25 Best Beaches in the USA

From New York to Hawaii and California to Florida, find your perfect U.S. beach destination.

Fall hikes, summer nights, spring breaks, and winter getaways: there’s a beach activity for all seasons. The sea air and the shoreline summon visions of relaxation, volleyball games, and surfing the waves no matter where you are in the world. 

People enjoying the golden sands of Carmel beach on a warm spring day, Carmel, California.
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But not all sandy stretches are created equal. Many different criteria define the perfect beach, like the sand, the waves (or lack thereof), a certain level of seclusion, public transportation and accessible parking, a boardwalk, activities, and even the amount of shade. Some beaches are found next to crystalline lakes, while others sit beneath the peaks of majestic mountain ranges. Some are surf havens with stellar waves, while others cater to families with powder-soft sand, calm waters, and a bustling boardwalk of snacks, shops, and sports.

Luckily for those in the United States, we have some of the best beaches in the world. From the East Coast to the West, sandy shores across the U.S. have the natural beauty, fun in the sun, and accessibility that draw crowds from all over throughout the year. 

Notable for their attractions, locations, or unique amenities, from New York to California, these are the 25 best beaches in the U.S.  

Poipu Beach, Kauai, Hawaii

Poipu beach at sunset, Kauai, Hawaii
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The very idea of beaches brings to mind the Hawaiian islands, where there's so many sandy spots they sometimes come in pairs. Located on the sunny southern shore of Kauai, Poipu Beach, popular for surfing, snorkeling, windsurfing, and boogie boarding, is made up of two small coves sharing one name. The spectacular beaches are separated by a narrow sand spit called a tombolo, and both sides offer breathtaking views — if you're lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of an endangered Hawaiian monk seal sunbathing.

Ocean City, Maryland

Ocean city, Maryland aerial view
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A groomed shoreline elevates the classic Americana of this boardwalk destination. Ten miles of white-sand beach, plus a three-mile boardwalk packed with amusement park rides, bike rentals, shops, and delectable treats make Ocean City Beach a popular vacation spot. After a day of jet skiing, fishing, or boating, you'll find a variety of hotels, restaurants, and even a brewery on the boardwalk.

Coronado Beach, San Diego, California

People walking along Coronado beach in San Diego
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The warm, sunny weather is reason enough to visit San Diego. Coronado Beach, a mile-and-a-half stretch of golden sand sparkling with bits of the mineral mica, is just family-friendly icing on the cake. Swimmers, surfers, and sunbathers flock here by day, and stay well into the afternoon to witness the gorgeous sunsets. Visit the storied Hotel del Coronado for a bite and a tipple en plein air. Dog-friendly North Beach is a popular pull as well.

Pope Beach, Lake Tahoe, California

Dogs play near Lake Tahoe's southern Shore.
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Lake Tahoe, the largest alpine lake in North America, sits on the border of California and Nevada and is known for its beaches and ski resorts. Located on the south shore of the lake, Pope Beach is a nearly mile-long stretch of sand backed by towering pine trees. The beach offers excellent swimming, picnicking, and views of the mountains. Make the most of your day with the kayak rentals, picnic tables, and barbecue grills onsite.

Clearwater Beach, Clearwater, Florida

Clearwater Beach, Florida
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With airbrushed sunsets and white sandy shores, Florida is one of the top beach destinations in the U.S. On Clearwater Beach it’s apparent why. The beach boasts a gorgeous shoreline that stretches two and a half miles along the Gulf of Mexico. Pier 60, a popular entertainment hub, is centrally located on the beach, and cabanas, umbrella chairs, and a well-equipped playground only add to the family fun. Visitors can rent fishing gear and drop a line off the pier for some of the best year-round fishing in Florida. Clearwater Beach also promises outstanding sunsets, and Pier 60 provides nightly entertainment 365 days a year, weather permitting.

