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swimming in the turquoise waters of
Mexico's Riviera Maya.
Many hotels claim to be located on the beach or have spectacular ocean views -- but you're either beachfront or you're not. For travelers who aren't satisfied with having to cross a road, walk down from a cliff, or climb over rocks to reach the beach, we've found 10 affordable beachfront hotels with rooms, suites, and bungalows that are literally steps from the sand.
If you crave a midnight dip or perpetually sandy toes, these 10 destinations are for you. Keep in mind that some of the world's most desirable beaches may not have properties directly on the sand (without having to cross a boardwalk or a major road), or these hotels may charge an obscene premium for the privilege. Fortunately, each of these hotels offers great value and even better views. From the Greek Islands to the Great Barrier Reef, allow us to help you find your perfect beach getaway.
Al Cielo, Mexico
Where: This boutique hotel is on Xpu-Ha Beach, about a 20-minute drive north of Tulum and 20 minutes south of Playa del Carmen on the Riviera Maya.
The Details: Al Cielo offers an intimate experience compared to the large-scale resorts of the Riviera Maya. The hotel has four rustic yet elegant rooms with names like Water, Earth, Air, and Fire. The air-conditioned rooms are each outfitted with king-size beds and private terraces with colorful hammocks. The resort also has a new Villa Atardecer (Sunset Villa) that is ideal for families of up to five people.
Distance From the Sand: Your terrace is about five steps away from the sand. The private villa is about 90 feet from the edge of the beach.
How Much: The lowest rate per night for two people is $160 (with breakfast) during May, June, September, and October. The villa starts at $200 per night for two people; add $35 per extra person. There is also a half-board plan that includes à la carte meals, two massages, and a romantic beach dinner (from $270 per night for two people).
Bolongo Bay Beach Resort, U.S. Virgin Islands
Where: St. Thomas
The Details: Bolongo Bay is a boutique Caribbean resort with its own 1,000-foot-long beach lined with palm trees -- and resident iguanas strolling by. Enjoy the beachfront pool, two seaside restaurants, and the complimentary use of paddle boards, Hobie Cats, kayaks, aqua tricycles, snorkeling gear, and more. The resort also has one of the island's best-known nightspots: Iggies Beach Bar & Grill.
Distance From the Sand: Beachfront rooms are about three feet from the edge of the white-sand beach, so you can enjoy a quick dip without having to bump into anyone on your way.
How Much: Standard rooms for two people start at $160 per night, an ocean-view room with a second- or third-floor patio starts at $257, and the 24 beachfront rooms start at $287 per night. Prices are based on low season in September and October.
Photo Caption: Your hotel room is within a few feet of the sand if you book one of the 24 beachfront rooms at the Bolongo Bay Beach Resort.
Where: Nikoi Island, Bintan Islands, about two hours by ferry from Singapore
The Details: This private island is capped at 60 guests who take up temporary residence in the two-story beach houses on stilts. Each of the 15 suites features a king-size bed with mosquito nets, a balcony overlooking the palm-fringed beach, a bathroom with an open shower, a second outdoor shower, a wooden-decked lounge area with a bar, and daybeds. The resort also has two swimming pools, four bars, a restaurant, acres of virgin rain forest to discover, and coral reefs to snorkel through.
Distance From the Sand: Zero — your suite is on the white sand.
How Much: Prices for two people start at SG$330 per night (about $269). Add SG$90 per day (about $73) for all meals. Boat/car transfers from the Bintan ferry are SG$90 per adult.
Phi Phi Island Village Beach Resort & Spa, Thailand
Where: Lo Ba Gao Bay, Phi Phi Don island (Krabi), about 32 miles by fast catamaran from Phuket
The Details: This resort offers a private 3,000-foot stretch of white-sand beach in a secluded bay with no neighbors in sight (just a few traditional Thai fishing boats dock nearby). There are four restaurants, three bars, a full-service spa, a 10,000-square-foot freshwater infinity pool, and a five-star PADI dive center.
Distance From the Sand: About three steps (with or without flip-flops) from your suite to fine white sand. Depending on the tide, you're only another 30 feet or so to the crystal-clear warm waters of the Andaman Sea.
How Much: A superior bungalow starts at 5,700 Thai baht per night for two adults (about $185), including taxes and breakfast daily. You can splurge and upgrade to a beachfront junior suite for 10,500 Thai baht (about $340), but that price can fall significantly if you make a last-minute booking within 15 days of your stay.
