Jacksonville

For many, the dream beach vacation involves snoozing on a quiet stretch of sand in some exotic (read:expensive) locale — and we don’t blame you. But the truth is, there’s no need to break the piggy bank to have a fabulous oceanfront getaway. Picking a budget-friendly hotel that’s not overrun with twentysomethings looking for a crashpad can be tricky, and more serene destinations tend to be more expensive. But we searched high and low, and these six affordable properties are great for those who want to spend some quiet, relaxing days on the beach — without spending all their savings.

Steal #1: Bel Air Collection Resort & Spa, Cancun

The gorgeous infinity pool overlooks a beautiful white-sand beach.

The gorgeous infinity pool overlooks a beautiful white-sand beach.

Overlooking a stunning beach on the southern tip of the Hotel Zone, this adults-only property oozes tranquility. Its serene white and red decor — accented by billowy curtains everywhere — and its somewhat secluded location far from the booming Cancun nightlife, sets this boutique apart from the mega-resorts located just north of it. The Bel Air Collection has 155 chic, minimalist (if low-frills) rooms, trendy common areas, a wonderful spa, and a gorgeous infinity pool with ocean views. It’s a great pick for a relaxed, romantic getaway.

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The Best Road Trips is a weekly summer series highlighting our favorite getaways from major cities all over the United States.

With a thriving arts scene, diverse shopping districts, the NFL’s Buccaneers, and a rich local history, the Floridian city of Tampa has a lot to offer itself. The beaches along Tampa Bay are lovely spots to take a dip and — after exploring such attractions as Busch Gardens, the Florida Aquarium, and the historic Ybor City (once the bustling center of America’s cigar industry, and now a great shopping area and artistic haven) — a welcome respite at the end of the day. With average temperatures staying at a nice 75° to 80° Fahrenheit nearly year round, it must be hard to convince Tampanians to part from the Big Guava. But Buccaneers are known to set sail, and while the whip can’t take you off to sea, it can certainly get you to some great land locales. So pack your bags, crank the A.C., and hop in the car — we’ve got some miles to cover.

Road Trip #1: Tampa to Jacksonville, FL

  • Total Driving Time: 3 hours, 50 minutes
  • Distance Covered: 226 miles
  • Take This Trip If: You’re looking to hit the links (and maybe the shops).
Street at the One Ocean Resort Hotel & Spa

Palm tree lined streets will guide you from the shops to the links in no time.

Beach at the One Ocean Resort Hotel & Spa

The One Ocean Resort Hotel & Spa offers a luxury stay on an expansive stretch of white, sandy beach.

Pool at the Holiday Inn Express Jacksonville Beach

The heated pool and Jacuzzi at the Holiday Inn Express Jacksonville Beach is a relaxing find in a value hotel, perfect for families on a budget.

With a lively arts scene, a great downtown district, and some of the country’s best golf courses, Jacksonville is a hidden gem located in Northern Florida. But since the weather is a bit crisper upstate (winters are too cold to play on the sand), the conditions make for ideal golf weather. And with a less-crowded beach scene, this once underrated seaside city has become a vibrant spot, with an NFL team to boot. Those seeking a luxury experience should head straight to the One Ocean Resort Hotel & Spa. Situated directly on a clean, white-sand beach, this resort has a fantastic on-site spa (great for girls’ weekends or couples’ vacations), contemporary decor, and bathrooms with double shower heads. Or, save a bundle and book a space at the Holiday Inn Express Jacksonville Beach, a value hotel that offers awesome freebies like Wi-Fi, breakfast, and self-parking. Rooms are clean, the pool is relaxed, and the prices are great. And although you’re just a few minutes drive from the beach, that won’t matter — you’ve got the whip with you.

  • Top Driving Tip: While taking I-75N is faster, we recommend sticking it out an extra 15 minutes or so in the car. Take I-4E to I-95; you’ll pass right through Orlando — and maybe stop for a few roller coaster rides.

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The Deluxe King Oceanview Room at the One Ocean Resort Hotel & Spa -- Jacksonville, FL

The Deluxe King Oceanview Room at the One Ocean Resort Hotel & Spa -- Jacksonville, FL

The One Ocean Resort and Spa is a modern resort located directly on a calm white-sand beach. The 193 rooms have a lively, trendy feel with bright colors, contemporary decor, flat-screen TVs, floor-to-ceiling windows, and bathrooms with double shower heads. The spa is luxurious and couples-friendly, and the excellent kids’ club has a marine biology theme. The hotel also has a full range of infant amenities on hand, including cribs, bottle warmers, and baby suntan lotion. Despite the extensive kids’ offerings, the property tends to draw more couples than families. It’s one of the chicest (albeit priciest) options in the area. See more incredible photos after the jump or read our full review now»

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We’re loving this recent heat wave, but it just makes us want to kick back and relax (preferably with a cocktail in hand). So it may be a bit ironic, but we decided to do an intensive search on the laziest spots we could find — starting in Florida. After all, it is the Sunshine State. From spas with plush lounge chairs to pools where you don’t have to lift a finger, we found five Floridian hotels that are prime for lounging. Relax and unwind; it’s time to take it easy.

Lazy Spot #1: The Beach at the W South Beach

Beach at the W South Beach

Beach at the W South Beach

Why we love it: Though many hotels in South Beach have direct beach access, the W offers an unparalleled experience on the sand. Cushy white-and-black-striped lounge chairs are spread out along the hotel’s 100-yard-deep stretch of beach, which is considerably removed from the crowds in order to create a relaxing vibe. While guests bask in the sun, on-call attendants are quick to bring towels, food, beverages, or even iPod shuffles.

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