The Low-Key Beach Alternatives to Summertime’s Jet Set Mainstays

These lesser-sung beach destinations, often overshadowed by their famed counterparts, unfurl a distinct allure, whispering a serenity that popular spots can't always promise.

beach in cassis france
It’s time to discover the lesser-known summer beach destinations. Caterina Bruzzone/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

While there are destinations that wear the tourist crown with panache, drawing in masses with their undeniable charisma, an array of under-the-radar havens wait quietly in the wings. These lesser-sung places, often overshadowed by their famed counterparts, unfurl a distinct allure, whispering a serenity that popular spots can’t always promise.

Unfolding like a secret map, these locales offer a treasure trove of adventures. Take the cool, Cali charisma of Cambria, for instance, trading punches with Malibu’s sun-dipped glamour, or the pristine beaches of Menorca locking horns with Mallorca’s relentless summer hum. Every locale offers a match of unique charm, of quiet elegance versus famed splendor.

Venture a little further off the well-worn path and the verdant landscapes of São Miguel contend admirably with Madeira’s wine-imbued enchantments, while the peace of Sifnos stands its ground against Mykonos’ kinetic pulse. Further afield, Batroun in Lebanon reveals a rich tapestry of Phoenician history, providing a welcome sanctuary away from the tourist-laden beaches of Bodrum. And closer to home, Bermuda, with its inviting proximity, competes for attention against the often-preferred retreat of Montauk.

Each pair presents not just a choice, but an exhilarating task: to step off the well-beaten track; to uncover the discreet charm nestling just beyond the mainstream. To expand not only your geographical footprint but the scope of your experiences, swapping the tried-and-true for the intriguing novel, weaving new narratives in corners of the globe where tales are waiting to be told.

This handpicked selection takes you on a world-spanning journey, unveiling havens that range from the Californian coasts of Cambria to the balmy Balearic beauty of Menorca; from the lush Azorean landscapes of São Miguel to the Greek tranquility of Sifnos, and from the historic heart of Batroun to the convenient allure of Bermuda. Each unique, each inviting and each challenging the appeal of established hotspots like Malibu, Mallorca, Mykonos and Montauk. 

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Melides beach, Alentejo, Portugal
Melides. Cover/Getty Images

Melides: A Serene Portuguese Respite from Ibiza

Step away from the feverish party routes of Ibiza and let the calm of Melides wash over you. Situated in the captivating Alentejo region of Portugal, Melides is a peaceful coastal town that’s a mere hour’s drive from the vibrant city of Lisbon. This lesser-known treasure boasts pristine sandy beaches like Praia de Melides and Praia da Aberta Nova that remain untouched by the tourist onslaught. These beaches, with their unspoiled stretches of golden sand and calming ocean waves, offer a private paradise for those looking to escape the world. Venture into the town and discover the bird-rich lagoon, a delight for birdwatchers and nature lovers alike. The rolling hills that envelop the town are a sight to behold, bedecked with cork trees and sprawling vineyards that paint a picture of natural allure.

A light blue building with white decorations surrounded the red-trimmed mirror-paned doors and windows
Vermelho Hotel in Melides. Ambroise Tezenas

Where to Stay: Your ideal abode in Melides is the Vermelho Hotel, a swanky retreat by designer Christian Louboutin that mirrors his eclectic style; here, paying homage to Portuguese craftsmanship. Alternatively, consider Pa.te.os, a secluded retreat that stands as a testament to the skillful craftsmanship of architect Manuel Aires Mateus. Feel like home in its clutch of modernist houses, take refreshing dips in outdoor showers and marvel at the breathtaking Atlantic views from the comfort of your retreat.

Two large rock formations in the middle of a teal ocean
Bermuda. Kyle Martin/Unsplash

Bermuda: A Convenient Refuge over Montauk

Escape the bustling crowds of Montauk and find solace on the island of Bermuda. This British Overseas Territory, a mere hour’s flight from most major airports on the East Coast, offers a breezy retreat that promises an experience far removed from the Long Island beach scene. For many, the journey to Bermuda is easier than the long train ride to Montauk, making it a convenient getaway destination. Here, you’re greeted by a dreamy landscape of pink sand that perfectly complements the crystal-clear turquoise waters. Breathtaking beaches showcase nature’s splendor, providing an ideal setting for leisurely strolls, sandcastle building or simply soaking in the beauty of the surroundings. Delve deeper into Bermuda and discover a rich maritime history that awaits exploration: From its well-preserved forts to the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute, the island’s history unfolds in an interesting narrative that will satiate your curiosity.

