Summer is so close you can taste it. (And it tastes like ice cream and sunscreen, FYI.) But if you’re anything like us, your sunbathing fantasies don’t include elbowing your way onto crowded shores or trying to read on the sand with someone’s boombox blasting a few feet away. Here, 16 of the best quiet beach towns in the country where you won’t run into a gazillion tourists, plus lodging recommendations that promise a particularly comfortable stay.
16 Quiet Beach Towns in America
PureWow editors select every item that appears on this page, and the company may earn compensation through affiliate links within the story. All prices are accurate upon date of publish. You can learn more about the affiliate process here.
How We Picked the Best Beach Towns
This list is tailored to folks who prefer a peaceful seaside escape from urban life, and includes destinations up and down both coasts that run the gamut from truly secluded to vibrant but mellow and family-friendly. (Think: No spring break shenanigans.) It’s also worth noting that most of these destinations are located in close proximity to a more bustling tourist hub, so vacationers can enjoy the best of both worlds if they so choose.
When deciding on locations to feature, we focused on lesser-known places that are preferred by locals but tend to attract fewer tourists. Factors we considered include how much space there is to spread out on the beach (i.e., is it calm and sparsely populated or are there so many beach towels you can hardly see the sand?), the natural beauty of the location, whether or not there are opportunities for outdoor activities beyond sunbathing and how the dining scene stacks up to more popular vacation spots. Read on and find the vibe that’s right for you.
- Best alternative to Big Sur
- Why We Recommend It: quaint, scenic views, lots of lodging
- Where to Stay: Cozy Pacific Grove Cottage (from $175/night, sleeps 2); Oceanview Designer Beach House (from $317/night, sleeps 4); Centrella Hotel, a Kirkwood Collection Hotel (from $187/night)
Big Sur’s craggy cliffs are breathtaking, but for an equally beautiful and less crowded California alternative, try this quiet spot tucked between Monterey and Carmel. Despite its size, Pacific Grove has more B&Bs than any other coastal town between San Francisco and Los Angeles.
2. Lubec, Maine
- Best alternative to Cape Cod
- Why We Recommend It: historic architecture, New England charm, pristine beaches
- Where to Stay: Private Seaside Sanctuary (from $263/night, sleeps 4); Cottage Style Home (from $226/night, sleeps 6); The Inn on the Wharf (from $130/night)
Looking for classic New England charm without the scene? Located right near the Canadian border, this Maine beach town boasts 97 miles of shoreline, two lighthouses and a downtown peppered with Greek Revival-style buildings. Plus, it’s a hop, skip and a jump across the border to Campobello Island, the site of a former Roosevelt summer home that's now a national park.
- Best alternative to Kiawah Island
- Why We Recommend It: secluded and serene, wildlife viewing, private beach, outdoor activities
- Where to Stay: Bay Point 2137 (call for rates); Seabrook Sanctuary - 1706 Courtside (call for rates); Marais Rose ($299/night, sleeps 3)
There may not be any restaurants or shops on this quiet South Carolina getaway but what it lacks in amenities, it more than makes up for in secluded beauty. Locals enjoy biking or fishing on the golden sands of North Beach but our favorite past-time? Dolphin-spotting (yes, really). And we weren't kidding when we said this place is secluded—Southbrook Island is a gated community and visitors have to make an appointment by phone call to visit.
- Best alternative to Virginia Beach
- Why We Recommend It: wildlife viewing, natural beauty, secluded and serene
- Where to Stay: Cozy Island Cottage (from $439/night, sleeps 4); Waterfront Home (from $177/night, sleeps 8); Hampton Inn & Suites Chincoteague-Waterfront (from $284/night)
Is that a wild pony? Yep, and they’ve been on this island just off the Virginia coast for centuries. It’s all part of the 37-mile-long Assateague Island National Seashore—where you’ll also spot herons, woodpeckers and foxes while you sunbathe.
