Vacations are short, and weekends are even shorter. And when the beach beckons with its sun, sand, and relaxation, you don't want to spend most of the time stuck on the road. Luckily, you can skip the traffic and get to these great, easy-to-access beaches much more easily by train. Don't forget the sunscreen!
Cape Cod, MA
Escape the summer bustle of Boston for the shores of Cape Cod -- on the peninsula that forms the easternmost part of Massachusetts and juts out into the Atlantic Ocean. Get there on the CapeFLYER train, which operates on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays during the summer. Trains serve Boston's South Station and Braintree, Brockton, Middleborough/Lakeville, Wareham Village, Buzzards Bay, and finally Hyannis on the Cape. Coming from further afield? From NYC and Highlands NJ, there's also a Seastreak ferry to Martha's vineyard.
$10-$44 round-trip on CapeFLYER; $240 round-trip on Seastreak.
San Diego (Various)
The Pacific coastline of San Diego and the small communities that lie just outside the city includes 70 miles of beaches. Take your pick based on what you like: surf, activity, or just plain chilling out. Get to your beach spot on the North County Transit District’s Coaster trains, which connect downtown San Diego and Old Town with coastal communities throughout the county including Solana Beach, Encinitas, Carlsbad, and Oceanside. Service runs weekdays, as well as weekends.
Adult round-trip fare from San Diego to Oceanside: $11.
Rockaway Beach, Brighton Beach, and Coney Island (New York)
There are a few beaches within easy reach by train in the NYC area, so you can choose which appeals to you based on where you are and how long you want to travel. Rockaway Beach is beloved by surfers and handballers, and it's accessible by subway (take the A train to Broad Channel, then transfer to the S train to Rockaway Park-Beach 116th Street). Get your Little Odessa experience at Brighton Beach, also accessible by subway (B or Q trains to Brighton Beach). Or dial up the quirk factor with a visit to Coney Island and complete your subway trifecta (D, Q, N, or F to Coney Island Terminal-Stillwell Avenue).
Single rides are $2.75; a 7-day unlimited MetroCard is $31.
West Palm Beach (Florida)
West Palm Beach is ideal for those who aren’t content to spend the entire day relaxing on the beach. Mix your chill time with bars, restaurants, boutiques, and museums within reach of the beach. Get there on Amtrak from virtually the entire East Coast, depending on how far you want to go for sun and sand. The train station is a bit of a walk from the beach, but you can use the time to scout out après spots for cool beverages. Silver Service on the Silver Star and Silver Meteor connect NYC to this station.
Fares vary depending on departure point and purchase date (buy tickets at least two weeks ahead for best prices).