A palm-tree adorned pathway leading to a fountain and pool overlooking the ocean, surrounded by white cabanas and green hills
Rosewood Bermuda. Rosewood Bermuda.

Where to Stay: Your haven is the Rosewood Bermuda, a luxurious resort perched above the rose-pink beaches of Castle Harbour and Harrington Sound. Noted for its world-class golf course and stunning ocean views, the Rosewood Bermuda offers an array of island-influenced eateries and sea-view bars that ensure a holistic island experience.

Sparkling blue waters with sailboats and kayaks in it, surrounded by gray cliffs topped with greenery
Cassis. Anastasia Quince/Unsplash

Cassis: A Quaint Alternative to Cannes

Located a mere 15 miles from Marseille, Cassis has long been the preferred summer  getaway for London’s elite, and was once even a painting spot for Winston Churchill. This low-key village, with its slow pace of life and inherent charm, offers a refreshing contrast to the high-energy vibe of Cannes. As one of France’s oldest wine appellations, Cassis is a vino lover’s paradise. Embark on a wine journey, exploring the sprawling vineyards on foot or e-bike, and taste the exquisite local wines at Clos Sainte Magdeleine. These vineyard tours provide a fascinating insight into the winemaking process while offering an opportunity to sample some of the finest vinos in the region.

Where to Stay: Les Roches Blanches was once a favorite retreat among the belle époque glitterati—and has not lost a shred of its luster. The 36-room villa charms with its Art Deco fittings, contemporary furnishings and expansive sea views from its Sisley spa. Complement your stay with a refreshing dip in the pool nestled amidst rocks, and relish the exquisite cuisine at one of the al fresco restaurants.

A very symmetrical photo of bicycles parked in front of two buildings facing one another with a blue sky above
Alys Beach in 30A. Paul Jebara

30A Beach Towns: A Laid-Back and Characterful Side of Florida

South Beach, with its raucous party scene and bustling beaches, may not appeal to everyone. For those seeking a more relaxed Florida experience, the 30A beach towns offer a sublime alternative. A well-kept secret, these beach towns dotting Florida’s Panhandle—from Mediterranean-inspired Alys Beach to picture-perfect Seaside—are an enchanting world away from Miami’s freneticism. These towns, nestled along Highway 30A, are a gateway to a varied landscape that offers something for everyone. Meander from one locale to another and you’re constantly treated to changing vistas of the southern coast. Here, the charming architecture coexists harmoniously with the sprawling natural landscape, offering a visual delight.

A tall, white and brown turret with balconies and a clock face
The Pearl Hotel. Matthew Valentino/Unsplash

Where to Stay: The Pearl Hotel, tucked away in Rosemary Beach, is a black-and-white painted architectural marvel offering boutique luxury coupled with stunning Gulf views. Wake up to the gentle lull of the waves and spend the day exploring the town, biking along the beach or just soaking up the Florida sun. As the day winds down, enjoy a cocktail at the rooftop bar, soaking in the spectacular sunset over the Gulf.

Block Island, Rhode Island
Block Island. Getty Images

Block Island: The Underrated Jewel over Nantucket’s Popularity 

The traditional East Coast summer retreat that is Nantucket can be a whirlwind with the tourist influx, crowded beaches and steep prices. Consider Block Island, off Rhode Island’s coast, as a more off-the-grid New England alternative. This serene island offers a respite from the hustle and bustle, boasting pristine beaches, striking bluffs and abundant preserved open spaces. The island is home to many protected species, and the Block Island National Wildlife Refuge is a must-visit for nature enthusiasts. Moreover, Block Island’s North Light and Southeast Light, two of the oldest functioning lighthouses in the United States, stand as historic landmarks adding to the island’s charm.

A small room with a white queen-sized beds and windows overlooking the beach and ocean
Avonlea on Block Island. Avonlea

Where to Stay: Avonlea, Jewel of the Sea, is a luxurious accommodation option on Block Island, notable for its stunning ocean views and farm-to-table dining. This revamped beach house, with the shore a mere 30 seconds from the porch, is a most perfect romantic retreat.

