You know what to expect when you go to a beach that everyone raves about–crowds. There’s nothing worse than barely getting to walk on the sand without stepping over folks. Why do it? Instead, as you plot this summer’s beach time, think about exploring alternatives to the hot spots that aren’t so far away from where the crowds are. Seek out a peaceful piece of paradise. Go ahead, swim against the tide.

Here are some alternatives to popular beaches.

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina vs. Kiawah Island, South Carolina

For sure, there’s plenty of raucous fun to be had at Myrtle Beach, and you can whoop it up on the cheap. But truth is, Myrtle Beach can be crowded. If you want a more chilled vibe, there’s Kiawah Island, a couple of hours away. You’ll find a beachfront, lush landscape, 15 different habitats and hundreds of bird and reptile species. The beach’s hard-packed sand is great for biking along the coastline. Another bonus, it’s about an hour from Charleston, so if you’re looking for good eating and a bit of city excitement too, you can combine that with your beach vacation. 

Miami Beach, Florida vs. Vero Beach, Florida

Miami Beach is flash, beautiful people, hipsters with sculpted bodies parading and posing. Entertaining eye candy a plenty. If that’s not your scene you might feel more at home at Vero Beach. They promise “sunrises not high-rises.” Ouch. No beachfront building is taller than the tallest palm tree. You get green-blue waters, sea turtles and white sand beaches. You also can get culture like the Vero Beach ballet, the opera and museums. If you must shop, the luxury digs are on Ocean Drive. You’ll like the homegrown restaurant scene.

Rehoboth Beach, Delaware vs. Bethany Beach, Delaware

There’s no shortage of action at Rehoboth Beach. It’s about the sand and surf by day and come nightfall it’s all about the party at the bayside nightclubs. The vibe is decidedly different at family-friendly Bethany Beach. Seafood is the specialty around town. You’ll enjoy the quiet beaches. You can sail, surf, swim and stand-up paddleboard.

Newport, Rhode Island vs. Bristol, Rhode Island

Newport may be known as a playground for A-list celebs as well as corporate titans, but if you want to fly under the radar, there’s a special slice of small-town Americana in Bristol. The beach at Colt State Park is beautiful and the bonus here is the beach volleyball courts, massive grassy areas with picnic tables, bike paths, trails and sports complex that includes skate park, basketball, tennis and bocce courts, baseball and softball fields, concession stands and more. Colt State Park is more than 460 acres of fun. When you leave the beach, there are plenty of eclectic eateries to satisfy your hunger.

Gulf Shores, Alabama vs. Gulf Shores, Mississippi

While the Gulf Shores of Alabama is lauded for its beaches, trails, pier and more, the Mississippi Gulf Coast has bragging rights too. It is a year-round destination for water works, be it swimming, kayaking, paddle boarding, fishing and boating. Also take schooner sails, go shrimping and explore the barrier islands that sit just miles off the Mississippi Gulf Coast. With white-sand beaches and beautiful Gulf waters, the islands are perfect for a day trip.

Coney Island Beach, Brooklyn vs. Jacob Riis Beach, Queens

Coney Island has a storied history with its groundbreaking amusements and rides, but Jacob Riis Beach in Queens is off the beaten track. It’s called “the people’s beach.” The last few years the beach has evolved with new concessions. You can get artisanal ice cream, beer and alcohol in certain areas, as well as gourmet sandwiches, barbecue, seafood, Bolivian food and more.