It's always summertime somewhere! If you can't fly away to the southern hemisphere in the middle of New York's winter, there are warm beach getaways right here in the USA ready to whisk you away from the snow and rain any time of the year. This list of the 20 best beaches in the United States has entries from every part of the country, so you can find your beach where it's sunny and 75.
When you think of a laid-back beach city, you're probably imagining the coasts of Florida, California, and Hawaii's smaller islands, but the East Coast elite prefers a slice of the good life a little closer to home. If you're looking for beach-front clubbing and girls gone wild, you're probably better off looking a little further south to Miami. For those of us who just want to wind down and relax away from the crowds, Hilton Head's twelve miles of clean beaches, world-class golf courses, and spas attract both nature lovers who come to take in the island's natural wonders and city folk who want sunset dining, days on the sand, and ocean-side live music.
Many travelers, including those over at TripAdvisor's Travelers' Choice Awards, consider Clearwater Beach to be not only the best beach in Florida but also in the entire United States. Considering the 88 thousand miles of US coastline they had to choose from, that's no small feat for the rare white sand beach. Clearwater Beach averages 361 days of sunshine every year, and the city prides itself on the beach's cleanliness and safety. A Sunset Cinema series shows free outdoor movies every weekend next to the water, there's no shortage of eateries and shops on the boardwalk, and its location on the Gulf gives it calmer surfing conditions and finer sand. Don't miss the nightly sunset celebration with flame-throwers, dancers, and performers on the pier.
First-time travelers to Hawaii tend to gravitate towards the Big Island, Maui, or Kauai, but Manele Bay makes the case for a trip to the much-smaller island of Lana'i, right off the coast of Maui. Manele Bay includes one of the state's foremost beaches for snorkeling and diving, Hulopo'e, along with grassy lawns, barbeque grills, and a designated marine preserve. Yes, that means you might see dolphins while sunbathing on the shoreline or swimming in the warm sapphire water. While January through March is the island's rainy season, Lana'i's desert environment makes it warm year-round.
Fans of Gossip Girl and celebrity news have likely heard of the mythical Hamptons, a beach getaway only two hours from Manhattan by car and easily accessible by the Hampton Jitney in the summertime. While there is a case to be made for the less-populous Southampton, East Hampton is the place to be for celeb sighting, white sand, and sprawling mansions, and the city itself *finally* has Uber to make your stay even easier. Main Beach doesn't require a pesky parking permit for the casual visitor, and it's only a 25-minute walk from the city's upscale, almost-quaint downtown shopping area. If you can find a town-resident permit, Indian Wells is a local gem that features a shaved ice truck for true summertime bliss.
Crazy that Vampire Weekend invented Cape Cod in 2008, and it's already one of the best New England beach destinations. Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket are ideal for travelers who want to see where Logan Huntzberger might summer, but Provincetown provides an artsy escape with galleries, whale-watching, and Race Point Beach, one of the best beaches in the country. Of course, Race Point has one of Massachusetts famed lighthouses, but it also offers soft sand, fresh seafood nearby, and a coastline with more wildlife than people. It's on the easternmost tip of the Cape, making it a sun-soaked haven for those in the know.
If you're looking for a more traditional Hawaiian experience, Kaanapali beach in Maui has seven resorts, glorious swimming, and sandy shores. Nearby Whalers Village outdoor shopping center offers lei making classes, movie nights, hula and ukulele lessons, and live music for vacationers alongside oceanfront restaurants, and there's a long pathway next to the coast with small shops and food stalls. Black Rock's cliff-diving and snorkeling provide adventure alongside one of the best resort locations on the continent. It's Maui's best-known beach for a reason and a great place to start your Hawaiian adventure.
Newport Beach is home to Balboa Island and Huntington Beach, each with their own unique draw and claim to the title of the best beach in Orange County. Accessible by ferry, Balboa Island features sandcastle building competitions, water sports, and the best taffy shop on the western seaboard. There's a Ferris wheel, arcades, and an ice cream shoppe with famous frozen bananas. Back on the mainland, Huntington Beach hosts the annual U.S. Open of Surfing on its pristine shores because of its reputation as Surf City USA, and it has one of the longest piers on the west coast.
Ogunquit's motto is "beautiful place by the sea," and the white sand oasis more than surpasses its promise. There's always something to do in the summer resort town that's been called the best beach town in New England by New England Today, and if anyone should know, it's them. There's fireworks on the Fourth of July, an October harvest festival, and a Christmas by the Sea celebration, but the best time to visit is the summertime when Broadway actors travel to the town's playhouse for a city escape and the townie favorite Footbridge Beach is drenched in sunshine.
There's a reason Malibu is where stars like Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth have chosen to put down roots. Malibu is the birthplace of the best smoothie in Los Angeles at Sunlife Organics, located next to Beyoncé's favorite leisure brand Wildfox and a Soul Cycle for an authentic L.A. experience, and the world-renowned sushi restaurant, Nobu. While the classic Malibu beach is down at Zuma, locals know that the hidden Point Dume features the best views, the smallest crowds, and terrifying cliff diving for the thrill seekers among us. There's no permit needed to experience the exclusive paradise, you just need to know where to go (and do a teeny, tiny bit of climbing).