- Best alternative to the Hamptons
- Why We Recommend It: Victorian architecture, antique shops, old-timey feel
- Where to Stay: Hotel Macomber (call for rates); Congress Street Cottage (from $196/night, sleeps 4); Loft on Columbia (from $257/night, sleeps 2)
It may be Jersey, but this sure ain’t Snooki’s Jersey Shore. The charming Victorian-clad beach town of Cape May is like San Francisco meets Montauk. Bike along the promenade, go antiquing and pick up a sweet treat at The Original Fudge Kitchen.
- Best alternative to San Juan
- Why We Recommend It: great seafood, geological attractions, natural beauty
- Where to Stay: Inn at Cannon Beach (from $319/night); Hallmark Resort in Cannon Beach (from $289/night); Daydreamer Beachfront Home (from $362/night, sleeps 6)
If you like the relaxed Pacific Northwest vibe of Washington State’s San Juan Islands, you’ll definitely love Oregon’s way less traveled Cannon Beach. This place is chockablock with seafood joints, art galleries and even a distillery. Its real claim to fame, though, is Haystack Rock—you know, the one you remember fondly from Goonies.
- Best alternative to Outer Banks
- Why We Recommend It: great seafood, warm gulf waters, friendly vibe
- Where to Stay: Hampton Inn Gulf Shores (from $188/night); Sanibel Condominiums (call for rates); Sands of Time Vacation Home ($399/night, sleeps 8)
Alabama’s Gulf Coast beaches are perhaps the state’s most underrated attraction. Think splendid sands, pastel houses and lots of fresh seafood. You might even catch the strange natural phenomenon known as “jubilees” (random nights when crabs and fish oddly flop upon the beach).
- Best alternative to Key West
- Why We Recommend It: small town feel, scenic, warm gulf waters
- Where to Stay: The Palmetto Inn (from $159/night); Boca Grande Hotel (from $125/night); Charming Cottage in the Historic Village (from $600/night, sleeps 4)
Key West is tranquil when compared with Miami, but it’s a far cry from the sleepy beach town escape you’re really looking for. Boca Grande, on the other hand, is a true glimpse of idyllic old Florida. Think: tree-lined streets without traffic lights and long stretches of quiet Gulf of Mexico shores.
- Best alternative to Ocean City
- Why We Recommend It: family-friendly attractions, low-key crowd, amenities
- Where to Stay: The Breakers Hotel & Suites (from $182/night); The Avenue Inn and Spa (from $323/night); The Artist Cottage ($447/night, sleeps 8)
This old-school beach classic is Delaware’s answer to the mayhem of Ocean City, and boasts all your shore staples—saltwater taffy, soft-serve ice cream, a 50-year-old amusement park—without the sloppy co-eds and jam-packed boardwalk.
- Best alternative for Traverse City
- Why We Recommend It: beautiful lake beaches, serene atmosphere
- Where to Stay: Days Inn by Wyndham Pentwater (from $175/night); Vacation Haven Pentwater Lake Cottage (from $232/night, sleeps 5); Charming Pentwater Cottage (from $280/night, sleeps 6)
Traverse City, Michigan, has become something of a foodie destination in recent years—drawing crowds for its award-winning restaurants and wineries. But if you’d rather skip the hustle and bustle in favor of, well, serenity, go for the tiny town of Pentwater. This strip along Lake Michigan boasts such pristine white sand beaches and dunes, you’d swear you were actually on the ocean.
- Best alternative to South Padre Island
- Why We Recommend It: wildlife viewing, unspoilt beaches, peaceful island vibes
- Where to Stay: Hampton Inn & Suites Amelia Island (from $186/night); Amelia Island Williams House (from $290/night); Ocean Front Cottage (from $538/night, sleeps 10)
Known for its gorgeous beaches and calm waters, South Padre has become a popular hub for people craving an island vacation but don’t want to leave the country, so it’s naturally going to be buzzing. Less known is this island off Georgia’s southeast coast. There, you can spend the day gazing at the wild horses, armadillos, deer and much more wildlife.
