locals exercising before the heat rises, but after 7am, you’ll have no problem finding a quiet spot. Kite-surfing and volleyball are also available here if you’re feeling more energetic.

Top attraction?

Get out of the city for a few days and explore the lovely river city of Hoi An. Hoi An is a listed UNESCO World Heritage Site, famous for its food (the street food here is some of the best in Vietnam) and its custom-made suits –but watch out for scams.

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We hope you found these recommendations for affordable, sunny destinations inspiring. Until March (at least) the UK is in lockdown, with non-essential travel not permitted and a new scheme for a 10-day hotel quarantine when returning from red-list countries. When travel is permitted again, always check local government guidelines before booking.

Discover where you can go

Making plans to get back out there? Find out whose borders are open with our interactive global map. You can also sign up to receive email updates when your top destinations reopen.

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