Best Beaches in the U.S.
Countless beaches are available throughout the United States, so how do you prioritize which ones 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 list of best beaches in America. Cast your vote for your favorite stretch of coast below to help determine next year's ranking.
- View 44 PhotosBelongs on List?#1 in Best Beaches in the U.S.Read More
Travelers flock to Maui for its diverse attractions and unforgettable geography, but its bountiful beaches are another major selling point. For a unique experience, check out the burgundy-hued sands of Kaihalulu, also known as Red Sand Beach. Or, admire lounging sea turtles on the shores of Ho'okipa Beach Park. If calm waters and a quiet atmosphere are calling your name, Napili Beach is the place for you.
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Kauai offers a more laid-back atmosphere than its neighboring islands. For stunning photos ops, hike to Lumahai Beach, where the 1958 movie "South Pacific" was filmed. More interested in taking a dip? Visit the popular Hanalei Bay or Poipu Beach. Just consider planning a summer trip for the best swimming conditions, as Kauai's waters can be dangerously rough in the winter.
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The 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 swimming and searching for seashells (or "shelling," as the pros call it) along Bowman's Beach, or watch for dolphins at Lighthouse Beach Park. Swimming isn't recommended at Blind Pass Beach due to the rough currents, but it is an excellent spot to picnic while watching a stunning Sanibel sunset.
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Situated in the Florida Panhandle, Destin boasts miles of picturesque white sand beaches. Henderson Beach State Park appeals to nature lovers, as it offers a peaceful trail, sky-high sand dunes and quiet, emerald waters. Meanwhile, Crystal Sands Beach is a pristine spot for swimming and lounging – its white sand is so fine, it squeaks beneath your feet. And thanks to a thriving underwater population, Destin is often called the "World's Luckiest Fishing Village."
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The beaches in North Carolina's Outer Banks span more than 100 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 surfing and skimboarding, as they see more waves than the beaches farther south.
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Whether you're looking to surf, lay on the beach for hours or sit by a bonfire at sunset, San Diego's 70 miles of coastline offer something for you. Families and couples will likely enjoy the calmer waves and vast space of Coronado Beach, while adventurous travelers can hang 10 or scuba dive at both Mission Beach and Pacific Beach. The latter are also prime spots for inline skating and feature a boardwalk with various eateries.
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Cannon Beach#7 in Best Beaches in the U.S.
The flat, sandy coastline of Cannon Beach, Oregon, boasts misty, enchanting views like no other. The shore stretches about 4 miles long and features tide pools filled with sea life, puffin habitats and Haystack Rock – the beach's 235-foot crown jewel rising up out of the ocean. Ecola State Park is another popular spot for outdoorsy types thanks to its photo-worthy cliffs, hiking trails and picnic areas. Just note: The water on the Oregon coast is typically too cold and rough to swim in, no matter the time of year.
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It's typically too dangerous to swim at most beaches in Big Sur, but the views are not to be missed. Head to fan-favorite Pfeiffer Beach to admire tide pools and stunning rock formations – including the Pfeiffer Keyhole Rock, the most-photographed attraction in Big Sur after Bixby Bridge. If you'd rather pack up some food and settle in for a quiet picnic, head to Sand Dollar Beach. You can also pass the time there fishing, beachcombing and watching skilled California surfers.
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This quaint town in the Gulf of Mexico offers not only high-end shopping and fine dining but also some of the nicest beaches in Florida. Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park features a number of quiet spots with clear water for swimming and fishing, while the beachfront Lowdermilk Park is a great option for visitors who want to kayak, paddleboard or simply lounge on the warm sand and keep an eye out for dolphins. For exceptional sunset views, venture to Naples Pier's expansive boardwalk.
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St. Petersburg, Florida – known as the "Sunshine City" – is a reliable option for travelers seeking sun, sand and relaxation. St. Pete Beach offers miles of shoreline perfect for water sports, lounging or picnicking, as well as a number of surf shops and dining venues to enjoy afterward. If you're looking for some old Florida charm, head to Pass-a-Grille Beach, a local favorite that stretches 4 miles along the coast.
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Removed from the hustle and bustle of Southern California's beaches, Monterey offers an easygoing spirit and plenty of coastline. Carmel Beach is one of the best options in the Monterey area and the state, but the scenic beauty and diving opportunities at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve are not to be missed – especially for first-timers. If you're traveling with kids, consider Monterey State Beach, as it has some of the calmest waters in the region.
- View 39 PhotosBelongs on List?#12 in Best Beaches in the U.S.Read More
Home to the southernmost point in the country, the most well-known island in the Florida Keys offers a causal yet eccentric getaway (check out Mallory Square to see what we mean). The cleanest beaches can be found at Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park. But if you're hoping for more people-watching or to rent kayaks and paddleboards, check out Smathers Beach.
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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.
