I stay in beach rentals. I own a couple of beach rentals. I manage beach rentals. I've dealt with hundreds of guests looking for and staying in beach rentals. I've read hundreds of guest reviews for beach rentals. Let me put my experience to use and offer 6 tips to help you in your search for a great beach rental.
Extra Beach Rental Tip: Before you start know the basics of what you want and need: proximity to beach, # sleeps, dates you are available, and budget.
1. Check the availability calendar first. If there isn't one...just move on. There is too much selection in beach rentals to waste YOUR time inquiring about weeks that won't fit your schedule or working with vacation rental managers or owners who don't bother to keep their calendars updated so they can bait and switch you. Keep in mind some of the listing site's calendars may not be fully up to date, but the vacation rental manager's own site should ALWAYS be accurate. This is a big advantage to renting with professional managers vs owners.
2. Get the actual address. Only a few managers and owners of vacation rentals will refuse you because of security concerns - hang up the phone and try another. Google map it, including the satellite view. If the map doesn't match the description, ask about it. Mapping software isn't perfect, BUT it will show you important streets and most importantly where the beach is in comparison to the vacation rental. Try to really zoom in to street view, as well as figure out the topography. I know a lot of people who think and say beach front, and their opinion is different than mine. Beach front, to me, means, no street between me and the beach, AND no cliff between me and the beach. Some streets are fine, even some streets are fine, as long as you KNOW EXACTLY what you are booking and if it meets your needs. For example, my favorite beach in Orange County CA is Salt Creek Beach. That said, when my kids were little or when I'm with my mom, this would not be a good beach to stay at. Why? All the houses (and the Ritz) are at the top of a mega cliff, and even the public parking is up a steep and long hill. Another example: I once stayed at Le Meridien in Cannes France - and the photo from the pool and the text said "on the beach" - what wasn't shown was the huge and busy street between the hotel and and the promenade and the "beach." Which brings me to tip #2.
3. Find out what kind of beach. Sandy? Flat? Surf? Rocky? Tidal? Mud flats? Shells? Pebbles? Coral? Grass? Public? Private? State? Lifeguards? Safe from crime? Clean water?
4. Research the weather and water temperature for your beach during the time you will be visiting. Beaches vary dramatically on the west coast based on season... Water temperature, sand, topography. Yes, it's out dirty little secret: much of our sand gets ripped away during the winter months, and usually ends up back on our beaches by summer. There are also san replenishment projects that help. Water quality varies on the west coast based on rain too. Water temperature varies. I recommend you take some time and look up historical water temperature and weather conditions for the time of your visit and your location. Decide if the reality matches your vision. We spent a spring break at Anna Maria Island in Florida that wasn't very springlike, but at least the water was warm. Had we booked in a different location, the water would have been rough and cold. I love my cottage on the coast of Maine, but invariably, every summer someone asks if it's warm enough for swimming from our dock. I never answer the question with a yes or know, but always with more questions. Your host, be it a professional manager or an owner, should take the time to do the same with you when you ask.
5. Look closely at all the photos, inside and out. Make sure there are plenty of photos of the view, the outside if it's a stand alone rental, and the inside. If the view photos isn't labeled clearly that it's from the beach rental, ASK. If there aren't any photos of the inside, ask for some.
6. Spend time on the beach rental website or description. Follow all the links to more information. Look at the amenities provided. Do this after you've checked the availability calendar and rates, but before you inquire. Read guest reviews. This way you are sure you are making a good match. A really good rental site will Take care of Tips 1-5.
7. Book your stay. If dealing with a vacation rental manager, you will be able to book online at the best rates, and pay securely via credit card. If you have found a place via one of the many "rent by owner" (note: they aren't all owners-managers and owners list on these sites) go ahead and inquire via email or call. We recommend sending out 3-5 inquiries, and waiting up to 2 days for responses from most listing sites based on our inquiry experience. Choose your favorite and: say NO THANK YOU and WHY to those you didn't choose.
8. Confirm your arrival and departure times and procedures for a smooth trip. Confirm linens, beach toys, towels, etc to minimize packing. Make online reservations and print tickets for local attractions. Find out where to rent equipment- some places even deliver. ENJOY.