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Best Beaches in the U.S.
When you think of the beach, you might envision escaping to a far-flung destination, but there are countless beautiful beaches with scenic sea views and top-notch amenities in the United States. The top shorelines in America are located everywhere from Hawaii to Florida – with scores of options along the various coasts. So, how do you prioritize which beach (or beaches) to visit? To help you choose the sandy spot that's ideal for your next vacation, U.S. News considered factors like clean sands, pleasant waters and high-quality attractions to bring you the best beaches in the U.S. Cast your vote below for your favorite coastline to help determine next year's ranking. (Note: Some of the below destinations may be affected by the coronavirus outbreak. Check with the CDC and the U.S. Department of State before traveling.)
Best Beaches in the U.S.
- View 44 PhotosBelongs on List?#1 in Best Beaches in the U.S.Read More
Travelers flock to Maui for its bounty of beautiful island beaches. The expansive shores of Wailea Beach and Kaanapali Beach are classics that shouldn't be missed, while smaller Napili Bay Beach and Hookipa Beach Park are better for those seeking a more low-key experience. Whether your beach style is big or small, you cannot leave this Hawaiian island without visiting Waianapanapa State Park, a protected area that boasts striking black sands and lush tropical foliage throughout.
- View 38 PhotosBelongs on List?#2 in Best Beaches in the U.S.Read More
Kauai's many wild, untouched landscapes mean visitors can expect to enjoy unique beach experiences while on this Hawaiian island. For unforgettable views of the famous Napali coastline, hit up Polihale State Park, Tunnels Beach and Ke'e Beach. Hanalei Bay also offers excellent mountain vistas and is a prime resort area on the island, perfect for those who want direct access to amenities without sacrificing scenery. Consider planning a summer trip for the best swimming conditions, as Kauai's waters can be dangerously rough in winter.
- View 27 PhotosBelongs on List?#3 in Best Beaches in the U.S.Read More
The picturesque beaches of Sanibel Island, Florida, fit the bill, whether you are looking for a romantic getaway, a nature-filled trip or a family vacation. Spend some time searching for seashells (or "shelling," as the pros call it) along Bowman's Beach, or visit Lighthouse Beach Park for access to nature trails and a scenic shoreline. For superb swimming conditions, head to Tarpon Bay Beach.
- View 22 PhotosBelongs on List?#4 in Best Beaches in the U.S.Read More
Situated on the Florida Panhandle, Destin boasts miles of picturesque white sand beaches. The Shore at Crystal Beach Park is a pristine spot for swimming and lounging, while Henderson Beach State Park and Grayton Beach State Park offer nature trails on top of beautiful white sand shores. And thanks to a thriving underwater population of fish like grouper and snapper, Destin is often called the "World's Luckiest Fishing Village."
- View 19 PhotosBelongs on List?#5 in Best Beaches in the U.S.Read More
Located about halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego, Laguna Beach offers miles of unique beach terrain, ranging from caves to tide pools to seaside bluffs. Popular shorelines for swimming include Main Beach and Crescent Bay Beach. Meanwhile, nature lovers who would rather picnic and take in the views will love Heisler Park, which features a walking path elevated above the scenic beach.
- View 34 PhotosBelongs on List?#6 in Best Beaches in the U.S.Read More
The beaches in North Carolina's Outer Banks span some 200 miles, meaning there is plenty of room for you and your family to spread out. The shores at Hatteras Island are ideal for fishing and boating. Meanwhile, the beaches in Kitty Hawk and Kill Devil Hills offer optimal conditions for everything from sunbathing and swimming to surfing and skimboarding since they see more waves than the beaches farther south.
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Cannon Beach#7 in Best Beaches in the U.S.
The seemingly endless coastline of Cannon Beach, Oregon, boasts misty, enchanting views like no other. The Cannon Beach shoreline stretches 4 miles long and features tide pools filled with sea life, puffin habitats and Haystack Rock – the beach's 235-foot-tall crown jewel rising up out of the ocean. Just note: The water on the Oregon coast is typically too cold and rough to swim in, no matter the time of year.
- View 18 PhotosBelongs on List?#8 in Best Beaches in the U.S.Read More
This quaint Florida town overlooking the Gulf of Mexico offers not only high-end shopping and fine dining but also some of the country's nicest beaches. Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park features a number of quiet spots with clear water for swimming and snorkeling, while Lowdermilk Park is a great option for visitors who want to kayak, paddleboard or simply lounge on the warm sand. For exceptional sunset views and an expansive pier ideal for fishing and leisurely walks, venture to Naples Municipal Beach.
