World's 10 Best Beachfront Hotels

Napili Sunset Resort, West Maui. Steve Brinkman Photography
By Charis Atlas Heelan and Matt Higgins

Many hotels claim to be located on the beach or have spectacular ocean views -- but you're either beachfront or you're not. For travelers who aren't satisfied with having to cross a road, walk down from a cliff, or climb over rocks to reach the beach, we've found 10 affordable beachfront hotels with rooms, suites, and bungalows that are literally steps from the sand.

If you crave a midnight dip or perpetually sandy toes, these 10 destinations are for you. Keep in mind that some of the world's most desirable beaches may not have properties directly on the sand (without having to cross a boardwalk or a major road), or these hotels may charge an obscene premium for the privilege. Fortunately, each of these hotels offers great value and even better views. From the Greek Islands to the Great Barrier Reef, allow us to help you find your perfect beach getaway.

Photo Caption: You're less than 10 feet from the beach when staying at the Napili Sunset Resort in Maui.
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Al Cielo, Xpu-Ha Beach, Mexico. Courtesy of Al Cielo
Where: This boutique hotel is on Xpu-Ha Beach, about a 20-minute drive north of Tulum and 20 minutes south of Playa del Carmen on the Riviera Maya.

The Details: Al Cielo offers an intimate experience compared to the large-scale resorts of the Riviera Maya. The hotel has four rustic yet elegant rooms with names like Water, Earth, Air, and Fire. The air-conditioned rooms are each outfitted with king-size beds and private terraces with colorful hammocks. The Villa Atardecer (Sunset Villa) is ideal for families of up to five people.

Distance From the Sand: Your terrace is about five steps away from the sand. The private villa is about 90 feet from the edge of the beach.

How Much: The rooms start at $400 USD per night.

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Photo Caption: Staying at Al Cielo means you're steps from swimming in the turquoise waters of Mexico's Riviera Maya.
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Bolongo Bay Beach Resoort. Courtesy Bolongo Bay Beach Resort
Where: St. Thomas

The Details: Bolongo Bay is a boutique Caribbean resort with its own 1,000-foot-long beach lined with palm trees -- and resident iguanas strolling by. Enjoy the beachfront pool, two seaside restaurants, and the complimentary use of paddle boards, Hobie Cats, kayaks, aqua tricycles, snorkeling gear, and more. The resort also has one of the island's best-known nightspots: Iggies Beach Bar & Grill.

Distance From the Sand: Beachfront rooms are about three feet from the edge of the white-sand beach, so you can enjoy a quick dip without having to bump into anyone on your way.

How Much: Standard rooms for two people start at $250 per night, an ocean-view room with a second- or third-floor patio starts at $350, and the 24 beachfront rooms start at $375 per night. Prices are based on low season in September and October.

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Photo Caption: Your hotel room is within a few feet of the sand if you book one of the 24 beachfront rooms at the Bolongo Bay Beach Resort.
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Nikoi, on Nikoi Island, in Bintan Island. Courtesy of Nikoi
Where: Nikoi Island, Bintan Islands, about two hours by ferry from Singapore

The Details: This private island is capped at 60 guests who take up temporary residence in the two-story beach houses on stilts. Each of the 15 suites features a king-size bed with mosquito nets, a balcony overlooking the palm-fringed beach, a bathroom with an open shower, a second outdoor shower, a wooden-decked lounge area with a bar, and daybeds. The resort also has two swimming pools, four bars, a restaurant, acres of virgin rain forest to discover, and coral reefs to snorkel through.

Distance From the Sand: Zero -- your suite is on the white sand.

How Much: Prices for two people start at SG$375 per night (about $278). Add SG$90 per day (about $67) for all meals. Boat/car transfers from the Bintan ferry are SG$90 per adult.

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Photo Caption: The suites at Nikoi are made from local driftwood and alang alang grass rooftops.
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Overlooking the Andaman Sea at dusk from the Pimalai Resort and Spa Pimalai Resort and Spa
Where: Koh Lanta Island, about 2 hours by van and ferry from Krabi Airport.

The Details: This island resort whose name in Sanskrit means "a little patch of heaven", is located within the pristine beauty of a tropical landscape. This is the place to go to escape crowded tourists beaches and reconnect with the natural world most city dwellers take for granted. Accomodations include 121 units made up of villas, suites, and hotel rooms. Several dining options are available at the resort. 

Distance From the Sand: About 50 ft. from room to fine white sand. Depending on the tide, you're only another 30 feet or so to the crystal-clear warm waters of the Andaman Sea.

How Much: A deluxe room for two is 6,650 Thai Bhat, or $189 per night. A two-bedroom pool villa is 26,950 TB, or $766 per night. 

