The United States has no shortage of beaches. With over 95,000 miles of shoreline, (a large part of which is up in Alaska), the US has plenty of beachside opportunities when you’re anywhere near the coast. We’ll show you our 24 favorites below.
The 24 Best Beaches in the US in 2023
What makes something a great beach? There are many qualifications, ranging from incredible sand to the waves offshore, the local entertainment, or unique qualities.
Every beach is different, but one thing that remains true is that all of the beaches below are uniquely special in their own ways.
Even better, many of the best beaches in the country have campgrounds next to them, so you can spend the night and enjoy a full day. If that’s not possible, there’s usually a hotel somewhere nearby.
1. Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area
Although not well-known, the Hapuna Beach area in Hawaii is, in many ways, the ideal beach for many people. This landscaped park has clean and calm water, soft sand, and a spot far enough away from the more popular areas that there are rarely big crowds.
The waves are excellent, and the small fees go directly into maintaining the area. If there’s one flaw, it’s that Hapuna Beach doesn’t have too much shade.
You’ll need to bring umbrellas or some equivalent yourself, but beyond that, it’s a safe and gorgeous swimming beach thanks to the long, shallow shoreline.
Read Next: The Best Beaches in Hawaii in 2023
This may be cheating because Malibu, California, is more of a city than a beach, but this coastal area is famous in a state that’s already known for an incredible number of outstanding beaches.
Surfrider Beach is excellent if you enjoy riding waves, while Zuma Beach is a little better for families.
If you’re visiting in the winter, Point Dume on the northern side supports whale-watching. Just inland, you’ll find plenty of arts and entertainment to enjoy, ensuring a fantastic trip for the whole family.
3. Siesta Beach
Florida has plenty of great beaches, but Siesta Beach tops them all. Its powdery quartz sand is soft and easy to walk on, while beachside services provide help with setting up chairs, umbrellas, and other equipment all along the beach.
Siesta Beach is extremely tourist-friendly, with hundreds of restaurants available within three miles.
It has easy access to restaurants and inland entertainment, but it’s not crowded enough to be unusable. If you’re looking for a great beach in Florida, consider Siesta Beach first.
4. Cannon Beach
Some beaches are known for their sand, while others have everything else. Cannon Beach in Oregon is one of the more unusual destinations, starting with the colorful tide pools around Haystack Rock.
Bird-watching is good, too, with tufted puffins nesting in the area through spring and summer. The best part of the beach is Ecola State Park, which includes a mixture of walking paths, hiking trails, and vantage points.
Cannon Beach isn’t a place to set up a chair and soak up some rays, but it is one of the best beaches for exploring and moving around.
5. Miami Beach
Miami Beach is a lively and active destination, featuring impressively multicultural neighborhoods and a particularly active nightlife scene.
You can sit on the beach and watch the sunrise over the ocean, see the water change to a beautiful turquoise, and head a few steps off the beach for some of the best food in the state.
Relaxation is easy along these sands, even in the much-loved South Beach area. If you don’t mind hiking a little, there are some excellent vistas, lighthouses, and other outdoor entertainment to enjoy while you’re there.
Read Next: Best Time to Visit Miami in 2023
6. Key West
Florida is going to appear on this list a lot, mainly because its beaches are simply that good. However, Key West is worth considering for any trip. As the southernmost point in the continental US, Key West is an outstandingly accessible destination full of outdoor adventures and entertainment.
On any given day, you may hear local bands playing in the area, go fishing, drop by a bar, or swim from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico. Key West may not be a huge island, but it’s packed with things to do and an outstanding choice for any family vacation.
Read Next: Best Time to Visit Key West in 2023
7. Pfeiffer Beach
Pfeiffer Beach is part of the Los Padres National Forest area, itself part of the rocky Big Sur region. Popular through much of the year, it’s especially crowded around the new year when it’s possible to get a photo of the sun setting through Keyhole Rock.
This beach also has some unusual patches of purple sand created by the erosion of manganese garnet from the local hillsides. Camping isn’t available overnight, though, so this beach works best as a day trip when you’re passing through the area.
8. Kailua Beach Park
Another of Hawaii’s less-known beaches, Kailua Beach Park is a large area on Oahu island’s Windward side. The beach itself is comfortably wide and long enough to relax on, but the in-water entertainments are the real draw.
Kayaking, stand-up paddling, kitesurfing, and similar activities are quite easy here. The bay area is also home to a competitive canoe racing club. Here, teams will race anywhere from a short distance around the bay to entire island crossings.
This park is excellent year-round, thanks to Hawaii’s sunny weather, but it’s best on the Fourth of July when it hosts a major fireworks display.
9. Driftwood Beach
Driftwood can be found on beaches around the world, but few have anywhere near the size or number found on Driftwood Beach in Jekyll Island, Georgia.
The trees sprawl across the beach, offering opportunities for climbing and exploring that you won’t find in most other areas. It’s also a popular wedding spot, so you never know what kind of groups you may see in the area.
The inland area is family-friendly, with fun centers like Pinball Palace offering a different way to spend your time. Jekyll Island also has golfing, museums, theaters, and even access to a cruise ship. This isn’t a traditional relaxation beach, but it’s easily worth a visit if you’re in the area.