- View 31 PhotosBelongs on List?#9 in Best Beaches in the U.S.Read More
Miami Beach, Florida, caters to both party-hungry and relaxation-seeking beachgoers. You can spend your days soaking up some sun at Lummus Park on Ocean Drive – which is fitted with two outdoor gyms, a pavilion and multiple playgrounds – or lounging on the quieter sands of Haulover Beach Park (but beware: clothing is optional on this stretch of shoreline). After the sun sets, follow the buzzing nightlife to South Beach.
- View 19 PhotosBelongs on List?#10 in Best Beaches in the U.S.Read More
Far from the hustle and bustle of Southern California's beaches, Monterey offers a slower pace and plenty of coastline. Carmel Beach is widely considered one of the best beaches in both Monterey County and the state, while the scenic beauty and diving opportunities at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve are unmatched. If you're traveling with kids, consider visiting Monterey State Beach to take advantage of its long shoreline and calm water.
- View 39 PhotosBelongs on List?#11 in Best Beaches in the U.S.Read More
Home to the southernmost point in the continental U.S., the most well-known island in the Florida Keys offers a causal yet eccentric getaway (check out Mallory Square's shops, bars and performers for a taste of the eclectic). The best beach in Key West is part of Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park, which boasts clear turquoise water and great snorkeling opportunities. Smathers Beach, which is a smaller shoreline at less than a mile long, offers a superb location in the heart of Key West and amenities ranging from food trucks to water sports equipment rentals.
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Bald Head Island#12 in Best Beaches in the U.S.
Take a quick ferry ride from Southport, North Carolina, to Bald Head Island to discover 14 gorgeous miles of untouched beaches. South Beach is the go-to spot for calm, swimmable water and quiet strolls along the coast, while East Beach offers waves ideal for surfing and boogie boarding. If searching for shells and sea glass is more your speed, set up camp on the stretch of sand known as North Beach.
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Amelia Island#13 in Best Beaches in the U.S.
Set on Florida's east coast, about 30 miles northeast of Jacksonville, Amelia Island is perfect for those seeking a quiet, relaxing beach getaway. The area features 40-plus beach access points and 13 miles of beaches: At Amelia Island State Park, you can ride horses on the beach, and at Main Beach Park, you can relax on the soft sand and soak up some sun while the kids enjoy the playground or outdoor skate park. Main Beach Park also features volleyball courts, picnic areas and restrooms. Other outdoor activities you can enjoy while visiting Amelia Island include nature walks and kayaking.
- View 12 PhotosBelongs on List?#14 in Best Beaches in the U.S.Read More
St. Petersburg, Florida – known as the "Sunshine City" – is a reliable option for travelers seeking sun, sand and relaxation. St. Pete Beach, located 8 miles southwest of downtown St. Petersburg, offers miles of shoreline perfect for water sports, lounging and picnicking, as well as a number of surf shops and dining venues to enjoy afterward. St. Petersburg also sits close to Fort De Soto Park, a 1,136-acre park with a quieter stretch of sand and ample bird-watching opportunities.
- View 19 PhotosBelongs on List?#15 in Best Beaches in the U.S.Read More
This California beach is nicknamed "Surf City USA" thanks to its consistently excellent surfing conditions. Huntington Beach is a great spot for beginners to learn how to surf since there are several surf schools and rental options here, plus advanced surfers will have waves to ride as well. Specific beaches to visit include Sunset Beach, which features a wide shoreline; Bolsa Chica State Beach, where you can play beach volleyball and enjoy a bonfire; and, of course, Huntington City Beach, which features a large fishing pier and plenty of space to spread out and enjoy the beach and sea views.
- View 20 PhotosBelongs on List?#16 in Best Beaches in the U.S.Read More
St. Augustine, Florida, (the oldest city in the United States) offers easily accessible, uncrowded beaches with calm waters ideal for families. This is especially true of St. Augustine Beach, where you'll find a fishing pier, a splash park and a sand volleyball court, among other amenities. After you spend a few days splashing around, take a stroll down historic St. George Street or soak up the city's Spanish heritage at Castillo de San Marcos National Monument.
- View 16 PhotosBelongs on List?#17 in Best Beaches in the U.S.Read More
The beaches of Cape May, New Jersey, are very family-friendly, with most offering proximity to amenities like restrooms and dining venues. In truth, there are almost too many beaches to count on the island, but some favorites include aptly named Sunset Beach, quiet Cape May Point and The Cove, which welcomes surfers and sunbathers alike. If you plan on visiting between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day, keep in mind that each person 12 and older must purchase a beach tag.
- View 26 PhotosBelongs on List?#18 in Best Beaches in the U.S.Read More
The sand on Hilton Head, South Carolina's wide shorelines stands out for being fairly hard-packed, making it perfect for long beach bike rides. Though it's often overflowing with crowds, Coligny Beach Park remains one of the area's most popular options thanks to its ample amenities. If you're seeking a local gem, try Driessen Beach Park, a less-crowded version of Coligny, or the wilder Mitchelville Beach, which is best for exploring rather than swimming.