Driftwood Beach on Jekyll Island has been voted one of the ten most romantic beaches in America, and it's easy to see why. Eroded sand caused the beach's trees to uproot and die, which somehow caused an otherworldly beauty to form in the chaos. It is scenery unlike anything else you'll stumble upon in the U.S., which is why it's such a popular wedding spot. On the other side of the island, Great Dunes beach offers activities and attractions (like mini golf!) once you're done experiencing Driftwood Beach's untouched shores, but you can plan on spending a few hours exploring the desiccated trees.
Another Orange County gem, 1000 Steps Beach in Laguna Beach is the road less-traveled. For beach-goers looking for a tourist-free haven off the PCH, you'll get in a little workout as you pass Instagram models and local fitness enthusiasts on your way down to the beach. Those 1000 steps aren't just a pithy name, and there's no other way to get to the 400 yards of crystal clear waters and pristine sand. The sea caves and gentle waves attract boogie boarders, swimmers, and explorers willing to make the trek for the 'gram or a chance to hobnob with actual Angelenos.
Pensacola's tourism board cites their beach's emerald green waters and "sugar-white" sand as their biggest draws, but outdoor activities like kayaking through the gulf, rivers, and bayous, parasailing, and ziplining are just some of the options for on- and off-shore fun. There are beach weddings, luxury resorts, and a yacht club, in case you prefer to see the water from an entirely different vantage point. Visit during Mardi Gras for parties and parades, or experience the town's biggest culinary event at their October cook-off and food festival.
Hapuna gets very, very busy, so if you're looking for a sleepy beach experience, you might be better off at one of our other Hawaiian picks. The crowds come to this Big Island spot because it's one of the area's best-known beaches, consistently cited as a must-see for first-time visitors and one of the best beaches in the world. The shoreline is idyllic, especially along the Ala Kahaki coastal trail, an ancient road with anchialine ponds and off-the-beaten-path hikes. There's a lifeguard on duty year-round, a shaded picnic pavilion, and a cafe on the premises that rents out boogie boards, beach chairs, and snorkeling gear.
New Jersey is more than the butt of a few bad jokes and the homeland of America's most obnoxious reality television stars. The seaside city of Cape May and its beaches are a slice of heaven complete with colorful Victorians, the Cape May Lighthouse with views across Delaware Day, and the cute pedestrianized Washington Street shopping area. There are B&B and luxury resorts aplenty, converted Victorian homes that have become lovely restaurants and inns, and a soft sand beach perfect for families. Take a trolley tour to learn about the small city's large history as a National Historic Landmark. There are 204 kilometers of coast to enjoy as you take in the candy-colored homes and spooky ghost tours in between sunbathing sessions.
If you want to have a more classic Cape Cod getaway before checking out Race Point Beach's eclectic shores, Moshup Beach on Martha's Vineyard is a surf beach in the middle of the action near the hilariously named Gay Head Cliffs. This is the most unspoiled beach on the island where you can relax after eating some of the most famous clam chowder and lobster rolls on the East Coast, enjoying a day at the spa, or going to one of the plentiful festivals taking place on the island twice weekly during the summer and even more throughout the rest of the year.
Feel like Taylor Swift for a weekend in Newport, the Rhode Island city being hailed as the new Hamptons and the cite of the house that our favorite ex-country singer bought while dating Connor Kennedy and still uses for her star-studded Fourth of July parties. Newport is known for its mansions, which offer tours every morning and occasionally host city events, its yacht-filled harbor that hosts America's Cup, the yearly sailing regatta, and its Cliff Walk beaches. This is the best place to live out your Great Gatsby fantasies and experience the most glamorous port city in the U.S.
San Diego is the pinnacle of West Coast cool. Kick back with a California Burrito, try your hand at a morning surf, and check out the best beach north of the border in Coronado. You might recognize the beach from Some Like It Hot, which filmed at the historic Hotel de Coronado across the street, but the best views are from the 200 foot tall Coronado Bridge. Try a local beer at the city's award-winning brewery, go to the dog-friendly strip of beach to the north to see dogs living their absolute best lives, and enjoy free parking off Ocean Boulevard and Ferry Landing Marketplace.
National Geographic called Cannon Beach one of the most beautiful places in the world in 2013 for its waterfalls, marine life, and monumental Haystack Rock, but there's plenty to do if Mother Nature's splendor isn't really your thing. The city has art galleries, eateries, and boutiques alongside a small-batch distillery, a Stormy Weather Arts Festival to celebrate seasonal gloom, and summer surfing at Ecola State Park. Cannon Beach is also one of Oregan's most dog-friendly beach towns, which is ideal considering Portland has the largest number of dogs per capita in the country.
Three miles south of Alabama's biggest port city, Mobile, Dauphin Island is bottled Southern charm. The entire island is only fourteen miles long, so you can explore the seaside oasis in its entirety. There's a bird sanctuary, sea lab, and public aquarium for the animal lovers out there, and Shell Mound Park on the island's north shore is a preserved archeological site dating back to 1100 AD. A perfect day trip from Mobile, the Sunset Capital of Alabama has the clear water and white sand you've come to expect from ~every entry on this list~ with a heaping scoop of Alabama style (hold the grits).
For those of us that go to the beach just for an excuse to get in the water, the Boating Captial of New England is your dream vacation. Naturally, there are sailboats aplenty and fresh lobster throughout the city, but you can also enjoy kayaking, canoeing, fishing, paddle boarding, and swimming if one of their easily rented boats aren't your speed. Enjoy boat races and antique auto days in the summer, the harbor and oyster festivals in the fall, and their lights festivals and botanical gardens during the winter in this calm coastal getaway where there's always a reason to smile.