A distant shot of a pebbly beach with colored umbrellas surrounded by cliffs and water
Salina. Paul Jebara

Salina: An Idyllic Escape Over Pricey Positano

The Amalfi Coast, although breathtaking, often teems with tourists and hefty price tags during the summer. As a less crowded alternative, consider Salina, an Aeolian island that offers unmatched peace and beauty. This hidden gem features dramatic volcanic cliffs, quaint villages, pebbly beaches, hills covered with wild caper plants, and vineyards laden with sweet Malvasia wine. As you venture through Salina, you’ll encounter a series of quaint villages including Santa Marina, Malfa and Lingua, each showcasing the unique character and charm of the island. From scenic hiking trails to its famous caper festivals, Salina promises an unforgettable experience.

An infinity pool overlooking trees, the ocean, and a sunset
Principe Di Salina. Paul Jebara

Where to Stay: Principe Di Salina is a compact boutique hotel that promises a genuinely Italian retreat, with aesthetics reminiscent of the Cycladic Islands of Greece. The hotel, with its whitewashed interiors, local fare served in the ristorante della casa and infinity pool, offers a slice of paradise in Salina. With plush beds and feather-light pillows, it ensures a peaceful sleep and a refreshing start to your day.

A beachside wooden pathway between green bushes with a bird flying above
Cambria. Tim Mossholder/Unsplash

Cambria: Coastal Cool over Malibu Mania

Fed up with the hype around Malibu? Make a beeline for Cambria. Sandwiched halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, this diminutive coastal town serves up the Californian dream, minus the crowds. Picture breathtaking ocean vistas, an inviting boardwalk stretching a full mile along Moonstone Beach and the veritable ecological wonderland of Fiscalini Ranch Preserve. Cambria woos with a delightful ensemble of small-town charm, a colorful sprinkling of local boutiques, art galleries brimming with unique pieces and food joints that’ll make your taste buds sing. History buffs won’t be disappointed either—the Hearst Castle, a National Historic Landmark, presides majestically over the town, begging you to explore its architectural grandeur. And when the day’s excitement is done, what could be more enchanting than an unspoiled starry sky coupled with the soothing symphony of the waves?

A lobby with white and tan accents and large windows showing views of trees and the ocean
White Water Lodge. White Water Lodge

Where to Stay: White Water Lodge is your gateway to a quintessential Californian escape. It’s a perfect blend of design chic and rugged coastal charm, nestled within easy reach of the surf-blessed beach and the homey cafes of Cambria. A brief car ride will land you in the heart of Paso Robles, the wine region. The cherry on top? Each room boasts Aesop bath products and Erewhon snacks in the minibar, with fresh pastries delivered to your door every morning. 

Bright blue waters surrounded by white craggy land masses topped with trees
Menorca. Ricardo Frantz/Unsplash

Menorca: Mallorca’s Sedate Sister Island

Mallorca—a summer staple, agreed. But, have you ever considered its sister island, Menorca? Less crowded, more laid-back and brimming with authentic Balearic charm, Menorca is the oasis you didn’t know you needed. Famous for its pristine beaches, stunning turquoise waters and fascinating prehistoric monuments, Menorca is a haven for both nature enthusiasts and history buffs. The towns of Ciutadella and Mahón whisper tales of the past, their streets bustling with the rhythms of everyday life. Outdoor adventure is never far in Menorca: Explore the verdant hiking and biking trails, discover hidden coves or simply surrender to the tranquility of its serene beaches. This island may beat to a slower drum, but its rhythm is intoxicating.