Harris Beach, Oregon

Morning mist rising from Harris Beach, near Brookings, Oregon. The rock formations add to the views looking out at the Pacific Ocean
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Harris Beach, located in a state park on Oregon's south coast, is known for the incredible rock formations rising from its waves and a string of tide pools ripe for exploration. Swimming, hiking, biking, and bird watching are some of the most popular activities here. Abundant wildlife, including migrating gray whales, harbor seals, and California sea lions, adds to year-round excitement. Plus, fully-equipped campgrounds for RVs, tents, and even a few yurts are located a quarter-mile from the beach.

Glass Beach, Port Townsend, Washington

Beach at sunset Port Townsend, Washington
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Some people prefer to spend their time hunting the beach instead of laying on it. Glass Beach, so named for its abundance of jewelry-quality sea glass, is a remote bluff and former small town dump. Ecological concerns and development efforts saved the area from further pollution, and beachcombers are very grateful. Beginning in North Beach, the hike to the beach is about three miles, and it includes treasures along the way. Hikers, and their leashed pups, should get a timely start to beat the high tide, which can become dangerous if you're not careful, and enjoy views that include sea otters, bald eagles, and whales.

Oak Street Beach, Chicago, Illinois

View of oak street beach with small boats in back ground, John Hancock Center, Michigan Lake - Chicago.
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Usually you have to leave urban areas to find the best shorelines, but this Midwestern metropolis is one of the few exceptions. The impressive Chicago skyline serves as the backdrop for this popular beach, located on the shores of Lake Michigan. Lounge chairs, umbrellas, and cabanas are available for rent, and there's a variety of food from local vendors. Bikers, joggers, walkers, and rollerbladers abound on the paved path surrounding the beach. Relax in the sun, people-watch, or get in on a volleyball game or chess match — the choice is yours.

Carlsmith Beach, Hilo, Hawaii

Carlsmith Beach Park in Hilo, Hawaii
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This Hawaiian locale is the perfect place to see the black rocks and crystal lagoons the Big Island is famous for. Not your average sandy stretch, Carlsmith Beach is a grassy, tree-filled park overlooking brilliant lava-ringed lagoons. The clear, turquoise waters here are protected by a reef, making the area a snorkeling hotspot. An abundance of friendly sea turtles adds to the unique experience of this magical habitat. Pack your lunch and picnic at one of the onsite tables in the shade of a palm tree.

Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina

A view of the sunset from the water at Wrightsville Beach
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The lesser known Inner Banks of North Carolina have just as much to offer beachgoers as the Outer Banks. Across a drawbridge from the mainland lies the quaint Atlantic waterfront town called Wrightsville Beach. A quintessential beach town, Wrightsville Beach offers water sports like surfing, paddleboarding, kayaking, and kiteboarding, and is a stone's throw from the college town of Wilmington. It's got summer charm aplenty with surf shops and classic beachfront hotels dotting its shore. Rent a rod and some bait and drop a line off Johnnie Mercers Fishing Pier. Meanwhile, beach bars and live music take the party from daytime into the night.

Grand Haven State Park, Michigan

Lake Michigan beach in Grand Haven State Park
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Set on the shores of Lake Michigan, this 48-acre park with powdery white sand offers activities like fat-tire biking, barbecuing, sunbathing, swimming, and volleyball. There's also a playground for the children, as well as scenic views of the lake and the Grand Haven South Pier and Lighthouse. Waste the day away on the beach and then stay well into the late afternoon for the magical, dip-dyed sunsets that overtake the evening sky.

Santa Monica Beach, California

Santa Monica pier at sunset

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Nothing screams summer on the pier like funnel cake and a Ferris wheel. The famous Santa Monica Pier draws people from all over the state with its classic amusement park complete with a roller coaster, games, and golden fried carnival treats. Heal the Bay Aquarium beneath the Ferris wheel offers hands-on educational fun for the kids. This vibrant stretch along the Pacific is also a prime spot for partaking in all the usual beach activities: sunbathing, swimming, surfing, volleyball, and sunset viewing. You can also bike, jog, or walk along the path to iconic Venice Beach down the way.