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Photo Caption: Check into a bungalow at Phi Phi Island Village Beach Resort & Spa
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Hotel Tierra Verde, Isla Carenero, Bocas del Toro Panama. Hotel Tierra Verde

Where: Isla Carenero in the Bocas del Toro Archipelago of Panama. The island, and those neighboring, it are easily accessible by water taxis from the mainland and from each other. The area is a favorite of serious surfers and even more serious birders.

The Details: This family run B&B is secluded and serene, though easy to get to by water taxi (blessedly it's on the quieter, eastern side of the island, away from the noise of neighboring Isla Colon. The 7 rooms are cozy, woodsy and comfortable; for those who want to upgrade, there's a two-bedroom suite with a private terrace facing the ocean. The hotel fronts of a small, quiet and swimmable, beach. The owners, friendly brothers and surf afficionados, can arrange tours to anywhere in Bocas as well as surfing trips. 

Distance From the Sand: Three steps—max (It’s practically on the beach)

How Much: $65-$75 for a double room, $150 for a suite. Rates include breakfast. No phone in room, internet only at the internet station.

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Private sandy beach at Knossos Beach Bungalos and Suites. Courtesy of Knossos
Where: Knossos Beach is seven miles from Heraklion, Crete. Direct flights are available from many European cities; ferry service from Athens and various Greek Islands is also available.

The Details: Terraced rows of 120 white-washed mini villas line this exclusive stretch of Greek paradise. All waterfront rooms and suites feature private sun decks. The hotel also has three pools, three bars, and three restaurants.

How Much: Waterfront bungalows for two people start at €85 (about $0.28) in low season and €252 (about $0.82) in peak season.

Distance From the Sand: Only about three feet separate your private deck from the sand.

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Photo Caption: Enjoy the private sandy beach at Knossos Beach Bungalows & Suites.
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Crusoe's Retreat, Fiji. Courtesy of Crusoe's Retreat
Where: Viti Levu island, about two hours from Nadi (Fiji's capital and main airport)

The Details: Crusoe's Retreat is an intimate resort on Fiji's famous Coral Coast. With only 29 bures (traditional huts), Crusoe's is the ultimate getaway. Located next to an authentic Fijian village, you are encouraged to experience firsthand how time-honored traditions and ancient customs continue. Complimentary resort activities include sea kayaking, snorkeling, beach volleyball, and bush hikes.

How Much: Beachfront bures start at FJD$245 ($118) and deluxe seaside bures are from FJD$305 ($147) per night. Stay for five nights in low season and get 40 percent off.

Distance From the Sand: According to the resort manager, you're so close that you can hold your breath while walking from your bure to the edge of the water.

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Photo Caption: You can't help but relax at Crusoe's Retreat in Fiji.
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Castaways Resort and Spa, Mission Beach, North Queensland Australia. Courtesy of Castaways Resort and Spa
Where: Mission Beach, Tropical North Queensland

The Details: Bound by the Great Barrier Reef and the Wet Tropics Rainforest, the luxurious Castaways Resort & Spa sits on a stretch of beach that is nine miles long and has views of Dunk Island. From the beach right outside your room, you can snorkel out to coral reefs. The resort also offers spa services and activities like fishing, boating, kayaking, and diving.

Distance From the Sand: Walk across perfectly manicured lawns outside your villa for 60 feet, and you'll be standing on a private Coral Sea beach.

How Much: Standard rooms start at A$190 per night (about $143), ground-floor resort rooms start at A$225 ($170), and two-bedroom beachfront apartments start at A$360 ($272) per night.

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Photo Caption: You can go snorkeling right in front of Castaways Resort & Spa in Mission Beach.
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Napili Sunset Resort, West Maui. Shel Givens
Where: Napili Bay, West Maui

The Details: It isn't easy to find an absolutely beachfront hotel in Maui that doesn't involve high rises, high costs, or hundreds of rooms. Fortunately, you can book a night at the Napili Sunset Resort, a collection of two-story buildings with tropical-themed rooms and spectacular views. Napili Bay is known for its golden sand, gentle surf, and memorable sunsets. During the winter months, you may spot some whales, and dolphins also drop in for a swim in the warm waters.

Distance from the Sand: Walk out of your lanai, cross a narrow stretch of green lawn and beach lounge chairs, and you're on the sand -- about 10 feet away from the entrance to your room.

How Much: A pool-side studio starts at $199.

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Photo Caption: The sand is about 10 feet from your front door when staying at the Napili Sunset Resort in Maui.
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Shelborne South Beach, Miami. Courtesy of Shelborne South Beach
Where: Miami's South Beach

The Details: It's a good thing that this 1940s-era hotel in the heart of South Beach's Art Deco District is being restored to its former glory. After all, the Shelborne is one of the few truly oceanfront properties in South Beach. Many of the 200 rooms and suites have beachfront views, and there's a pool that reaches right up to the sand line.

Distance from the Sand: Beachfront rooms are about 40 feet from the sand.

How Much: A beachfront king room starts at $229 per night.

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Photo Caption: A rendering of Shelborne South Beach, due to open in Nov. 2011
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