12. Moloka’i, Hawaii
- Best alternative for Honolulu
- Why We Recommend It: romantic retreat, natural beauty, fewer tourists
- Where to Stay: Hotel Molokai (from $244/night); Wavecrest A212 (call for rates); Ocean Front Cottage in Molokai ($236/night, sleeps 4)
Sure, a honeymoon to Honolulu and even Maui will be divine, but why not opt for some serenity as well by heading to Moloka’I instead. Though the island is only 38 miles long and 10 miles across its widest point, it has a population of 7,345 people, meaning you’ll have plenty more breathing room there compared to the aforementioned islands.
- Best alternative for Miami
- Why We Recommend It: resort vibes, shopping, urban amenities
- Where to Stay: Kompose Boutique Hotel (from $164/night); White Pearl AMI Home ($839/night, sleeps 8); Turtle Cottage ($290/night, sleeps 4)
Think of all the things we love about Miami—bustling city, unbelievable cuisine and a vibrant nightlife, among other things. Now dial that down several notches and take away the rowdy crowds and you have the paradise that is Anna Maria. This resort city boasts plenty of shops, galleries, eateries and bars so that your preference for quiet lodgings doesn’t compromise any of your favorite vacation activities.
- Best alternative for Santa Monica
- Why We Recommend It: scenic, historic attractions, arts and culture
- Where to Stay: Wayside Inn (from $407/night); Tradewinds Carmel (from $364/night); Fairytale Cottage ($773/night, sleeps 6)
Nestled along California's central coast, this beach town is most beloved for its unbeatable chill vibes. Those who visit are immediately enamored by its picturesque scenery, historic sites, art galleries, restaurants and boutique shops.
Best alternative for Nantucket
- Why We Recommend It: fine dining, wine tasting, foodie paradise, scenic
- Where to Stay: Inn at Perry Cabin (from $798/night); Parsonage Inn Bed & Breakfast (from $215/night); Mallard Point Cottage ($386/night, sleeps 8)
Foodies will also have a grand time whetting their palettes in St. Michaels as this city is a known hub for delicious cuisine. This little beach town boasts everything from crab houses, in town and waterfront bars, a winery and brewery, as well as top-rated fine dining restaurants.
- Best alternative to Santa Cruz
- Why We Recommend It: mediterranean vibes, historic, scenic, fine dining
- Where to Stay: Capitola Hotel (from $320/night); Capitola Beach Suites (call for rates); Beachfront Venetian #5 ($434/night, sleeps 5)
A rainbow of brightly-colored homes line the pristine and blessedly quiet beach in the small seaside town of Capitola—an under-the-radar gem that’s prized for its Mediterranean vibe and mostly known only to California natives. Indeed, Capitola, the state’s oldest seaside resort town, is a truly beautiful place that promises visitors plenty of relaxation and entertainment without the crowds of nearby Santa Cruz. The ocean views from the Capitola Wharf are second to none and the quaint town center is filled with boutiques and bistros. For a truly memorable meal, we suggest you head to Shadowbrook—a top-notch fine dining establishment featuring a San Francisco-style cable car that brings guests from the street to the dining room, which is nestled in a hillside overlooking Soquel creek and surrounded by waterfalls and lush gardens. (Date night, anyone?)
Why You Should Trust Us
PureWow's editors and writers have spent more than a decade shopping online, digging through sales and putting our home goods, beauty finds, wellness picks and more through the wringer—all to help you determine which are actually worth your hard-earned cash. From our PureWow100 series (where we rank items on a 100-point scale) to our painstakingly curated lists of fashion, beauty, cooking, home and family picks, you can trust that our recommendations have been thoroughly vetted for function, aesthetics and innovation. Whether you're looking for travel-size hair dryers you can take on-the-go or women’s walking shoes that won’t hurt your feet, we’ve got you covered.