Looking to check off some sand-bucket-list items this year? The United States is one of the top 10 countries in the world when it comes to total coastline area, which is awesome for beachgoers.
We’ve compiled a list of the highest ranked, most gorgeous jaw-dropping beaches in America. Whether it’s a sandy island, magnificent views, plentiful water activities, impressive surf or foodie beach-town culture you’re looking for, the following list will have you planning your next beach vacation.
Ocracoke Lifeguarded Beach — North Carolina
Large beach, gorgeous dunes, warm water and soft sand make the perfect combination for summer relaxation. Set 26 miles off the North Carolina coast, Ocracoke Island is often considered the gem of the Outer Banks. With deep pirate roots, where the infamous Blackbeard roamed, Ocracoke is also home to the second-oldest lighthouse operating in the U.S.
Accessible only by boat, this secluded escape is home to a laid-back coastal fishing village and beach town. Ocracoke Island is a part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, and as such, the expanse of the shoreline remains natural and wild. Visitors can typically walk out into the ocean for yards before it gets to be too deep. Close to the village, yet wonderfully remote. Big surf dominates in late summer. Rips and strong undertows are common, so the lifeguards are a key element. It’s a little piece of paradise.
Pro tip: Go at low tide for access to shallow tide pools. Great beach-combing here.
“Perfect beach. Miles and miles of unspoiled and uncrowded paradise. Clear warm water with waves breaking on a sandbar offshore. Powdery sand. Always seem to find really nice shells here. Pets allowed. Bring a cooler with food or drinks,” SunnydaysLewes_DE, Trip Advisor.
Stay: Frisco Woods Campground
Pensacola Beach, Florida
Pensacola is famous for its jaw-dropping beaches with sugar-white sand and crystal-clear waters. The namesake beach draws fishing enthusiasts and beach lovers alike. And there’s no shortage of other activities like dolphin tours, diving, parasailing and surfing. You can even take part in yoga on the water. It’s split into two areas, Pensacola Beach and downtown Pensacola, which are connected by a series of bridges. The ferry opened in June 2018 and offers a quick alternative across the bay. The revival of downtown also makes for a great family destination. Put this destination on your list in mid-October for “Taste of the Beach,” the beach’s biggest culinary event.
Pro tip: Visit Crabs on the Beach, not just for the crab, but for the crab races. When visiting downtown, check out George Bistro + Bar for the craft cocktails. For some water fun, Radical Rides is a family owned company that offers everything from wave runners and parasails to paddle boards and boat rentals.
“Best beaches ever!! Been all over the United States and this is, by far, the best I have found. Lots of beaches to accommodate, and the powdery white sand is amazing. South side has more waves and current but both side of the peninsula (island) are incredible,” Jady M., Yelp.
Kailua Beach Park — Hawaii
Located on the easterly shoreline, where the waters are turquoise blue and the sand is soft to the touch, its gentle waves make it ideal for families. The area hosts lifeguards, free parking, restrooms, showers, picnic tables and volleyball courts. There are plenty of trees if you want to curl up with a book. You can also kayak with a master paddler from the beach to the volcanic Mokula Islands or to the beautiful, coral Popoia Island.
Pro tip: Stop by nearby downtown Kailua for some Hawaiian plate lunches or snacks before hitting the beach.
“The sand is super soft; the beach is spotless, and you can try running barefoot along the waterline. The water is very warm and shallow! If you want to catch some mini waves with a boogie board (emphasis on the word “mini”) the waves seem to be slightly better closer to the boat ramp,” Tiffany K., Yelp.
Coopers Beach — New York
Coopers Beach was named one of seven spots in New York State ‘like a Caribbean paradise’ in the summer. The water and pristine sand are incomparable to anything else in the area.
Go for the breathtaking views, nearby gorgeous mansions, white sand and supervised swimming. Beaching it in the Hamptons just sounds pricy, and parking can be costly. So, how can you save?
- Pack a picnic. Or, pick up some reasonably priced sandwiches at Sean’s Place in Southampton.
- Drive down Meadow Lane to the free parking lot on Road D. There is a small parking lot there, and across the street, there’s also parallel parking available on the farther end of Road D.
“This is a beautiful beach. It’s a slice of heaven as they say…Lots of locals here stop by to get their exercise and walk their dogs. Everyone is friendly. If you ever get a chance drive around Meadow Lane and check out the luscious, beautiful homes, the architectural designs are just amazing. Lifestyles of the rich and famous. Great getaway for the weekend/week. So much to see and do in Southampton and the surrounding towns.” – Jane L., Yelp.
Stay: Riverdale Farm Campsites
Coronado Beach — California
This 1.5-mile-long, wide sandy beach is set against the backdrop of the iconic Hotel del Coronado. The beach’s famously spectacular sunsets are popular for swimmers, surfers and beachcombers. The beaches here literally sparkle, thanks to the mineral mica in its golden sand.
Take a jog along Ocean Boulevard with a backdrop of stunning homes and mansions.
Pro tip: Lifeguard house: 9 a.m. – dusk. Visit Coronado Brewing Company after a day at the beach for some tasty ales.
