Looking to expand beyond the same old beach destinations you always visit? Familiarity is great, but there are some truly amazing shores around the U.S. that deserve a spot on your itinerary.
Get ready to shake things up and enjoy your beach vacation on a whole new level with our list of the 10 best beaches in the USA!
What Are the Best Beaches in the USA?
When you’re seeking the absolute best beaches the nation has to offer, your options are vast – with beautiful beaches on every coast, the hardest part is narrowing your choices down!
We’ve found that the best beaches in the USA are truly diverse and each one offers something a little different.
From tourist-centric shores with tons of amenities right on the beach to ruggedly beautiful secluded coves, there are a few beaches in the U.S. that you simply can’t miss.
While you’ll find the idyllic white sand paradises on our list, there are also beaches with cooler temperatures, those surrounded by natural beauty, pebbled shores, and ample shade offered by towering trees.
The best beaches in the USA are (drumroll, please):
- Caladesi Island Beach, Clearwater, FL
- Smathers Beach, Key West, FL
- Coast Guard Beach, Cape Cod, MA
- Pfeiffer Beach, Big Sur, CA
- Siesta Key Beach, Sarasota, FL
- Cannon Beach, OR
- East Beach, Saint Simons Island, GA
- Asilomar State Beach, Pacific Grove, CA
- Myrtle Beach, SC
- South Padre Island Beach, TX
We only included beaches in the contiguous USA because – let’s face it – Hawaiian beaches are on their own level of scenic beauty. If that’s where you’re headed, check out the best beaches in Hawaii next!
Explore the variety of beachfront activities, scenery, and climates each one of these beach destinations has to offer. Whether you’re looking for sun and fun or secluded natural beauty, there’s a beach for you on the list!
The 10 Best Beaches in the USA
Who says your beach vacation has to be basic? When you head to one of the best beaches in the USA, you’ll gain a new appreciation for how varied and diverse the beaches here can be.
Here’s a look at the top 10 beaches the U.S. has to offer, from those on secluded, natural barrier islands to bustling beaches with attraction-packed boardwalks!
1. Caladesi Island Beach, Clearwater, FL
How does a 3-mile long, white sand beach that’s secluded and surrounded by natural beauty sound? If that’s right up your alley, Caladesi Island Beach may be the best beach in the USA.
Caladesi Island State Park is technically part of Dunedin (located in Clearwater), but you’ll take a short ferry ride to get to the beautiful Caladesi Island Beach there.
Large shells along the shores make it a haven for shelling, clear water is ideal for swimming and snorkeling, and its island location gives it a remote, private feel that’s hard to find anywhere else.
Amenities on the island include a ranger station, equipment rentals, snack bar, restrooms, and showers – a benefit that you won’t often find at such beautiful, secluded beaches.
2. Smathers Beach, Key West, FL
Known as the most popular beach in the Florida Keys, Smathers Beach in Key West is more than deserving of a spot on the list of the best beaches in the USA.
It’s a smaller beach (about 1/2 mile long) on the southern end of Key West, but it’s actually the biggest public beach on the island. Families, friends, and couples can’t get enough of the island vibes of Smathers Beach!
Pristine sand, clear ocean water, palm trees offering shade along the shore, food trucks and drink stands nearby, with lots of thriving wildlife in the ocean and around the beach make it truly special.
Restrooms, beach chair and umbrella rentals, and parking are available to make beach day logistics a little easier, but be forewarned: Key West experiences a smelly seaweed season like Cancun each year from May to October-November.
3. Coast Guard Beach, Cape Cod, MA
There’s something refreshing and memorable about the beaches in Cape Cod. Coast Guard Beach is arguably the best and ranks among the most picturesque beaches in the entire country!
This beach features vast stretches of coarse sand where seals are known to come ashore. Swimming in the chilly water is popular here during the warmer summer season and scenic sand dunes with seagrass are just behind the beach.
In fact, an old Coast Guard building is up on the dunes behind it, giving this beloved beach its name. You can see the Nauset Spot barrier beach system and bay from here with the Nauset Lighthouse just a mile up the road.
Parking is available right at the beach during the low and shoulder seasons, but during the peak summer season, visitors can take a short shuttle ride from the Little Creek parking area nearby.
4. Pfeiffer Beach, Big Sur, CA
The stunning Big Sur coastline draws tons of visitors each year, but situated along the rocky shore in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is the must-see Pfeiffer Beach.
