If you’re planning a beach getaway this year, you may still be wondering where you want to go and what destination will offer the most bang for your buck. Or sand for your dollars. Or just sand dollars.
That’s why we’ve compiled a list of 50 of our favorite destinations from all over the country. (Beaches in Arizona? You bet!) There are party beaches and remote beaches, white-sand and pebble beaches, great beaches for snorkeling and great beaches for ogling. Whatever your preference, chances are there’s a beach here for you.
Just remember, before planning any vacation, it’s a good idea to make sure it fits into your budget. There’s little worse than stressing over money the entire time you’re trying to relax and unwind. We have plenty of tips for budgeting for your next vacation, and also some comparisons of travel rewards credit cards that can help pay for your next holiday. (Pro tip: Rewards cards often require really solid credit, so check your credit scores for free on Credit.com before applying.)
Now, without further ado, here are 50 of our favorite beach destinations in America and U.S. territories, broken down by East Coast, West Coast, Gulf Coast, freshwater and island beaches.
With a plethora of urban and rural beaches, picking our favorite East Coast beaches was tough, but we narrowed it down to these eight.
1. Montauk, Long Island, New York
On the far end of Long Island’s South Fork sits the town of Montauk. Its numerous beaches, crystal-clear-albeit-cold waters and plenty of nearby restaurants and accommodations make it a favorite destination for New Yorkers, especially surfers. In fact, Montauk has made numerous lists as one of the best places to surf in America.
2. Fort Lauderdale Beach, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
This beautiful city beach is not only easy to get to (it’s right on the road), it’s relaxed and beautiful. It can get a bit crowded, but the people watching can be part of the enjoyment.
3. South Beach, Miami Beach, Florida
If laid-back isn’t quite your thing, South Beach is an endless party with endless Atlantic views. And once you’ve had your fill of sun and sand, there are trendy restaurants, shops and unique hotels to enjoy just across the street.
4. Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Hilton Head is a great family destination that can be very budget friendly. And don’t even get us started on the delicious low-country cuisine you’ll find here.
5. Coney Island, New York
More spectacle than beach experience, the boardwalk, pier and amusement park make for a uniquely interesting day trip if you’re visiting the New York area. The beach is typically very crowded with local New Yorkers wanting a break from the heat of the city, and the water isn’t particularly nice. In fact, it’s kind of gross. Still, if you want a memorable New York City beach experience, this is the place to do it.
6. Asbury Park, New Jersey
If you like a good boardwalk, look no farther than Asbury Park. A wide expanse of beach, plenty of people watching, shopping and eating options make this a favorite among locals and tourists.
7. The Cove, Cape May, New Jersey
Farther south on the Jersey Shore, Cape May is more quaint than Asbury Park and offers an abundance of outdoor activities like birdwatching, surfing, kayaking and more. It’s a great family-friendly option.
8. Ocean City Beach, Ocean City, Maryland
Another great spot if you love a good boardwalk, Ocean City has 10 miles of sand and plenty of activities to keep the whole family entertained.
9. Race Point Beach, Cape Cod, Massachusetts
As Patti Page once sang, “If you like sand dunes and salty air, quaint little villages here and there, you’re sure to fall in love with old Cape Cod.” Situated at the very tip of the cape near Provincetown sits this lovely stretch of beach. It’s accessible by car and even bicycle, and don’t be surprised if you spot some seals or even whales in the chilly waters.
10. Ogunquit Beach, Ogunquit, Maine
Farther north, the waters get even colder, but this sandy beach is a beautiful place by the sea. In fact, that’s exactly what its name means in Algonquin, “beautiful place by the sea.” You’ll find charming villages, plenty of delicious fresh lobster and gentle rolling waves.
11. Hollywood Beach, Hollywood, Florida
Between Miami and Ft. Lauderdale, you’ll find this lovely beach with a charming seawalk. It’s great for a romantic getaway and still offers plenty of nearby activities without all the hustle and bustle of, say, South Beach.
12. Virginia Beach, Virginia
A three-mile oceanfront boardwalk is one of this famed coastline’s signature draws, ideal for strolling, jogging, rollerblading and more and rife with people watching. South of the resort area, nature lovers will find Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge and False Cape State Park, while those simply looking for more seaside solace might give peaceful Sandbridge a look.
13. Cape Hatteras, Outer Banks, North Carolina
Most of the beaches on the OBX are just awesome, but Cape Hatteras is special. Its famous lighthouse makes for a nice break from the sun and sand, but one of our favorite things about this stretch of beach is that beach fires are still allowed, meaning you can have that clambake if you so desire, or you can just relax with friends and family while enjoying the warm glow.
14. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Home to Apache Pier, the East Coast’s longest wooden pier, and the SkyWheel, there’s a ton of fun to be had along this 60-mile stretch of oceanfront, not to mention plenty of world-class golf.
15. Folly Beach, South Carolina
This six-mile stretch of sand offers visitors a laid-back beach experience, which is probably why it’s a favorite among local surfers.
