Siesta Key Beach
Credit: Pola Damonte via Getty Images

There are five states lucky enough to have a coastline along the Gulf of Mexico, often referred to as the Gulf Coast. These states (Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida) bring in millions of travelers each summer with promises of emerald waters and white-sand beaches. The only issue? With hundreds of miles of picture-perfect shoreline, how does one choose where exactly to go to soak up some sun?

We’ve made narrowing down your decision much, much easier. Below are four of the best Gulf Coast beaches for you to park your beach chair on and get some much-needed R&R.

Henderson Beach State Park, Florida

Located in the idyllic beach town of Destin, Florida, Henderson Beach is a true gem on the Emerald Coast, and, with 6,000 feet of natural beach, there’s plenty to do there. Swimming and surfing are popular activities, but if diving into crystal-clear waters isn’t really your thing, there’s a nature trail nearby where you can go for a hike or bike ride. Fishing is also a popular pastime in Destin — so popular, in fact, that this town has dubbed itself “The World’s Luckiest Fishing Village.”

Galveston Island, Texas

Off the coast of Texas sit 32 miles of sandy beaches known collectively as Galveston Island. This bustling island is home to endless boutiques, restaurants, and vacation rentals to suit any type of traveler. You can do as much or as little as you want there; park your flip-flops on a stretch of beach to relax, or go souvenir-hunting at one of the many art galleries and gift shops. The view isn’t bad, either: Galveston Island boasts some of the prettiest beaches along the Gulf Coast of Texas.

Biloxi Beach, Mississippi

Referred to as “The Playground of the South,” Biloxi, Mississippi is widely known for its casinos, golfing, and amusement parks, which all conveniently sit alongside the beautiful Gulf Coast shoreline. Don’t be fooled by its wild side, though. There’s a certain charm that this beach town holds for tourists of every age, from its boat charters and museums to mini-golf and historical sites. After a day of soaking up the sun, head to the Biloxi Lighthouse or take a ferry to Ship Island, located 12 miles off the coast, where the beauty of the Gulf Coast is at its peak.

Siesta Key, Florida

Siesta Key is home to 35 miles of breathtaking coastline, but two beaches that stand out from the rest are Siesta Beach and Crescent Beach. White-quartz sands and shallow waters are what attract hundreds of thousands to Siesta Beach, Florida each year, and the year-round warm temperatures mean that your beach vacation doesn’t necessarily have to happen in the summer. And don’t be afraid to go for a dip — lifeguards are here year-round, too, making it safe and fun for the whole family.

One of the best spots to go snorkeling along the Gulf Coast is at Point of Rocks, located right off the tip of Crescent Beach. Coral and sponges envelop chunks of limestone, making it the perfect residence for swaths of sea life for you to discover. After you’re done with an underwater expedition, stick your umbrella into any piece of the wide-sanded coastline and watch the ocean waves until the sun goes down.