This gorgeous location is incredibly diverse with jaw-dropping landforms and features. You’ll be surrounded by crashing waves, gushing waterfalls, massive cliffs, dense greenery, and abundant wildlife at Pfeiffer Beach.
It’s not your typical beach destination, but that’s what makes it one of the best! You’ll even find areas with purple – a deep, lilac purple – sand and rugged keyhole rocks that tower over your head on the shore.
Park passes are required to visit this beach ($10/car), but the more secluded feel and beautiful scenery makes it beyond worth the expense. Bike to the beach for an incredible ride along the way!
5. Siesta Key Beach, Sarasota, FL
Florida’s Gulf coast is home to the top-rated Siesta Key Beach, regularly landing on lists of the best beaches in Florida and the USA. White sand, tons of attractions, and a family-friendly vibe make this beach stand out.
The sand here is 99% quartz and so soft, it makes a chirping or squeaking sound when you walk on it! It makes relaxing and playing on this top-tier beach even better.
With rental stations for everything adventurous you’d like to try on the beach – parasailing, jet skis, banana boat rides, and more – everyone in the family will have a blast here.
A playground is perfect for the kids who want to take a break from the sand and surf, while beach volleyball is a great way to bring everyone together on the shore.
Live music, snack bars and restaurants, a free trolley, and tons of options for day cruises and fishing make this one of the most fun beaches you can visit in the USA.
6. Cannon Beach, OR
Cannon Beach isn’t your typical beach destination. It’s a rocky, scenic beach that boasts a long, sprawling coastline with views of a lighthouse, rocky coves, and nearby caves.
National Geographic has ranked Cannon Beach as one of the most beautiful beaches in the entire country and everyone who’s visited agrees.
Here, you’ll see the giant Haystack Rock rising from the shoreline where puffins congregate and delight visitors. Small tidal pools offer a close-up look at the marine life that thrives on this rocky shore.
Nearby hiking trails in Ecola State Park and sea caves at Hug Point are worth checking out with gorgeous views. Make a day of it by checking out the shops, restaurants, and bars in downtown Cannon Beach!
7. East Beach, Saint Simons Island, GA
Saint Simons Island (or St. Simons Island) is a beautiful barrier island off the coast of Georgia and home to the famous East Beach with easy-to-walk-on white sand.
Shelling is incredible here, with large, intact shells and sand dollars along the shore. Dogs are welcome on the beach, with activities like swimming, kite boarding, snorkeling, and more to appeal to every member of the family.
The sand here is hard packed, so it’s easy to walk and bike on and great for people of various ability levels. There are picnic tables, restrooms, a World War II museum, and nearby restaurants and bars here.
People love the clear Atlantic water here, which varies throughout the year from calm to waves suitable for surfing. On the northern end, check out Gould’s Inlet for great bird watching!
8. Asilomar State Beach, Pacific Grove, CA
Surfers, kayakers, anglers, photographers, and nature lovers in general will really appreciate the unique, rocky shores of Asilomar State Beach in Pacific Grove, California.
Asilomar State Beach is home to abundant wildlife and tide pools teeming with marine life. You’ll feel secluded and surrounded by natural beauty here in Pacific Grove!
The tide pools at low tide are one of the most amazing things about this beach – at Point Pinos, you’ll find some of the best examples of these microcosms of life in the entire nation.
Wear shoes – it’s a rocky beach with some sharp rocks in the water – if you plan to swim. Views of the Historic Point Pinos Lighthouse and a golf course close by are other special things about visiting Asilomar State Beach.
9. Myrtle Beach, SC
Myrtle Beach in South Carolina is the gem of the state and one of the best beaches in the nation. With over 60 uninterrupted miles of sandy shore along the Atlantic, it’s a must-see beach on the East Coast.
Over 20 million people visit every year, so you know Myrtle Beach is a great spot! There are thousands of restaurants, bars, boardwalk shops, and attractions for the entire family here.
Attractions include a beachfront amusement park, water sport equipment rentals, full public amenities for guests, and tons of wildlife tours to see dolphins and marine life.
In Myrtle Beach, the entire family can have a great time with lots to do on the beach and in town. From mini golf to lazy beach days, you can do it all here.
10. South Padre Island Beach, TX
If warm water and vast stretches of golden sand without huge crowds is your idea of the ideal beach, South Padre Island Beach in Texas one of the best beaches in the USA.
