rebel without a car.
January 5, 2008 9:32 AM   Subscribe

I want to go on vacation in March to a place with beaches. Problem: We can't drive!

We're looking for a warm location with nice beaches, and we'd be staying there for two or three days. We'd be flying out of NYC. I don't have a license, and neither does my girlfriend.

We're in our 20s, and am interested in art/culture/music/food. We're also looking to avoid the partying spring-break atmosphere, 'cause we're both awkward and geeky. More than anything, we're just really looking for a nice area with beaches.

I've looked around, but everything I've looked for assumes that the traveler can drive. I've seen this question, but again, since we can't drive, so I can't tell if any of the thread's suggestions would work. We've ruled out an out-of-country vacation, for reasons concerning flight costs.

So: Do you have any suggestions for places that are doable without a car, or by renting bikes? Thanks!
posted by suedehead to Travel & Transportation (16 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Most beach areas tend to have "tourist" areas where you can rent a hotel room right on the beach, then there are usually a number of restaurants and crappy kitsch shops available in the immediate area. And most places usually have SOME sort of bus transportation, so it's definitely doable.

For the record I'm thinking of the Florida beach communities here, and some of the places I've stayed in Mexico.
posted by KirTakat at 9:42 AM on January 5, 2008

Bermuda! Tourist car rentals are actually forbidden!

Here's the official government tourism website's take on "getting around" once there. It looks like scooters are the preferred means of transit (no license or riding experience required, minimum age to rent 16!), and they've got plentiful buses (with an unlimited bus pass, details on the site) and taxis and ferries and horse carriages as well! (OMG, horse carriages!!!)

Flights in March are pretty reasonable-ish. I found some flights on Continental (no idea if this link will work), leaving Newark mid-morning on March 8, coming back mid-afternoon on March 11 (so no sleeping-in-the-airport craziness), for $319 with taxes, round-trip, per person. The flight's only two hours long, which is less time than it takes to get to Florida, right?

Yay vacation! Wherever you go, have a great time!
posted by mdonley at 9:54 AM on January 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

Also, there's a deal on the aforementioned Bermudian goverment tourist website offering a $300 flight credit for staying in one of the reosrts they mention; perhaps you could save some money that way? Click on "legal" at the bottom of the page to read the fine print (there isn't a whole lot).
posted by mdonley at 9:58 AM on January 5, 2008

Anywhere in the Caribbean or resort areas in Mexico (well, and Central and South America, too) -- you can take a hotel shuttle, a bus, or a taxi from the airport to your hotel, and as long as you have chosen a hotel in an area with lots of restaurants, etc, or have chosen to stay at an all-inclusive resort, you will have zero need to drive during your stay. Really, the vast majority of tourists heading to the beach do not rent cars, and you will have lots of company in your non-drivingness. There is a lot of infrastructure for moving tourists around; in some cases you will pay more than you will if you rent a car yourself, but you also don't have the headache of the rental and the extra expenses that can crop up when you back the rental into a rock.

One option would be to look for places that you can't drive to -- I know there are a couple near Puerto Vallarta that you can only reach by boat, for example, and I am sure there are many others.
posted by Forktine at 10:09 AM on January 5, 2008

Bermuda is perfect, but perhaps not in March, that is still the off season and may be too chilly for much beach time, at least if you want to swim. Just about any resort area with hotels on the beach would be great. Take taxis if you need to go far. Cozumel is nice and well served out of the New York area.
posted by caddis at 10:10 AM on January 5, 2008

Well, it may not be enough beach for you as the beach is not necessarily the main attraction, but Venice/Venice Beach is definitely walk friendly.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:15 AM on January 5, 2008

You're looking for San Juan, PR.

You can stay in Condado for relatively cheap (Holiday Inn Express anyone?) and be about two steps to a nice, relatively empty beach, and a short cab or bus ride to another beach and similarly close to old San Juan for a little night life and touristy goodness.
posted by milarepa at 10:16 AM on January 5, 2008

Take a look at Lonely Planet guidebooks. I don't drive either, and LP has helped me get around sans car to a lot of places. In my experience, it's the only guidebook brand that consistenly takes nondrivers into account. You may have to cobble together a route involving taxis and several forms of public transportation, but with a little ingenuity you can get there!

This won't suit your purposes of warm beach, but so far my favorite carless vacation reachable from NYC has been Block Island: Amtrak to Kingston RI, taxi from Kingston to Port Judith, ferry from Port Judith to the island, bike to get around on the island.
posted by footnote at 10:17 AM on January 5, 2008

We went to Loreto in Baja Mexico a few months ago, did not rent a car, did not need a car, had a great time. The town has an international airport just a short taxi ride from the main town, which is small enough to walk everywhere, and the really good beaches are on the islands in the marine reserve just off shore.
posted by ambrosia at 10:53 AM on January 5, 2008

My fiance and I just stayed at the Sheraton on Kaua'i over New Year's. We drove a lot, because we like exploring, but I could tell a lot of the people at the resort literally had gotten on a taxi, gotten to the hotel, and just stayed there. We had beach pretty much at our feet; the cheaper rooms had about a five-minute walk. Also, you'll feel good because a lot of the most beautiful sights on the island aren't accessible by car, so everyone you meet will be at a similar disadvantage. Apparently helicopters are the only way to go.
posted by crinklebat at 11:42 AM on January 5, 2008

playa del carmen... get to playa from the airport via bus, van or taxi and everything is there.
You dont need to waste a penny on a taxi or time on a shuttle.
There are dozens of places eat, shop, and stay right there... all along the beach.
The nicest beaches are about five-ten minute walk.
posted by beccaj at 12:13 PM on January 5, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions!
Unfortunately, we're on a tight budget (we're students), so while we'd love to go to PR, Mexico, etc, even a $300 flight is a bit too much, since our trip is so short. How would areas in Florida be? Are there any especially carless-friendly beach areas in Florida?
posted by suedehead at 7:25 PM on January 5, 2008

JetBlue starts flights from JFK to Aruba and St. Maarten in January for about $150, and they fly to San Juan or Aguadilla in PR for < $200. In any of those places, you can get a shuttle from the airport to lots of hotels.

In Florida, try the Townhouse Hotel in South Beach, it's just off the beach right between the very expensive Setai and Shore Club but costs much less, and it's has a great sushi bar in the basement.
posted by nicwolff at 8:23 PM on January 5, 2008

Best answer: How would areas in Florida be? Are there any especially carless-friendly beach areas in Florida?

A lot of the small beach towns from around St Augustine all the way south are fine without a car. You just need to make sure that your hotel is near both the beach and places (like restaurants, museums, etc) that you will want to visit.

If you are on a serious budget, maybe you will want to be looking into campgrounds or couchsurfing options? And check actual costs -- a slightly more expensive flight to a much cheaper place will be a better deal overall.
posted by Forktine at 8:57 PM on January 5, 2008

We actually did this a few years ago in San Diego. Their public transit system there is fantastic. You could look them up at and call them for a packet with maps and schedules.
posted by azpenguin at 7:55 AM on January 6, 2008

We were in Puerto Vallarta last April. Taxis and buses are plentiful and cheap (when you get away from the airport). The timeshare that we stayed at had a private beach and pool but there were other beaches nearby. The bus cost about .45 and the taxi to downtown was $4. Not bad at all. We would take the bus into town, have a blast and then buy a small amount of fresh food at the grocery store. We would then "splurge" and take a taxi back to the hotel. I really love visiting Mexico...ah...memories...
posted by zerobyproxy at 9:49 AM on January 6, 2008

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