It’s finally summer vacation season, and we all want to wring every moment of sun and fun out of it. One of the best ways to stretch your time and money is to turn your travel day into a beach day, too. Whether you’re arriving early, departing late or have a few hours between flights, you can squeeze in some bonus beach time near many popular airports around the world. So pack lightly, check your luggage early or find a friendly bellhop at an airport hotel and get your extra vacation time at these top airports for an added beach escape.
Chicago O’Hare International Airport, Illinois: Ohio Street Beach
The warm weather beach season in Chicago runs into mid-September, so there’s plenty of time to take advantage of a pit stop on a nice stretch of sand while you’re passing through the city. One good option close to downtown is Ohio Street Beach. Here you’ll find restrooms, a lifeguard station and waterfront restaurant Caffè Oliva. Known as a quieter option than many other Chicago beaches, it offers calm, shallow water by the seawall, making it ideal for distance swimming if you’re in the mood to get some exercise. Ohio Street Beach also puts you in close proximity to Navy Pier and the Magnificent Mile.
Getting there: Your best option for getting to Ohio Street Beach from O’Hare is to take the Blue Line to Lake. Exit at Lake and transfer to the Red Line north (Howard). Take the Red Line to Grand for beach access. The trip takes about an hour.
Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International, Florida: Fort Lauderdale Beach Park
You don’t need to go too far after getting off a plane in Fort Lauderdale to hit the beach. One of your best options is to make your way to Fort Lauderdale Beach Park, which has plenty to keep beach-goers of all ages happy. Here you’ll find a long stretch of soft sand, volleyball courts, outdoor grills, picnic tables, outdoor showers and a playground for kids. You’ll also find plenty of cafes and restaurants right across from the beach.
Getting there: Fort Lauderdale Beach Park is only about 15 minutes from the airport. The quickest option is to take a taxi.
Cancun International Airport, Mexico: Playa Tortugas
Although this beach can get crowded on weekends, the turquoise water and white sand of Cancun make it worth finding your own spot among the throngs of beachgoers. There are lounge chairs here to rent, and the water is clean and shallow making it good for swimming. You can also rent snorkel equipment if you want to check out what’s going on beneath the waves. If you’re feeling really adventurous, brave the on-site bungee tower where jumpers leap into the water below. Restaurants and food vendors abound so there’s plenty to eat and drink, and there are public restrooms nearby. Playa Tortugas is also an access point for the ferry to Isla Mujeres, so you can add in a visit to that charming island if you have enough time. Check out our blog about cheap and free things to do in Cancun for other ideas, too.
Getting there: Playa Tortugas is less than 30 minutes by car from the airport, so we’d recommend taking a taxi.
Tampa International Airport, Florida: Clearwater Beach
The closest beach to Tampa International for your sunbathing pleasure is Clearwater Beach, one of the prettiest stretches of sand in Florida. Cabanas, chairs and sun umbrellas are available for rent, volleyball nets are set up on the sand, restrooms and showers are located on-site and a plethora of restaurants and bars are close by. If you happen to be at the beach close to sunset, head to Pier 60 for the daily festival Sunsets at Pier 60, celebrating the famous sunsets over Clearwater Beach. There are buskers, live entertainment, craft vendors and live music. The fun takes place from two hours before to two hours after sunset.
Getting there: Clearwater Beach is roughly a 35-minute taxi ride from Tampa International.
Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport, San Juan, Puerto Rico: Isla Verde Beach
Isla Verde Beach is the longest and widest one in San Juan and it’s conveniently close to the airport. The calm and clear water makes this a good snorkeling spot, with equipment for rent at several kiosks on the beach. Being a popular resort area, you also won’t have to search long for a place to eat or grab a drink by the water.
Getting there: Isla Verde Beach is only about a 10-minute taxi ride from San Juan Luis Muñoz Marín Airport.
San Diego International Airport, California: Mission Beach
There is plenty to keep you busy on a visit to San Diego’s Mission Beach, whether you’re traveling alone, with kids or as a couple. The beach itself offers the chance to swim, play a game of volleyball on the sand or walk along the adjacent boardwalk. Belmont Park amusement park is nearby if you feel like riding a roller coaster, and Mission Beach is also home to many bars, restaurants and cafes, as well as showers in case you need to rinse off before heading to the airport.
Getting there: The trip from the San Diego airport to Mission Beach takes under 20 minutes and a taxi is your most convenient option.
Miami International Airport, Florida: South Beach
Yes, another Florida option (if you’re not sure which you should choose, check out our quiz to decide which Florida city best suits you). South Beach, one of the most popular beaches in Miami, may not be everyone’s cup of tea what with its party central reputation, but it’s well worth a few hours if you have the time between flights or need something to do before check-in. You’ll be able to do some serious people watching from one of the many bars and restaurants in the area and the crystal-blue water and white sand are also inviting. Depending on where along the beach you are, there will likely be loungers for rent and the water here is known to be fairly calm and ideal for swimming. And if the lights and buzz aren’t for you, there are plenty of lower key cheap and free things to do in Miami, as well.