16. Ocracoke Beach, Outer Banks, North Carolina
If you want to get away from it all, Ocracoke is a great place to do it. There’s been minimal development along this part of the OBX, so the remaining wetlands are home to plenty of wildlife, including birds and turtles. Of course, that doesn’t mean the beaches are empty, though they’re certainly less crowded than more urban East Coast beaches.
If you live in a landlocked part of the country and don’t want to spend a fortune to get some time at the beach, these picks are for you. Hello, day trip!
17. Sleeping Bear Dunes, Lake Michigan National Lakeshore, Michigan
One of our favorite freshwater beaches is at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. After all, it was named the “Most Beautiful Place in America” on ABC’s Good Morning America back in 2011. Lake Michigan’s beautiful clear water makes a stroll on these pristine beaches really enjoyable. And when you’re finished sunning and splashing, there are dozens of other nearby activities to enjoy.
18. Bradford Beach, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
On the other side of Lake Michigan is Bradford Beach, a lovely local favorite considered the city’s most popular spot for swimming. There are also sand volleyball courts and plenty of food and beverage vendors to make sure you don’t go hungry.
19. Lake Powell, Utah/Arizona
In the Four Corners region, where Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico meet at a single point, there are a lot of outdoor activities to enjoy. And just a two-hour drive from the spot where you can stand in all four states at the same time are some seriously beautiful beaches along Lake Powell’s shores. There’s even overnight camping allowed in some areas.
20. Huntington Beach, Cleveland, Ohio
Cleveland rocks, and so does Huntington Beach, where locals have been enjoying the water and views for decades. This was also the first Ohio beach to receive the Blue Wave designation from the Clean Beaches Coalition.
21. Oak Street Beach, Chicago, Illinois
Chicago beaches can be crowded, especially on a gorgeous summer day, and Oak Street Beach is no exception. There are often volleyball tournaments taking place — both amateur and professional — but the people watching, cool breezes coming off of Lake Michigan and the striking Chicago skyline make it a favorite destination among locals and visitors alike.
22. North Beach, Racine, Wisconsin
Another Blue Wave-certified beach on the Great Lakes, this beach also gets a big thumbs up from Dr. Beach, a renowned beach expert whose picks are certainly noteworthy. North Beach’s 2,500 feet of shoreline offers plenty of room for summertime crowds to enjoy themselves without feeling cramped.
23. Park Point Beach, Duluth, Minnesota
Yes, we’re picking a beach in Minnesota. Why? Beautiful views, soft sand and bracing dips for those hot, humid days. There’s a park and a playground, which makes it a great destination for families.
24. Grand Haven State Park, Grand Haven, Michigan
Another beauty on the shore of Lake Michigan, Grand Haven offers camping, picnic areas, playgrounds and plenty of recreational activities.
25. Presque Isle State Park, Erie, Pennsylvania
There are plenty of beaches to choose from here and each has its own attraction. Some are more sheltered and quiet, while others have concessions and volleyball courts. The choices alone make it a great family getaway.
You’re going to have to fly or take a boat to get to these beaches, but you won’t need your passport.
26. Hulopoe Beach, Manele Bay, Lanai, Hawaii
Considered one of the most perfect beaches in the world, Hulopoe Beach, on Lanai, offers a designated marine preserve where the snorkeling and diving are considered among the finest in the Hawaiian Islands. There are also tidal pools filled with colorful marine life.
27. Kapalua Bay Beach, Maui, Hawaii
This somewhat isolated beach is described by beach expert Dr. Beach as a “beautiful, crescent-shaped, white-sand beach bounded by rocky anchors where good restaurants can be found.” Yes, please.
28. Lanikai Beach, Oahu, Hawaii
Powdery sand, gentle breezes, palm trees and turquoise water make this beach the stuff of dreams. Plus it’s in a quiet residential area, so the crowds aren’t typically too bad.
29. Trunk Bay, St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands
The island’s most photographed beach is also one of its prettiest, with over a quarter mile of powdery sand, clear water and short hiking trails.
30. Lindquist Beach, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands
Clear, shallow water, coconut groves and sea grape trees make Lindquist Beach feel dramatic despite its relative calm on the weekdays.
31. Boquerón Beach, Puerto Rico
Frommer’s says this beautiful stretch of sand brings to mind a “tropical Cape Cod.” Its white sand, palm trees and calm waters make it a wonderful destination for families looking to snorkel, swim or even fish. Boquerón Beach also is a state-run, public beach, which means there are picnic tables, barbecue pits, lifeguards, bathrooms with showers and lockers, plus a cafeteria and a shop for necessities like sunscreen.
32. Waikiki Beach, Hawaii
This two-mile-long beach in the shadow of Diamondhead is one of the most famous beaches in the world, with more than four million visitors each year. While it can get quite crowded, its breathtaking beauty is worth sharing with others.
