Spring break condos

8 fun, affordable beachfront investments

Spring break is nearly upon us, a time to shake off winter's grip and think about sun, fun — and beachfront living.

But is this an affordable dream? To find out, we shopped for homes in some of the most popular spring break destinations along the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic coasts, from South Padre Island, Texas, to St. Augustine Beach, Fla.

We found eight reasonably priced condos either on the beach or within easy walking distance of the water. They all have at least two bedrooms and two bathrooms and are on the market for $150,000 to $250,000. These condos offer both a great vacation spot for your family and serve as potential investment properties, offering rental income when you're not there.

Keep an eye on the difference in price per square foot, which is a great way to compare how far your housing dollar will stretch in certain areas. Let's head first to south Florida, where the surf's up near the first property on our tour.

Hutchinson Island, Florida

Address: 4100 N. Highway A1A, Apt. 211
Price: $250,000
Square feet: 2,630
Price per square foot: $95
HOA fees: $650 monthly

This getaway parked on the Atlantic coast is the best deal on our list in terms of price per square foot. And it has ample space, enough for the entire family. It's a three-bedroom, three-full-bathroom oceanfront condo. Two of those bedrooms are master suites, so there won't be much negotiating over who sleeps where. That makes it a great rental as well. This condo also features three porches with great views of the ocean and community pool. The kitchen has standard appliances, solid-surface counter tops and a stainless-steel sink. This unit also comes with some living room and bedroom furniture, but it is not fully furnished. The beach is located just behind the four-building condo complex. If surfing is your passion, Fort Pierce Inlet State Park — named one of the best places to surf in south Florida — is just a couple of miles away.

See more photos of this Florida condo.

Maxine Hazen: Weichert Hallmark Realtors; 772-332-3970

Jensen Beach, Florida

Address: 10410 S Ocean Drive, #207
Price: $249,900
Square feet: 1,452
Price per square foot: $172
HOA fees: $1,798 quarterly

Located in an 80-unit building, this two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo on Hutchinson Island backs right to the Atlantic Ocean. This condo is the second cheapest per square foot on our list. The open floor plan includes a breakfast bar, living room and formal dining room. Floor-to-ceiling sliding-glass windows open onto a balcony that faces Waveland Beach, one of several area beaches home to nesting sea turtles. The kitchen has white standard appliances, solid-surface counter tops and modern wood cabinets. On-site, there's a gazebo, heated pool, hot tub, sauna, gym, community room and gardens. For sport, you can play billiards, pingpong and shuffle board.

See more photos of this Florida condo.

Patrick Stracuzzi: RE/MAX of Stuart; 772-283-9991

South Padre Island, Texas

Address: 1700 Gulf Blvd., Apt 212
Price: $248,900
Square feet: 1,256
Price per square foot: $198
HOA fees: $700 monthly

This three-bedroom, two-bathroom condo in the heart of one of the biggest spring break meccas has some nice features. Let's start with the exposed brick walls throughout, which lend some character to this condo. Then there's the gulf-facing balcony, where you can watch the sun rise over the water. The fully furnished unit includes a kitchen with standard white appliances and solid-surface counter tops. With on-site management and a well-established rental program, you'll find it easy to lock and leave. But you'll pay a cool $700 per month in association fees, the most expensive in our lineup. This is also the only condo on our tour that doesn't have an in-unit washer and dryer. You'll have to use the communal pay machines on-site. South Padre is perhaps best known for its nightlife, and this condo is within walking distance of hot spots like Boomerang Billy's Beach Bar & Grill and Chaos.

See more photos of this Texas condo.

Deanna Bowman: Troy Giles Realty; 956-346-6244

Pensacola, Florida

Address: 16590 Perdido Key Drive, Apt. 4B
Price: $179,500
Square feet: 900
Price per square foot: $199
HOA fees: $300 monthly, $750 annual paint assessment, insurance assessment of $2,200

This two-bedroom, two-bathroom beauty offers two bodies of water within sight. The condo backs up to Old River with access to a dock and free boat slips. That's key because Old River is part of a series of waterways that connect to the Gulf of Mexico. The gulf itself is just a minute walk across the narrow Perdido Key. The unit comes furnished, with views of the pool and the river off the deck. Each of the seven buildings in this complex has just two units, so you'll only have one close neighbor. The kitchen is a knockout, with stainless-steel and black appliances, 48-inch cabinets and solid-surface counter tops. There's also a movable oriental screen that separates the kitchen from living area.