Getting there: Get to the beach via Miami-Dade Transit’s Airport Flyer, which offers daily express bus service between Miami International Airport and South Beach. Buses run every 30 minutes, from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., seven days a week.
Los Angeles International Airport, California: Marina Del Rey
Want to make the most of your Los Angeles vacay? Waste no time by heading straight from the airport to the beach. The closest beach to LAX is Marina Del Rey, where you’ll find decent swimming as well as volleyball courts, a long paved bike path, restrooms, showers and a park with a kids’ playground and basketball courts.
Getting there: Get a taxi from the airport to Marina del Rey Beach, which should take 20 to 25 minutes.
Sangster International Airport, Montego Bay, Jamaica: Doctor’s Cave Beach
Maybe you’re hoping to squeeze in a few more hours on the sand before your flight home, or want to get a jump on sunbathing before you can check into your room. Either way, if you’re flying into or out of Montego Bay airport, you can spend some quality time in the sun at Doctor’s Cave Beach, one of the most popular beaches in the area. There is an entry fee of USD $6 ($3 for kids under 12), but that gets you a pristine beach and turquoise water; use of restrooms, showers and change rooms; access to beach chair, umbrella and snorkel equipment rentals and proximity to a beach bar and grill.
Getting there: A taxi from the airport will get you to Doctor’s Cave in under 10 minutes.
Honolulu International Airport, Hawaii: Ala Moana Beach Park
Known to be a less-crowded beach than Waikiki Beach, Ala Moana Beach Park is a great option for beach-hoppers hoping to get an immediate dose of vitamin D when they land in Honolulu. The well-maintained beach is great for swimming thanks to calm, shallow water protected by an artificial reef. When you’re not swimming, you can take advantage of the near-perfectly flat water and rent a paddle board for some stand-up fun. There are restrooms here as well as concession stands and food trucks.
Getting there: Your best bet for getting to Ala Moana Beach Park is easiest in a taxi from the airport, which should take between 18 and 20 minutes.
Punta Cana International Airport, Dominican Republic: Playa Bavaro
White sand? Check. Inviting turquoise water? Check. This palm-fringed beach in Punta Cana is your best bet if you need some swim time before or after the airport. In addition to the inviting water, there’s plenty to keep you busy, from boat rides and kayaking to snorkeling and kite boarding. There are also restaurants here if you get hungry and souvenir shops if you want to grab a few gifts to bring home.
Getting there: The beach is best reached via a 20-minute taxi ride from the airport.
Barcelona–El Prat Airport, Spain: Barceloneta Beach
You might have been wowed by the architecture and smitten with the food, but don’t let a visit to one of Barcelona’s beaches pass you by before you head home. Barceloneta Beach is one of the city’s oldest and best-loved beaches and it’s not hard to see why. Here you’ll have access to sun loungers, umbrellas, changing rooms, showers, restrooms, a children’s play area, restaurants and plenty of beach bars where you can order a glass of sangria and do some beachside people watching.
Getting there: Access the beach from the airport with a 20-minute taxi ride.
Athens International Airport, Greece: Edem Beach
Anyone in Athens looking for some quality beach time should consider a quick trip to Edem Beach, the closest beach to the city center. There’s plenty of space on the sand here and the water is warm and shallow. The beach gets its name from the nearby taverna that’s set right by the water where you can relax with a cold Greek beer and some grilled calamari.
Getting there: A taxi from the airport should take you around 45 minutes. If you’re not in a rush and want to take public transit, you can take the metro from the airport to Syntagma and then board a tram to Edem. The beach is a short walk (less than half a mile) from the tram stop. Taking transit will take approximately an hour and 10 minutes.
Toronto Pearson Airport, Canada: Sunnyside Beach
If you’re arriving or departing from Toronto‘s Pearson Airport and feel like a stop at the beach, Sunnyside is a good option. There’s lots to see and do, including a scenic boardwalk that runs along the water for walkers, as well as the Martin Goodman Trail for anyone on two wheels. Sunnyside Beach is also a great place to do some stand-up paddle boarding thanks to calm waters of Lake Ontario (depending on your experience, rent a board or book a lesson through Toronto Adventures Inc). Those who prefer pools to lake water can take a dip in sprawling Gus Ryder Pool, and when you need to refuel, grab a waterfront table on the patio at Sunnyside Cafe, order a beer or a snack and watch a game of beach volleyball.
Getting there: A taxi from the airport should take around 20 minutes to Sunnyside. If you prefer public transit (and have the time to take it) get the UP Express to Bloor Station, hop on the 504 streetcar going west to Roncesvalles Ave. at Queen St. West and walk 7-10 minutes to Sunnyside. The entire trip should be around 45-50 minutes.