Whether you prefer gentle waves lapping the shores of a secluded cove or the powerful ocean tides rolling in on a long stretch of pristine sand, there are dozens of spots in the United States where sand and surf beckon beach lovers. Here are our 14 favorite places.
Hulopo’e Beach has long been considered one of the world’s most perfect stretches of sand and the snorkeling and diving here are rated as the finest in Hawaii. Located on the island of Lana’i, this beach is at Manele Bay just a short stroll from the Four Seasons Resort. The bay is a designated marine preserve filled with a variety of colorful fish and the occasional spinner dolphin. The water here seems perfect at a tempting 70 degrees.
Located on the Kohala Coast of the Aloha state’s Big Island, Kuan’oa Bay is picture-perfect Hawaii at its best with abundant white sand, palm trees, and the clear blue water. This crescent-shaped beach remains a big draw for sun worshipers, water-sport enthusiasts, and anyone looking for sandy fun.
Myrtle Beach is the east coast’s ultimate beach vacation hub and the largest resort along the South Carolina 60-mile Grand Stand. The beach is a long stretch of silky-white sand that draws visitors ready to swim, sail, sunbathe, surf and fish. In summer months there’s plenty of other action as well with amusement parks, water parks, restaurants, and live entertainment.
The former whaling community of Nantucket has a simple charm. This is an area of weathered cottages surrounded by wild roses set against a backdrop of the bright blue ocean. There’s a beach for any preference here, including Surfside Beach and Children’s Beach, two safe choices known for calm waters.
Summer signals to beach lovers who make their yearly pilgrimage to Martha’s Vinyard, swelling the population each sunny weekend. On the Vinyard’s far eastern reaches – “up island” to the locals – is a quiet gem called Moshup Beach. This unspoiled spot has soft sand tucked beneath the Gay Head Cliffs and offers a break from some of the summer crowds.
The top summer retreat for east coast mainlanders, Cape Cod is known for colorful clam shacks, shingled cottages and serene beaches. This is a place with rugged sand dunes and endless seashore. Bright kayaks and fishing boats are daily scenery, and life on the Cape moves at a slower pace – and that’s a huge part of the charm.
Clearwater Beach spreads along a narrow 3 mile stretch of the Pinellas Peninsula on Florida’s Gulf Coast, straddling the waters of the Gulf of Mexico to the west and tranquil Tampa Bay to the east. These broad sandy shores lure tourist here year round and those visitors can stay steps away in beachfront hotels. The white sand is dotted with sunbathers and more active vacationers rent boats, take dolphin-watching cruises, or take to the sky parasailing.
Henderson Beach State Park in Destin offers up some of the brightest white sand seen in any seaside location. The beaches in Destin are made of pure Appalachian quartz, making for a dazzling display against the blue water.
Miami Beach is a destination that caters to the relaxation-seeking beachgoer but still has plenty to offer anyone in the mood for a party. Soak up some rays on the quieter sands at Haulover Beach Park, but be prepared – this stretch of sandy shore is clothing optional. Come nightfall, the party is on in South Beach.
Stretching 72 miles along the Outer Banks of the Atlantic coast, the Cape Hatteras National Seashore is a skinny strip of barrier islands from Nags Head to Ocracoke Island. High sandy dunes are the ideal front for frothy surf where visitors swim and body surf, or beachcomb and just enjoy the sun. They can even make the 248-step climb to the top of the nation’s tallest lighthouse (196 feet high) for a spectacular panoramic view of the seashore below.
Coronado Central Beach stretches 1.5 miles along Ocean Boulevard in front of the iconic and glamorous Hotel Del Coronado. Swimmers and bodysurfers, boogie boarders and sand sculptors, tide poolers and whale watchers all take to the sand and sea here. North Beach is peppered with early-morning surfers and further north at Dog Beach leashless canines get their chance to frolic in the surf.
It’s a dramatic sight: cliffs and crashing waves along Highway 1 through Big Sur that make everyone want to stop. Pfeiffer Beach is one of the most popular spots on the Big Sur coast, an area famous for purple-hued sand.
Santa Monica Beach is large and wide, and that’s a good thing because LA residents flock here all summer and weekends are jammed. The Pier diverts some to the roller coaster and ferris wheel, and no license is required to fish from the pier. The predictable stream of sunny days keep the ocean warm enough that it’s comfortable swimming long into the fall.
The apt nickname for Huntington Beach is “Surf City USA” because of its enduring popularity with surfers. And surfing goes glam at the International Surfing Museum and the US Open of Surfing hosted here annually.
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