By Molly Feltner - Smarter Travel

Last summer, when you were sitting in Miami traffic or laying down a month’s pay for a family trip to Maui, you may have wondered if your relaxing beach vacation was all worth it. There must be cheaper beach vacation alternatives, you think—and you’re right, there are.
Hidden and Cheap Beach Destinations
Look to the Gulf of Mexico for ultra-soft sand, crystal-clear waters, and surprisingly cheap beach vacations. The following Gulf Coast beach destinations are still unmarred by development, with opportunities for adventure, culture, great food, and, yes, even reasonable prices. Whether you’re looking for cheap beach vacations in Florida or in other lesser-known states for tourism, this list of hidden and affordable beach destinations on the Gulf Coast will satisfy your desire for sun and sand—without breaking the bank.

Ocean Springs, Mississippi

Just five miles east of Biloxi is the quiet coastal community of Ocean Springs, where small-town charm meets gorgeous white-sand beaches for an affordable Gulf Coast getaway. Outdoor activity options include stand-up paddleboarding, fishing, kayaking, and canoeing. The town is popular with art lovers, too, thanks to its many shops and galleries, as well as the Walter Anderson Museum of Art downtown.

The town is near the Davis Bayou section of Gulf Islands National Seashore, where visitors can go fishing, hiking, or bird watching in a protected marshland area. Admission is free.

Where to stay: There were dozens of vacation rentals on TripAdvisor under $1,000 a week for the dates I checked, and hotels are equally affordable. Most of them are familiar chains, such as the Holiday Inn Express Biloxi-Ocean Springs, but you can also stay in independent properties like the Gulf Hills Hotel & Conference Center.

Getting there: Ocean Springs is just a 10-minute drive from Biloxi and about 90 minutes from New Orleans.

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