Medano Creek, Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado

Sand dunes and Medano Creek at sunrise, Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado
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Medano Creek in Great Sand Dunes National Park is a wide, shallow river that emerges every spring and disappears every August. The creek is dependent on the amount of snow in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, since the runoff forms this annual phenomenon. Visitors can enjoy wading in the water, tubing, skimboarding, and building sand castles. Because of the limited timeframe, it's best to plan your trip for weekdays in late May or early June.

North Beach, Tybee Island, Georgia

Dunes with sea oats, late autumn, North Beach, Tybee Island, Georgia
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Trade Spanish moss for grassy dunes at this coastal haven that's perfect for a quiet getaway. Reachable in about a half hour by car or shuttle from Savannah, North Beach is a peaceful, family-friendly spot frequented by locals. The stunning 360-degree views from the top of the historical Tybee Island Lighthouse are well worth the climb, especially during sunrise and sunset. And when you get hungry, located between the beach and lighthouse, North Beach Bar and Grill is a casual, dog-friendly restaurant with a tasty menu and outdoor patio.

Good Harbor Beach, Gloucester, Massachusetts

Good Harbor Beach, Gloucester, Massachusetts at Dusk
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Good Harbor Beach is a family-friendly spot on Massachusetts' quieter cape with sugar-soft sand and relatively calm water. At low tide, you can walk across a sand bar and explore rocky Salt Island, while little ones get to play in warm tidal pools. Tasty snacks and water toy rentals are available at the concession stand. Note that parking is limited and fills up fast, so arriving early is suggested. Off-site parking and shuttles provide other options.

Rockaway Beach, Queens, New York

People enjoying Rockaway Beach in Queens, New York
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This may not be a palm-tree-lined idyll, but for New Yorkers who can hop on a subway or bus to reach its white sand, five-mile boardwalk, and surf-worthy waves, it's heaven. And it's well worth the afternoon trip, as Rockaway also features a skate park, volleyball and handball courts, playgrounds, spray showers, and restrooms. Barbecue areas for picnicking and eateries along the boardwalk ensure that no one goes home hungry.

Crystal Lake State Park, Barton, Vermont

Indian Summer at Crystal Lake, Barton, Vermont
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Lined with about a mile of white sand and backed by scenic mountains, Crystal Lake's rich history dates back to the 1700s. The large, historic granite bathhouse with restrooms and a concession stand is made from rock mined from the nearby hills. The lake's cold waters are filled to the brim with rainbow trout, smallmouth bass, pumpkinseed, and yellow perch, among others, making it great for anyone who prefers to spend their beach days casting a line instead of serving a volleyball. It's a wonderful place to picnic, swim, and even spend the night. There's an on-site cottage stocked with all the necessities (including a canoe) available for rent.

Gulf Shores Public Beach, Alabama

Beach aerial view, Gulf Shores, Alabama.
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You can't do much better when it comes to U.S. beaches than the Gulf Coast. Pretty palm trees, clear water, and pristine white sand make this Gulf beach a standout. It's located close to a boardwalk, restaurants, and shops with easy access to parking. The well-kept beach is also a great place for activities like volleyball and boogie boarding in the relatively calm surf. And the $3 fee to enter the pier is worth the experience to watch the friendly fishermen, hungry pelicans, and an occasional dolphin.

Park Point Beach, Duluth, Minnesota

Enjoying Beautiful Sunset at Park Point, Duluth, MN
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In Minnesota, you go big or you go home, apparently. Located on Lake Superior, the largest freshwater lake in the world, Park Point Beach is the world's longest freshwater sandbar, in a state known as the Land of 10,000 Lakes. The beautiful sandy beach and its waves have the feel of an ocean locale. It offers great views of Duluth and Lake Superior, and is known for its spectacular sunrises. A nearby playground, barbecue grills, and a ball field are all popular with visitors. Leashed dogs are also welcome.