10. Cape Cod
Cape Cod in Massachusetts covers about forty miles of beaches, marshes, and upland wilderness that help protect and support local wildlife.
Cape Cod is further north than many of the other popular beaches, and it’s so big that there’s plenty of room to move around. It’s even vehicle-friendly, though you’ll need a permit for off-road driving.
Sharks are known to visit this area, so if you’re lucky, you can see them from a distance.
The beach is usually safe for swimming, surfing, and similar activities, though, so you don’t have to worry too much about that. Either way, Cape Cod is one of the best beaches in the country for anyone who prefers cooler climates.
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11. Golden Gardens Park
One park that isn’t well-known outside its area is Golden Gardens Park, one of the best beaches in Seattle’s Ballard area. This park offers exceptionally good views of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains, with sunbathing and hiking easily accessible to all visitors.
As part of the interior Puget Sound area, Golden Gardens Park has gentle waters that see minimal impact from regular tidal forces.
While you won’t see great surfing here, the calmer waters are ideal for swimming. Even better, it has instant access to all of the other entertainment in the Pacific Northwest’s standout city.
12. Makena State Park
Hawaii’s Maui island is literally surrounded by gorgeous beaches, so there’s no shortage of places to choose from. However, Makena State Park stands out on an already-great island, with two beach sections offering gorgeous views and plenty of room to relax.
Makena State Park encourages strolling, snorkeling, swimming, sightseeing, and fishing along the beach.
However, it doesn’t provide drinking water on-site, so you’ll need to bring your own. When you’re done for the day, you can make the short journey inland to relax in one of the island’s many hotels or resorts.
13. Haena Beach Park
Easily the best beach on Kauai’s northern shore in Hawaii, Haena Beach Park is a relatively narrow beach area flanked by beautiful trees that soon rise into the island’s signature mountain. Haena is excellent for both relaxing and taking photos.
Summer is the best time to visit when the waters are calm and support snorkeling.
Winter and spring see much more aggressive water here, where shore breaks and strong rip currents support surfing and other active, offshore sports. Camping is available, too, which can be relatively hard to find along Hawaii’s beaches.
Read Next: Best Time to Visit Kauai
14. Ruby Beach
Set in the southwestern part of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula area, Ruby Beach is an iconic representation of the area’s diverse wildlife.
The coastal waters in the area support thousands of different marine species, while birds make nesting colonies on some of the rocky islands. Ruby Beach is also a short distance from the Hoh Rain Forest, the world’s largest temperate rainforest.
Blanketed in green, this forest is an entirely different experience from the beach, but the rapid change in environment is a characteristic of western Washington and one of the best reasons to visit.
15. Ocean City Beach
Ocean City, Maryland, is a comfortably wide stretch of sand covering about ten miles of shoreline along the city. This beach is both free and popular, but it has more than enough room to let you find a place to sit down and relax.
This beach allows surfing, fishing, and many other activities. If you don’t want to stay entirely on the beach, it also has a three-mile boardwalk and numerous restaurants and rental facilities just inland.
If you visit during the summer, you can enjoy free family activities that include concerts, fireworks, and even movies. Ocean City is pleasantly warm without being as hot as Florida, making it a top spot for families.
16. Coronado Beach
Set along Coronado in San Diego’s coastal area, Coronado Beach is an exceptionally wide area, gently broken up by the occasional small hill.
The west-facing areas support surfing and swimming, while the bay-facing sections have gentle and tranquil waters anyone can enjoy. Coronado Beach also benefits from local tide pools, which appear during low tide and offer additional fun for exploring.
As part of one of California’s largest and most historic cities, Coronado Beach also has quick and easy access to upscale arts and entertainment, making it a solid part of a larger trip.
17. Treasure Island Beach
Fully deserving of its name, Treasure Island Beach in Florida is a Gulf-facing destination with frequent winds that support kite-flying. The area also has plenty of rentals, inflatable water slides, and delightful beachfront eateries.
However, what makes Treasure Island Beach truly stand out is the unusual width of its beaches. Some otherwise-excellent areas barely have enough sand to be worth the name.
But Treasure Island’s location and geography give it an enormous amount of room to spread out and have fun. Consider staying at one of the local resorts for the best experience.
Read Next: The Best Time to Visit Florida
18. Waimea Bay Beach Park
Set on Oahu’s northern shore in Hawaii, Waimea Bay is one of the state’s top destinations in winter. Waimea Bay is no mere relaxation beach. Rather, it’s a true surfing beach, with waves reaching up to 30 feet high.
The summer months are much calmer, encouraging activities like diving and snorkeling. One important thing to remember is the waves at Waimea Beach are for experts.
It’s a little too dangerous for amateurs, so if you want to learn how to surf, consider some of the other beaches in Hawaii. There are plenty of areas that are better for newcomers to the sport.
That said, since Waimea Bay is arguably the spot for surfing in winter, it’s fantastic if you want to be a spectator and watch experts having fun. You may even be lucky enough to visit during a competition.
