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For a glamorous beach escape in a place far and exotic, few of the world’s destinations rival Punta del Este in small but charming Uruguay. Called the Hamptons of South America, this exclusive resort area features miles of pristine Atlantic beaches, a string of luxury hotels, upscale restaurants and glitzy nightlife.
updated 1/16/2008 4:08:47 PM ET 2008-01-16T21:08:47

Book by: ASAP
Travel by: Various through 2008

The deal
Tired of the same old beach holidays where you stay in a cookie-cutter resort trying to avoid tourist packs that spoil the quiet time you’ve been dreaming of? We found four beach destinations that aren’t chockablock with sun-worshippers. In these offbeat locales, savvy travelers can soak up plenty of sunshine and avoid the crowds that plague the more popular beach spots, either due to their off-season lull or their lesser-known status. From Uruguay and Nicaragua in wintertime to Albania and Turkey from late spring through early fall, these places are hard to beat for unsullied beach bliss. Hotel rates start at just $110/night!

Punta del Este, Uruguay
For a glamorous beach escape in a place far and exotic, few of the world’s destinations rival Punta del Este in small but charming Uruguay. Called the Hamptons of South America, this exclusive resort area features miles of pristine Atlantic beaches, a string of luxury hotels, upscale restaurants and glitzy nightlife haunts where global jet-set comes to party in summertime. With the Southern Hemisphere seasons being reversed, that’s our wintertime! So there’s still time to catch some of the action before this season’s out. We recommend a sojourn at the recently inaugurated Awa Boutique + Design Hotel, a stellar showcase of minimalist décor and modern amenities, where breakfast-inclusive rates start at $110/night.

Pacific Coast of Nicaragua
For an unusual beach escape closer to home, we suggest Nicaragua. It may be one of Central America’s poorest and least visited countries but, as Rough Guides claim, “Nicaragua is an incorrigibly vibrant and individualistic country, with plenty to offer travelers ...” Its Pacific beaches are a treasure trove of dazzling sunsets, pounding surf and palm-fringed sands that you won’t have to share with tourist hordes. Winter is the best time to go for a rain-free holiday. We recommend the small and delightful all-inclusive resort on the beach of Pochomil: Hotel Vistamar. Here, each of the 17 oceanfront bungalows comes with a private terrace and a six-day stay costs $700 per person, with all meals and drinks and two excursions.

The two seas of Albania
It may have been closed to travelers for decades but the spectacular country of Albania now beckons visitors to its unspoiled shorelines. You can be one of the first to explore the many beaches that line Albania’s two coasts — the Adriatic Sea across from Italy and the Ionian Sea to the southwest, bordering Greece. You can choose your base from many seaside towns but with the tourist infrastructure still relatively undeveloped, we recommend deciding based on the hotel options. The two top-rated coastal hotels include Hotel Adriatik in the ancient town of Durrës on the northern Adriatic and Butrinti Hotel in the scenic town of Saranda close to the Greek island of Corfu. Both hotels start from €80($120)/night for B&B.

Turkey’s Aegean Coast
When summer rolls around and everyone heads to Europe’s popular beach destinations, we suggest you bypass the run of the mill and head to Turkey’s terrific coast. Bodrum is the place to go, a picturesque town described by Frommer’s as “Turkey's most popular seaside tourist destination, a perfect balance of whitewashed stucco hillside houses dripping in bougainvillea, magnificent vistas, historic imprints, and blow-out nightlife.” Bodrum has plenty of hotels but we recommend the best of both worlds — deluxe Queen Ada Hotel in the quiet Torba Bay five miles from town. With its 22 beautiful balconied rooms; private beach; pool; and a restaurant/bar, this enchanting property has all you’d want on the premises. B&B rates start at €130($194)/night.

The dollars
The quoted rate for the Uruguay hotel is for the low season, which officially starts in April. We suggest skipping January–February — Uruguay’s peak season — when stays are priced up to $320/night — and booking a sojourn in March, when rates hover at a very reasonable $140/night and the weather is still lovely. For the Nicaragua deal, the nightly rate works out to $140 per person (based on the five-night stay), with three meals per day and excursions thrown in — an unbeatable price for a beach holiday. In the Caribbean, lodging only would cost you at least as much during the peak winter season! Cost-wise, we recommend vacationing in Albania and Turkey in June or September, thus avoiding the premium summer rates while still enjoying fantastic weather.

The catch
Airfare is additional and will undoubtedly put a dent into your bank account.

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