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With 10 miles of free beach, a 3-mile-long boardwalk and countless restaurants and lodging options, Ocean City, Maryland, has the makings of an easy and family-friendly beach vacation. Spend your days lounging and playing on the golden sands of Ocean City Beach, or spend some time out on the water in a kayak or canoe. When you need a break from swimming and sunning, go to the boardwalk to refuel at one of 200-plus restaurants, play some arcade games or take a ride on the Ferris wheel.
- View 13 PhotosBelongs on List?#15 in Best Beaches in the U.S.Read More
The clear, turquoise waters and soft white sands of Pensacola, Florida, are so good, they almost rival the Caribbean. Pensacola Beach is divided into a few different areas and beckons visitors young and old with its mix of peaceful shorelines and lively beach bars and restaurants. Quietwater Beach is one of the more subdued spots – perfect for families with young kids or couples who want some privacy – while Casino Beach is a bit more crowded but offers changing rooms, a fishing pier and more.
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The sand on Hilton Head, South Carolina's wide shorelines is fairly hard-packed, making it perfect for long beach bike rides. Though it's often overflowing with crowds, Coligny Beach remains one of the area's most popular options thanks to ample amenities like changing rooms, outdoor showers, swings and more. If you're seeking a local gem, try Driessen Beach, which is tucked away at the end of Bradley Beach Road.
- View 16 PhotosBelongs on List?#17 in Best Beaches in the U.S.Read More
Best known as a summer getaway for upper-crust New England residents, the tiny island of Nantucket offers a collection of glorious beaches that appeal to every type of vacationer. For clean sands and lots of amenities, pay a visit to popular Surfside Beach on the southern shore (just be sure to prepare for crowds). Or, if you're looking for a bit more seclusion, pack up a picnic and head to Madaket Beach to admire the huge waves and take in a gorgeous sunset.
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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. 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 the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument.
- View 33 PhotosBelongs on List?#19 in Best Beaches in the U.S.Read More
Quaint, slow-moving Cape Cod is an ideal beach destination for New England locals and visitors alike. Cape Cod National Seashore stretches 40 miles long and is made up of a number of swimming beaches, including Coast Guard Beach and Marconi Beach, which are also famed for their seal populations. 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.
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Beachgoers love Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, because there is so much to do on its shores. Spend your days biking along the compact tan sands, snorkeling and swimming in the clear waters or even satisfying your need for adventure with some deep-sea fishing or Jet Skiing. And with 60 miles of coastline to choose from, you're bound to find a spot away from the crowds.
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York, ME#21 in Best Beaches in the U.S.
The small beach town of York, situated on the southern tip of Maine, offers sandy shores across its various communities. The area of York Beach is home to two of the most popular coastlines: Long Sands Beach and Short Sands Beach. The former is ideal for visitors looking to swim, sunbathe and surf, while the latter is more private and peaceful. Short Sands Beach also boasts a playground, an amusement park and an arcade, making it a great option for families with children of all ages.
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Bald Head Island#22 in Best Beaches in the U.S.
Take a 2-mile ferry ride from Southport, North Carolina, and you'll arrive on Bald Head Island. You'll be greeted by 14 gorgeous miles of untouched beaches waiting to be explored. South Beach is the go-to spot for calm, swimmable waters 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 between West Beach and South Beach.
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Cape May#23 in Best Beaches in the U.S.
The beaches of Cape May, New Jersey, are relaxed and family-friendly, and most offer 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 Sunset Beach (known for its, well, sunsets), Cape May Point (a quiet local hangout) 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.
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Laguna Beach#24 in Best Beaches in the U.S.
Located halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego, Laguna Beach offers 7 miles of unique beach terrain, ranging from caves to tide pools to seaside bluffs. Popular beaches for swimming include Main Beach and Crescent Bay Point Park. 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 shoreline.
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Cocoa Beach#25 in Best Beaches in the U.S.
Nestled along Florida's Space Coast parallel to Orlando, Cocoa Beach is loved by many because of its clean sands and world-famous pier. It's also a surfing hot spot, so don't forget to bring your board or buy one from the city's Ron Jon Surf Shop, which is the largest Ron Jon outpost in the world. Recent visitors also praised the beach's warm water and noted that it is a great spot for families with kids.
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The coastal community of Newport, Rhode Island, presents visitors with 15-plus distinct beaches to choose from. Among them, Fort Adams Beach – part of historic Fort Adams State Park – is a quiet, cozy spot to swim and beachcomb. There are also several beach stops along scenic Ocean Drive, including Gooseberry Beach, a fan favorite with warm sands, clear waters and amenities like showers and changing rooms.
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Chincoteague#27 in Best Beaches in the U.S.
Picture a place with no high-rise buildings, crowded boardwalks or traffic jams: That's Chincoteague. This small town on Chincoteague Island, a 7-mile-long island off the coast of Virginia, is known best for its wild ponies and gorgeous sunsets over the bay, but its beaches are nothing to scoff at. The most popular beach in the area can be found within the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge; past beachgoers described it as a beautiful spot with white sands and plenty of parking.
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