See more photos of this Florida condo.

Brenda Beumer: Key Concepts Realty, Inc.; 850-572-8441

Orange Beach, Alabama

Address: 23060 Perdido Beach Blvd. #114
Price: $168,878
Square feet: 850
Price per square foot: $199
HOA fees: $350 per month

You can't get much closer to the ocean than with this three-story condo complex that backs to the white sands of the gulf. This two-bed, two-bath condo costs the same per square foot as our Pensacola condo eight miles to the east, but the asking price is $10,600 less. The unit comes fully furnished. The kitchen, which looks out onto the living room, has standard appliances and solid-surface counter tops. And the community offers a swimming pool and a barbecue area. For outdoor adventurers, you can hop on the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail system right down the street at the Rosemary Dunes Trail. It offers 11 miles of hiking, biking and nature-watching through Orange Beach and the Gulf State Park.

See more photos of this Alabama condo.

Becky Feltus: Ashurst & Niemyer LLC; 251-928-9265

Gulf Shores, Alabama

Address: 1500 W. Beach Blvd. #512
Price: $150,000
Square feet: 724
Price per square foot: $207
HOA fees: $375 monthly

The least-expensive condo on our list is also among the most expensive per square foot. It's less than a block from Gulf Shores Public Beach — just cross the road and you're in the sand. And it's just 2.5 miles from the site of the annual Hangout Music Fest, a three-day concert in May featuring more than 70 bands. This year's lineup features acts as diverse as the Black Keys and Los Lobos. This unit features two bedrooms and two full bathrooms. From the balcony, you can see the ocean and community pool. The unit has an open floor plan with tile flooring in all but the bedrooms, which have carpeting. The kitchen has standard appliances with solid-surface counter tops, white cabinets and an island. This condo comes fully furnished.

See more photos of this Alabama condo.

Susie Bibby; Coastal Resort Realty LLC; 251-968-1777

St. Augustine, Florida

Address: 390 A1A Beach Blvd., Unit 49
Price: $234,000
Square feet: 1,111
Price per square foot: $211
HOA fees: $440 per month

You'll get two bedrooms and a whopping three full bathrooms with this condo that sits right on the Atlantic Ocean. It has an open floor plan, with the kitchen looking out into the dining and living rooms. A balcony off the living room looks over the pool and ocean. The kitchen includes standard appliances, solid-surface counter tops and a breakfast bar. But the real feature of this beachfront getaway is the location. St. Johns County Ocean Pier is a short walk down the beach, where you can fish, see a concert or spend a day with the family at the splash park. A bit further north on A1A is Anastasia State Park, which features water sports, nature trails and a salt marsh spread out over 1,600 acres.

See more photos of this Florida condo.

David Kfoury: Endless Summer Realty; 904-347-3559

Fort Myers Beach, Florida

Address: 6893 Estero Blvd., Apt. 445
Price: $249,000
Square feet: 1,000
Price per square foot: $249
HOA fees: $290 monthly

This is the most expensive condo per square foot on our list, but it features more updates and amenities than most. For starters, you can look out over Estero Bay from the enclosed balcony of this cozy two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo. The unit has been completely updated, with new paint, crown molding, electrical, plumbing, carpets and refurbished bathrooms. The kitchen has been updated with standard appliances, solid-surface counter tops and tile floors. There's also a nice breakfast bar and small dining area. This turnkey unit comes furnished with several flat-screen TVs. In the complex, you'll find a pool, tennis court, fishing pier and nature trail. This property is located across the street from the Gulf Coast beach.

See more photos of this Florida condo.

Veronique Pascual: LaHaina Realty; 239-691-7442

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