A large rustic hotel among verdant trees
Vestige Son Vell. Vestige Son Vell

Where to Stay: An antique agricultural estate lovingly restored, Vestige Son Vell exudes elegance, a sandstone jewel set amidst Menorca’s emerald landscapes. Here, history blends effortlessly with the present—the 200-year-old manor retains its original charm, punctuated by the contemporary aesthetics of its custom-made interiors. Spend your days lazing by the pool, relishing the local cuisine and sipping on the refreshing gin-infused pomada as the day eases into night.

verdant green cliffside with a house overlooking the water in portugal
São Miguel. Joao Louro/Unslplash

São Miguel: Escape Madeira’s Mainstream 

If Madeira’s hot spots are feeling too lukewarm, it’s time for a switch-up. Meet São Miguel, an enchanting lesser-known sibling in Portugal’s Azores archipelago. Fondly christened the “Green Island,” São Miguel serves up a verdant landscape, crisscrossed by trails leading to volcanic lakes and hot springs that would make even the Emerald City green with envy. Take a leisurely stroll around the picturesque capital, Ponta Delgada, with its cobbled streets and charming cafes. Marvel at the twin lakes in the Sete Cidades crater or soak up the restorative vibes of the Terra Nostra Park’s thermal waters. Plus, the island boasts some of the best beaches in the Azores, perfect for a leisurely swim or a spectacular sunset view. São Miguel is your refuge away from Madeira’s tourist-trodden trails.

Where to Stay: Rest easy at the Santa Bárbara Eco Beach Resort. It’s no loud and proud beachside extravaganza—instead, it subtly blends into its coastal landscape with a minimalist design and eco-friendly ethos. The accommodation options range from cozy studios to spacious villas, all adorned in coastal hues of soothing blues and greens. With organic produce from its on-site farm gracing the restaurant’s plates and organic, seaweed-based treatments at the spa, this resort whispers rather than screams sustainability.

An aerial view of Sifnos, its bay and the mountains surrounding it
Sifnos. Gaetano Cessati/Unsplash

Sifnos: Trade Mykonos’s Madness for Cycladic Serenity

Had your fill of Mykonos’ manic energy? Try Sifnos on for size. This Greek island maintains an authentic charm that’s a world away from Mykonos’ incessant buzz (and outrageous prices). Sifnos is a delightful confluence of authentic Greek culture, stunning landscapes and mouth-watering gastronomy. The white-washed houses contrast against the blue Aegean, while the aroma of traditional Greek food wafts from the local tavernas. Here, time slows down, and life is savored one sun-soaked moment at a time.

An infinity pool at a hotel overlooking the ocean and a small sunset
Verina Astra. Paul Jebara

Where to Stay: Make Verina Astra your Sifnos abode. Each of its 16 suites is a calming sanctuary with views of the endless azure sky, the sea and a picturesque village, while at the valley’s bottom, a blue-domed monastery adds to the mesmerizing landscape. Spend your days moving lazily from your suite to the infinity pool, to the Elemis spa and finally to Bostani, the romantic bar and restaurant. The restaurant sources many of its ingredients from the surrounding kitchen garden, adding a fresh, local touch to its modern Mediterranean dishes.

A beachside bar and restaurant with white umbrellas and tan tables next to clear aquamarine waters
Batroun. Paul Jebara

Batroun: Choose Batroun’s Bliss over Bodrum’s Bustle

Bodrum, a classic Turkish summer destination, can often feel like a touristy whirlwind. Why not trade it for Batroun on Lebanon’s Mediterranean coast? This ancient coastal town, north of Beirut, is an alchemy of sun-kissed beaches, historic sites and an infectious, vibrant nightlife. Walk the Phoenician wall, admire the architecture of St. Stephen’s Cathedral or relax on the pebbled beaches. As dusk falls, Batroun transforms into a lively hub of beach bars and seafood restaurants, perfect for those who enjoy their nights on the livelier side. With its rich history and relaxed Mediterranean vibe, Batroun is an exciting alternative to Bodrum’s crowded beaches.

Two open buildings connected by an awning surrounding a central pathway leading out to the ocean, with the moon faint overhead
Capo Boutique Hotel and Resort Carl Gerges Architects

Where to Stay: Stay at Capo Boutique Hotel, a Mediterranean retreat that blends into the natural beauty of Batroun’s coastline. Designed by Carl Gerges, the property pays homage to the region’s history with its architecture, reminiscent of a Roman amphitheater, beautifully nestled within five descending levels leading to the gleaming sea. From the minimalist rooms, you’re treated to an ever-present, glorious view of the azure Mediterranean. Step out and immerse yourself in the history and beauty of Batroun.

The Low-Key Beach Alternatives to Summertime’s Jet Set Mainstays