Asbury Park Beach, New Jersey

The Beach along Asbury park on a quiet late Summer day in New Jersey.
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A little bit rock 'n' roll, a little bit historic charm, this Jersey Shore destination has everything you want from a Northeastern summer spot. Stretching about a mile along New Jersey's Atlantic coast, Asbury Park Beach is a lively, clean, white-sand paradise. Sunbathing, swimming, surfing, fishing, and people-watching are favorite activities here. It's backed by a historic beachfront boardwalk bustling with restaurants, bars, fast food, and interesting shops, in addition to a splash park and miniature golf. The Silverball Retro Arcade boasts more than 600 working pinball machines dating back to the 1930s. And just across the street is the fabled bar, The Stone Pony, made famous by locals Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi.

Carmel Beach, Carmel-by-the-Sea, California

People enjoying the golden sands of Carmel beach on a warm spring day, Carmel, California.
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Carmel-by-the-Sea might be one of the most beautiful places in the U.S., apparent in its lapis waters and rocky shoreline. This spectacular white-sand beach, located at the foot of Ocean Avenue, is a popular surfing spot. Visitors can enjoy a dip in the cool, crystal-clear waters with views of Pebble Beach to the north and Point Lobos to the south. Beach fires are permitted in supplied fire pits, and dogs may roam off-leash with conscientious owners. Pack a picnic and a bottle of local wine (also permitted), and savor a magnificent California sunset in this seaside paradise.

Coligny Beach Park, Hilton Head, South Carolina

Coligny Beach Park, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
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Hilton Head isn't just golf courses and candy-colored resorts. Its incredibly well-maintained beaches have made it a summer destination for people all over the southeast. The beautifully landscaped entrance to Coligny Beach welcomes you to its accessible location, made all the more popular by amenities that include showers, gazebos, benches, swings, free Wi-Fi, and a splash fountain to rinse off your sandy children. Wheelchair- and stroller-friendly matting leads to the water. Get there for sunrise, if you can, and keep an eye out for dolphins, which are known to pass by its shores.

Alki Beach, Seattle, Washington

The Cascade Mountains as seen from Alki Beach in West Seattle
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Accessible by car or water taxi, this family-friendly beach on the Puget Sound offers stunning views of the Olympic Mountains and downtown Seattle. Sand, saltwater, volleyball courts, grills, and bonfire pits are all options for keeping yourself entertained. Joggers, bikers, and skaters fill the two-and-a-half-mile path that runs along the beach. Tip: Enjoy a sunset dinner at one of the unique waterfront restaurants.

Ocean Beach Park, New London, Connecticut

Pool and beach at Ocean Beach Park in New London, Connecticut
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This half-mile, golden-sand beach with gentle tides provides great views of ferries and schooners sailing past the New London Ledge Lighthouse. Ocean Beach Park, located along the boardwalk, features a picnic area, playground, snack bar, mini-golf, arcade, and more. When you've had your fill of one of New England's premier sugar sand beaches, take a dip in the Olympic-size pool. The onsite parking fee (from $25) also includes admission for up to five guests, otherwise it's $8 for walk-ups.

Coney Island Beach, Brooklyn, New York

Coney Island, New York
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Nothing pairs with salt air like the smell of hot dogs and the sound of rollerblades on the boardwalk. If you're seeking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city without having to go too far, Coney Island is a perfect seaside wonderland of nostalgia and kitschy fun. With miles of sand, this public beach is rich in history and tradition. There are courts for beach volleyball, handball, and basketball as well as playgrounds to keep you entertained all day long. But, of course, you'll probably spend most of the time on the boardwalk that leads to the famed amusement park, home of the Wonder Wheel, Cyclone roller coaster, and New York Aquarium.

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