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 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.
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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 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.
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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.
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Situated on the Florida Panhandle, Destin boasts miles of picturesque white sand beaches. The Shores 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, 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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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.
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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 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 Beach or Gulfside City Park.
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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 shore stretches nearly 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.
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This quaint town overlooking 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 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.
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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, 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.
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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.
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Bald Head Island#11 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 between West Beach and South Beach.
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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 best beach in Key West can be found in Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park, which boasts clear turquoise water and great snorkeling opportunities. There's also Smathers Beach, which is less than a mile long but 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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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.
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The Hamptons#14 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. Keep in mind that several beaches charge for on-site parking.
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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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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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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 Rock. 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.
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Cocoa Beach#18 in Best Beaches in the U.S.
Nestled along Florida's Space Coast parallel to Orlando, Cocoa Beach is loved by many for its lengthy shore and lively pier. It's also a surfing hot spot, so don't forget to bring your board or buy one from the town's Ron Jon Surf Shop, the world's largest surf shop. While here, spend some time lounging on the sand near the Westgate Cocoa Beach Pier or at one of the town's four beachfront parks, including Alan Shepard Park.
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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.
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Golden Isles#20 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.
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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 18 PhotosBelongs on List?#22 in Best Beaches in the U.S.Read More
Virginia's premiere beach destination is perfect for relaxation-seekers and families. Not only does the town's main beach feature water gentle enough for kids, but it also offers lots of space on the sand for groups and convenient access to plenty of amenities to keep people entertained and sustained. Vacationers who prefer a quieter atmosphere should skip the boardwalk and instead venture to sand dune-filled Sandbridge Beach.
- View 18 PhotosBelongs on List?#23 in Best Beaches in the U.S.Read More
Situated between Los Angeles and San Diego, Newport Beach is filled with fantastic beaches that are certainly worth the journey from either city. To be in the heart of Newport's action, head to traveler-approved spots like Balboa Pier Beach and Newport Municipal Beach. Corona del Mar State Beach also draws lots of visitors thanks to its superb swimming and surfing conditions, various amenities (think: volleyball courts and picnic facilities) and beautiful views of its rock jetty.
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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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Block Island#25 in Best Beaches in the U.S.
For a relaxing getaway, travel 12 miles off of the coast of Rhode Island to Block Island. On this island, you'll find 17 miles of bluff-lined shorelines, including Mohegan Bluffs (a popular stretch of sand with phenomenal views) and Charlestown Beach (a more secluded option with a fishing jetty). Beachgoers say no visit would be complete without spending a few hours at Mansion Beach and Ballard's Beach, both of which are superb options for swimming and sunbathing.
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Saugatuck#26 in Best Beaches in the U.S.
This summer vacation spot in Michigan beckons to visitors with its serene beaches, beautiful lakes and small-town charm. Oval Beach is the town's most popular shoreline, offering an incredible setting complete with soft sand, vibrant blue water and views of forests in either direction. What's more, Saugatuck is home to Saugatuck Dunes State Park, where you'll find a gorgeous beach with sand dunes that tower more than 200 feet above the ground.
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Long Beach Island#27 in Best Beaches in the U.S.
Long Beach Island, New Jersey, is the perfect option for those who want to spend their next vacation primarily at the beach. The 18-mile-long island offers a variety of beaches, making it easy to find a secluded spot in the sand. Visit Surf City to catch a wave at its surfing beaches, or head to action-packed Beach Haven to enjoy waterslides, miniature golf and shopping in Schooner's Wharf's reconstructed ship when you're not at the borough's primary beach. Then, travel north to the island's main attraction, Barnegat Lighthouse State Park.
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