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When you think of music festivals, do you think of muddy, gross displays of overcrowding like the legendary Woodstock festivals? Or do you have not-so-fond memories of soaked shoes and shivering through the tinny sound of distant bands as you struggled to find your will to live? Perhaps you swore off festivals the last time you experience the true horror of a sweltering port-a-potty or being approximately six miles from the main stage.
Well, it doesn’t have to be that way. Like everything else in this world, your festival experience will almost always come down to one crucial factor: Location, location, location. If you’ll looking to gather with your fellow humans for a few days of music, food, or some other passion, why not find a festival that’s held on a beach?
All over the globe, people are organizing beach festivals. That means sun, sea, and sand. That means not freezing your butt off, and having all the joys of a day at the beach with a better soundtrack, menu, or activities list. If we’ve sold you on the benefits of finding your fun by the ocean, here are ten beach festivals you should definitely make travel plans for.
Hangout Music Fest
Where & when: Gulf Shores, Alabama, May 20-22
With a list of performers including Post Malone, Fall Out Boy, and Halsey, this would be a classic festival based on the music offerings alone. But the Hangout Music Fest, sponsored by Alabama’s legendary Hangout Restaurant, is designed to be an adult version of the county fair. In addition to the music, there are arcade games, beach volleyball tournaments, puppies (yes, puppies), and tons of local food vendors. Tickets start at $339 (plus fees) for the three-day fest, and free shuttles are provided to and from local beachside hotels so you don’t have to sweat.
Les Plages Électroniques
Where & when: Cannes, France, August 5-7
There’s a reason the most glamorous film festival in the world is held in Cannes. If you love house and electronic music and you’re looking for an excuse to empty your retirement accounts and hit a Mediterranean beach for an epic few days, Les Plages Électroniques is a perfect one. Acts include David Guetta, Martin Garrix, and Charlotte De Witte, but if you don’t recognize any of the names just remind yourself that you’ll be in Cannes—and probably broke, too, but that’s a problem for Future You, who can be a bit of a buzzkill.
Carolina Beach Music Festival
Where & when: Carolina Beach, North Carolina, June 4
Really, all you need to know about the Carolina Beach Music Festival is that it’s held at the northern end of an island literally named Pleasure Island. Pleasure Island, people! This music festival is short on nationally-famous music acts, but long on casual fun. If you’re looking for a low-key fest that lets you bring your own cooler of refreshments onto the gorgeous beaches, the longest-running beach festival of all time is your best bet. The best part? Tickets are just $35 ($40 day of the festival).
The Curacao North Sea Jazz Festival
Where & when: Curaçao, July 8-10
The island of Curaçao is a gorgeous mix of Dutch, African, and Caribbean culture—and it hosts one of the region’s largest music festivals on its pristine beaches, The Curacao North Sea Jazz Festival. With John Legend opening the fest and performers like Herbie Hancock, Erykah Badu, and fricking Diana Ross performing, you can’t lose. Don’t like jazz? Get over it. The fest has a wide range of musical styles, and did we forget to mention that it’s in Curaçao? Tickets for all three days will run you about $1,200 (without airfare or hotels), but you can also buy just an individual day pass.
The Hawaii Food & Wine Festival
Where & when: Kaanapali, Maui, October 21-23; Island of Hawaii, October 28-29; Oahu, November 3-6.
Hawaii, you say? Wine, you say? Food, too? Why aren’t we all going to this marvelous event? So popular they have to hold it three times within a month, the Hawaii Food & Wine Festival is all about the pleasures of the table. Wander around some of the most beautiful beaches that the Hawaiian Islands have to offer while munching on food prepared by some of the greatest chefs in the world. Tickets will run you about $300 per person (plus the cost of getting there, of course), but if you’re looking to have a reason to spend a few weeks in Hawaii living it up, you’ve found it.
Where & when: Barcelona, Spain, June 2-12
There are actually a series of Primavera Sound festivals held all over the world, but Barcelona’s lineup is pretty killer if you love rock music (and the beaches are pretty great, too). Featuring acts like Massive Attack, The Strokes, Lorde, Dua Lipa, and Pavement, the festival also works hard to feature up-and-coming acts and lesser-known indie faves to round out the bill. Not only can you enjoy a city famous for its nightlife, you can also expand your knowledge of what’s hot in the music world while soaking your feet in the Mediterranean. Tickets will run you close to $500 for both weekends, but you can opt to go for just one leg of the fest.
Where & when: Honolulu, Hawaii, August 20-28
If you love water sports like surfing, swimming, or paddleboarding (plus beachy stuff like volleyball), then Duke’s Oceanfest is for you. Over nine days, this festival in honor of the legendary Olympic gold medalist Duke Paoa Kahanamoku is some of the most fun you can have on Waikiki Beach. To go with all the incredible watersport competitions you can witness, there’s also a full slate of music, food, and other activities for the whole family. Did we mention it’s held on Waikiki Beach? In Hawaii? Also, it’s free to show up and watch everything, though individual events may come with a ticket cost.
Where & when: Novalja, Croatia, August 21-25
You might not immediately think of beaches when you think of Croatia, but it’s a beautiful country with a long coastline along the Adriatic Sea. Hosted on the Island of Pag, this is definitely a combination vacation/music festival. The tunes lean heavily towards underground electronic music, so if that phrase mystifies you this might not be ideal—though once you’re dancing on a beach in a gorgeous location it might not matter much. The best way to think of The Sonus Festival is that it’s essentially a five-day party on the beach with a terrific DJ. Tickets start at around $250, with VIP packages starting closer to $325.
Santa Cruz Boardwalk Concerts
Where & when: Santa Cruz, California, Fridays in June through August
Less an organized festival than a series of free public concerts, the Santa Cruz Boardwalk offers a loose, casual festival atmosphere without the strict scheduling or ticket cost. Whether you’re in the area and want a cheap, easy option to take in a concert or you’re looking for a new beach to explore, the Santa Cruz Boardwalk offers food, fun, and plenty of beach activities every single day. But on Friday nights during the summer, it suddenly becomes a mini-music festival—all for free.
Island Hopper Songwriter Fest
Where & when: Fort Myers and Captiva Island, Florida, September 16-25
All along the beautiful beaches in Fort Myers and Captiva Island, various venues will offer up a robust list of fresh, up-and-coming singer-songwriters. Not only is this an absolutely beautiful spot off the Gulf of Mexico, it’s also a terrific opportunity to discover the next cool thing in music before they hit it big—while having a blast. The festival moves between Fort Myers and Captiva Island, ending with a big blowout on the beach in Fort Myers—and best of all, most of the shows are free to attend, with just a few ticketed VIP-style events.