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Going to the beach is one of the most fun and relaxing ways to spend a vacation, and fortunately, there are lots of amazing beaches in the U.S. Most of the beaches here are on the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts, but others are located along the southern Gulf Coast and inland lakes. Depending on where you go, beaches can provide a family-friendly atmosphere, a party scene, or they can be the perfect venue for water sports. So no matter what you’re looking for in a beach vacation, here are some of the best beaches in the United States to add to your travel bucket list.
Huntington Beach, California
Huntington Beach is the place to go if you love surfing, and it’s been consistently ranked as one of the top beaches in California. The Huntington Beach International Surfing Museum is here, as well as the US Open of Surfing, which takes place every year. You’ll find lots of restaurants, bars, and hotels in this touristy stretch of beach, and it’s a favorite travel destination for families. Millions of visitors come to Huntington City Beach each year to check out the Huntington Beach Pier, and Huntington Dog Beach is a fun place to bring your pup to run and swim.
Siesta Key Beach - Sarasota, Florida
With an extensive coastline, there are lots of amazing beaches in Florida. One of the best is in the Sarasota area, which is called Siesta Key Beach. Siesta Key has three beaches on an eight-mile stretch of white sand that lies along the Gulf of Mexico. Popular activities here include parasailing, kayaking, swimming, fishing, and boating. You may even see a dolphin or two swimming around! At Siesta Key Beach, you can also play tennis and volleyball, let the kids run around on the playground, or listen to the beats of a drum circle on Sunday evenings. There are lifeguards stationed year-round, and lots of shops and restaurants are within walking distance in Siesta Key Village.
Orange Beach & Gulf Shores, Alabama
Most people don’t think of Alabama when they’re looking for a beach vacation, but Orange Beach is a fun and little-known travel destination worth checking out. There are 32 miles of soft sand and blue water here that extend along the state’s southern border at the Gulf of Mexico. There are lots of local attractions too, like zip lines, golf courses, deep-sea fishing excursions, and water sports. Beach areas to check out include Alabama Point East, Romar Beach, Lagoon Pass Beach, and the Gulf Shores Main Public Beach.
Ogunquit Beach - Ogunquit, Maine
Ogunquit, Maine is one of the cutest beach towns in New England. The beach stretches along a peninsula of sand and dunes for about 3.5 miles between the Ogunquit River and the Atlantic Ocean. Popular activities here are looking for shells, swimming, bodysurfing and just relaxing on the beach. There is a fee to enter the beach and a large parking lot at the southern end. You’ll find lifeguards on duty during high season. One of the best walks to take here is along Marginal Way, which is a cliff walk that’s about a mile long and runs from Perkins Cove to Shore Road along the ocean.
Ocean City, New Jersey
The Jersey Shore has long been the go-to summer destination for the New York metropolitan area. This is a great American family resort area that draws thousands of visitors every summer. This beach resort was founded back in 1879, and to maintain its family-friendly vibe, there is no alcohol served or sold in town. The Jersey Shore has great swimming conditions and nice waves plus a beautiful boardwalk that comes alive at night. There are about eight full blocks of family entertainment along the boardwalk between 6th Street and 14th Street to check out, such as the OC Waterpark.
Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve - Oahu, Hawaii
Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve is best known for its amazing snorkeling opportunities, but it’s also worth spending some time relaxing at its beach. It’s on the eastern side of Oahu, which makes it protected from the big ocean waves. There are lots of fish that live here, and the waters are generally shallow and calm. The Hanauma Bay sees about a million visitors per year, and the state park shuttles provide round-trip transportation from Waikiki beach hotels. You can generally find local vendors that rent out water sports gear right on the beach.
Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Many people don’t realize that there are islands off the coast of South Carolina, and many of them have amazing beaches just waiting to be explored. Hilton Head Island is about 12 miles by five miles wide and makes a great getaway spot for sun and sand. This is an amazing place to visit if you love to play golf because there are 24 world-class golf courses here. Foodies love visiting the restaurants here while oceanfront resorts invite you to relax. Some of the beaches on the island to check out include Folly Field Beach, Driessen Beach, Burkes Beach, Coligny Beach Park, and Forest Beach.
South Beach - Miami, Florida
Miami has a beach for everyone, but one of the most classic beach scenes to see for yourself is at South Beach. This is an area that’s packed with nightlife, the young and the famous, and even an occasional roller skater. You’ll get great views of the Art Deco architecture from the beach and have easy access to Oceanside dining. Famous for spring break partiers and beautiful people, this area is at the southernmost tip of Miami Beach and spans about two miles.
Rehoboth Beach, Delaware
Delaware is a tiny East Coast state, but much of it is lined with beaches along the coast. Rehoboth Beach is a city that’s friendly and easy-going, and it has a nice boardwalk lined with shops and restaurants. People love to shop here because Delaware doesn’t have any sales tax. For a more secluded vibe, you can visit one of the neighboring beaches and find public access points along the Delaware coast. Dewey Beach is just a short distance away from Rehoboth Beach and has family-friendly activities like movie nights and bonfires on the beach.
South Padre Island, Texas
Another place you might not think of when you want a beach vacation is Texas, but South Padre Island has been a favorite beach destination for families and spring breakers for decades. The beaches here are wide and clean, and some stretches of beach allow driving and camping right next to the water. This region of Texas often offers mild temperatures and calm waters that are great for water sports and swimming. Nature lovers can view sea turtles and dolphins here, boaters can find great fishing opportunities, and this is also a popular wedding destination.
Tybee Island, Georgia
Situated just south of the South Carolina islands, Georgia has its own set of coastal islands, and one of the most popular ones is Tybee Island. This island is just a short drive away from Savannah, making it perfect for a weekend getaway or week-long vacation. The south-end pier and pavilion are favorite hangout spots, and there’s also the Tybee Island Light Station And Museum on the north end.
Famous for lighthouses, sand dunes, and slower pace of life, Nantucket is a former whaling port that’s now a National Historic District. The beaches here are along a 50-square-mile island and accompanied by quaint seaside cottages, historic mansions, and wonderful seafood restaurants. The busy tourist season extends from the Daffodil Festival in April through cranberry season in November. Quidnet Beach is a remote beach, and Madaket Beach is known for amazing sunsets.
Coronado Beach - San Diego, California
It would be a shame to visit sunny San Diego and not spend a fair amount of time at the beach. One of the best beaches here is Coronado Beach, which requires you to hop on a ferry or take the San Diego-Coronado Bay Bridge to reach Coronado Island. This is a family-friendly beach that is often uncrowded and always beautiful. While you’re here, consider staying in the legendary Hotel del Coronado for great beach access.