33. Poipu Beach Park, Hawaii
Golden sands, clear blue waters and spottings of sea turtles and whales make this a favorite beach among Hawaii’s multitude of beautiful spots. In fact, TripAdvisor named it a top 25 beach in its annual Travelers’ Choice Awards for 2017.
West Coast Beaches
34. Zuma Beach, Malibu, California
The water may be freezing — thanks northwesterly winds — but the juxtaposition of mountains and ocean are something you rarely see here in the States. Bring a jacket and headphones so you can vibe out to one of the prettiest beaches along the Pacific Coast Highway.
35. La Jolla Cove & Shores, La Jolla, California
There’s kayaking, snorkeling, diving, swimming and communing with La Jolla’s famous sea lions and seals. What’s not to love?
36. Venice Beach, Venice, California
Like Coney Island on the East Coast, Venice Beach is more about spectacle than it is actually taking in the sand and surf. Still, it’s a great experience if you’re in the greater Los Angeles area and want to get a little salty air.
37. Coronado Municipal Beach, Coronado, California
Situated in front of the famous Hotel Del Coronado, the beach is wide and the gentle waves are perfect for swimming. It’s also a beachcomber’s paradise, with plenty of shells and sand dollars to be found.
38. Carmel Beach, Carmel-by-the-Sea, California
If you’re seeking a beach with amazing sunsets, look no further. The natural beauty of the rugged coastline makes a wonderful setting for a romantic picnic or stroll, but the rip tides and chilly water make swimming less than enjoyable.
39. Rialto Beach, Olympic Peninsula, Washington
Best known for its rocky beaches and driftwood, Rialto Beach is a part of Olympic National Park, so you’re likely to spot plenty of wildlife as you walk the shore. There are whales, otters, and even bald eagles.
40. Cannon Beach, Cannon Beach, Oregon
If you want to hang out with puffins at the beach, Cannon Beach is the place to go. There’s a plethora of wildlife along this four-mile stretch of sand, but there’s still plenty of room for swimming, picnicking and just lazing about.
41. Huntington Beach, Huntington Beach, California
If you’re a fan of surfing, you probably already know this beach is nicknamed Surf City, U.S.A. Known for amazing breaks, it also has good swimming and boogie boarding. You’ll also find lifeguards, food and sundry vendors, restrooms and even volleyball courts.
Gulf Coast Beaches
Last, but certainly not least, are the Gulf Coast beaches. Now, if you live on the East or West Coast, you’re probably thinking, “Eww, a Gulf Coast beach? No way.” If that’s you, you might be interested to know that the No. 1 beach in America as chosen in TripAdvisor’s Travelers’ Choice Awards 2017 is …
42. Siesta Beach, Siesta Key, Florida
That’s right. This Gulf Coast beach was chosen as the No. 1 beach in the country. Siesta’s 99% quartz sand means your tootsies won’t burn even on the hottest days. Pair that with crystal-clear waters and warm, sunny days almost year-round, and you’ve got full-on beach bliss.
43. Gulf Islands National Seashore, Pensacola, Florida
The sand here just speaks to people. Literally. The sand is so powdery it often squeaks when you walk across it. Its beautiful waters and warm temperatures almost year-round make it a perennial favorite and a contender for most best-beaches lists.
44. Bowman’s Beach, Sanibel, Florida
If you love collecting shells and other treasures from the ocean, this could be the beach for you. It has some of the best shelling in the world. On top of that, there are no high-rise hotels and the sunsets are outstanding.
45. Henderson Beach State Park, Destin, Florida
White sand, gentle waves and turquoise waters with a lovely beach town make this a favorite for beachgoers. It’s darn near perfect.
46. Gulf State Park, Alabama
Not far from the Florida state line, this stretch of sugary white sand offers plenty of family-friendly activities to keep everyone entertained. The park offers air-conditioned restrooms, showers, a snack bar and and tables for eating.
47. South Padre Island, Texas
South Padre can get a little crazy during Spring Break, when droves of high school and college students descend on the pretty beaches here. In fact, it can be pretty crowded for most of the high season, and while you won’t get turquoise waters, there’s an abundance of birdlife, dolphins and sea turtles. There’s also plenty of fishing to be found if that’s your thing.
48. Matagorda Bay Nature Park, Matagorda Island, Texas
The water on Matagorda Island definitely seems bluer than a lot of water along the Texas coast, plus it’s not as crowded as a lot of the beaches. If you like a natural setting with plenty of birdlife, this is a relaxing spot to just chill with family and friends.
49. Clearwater Beach, Clearwater, Florida
As the name implies, the water here is crystal clear. The sand is also powdery soft and white, making this a very popular beach. If you don’t like crowds, there’s another alternative nearby …
50. St. Pete Beach, Clearwater, Florida
There are five miles of delicate sand and crystal-clear warm waters to enjoy on this beach situated on Florida’s Gulf Coast shore, so there’s a chance you won’t feel overly crowded even on busy days. You’ll find plenty of nearby activities as well, not to mention beautiful sunsets from the beach.
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