Situated on the Gulf of Mexico, it doesn’t get the huge swells and waves that beaches along the Atlantic coast do. The waters are calm, warm, and perfectly pleasant for the whole family.
Body surfing is popular here when the waves pick up a bit, as are relaxing strolls along the 120-mile shore. It’s a dog-friendly beach, so when we say bring the whole family, we mean the everyone – even Spot!
Restaurants are always nearby at South Padre Island Beach, with beachfront eateries, food trucks, and bars making it easy to enjoy your time at the beach if you’re not into packing a lunch.
Read Next: When You Should Visit South Padre in 2023
Things to Consider
What else should you know before you start planning to visit one of the best beaches in the USA? Keep these travel tips in mind to make the most of your trip.
- Dust off sand with baby powder. Before you get in the car, take a second to shake a little baby powder onto your skin. You’ll be able to easily brush off the sand and avoid bringing the beach back to your hotel with you. It makes any trip to the beach so much more pleasant!
- Don’t skimp on sunscreen and shade. Spending long days at the beach leaves you open to sunburn and heat exhaustion during the hot summer months, so don’t skimp on sunscreen and make sure you’ve got access to shade. Reapplying sunscreen is essential if you’ll be out for a few hours! Umbrellas, pop-up beach shelters, and rental cabanas are great options to make your own shade.
- Pack the right clothing and swim gear. Warm beaches may only require swimsuits, but if you’re planning a visit to a chillier beach (like Coast Guard Beach in Cape Cod), you may need a wetsuit to make the ocean temperature more bearable, even in the summer months. Water shoes may be needed if you’ll wade into the water along rocky shoreline.
- Find other things to do nearby. The best beaches in the USA are the main event for a vacation, but there are always cool things to do nearby if you know where to look! We named the best trip planning apps and found options like Roadtrippers, GetYourGuide, and Roadside America to see what attractions and sights are nearby.
Frequently Asked Questions
Still have a few questions about the best beaches in the USA? Here are the top questions readers have on the topic. Read through them to learn more!
What is the prettiest beach in the USA?
Some of the prettiest beaches in the USA are Caladesi Island Beach in Clearwater, FL and Smathers Beach in Key West, FL. Coast Guard Beach in Cape Cod is picturesque while Pfeiffer Beach in Calfornia is among the most beautiful in the nation.
National Geographic calls Cannon Beach, OR and Pfeiffer Beach in Big Sur, CA some of the most scenic and best beaches in the USA.
What is the number 1 beach in the USA?
Caladesi Island Beach in Caladesi Island State Park on a barrier island off the coast of Clearwater, FL is the number 1 beach in the USA.
It's secluded, natural, and comfortable with white sand, lots of vegetation, and calm waters that are perfect for swimming and snorkeling. Take a ferry ride to get here and feel worlds away from the hustle and bustle of the mainland!
What beach has the clearest water in the US?
Beaches on the Gulf of Mexico tend to be clearer than those on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, so Florida beaches along the Gulf coast are home to the clearest water in the US.
Caladesi Island Beach, Smathers Beach, and Siesta Key Beach all feature crystal-clear, warm water without the wild waves and surf of the Atlantic coast.
What is the number 1 best beach?
While it's hard to name a single beach the absolute best overall, it can be argued that Caladesi Island Beach in Florida is number 1 due to its natural beauty and wildlife with soft, pristine sand along the secluded shores.
Cannon Beach, Oregon has been named one of the best beaches in the world and certainly ranks as one of the best in the USA, so it's a solid contender if you enjoy scenic, rocky shoreline and lots of wildlife.
What state has the prettiest beaches?
In the contiguous US, Florida has the prettiest beaches, no matter what you're looking for (natural, tourist-centric, or in-between). Overall, many believe that the tropical beaches of Hawaii are the prettiest in the nation and well worth a visit.
So, Ready to Head to the Best Beaches in the USA?
If you want to ensure your next beach vacation is top-notch, memorable, and scenic, you’ve got to head to one of the best beaches in the USA.
Whether you’re already thinking of a warm and sunny southern beach, want to head north to Cape Cod, or plan to visit the West Coast, our list is full of beaches that offer something special.
From white sand to rocky shores and everything in between, these beaches are sure to delight every member of your family and offer tons of activities to do on and off the shore.
You’ve got enough beach inspiration here to start planning your upcoming coastal trip in earnest. The only question is, which of the top-rated beaches will you visit first?