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The Hamptons#19 in Best Beaches in the U.S.
Located about 95 miles northeast of New York City, The Hamptons is famous for serving as a respite for city slickers who need to cool off in summer. This beach spot is filled with quality shorelines that will no doubt impress travelers who don't reside in the tri-state area. First-timers should visit popular stretches of sand like Cupsogue Beach County Park in Westhampton Beach, Coopers Beach in Southampton and Main Beach in East Hampton.
- View 16 PhotosBelongs on List?#20 in Best Beaches in the U.S.Read More
Best known as a summer getaway for upper-crust New England residents, the tiny Massachusetts island of Nantucket offers a collection of stunning beaches that appeal to every type of beachgoer. For lots of amenities, visit Jetties Beach (a popular option close to downtown) or Surfside Beach (a less-crowded southern shore with top-notch surfing conditions). If you're hoping to catch a phenomenal sunset, head to Madaket Beach on the island's west coast.
- View 18 PhotosBelongs on List?#21 in Best Beaches in the U.S.Read More
Big Sur's rough waters make it too dangerous for swimming at its beaches, but the scenery in this California destination is bucket list-worthy. Head to Pfeiffer Beach (a visitor favorite) to admire tide pools and stunning rock formations – including the famous Pfeiffer Keyhole Arch. Other highly regarded shorelines include expansive Sand Dollar Beach, where beachgoers can search for washed-up sand dollars, and Andrew Molera State Park, which features a beach that connects to beautiful trails.
- View 27 PhotosBelongs on List?#22 in Best Beaches in the U.S.Read More
With its beautiful coastline, quiet atmosphere and charming New England architecture, it's easy to see why Kennebunkport, Maine, was frequented by former President George H.W. Bush. Kennebunkport boasts beaches that are great for families thanks to their calm waters and wide stretches of sand. Hit up popular shorelines like Gooch's Beach and Mother's Beach, both of which offer lifeguards and proximity to various amenities. Don't forget to purchase a beach pass (a required sticker for vehicles that's valid for a day, week or season) if you plan on parking on-site.
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Golden Isles#23 in Best Beaches in the U.S.
Georgia's Golden Isles are made up of four barrier islands – St. Simons Island, Sea Island, Jekyll Island and Little St. Simons Island – that each offer unforgettable beaches. Driftwood Beach on Jekyll Island is a must-visit spot thanks to its striking trees and driftwood-covered sand. On St. Simons Island, visitors should check out East Beach, which features an enchantingly long shoreline perfect for long walks at sunset. And for those in search of peace and quiet, there's the 7-mile-long beach on Little St. Simons Island, where beachgoers will find water that's safe for swimming and bike-friendly sand.
- View 33 PhotosBelongs on List?#24 in Best Beaches in the U.S.Read More
The Cape Cod region of Massachusetts is an ideal beach destination for New England locals and visitors alike. Cape Cod National Seashore stretches 40 miles long and boasts a number of swimming beaches, including Coast Guard Beach and Marconi Beach. Race Point Beach in Provincetown is another popular spot within the National Seashore thanks to its hilly sand dunes and stunning sunsets. Remember, fee-based beach stickers are required to park at select beaches.
- View 17 PhotosBelongs on List?#25 in Best Beaches in the U.S.Read More
Santa Monica is easily one of Los Angeles' most popular beach locales. Located about 15 miles west of downtown LA, Santa Monica is awash with amenities, activities and incredible views. From the nearly 4-mile-long beach, you'll catch a glimpse of the area's mountains, as well as the famous Santa Monica Pier, which features rides, arcade games and food vendors. Plus, the shop- and restaurant-filled Third Street Promenade only sits a few blocks away.
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Ogunquit#26 in Best Beaches in the U.S.
Ogunquit is home to some of Maine's most scenic shorelines, with nearly 4 miles of beaches to choose from. Travelers seeking a quiet escape should head to Footbridge Beach for smaller crowds and a wide shoreline. Another popular option is the Main Beach, which features a livelier atmosphere and more amenities, including beach chair and umbrella rentals, restaurants and bars, soft sand for sandcastle-building and seashells for collecting.
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Boca Chica#27 in Best Beaches in the U.S.
Boca Chica is a relaxed and laid-back Texas beach vacation spot that overlooks the Gulf of Mexico. This beach is located in the southernmost part of the state, just north of the Texas-Mexico border, and stretches across 8 miles of coastline. While Boca Chica doesn't have any on-site amenities, it is the ideal strip of sand for simple beach lovers who appreciate soaking up some sun, admiring the sea, setting up a chair and reading a book. You can also fish, kiteboard, surf and snorkel here, but you'll need to bring your own gear.
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