Island HoppInn, the Bahamas
Where: Fernandez Bay on Cat Island is easily accessible by charter flights from Fort Lauderdale or Nassau (round-trip airfare is around $350 from Florida and $160 from Nassau)
The Details: With a private beach and only four rooms, Island HoppInn is the ultimate escape that's still relatively easy to reach. Each room has air-conditioning, a kitchenette, and Internet access. There's no pool, but does it really matter when the Caribbean Sea is literally lapping at your feet? The hotel's dining room overlooks the ocean; lunch can be delivered to your front porch so there's no need to move from that beach lounge or hammock.
Distance From the Sand: Three steps -- max
How Much: A one-bedroom suite is $225 per night (up to two people) and $245 (up to four people)
Knossos Beach Bungalows & Suites, Greece
Where: Knossos Beach is seven miles from Heraklion, Crete. Direct flights are available from many European cities; ferry service from Athens and various Greek Islands is also available.
The Details: Terraced rows of 120 white-washed mini villas line this exclusive stretch of Greek paradise. All waterfront rooms and suites feature private sun decks. The hotel also has a pool, a bar, and a restaurant.
How Much: Waterfront bungalows for two people start at €89 (about $137) in low season and €226 (about $318) in peak season.
Distance From the Sand: Only about three feet separate your private deck from the sand. Photo Caption: Enjoy the private sandy beach at Knossos Beach Bungalows & Suites.
Crusoe's Retreat, Fiji
Where: Viti Levu island, about two hours from Nadi (Fiji's capital and main airport)
The Details: Crusoe's Retreat is an intimate resort on Fiji's famous Coral Coast. With only 29 bures (traditional huts), Crusoe's is the ultimate getaway. Located next to an authentic Fijian village, you are encouraged to experience firsthand how time-honored traditions and ancient customs continue. Complimentary resort activities include sea kayaking, snorkeling, beach volleyball, and bush hikes.
How Much: Beachfront bures start at FJD$335 ($193) and deluxe seaside bures are from FJD$390 ($225) per night. Stay for seven nights in low season and get two nights free -- taking your daily rate to FJD$239 ($138) or FJD$279 ($161), respectively. These prices include breakfast daily and all taxes (plus tipping is not an accepted practice in Fiji).
Distance From the Sand: According to the resort manager, you're so close that you can hold your breath while walking from your bure to the edge of the water.
Castaways Resort & Spa, Australia
Where: Mission Beach, Tropical North Queensland
The Details: Bound by the Great Barrier Reef and the Wet Tropics Rainforest, the luxurious Castaways Resort & Spa sits on a stretch of beach that is nine miles long and has views of Dunk Island. From the beach right outside your room, you can snorkel out to coral reefs. The resort also offers spa services and activities like fishing, boating, kayaking, and diving.
Distance From the Sand: Walk across perfectly manicured lawns outside your villa for 60 feet, and you'll be standing on a private Coral Sea beach.
How Much: Standard rooms start at A$145 per night (about $156), ground-floor resort rooms start at A$205 ($220), and two-bedroom beachfront apartments start at A$305 ($328) per night.
Napili Sunset Resort, Hawaii
Where: Napili Bay, West Maui
The Details: It isn't easy to find an absolutely beachfront hotel in Maui that doesn't involve high rises, high costs, or hundreds of rooms. Fortunately, you can book a night at the Napili Sunset Resort, a collection of two-story buildings with tropical-themed rooms and spectacular views. Napili Bay is known for its golden sand, gentle surf, and memorable sunsets. During the winter months, you may spot some whales, and dolphins also drop in for a swim in the warm waters.
Distance from the Sand: Walk out of your lanai, cross a narrow stretch of green lawn and beach lounge chairs, and you're on the sand -- about 10 feet away from the entrance to your room.
How Much: A one-bedroom beachfront suite that sleeps up to five people starts at $239 in low season and goes up to $310 per night in peak season.
Shelborne South Beach, Florida
Where: Miami's South Beach
The Details: It's a good thing that this 1940s-era hotel in the heart of South Beach's Art Deco District is being restored to its former glory. After all, the Shelborne is one of the few truly oceanfront properties in South Beach. Many of the 200 rooms and suites have beachfront views, and there's a pool that reaches right up to the sand line. Due to open in Nov. 2011, be among the first to dip your toes in the water here. Expect plenty of beautiful people to watch.
Distance from the Sand: Beachfront rooms are about 40 feet from the sand.
How Much: A beachfront king room starts at $177 per night.