“Huge stretch of beach, level and uncrowded. Fine-texture sand, well supervised by lifeguards. Warm ocean perfect for cooling off, ability to walk endless miles and saw several folks with dogs on leash. Just gorgeous!” Lili B., Trip Advisor
Stay: Campland On the Bay
Duke Kahanamoku Beach — Hawaii
The western end of Waikiki Beach is known as Kahanamoku Beach. This is the more hidden portion of Waikiki Beach with its own public parking lot by the marina. This site is the Hilton Hotel’s beach access. The beach is named after Duke Paoa Kahanamoku Lagoon, legendary Hawaiian surfer, champion Olympic swimmer and canoeing master. There are two bodies of water accessible from this one beach; a protective break wall on the ocean side and a safe warm man-made lagoon to the other side of the beach. It’s a great beach for paddle boarding, kayaking or renting paddle boats.
“The Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon is between the Rainbow Tower of the Hilton Hawaiian Village and the ocean. It is the perfect place to take younger kids, since it is very gradual and not very deep. There are some rocky areas, so, it would be worth it to bring water shoes, or have scuba booties. We enjoyed the shrimp truck that is parked in the parking lot just above the lagoon,” Allen21096, Trip Advisor.
Coast Guard Beach — Massachusetts
This prime swimming beach is part of the Cape Cod National Seashore. This expansive beach has beautiful dunes, powdery white sand, marshlands and a fabulous view. Large waves make this a great spot for boogie-boards and surfing. The outer beach, or “backside,” of Cape Cod has been the notorious graveyard for more than 3,000 ships since the wreck of the Sparrowhawk in 1626.
Pro tip: Parking lot may be available after Labor Day, so check that first. Or, park at the Little Creek parking lot on Doane Road and take the free shuttle to the beach. You can also walk or bike ride to the beach using the Cape Cod Rail Trail access point located towards the back of the parking lot.
“Travelers, this is a nice beach with beautiful vistas. Walking is great and the views get more charming. The sandbars are wonderful to walk on at low tide. The bird life is abundant and nice to observe, and we saw seals. Stay out of the water when you see seals,” Lisa DeWitt, Local Guide, Google
Stay: Atlantic Oaks
Orange Beach – Alabama
With some nine miles of sand to enjoy, the beach is home to the country’s largest artificial fishing reef, making it ideal for deep-sea fishing excursions. Gulf Shores and Orange Beach have spectacular sunsets and awesome water sports. These clear and pristine waters is only colored by a mild blue and green mixture that just scream tropics.
Pro tip: Visit on October 10th – 13th for the 48th Annual National Shrimp Festival at the Gulf Shores Main Public Beach.
“Costal Kayak Excursion was the best thing we did on this gulf visit. It was both very fun and safe. Very informative as we toured along in kayaks and we even paused to see dolphins! Kayaks were quality and clean and Glenn the owner is awesome. Can’t miss on this one,” Grandtour15901, Trip Advisor.
Stay: Island Retreat RV Park
Carmel Beach, Carmel-By-The-Sea – California
Between the cerulean blue ocean and the crystal-clear water, the scenery never ends. It’s locally renowned for good surf and excellent dog-walking conditions, as well as breathtaking sunsets. Edged by wind-carved cypress trees and bluffs topped with storybook English cottages and Swiss Alpine chalets, the fog tends to subside in the fall. So, take a stroll in September or October. The Scenic Bluff Path is a well-maintained gravel pathway that parallels Scenic Road just above Carmel Beach. The surrounding valley is bursting with top-notch restaurants and boutique wineries.
Pro tip: There is no lifeguard service at Carmel Beach. When in doubt, don’t go out!
“Great, dog friendly beach. Love the white crystal sand, blue, blue water. Plenty of stairs at different points of the beach to walk down. Plenty of restrooms as well. They have fire pits for your use. Bring your own wood!” Kim H., Yelp.
Stay: Marina Dunes RV Resort
Kiawah Beachwalker Park — South Carolina
Any beach with the name “Beachwalker” as the namesake has to be great, right? Located on the west end of Kiawah Island, Kiawah Beachwalker Park offers ocean frontage and a river view with 11 miles of unspoiled beach. The park features a wide boardwalk that weaves through live oaks, pines and palmettos. Enjoy picnic area with grills, outdoor showers and a snack bar.
Pro tip: Hours from September – December are 10am – Sunset. Strong rip currents are common, so swim with caution. At the end of the day, visit Cherrywood BBQ & Ale House at Osprey Point for some genuine Southern BBQ smoked over local hardwoods.
“This secluded beach is great for family or just couples. It cost $15 to park. There are restrooms on the boardwalk, a short distance from the beach itself. You can rent beach chairs for $10 for the entire day. A great deal, if you don’t want to deal with carrying your own to and from your car. There is a lifeguard on duty,” ritadugan, Trip Advisor.
Clearwater Beach, Florida
Trip Advisor named Clearwater Beach the nation’s #1 beach in 2018. Beautiful white sand and clear, shallow water make this beach an ideal playground for families. The average temperature in September is a high of 87 and low of 68. October is just about perfect with a high of 81 and low of 58 degrees.
Sunsets at Pier 60 Daily Festival is a year-round nightly sunset celebration in Pier 60 Park. This festival begins two hours before sunset and runs two hours after sunset, weather permitting, 365 days a year. On Friday and Saturday evenings, a family-oriented age appropriate movie is played under the stars at the Sunset Cinema.
“Great place to watch the sunset and walk around. Vendors, music, art… you will find that there too. A place for the kiddos to play and more. I really love spending cool evenings there,” Glenda And Sam V., Yelp.
Stay: Avalon RV Resort