19. Half Moon Bay
Southern California may have several of the best beaches, but Half Moon Bay in the northern part of the state is an outstanding alternative. The bay has four major beaches, each of which is backed by tall cliffs that offer a sense of comfort and privacy.
The areas also have excellent tide pools, which make for fun exploring. However, the real draw here is Mavericks Beach, just outside of the main Half Moon Bay area.
The land offshore from this beach creates exceptionally large waves in winter, making this the place to find the greatest waves on the entire western coast of the country. If you love surfing and don’t want to go to Hawaii, you won’t find anywhere better in the United States.
20. Assateague Island
Stretching over 37 miles between Maryland and Virginia, Assateague Island is a barrier area that can enjoy the full force of the ocean waves on its outer side while providing much calmer water in the interior area.
This island supports camping, hiking, biking, fishing, and numerous other aquatic activities. It’s also home to wild horses, which allow for some excellent wildlife photography. Best of all, it’s still conveniently close to inland lodging and entertainment.
21. Laguna Beach
Laguna Beach is one of California’s top coastal destinations, offering about seven miles of mixed coves and beaches. The area also has about 20,000 acres of wilderness, allowing for hiking, biking, and other outdoor fun.
All of these are great on their own, but what makes Laguna Beach so visitor-friendly is its exceptionally high amount of beachfront lodging.
If you want to walk out of a hotel and right onto the sand, this is the best place to do it in all of California. The nightlife is great, too, with plenty of live music clubs and artistic performances.
Set near the edge of the Gulf of Mexico in Florida, Naples is an upscale destination featuring a mix of high-end shopping, artistic destinations, and fine dining.
With an average water temperature of 77 degrees, it’s comfortable for swimming throughout the year, while the comfortably wide beaches offer plenty of room for you to enjoy yourself.
While you’re there, make sure to check out the Naples Botanical Garden, which has zones featuring plant life from different continents.
For a different experience, the Mangrove Tunnels Kayak and Paddle Board Eco Tour offers a fantastic way to explore some of the best sights in Naples from a new perspective.
23. Indiana Dunes
Indiana Dunes is different from the other options on this list for a simple reason: there’s no ocean water. Rather, this delightful beach runs along a state park’s fifteen miles of shoreline along Lake Michigan, serving as a rare, high-quality inland destination.
It’s quite bustling, so there’s a bit of a crowd, but the lakeside fun is worth it.
Beyond the beach, Indiana Dunes offers over 50 miles of hiking and 1100 native plant species. Temperatures can vary significantly throughout the year, so be sure to check weather reports ahead of time if you want to visit.
24. St. Augustine
St. Augustine, Florida, is the oldest continually inhabited city founded by Europeans in the United States. Stretching back to 1565 and operating decades before the historical events in Plymouth, St. Augustine has a tremendous amount of history to explore.
The old forts in the area are particularly good. As if history wasn’t enough, St. Augustine has about 42 miles of outstanding Atlantic beaches, carefully maintained to allow swimming, surfing, and other types of relaxation.
Consider riding a trolley or getting a horse-drawn carriage ride to and from the beach just to complete the experience.
Things to Consider
There are plenty of great beaches in the United States, but there are a few things to know before you go there:
- North vs. South. Whether you’re going north or south heavily affects the character of beaches. As a general rule, beaches in southern areas like Florida, lower California, and Hawaii are excellent for relaxation. Northern beaches, like those in Washington state, tend to be better for exploring.
- Direction Matters. Ocean-facing beaches tend to have bigger waves, especially in warmer climates. Areas that face away from the ocean tend to be calmer and better for activities like snorkeling and diving.
- Available Activities. Many beaches on the east coast are part of developed neighborhoods, so they have plenty of restaurants and hotels just inland. Beaches on the west coast and in Hawaii may not have easy access to rentals or food, so make sure to plan for that before you visit.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some common questions people have about the best beaches in the US:
What is the prettiest beach in the US?
Beauty is subjective, but Siesta Beach in Florida has gorgeous, powdery white sands and a lovely transition from turquoise to blue water. If it’s not the most picturesque, it’s certainly close.
What is the #1 beach in America?
Hapuna Beach is the best overall beach in America. Siesta Beach in Florida is a close second, offering beautiful sand and plenty of room to spread out.
Where is the bluest water in the US?
A beach’s color depends heavily on the surrounding area, with the color of the sand serving as a major influence. By this metric, Kauna’oa Bay in Hawaii has some of the bluest and most beautiful water in the country.
Which state has the best beaches?
It’s a toss-up between Florida and Hawaii, both of which have particularly exceptional shorelines. Florida probably wins, but mainly because it’s much easier to get to and has more off-beach entertainment in its cities.
Where is the warmest ocean water in the US?
The warmest ocean water in the continental United States is around Miami Beach. Tropical islands, including Hawaii, may be hotter at some times of the year.
So, What’s the Best Beach in the US?
There are plenty of incredible beaches in the United States, and several are so good that they can change positions from year to year. On the east coast, the best location is Siesta Beach in Florida.
On the west coast, it’s probably Cannon Beach in Oregon for sheer beauty, while Hawaii stands on its own with Hapuna Beach.