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While you might think you’d have to travel a long distance, perhaps to the Caribbean or South Pacific to find a beautiful white sand beach, there are many right in the United States. As one of the world’s top 10 nations when it comes to total coastline area, there are beaches to be found along the Pacific, Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico and even in the picturesque Great Lakes. This results in some diverse stretches of sand, including some stunningly white sand beaches like these.
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Puerto Rico is, of course, a U.S. territory, which means no passport is required to enjoy its breathtaking Caribbean shores. Culebra Island is home to one of Puerto Rico’s most beautiful white-sand beaches: Flamenco Beach. There are no luxury resorts, casinos, or upscale eateries here, but you can enjoy an especially tranquil experience without the traffic, crowds, or crime. Its silky soft, white sands stretch along the entire bay which boasts shallow turquoise waters that are ideal for snorkeling and swimming, making it one of the top beaches in Puerto Rico. As the U.S. military used it for decades, it kept developers away, while abandoned tanks now lie artfully decorated in colorful Caribbean patterns.
Pensacola is famous for its jaw-dropping beaches with bright white sand that can rival some of the best in the world. One of the best beaches in Florida’s Panhandle, it’s beloved for its stark white, powdery soft sands, noting, “Beachgoers enjoy clear, shallow waters and gentle waves, perfect for swimming, along with a relaxed old Florida feel.” The deep blue water that edges the shoreline ranges in shades from royal blue to turquoise and emerald. It’s also a great place to catch a colorful sunset and to snorkel among the marine life in a gorgeous underwater world.
The 1958 classic “South Pacific” was shot on Tunnels Beach, located near Hanalei on the beautiful island of Kauai. You’ll understand why it was chosen the moment you lay your eyes on this picture-perfect stretch of white sands that are backed by lush ironwood and palm trees, with steep cliffs beyond. One of the best beaches in Hawaii, it’s ideal for snorkeling or diving, its name comes thanks to the multiple lava tubes which form caverns under the water. The tubes create a perfect haven for tropical fish. If you’re visiting in the winter, you’ll likely have to stay on the shore and just enjoy gazing out at the water as conditions are hazardous during the season.
Another one of Hawaii’s most stunning white-sand beaches can be found on the island of Maui. Once a retreat for Hawaiian royalty, today the sugary sands of Kaanapali and its azure waters draw many to enjoy a variety of activities, from sipping cocktails to sunbathing, surfing, snorkeling and diving, stand-up paddleboarding, and even cliff jumping. The north end known as Black Rock is an especially famous destination for snorkeling as well as hosting a cliff diving ceremony every evening at sunset.
The crown jewel of Coronado Island in San Diego is its mile-and-a-half-long beach that glitters like gold under the ever-present sunshine due to its high concentration of mica, a silver, pearly, mineral. Not only does it offer incredible scenic beauty, but a host of opportunities for both relaxation and active pursuits. Splash around, go boogie boarding or learn to surf – with the gentle waves, it’s an ideal place for beginners with the Coronado Surfing Academy offering lessons. Just before the sun goes down every evening, you can join the crowds to witness the beach’s famously spectacular sunsets.
One of Florida’s top Gulf Coast beaches, Clearwater Beach is famous for its pristine white sands and breathtakingly blue waters. Enjoy lounging under the sunny skies, searching for beautiful shells, or taking part in all sorts of outdoor adventures from parasailing and swimming to boat tours, all while keeping an eye out for the dolphins that frequently leap through the surf. After a day of play or relaxation, head to the Sunsets at Pier 60 Daily Festival, hosted 364 days a year, starting about two hours before until two hours after sunset, featuring street performers, artisans, crafters, and more.
There are more than 70 miles of wide, unspoiled, and often practically empty white-sand beaches on Hatteras Island, part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Thanks to the island’s proximity to the Gulf Stream, a warm water oceanic current rises from the Yucatan Channel to flow north, where it touches the mainland right here at Cape Hatteras, meaning you’ll find a mild climate all year long. With so much beach, it’s easy to find your own isolated spot in the dunes. Look forward to long beach strolls, flying a kite in the summer breeze, picnics, sandcastle building, wading in the surf or just relaxing on the sand.
Orange Beach enjoys an especially picturesque location in the Gulf of Mexico, with some nine miles of sand to enjoy. As the sand here is made up primarily of quartz, it results in a pristine white that sparkles under the sunshine. Toss a Frisbee, sculpt your perfect sandcastle, bathe in the sun or go deep-sea fishing. The beach is home to the country’s largest artificial fishing reef, making it ideal for deep-sea fishing excursions. You can rent a boat, book a charter or simply fish right from the pier. If you’ve always wanted to see dolphins in the wild, this is the place, with guaranteed sightings through Dolphin Cruises Aboard the Cold Mill Fleet.
The scenery never ends in Carmel, from the dolphins and sea otters that swim in the Pacific and the surfers that ride the waves to one of the most extraordinary scenic golf courses, the iconic Frank Lloyd Wright house, and of course, beautiful beaches. Carmel Beach offers incomparable sunsets and also hosts a number of fun annual events, like the Great Sandcastle Contest.
National Geographic magazine once named the town of Cannon Beach as one of the world’s 100 most beautiful places, and its miles of sandy beaches and dramatic shoreline with waves crashing against soaring rock formations is one of the major contributing factors. The main beach features iconic Haystack Rock which rises 235 feet out of the Pacific and provides a nesting ground for sea birds, including puffins. If you come at low tide, there’s a good chance you’ll find sand dollars here and you can search for sea creatures in the tide pools. To enjoy one of the most breathtaking views over it all, head to Ecola Park. The grassy cliffs overlooking the coastline provide a perfect spot for a picnic while elk can often be seen grazing in the meadow nearby.
Often ranked among the country’s most stunning beaches, Shi Shi Beach is wild and remote, located on Washington’s Olympic Coast. It requires a four-mile hike out-and-back but your reward is a tranquil oasis with breathtaking views. The sandy beach is dotted with gnarled logs that over time have been bleached and battered by the surf. The waves violently crash against the sea stacks just offshore, while bald eagles often soar overhead. Point of Arches features the most spectacular sea stacks and there are many tide pools where you can look for colorful creatures, including starfish and sea urchins.
Often named one of Florida’s most beautiful white sand beaches and among the country’s most magnificent, the sands on Siesta Key are so soft you’d almost think you were dipping your toes into powdered sugar. But it’s actually because the sand is made up of nearly all quartz, finely crushed. That also means the sand will never get too hot, burning your feet under the strong rays of the sun. Plus, it’s edged by brilliant aquamarine-hued water that’s offers everything from swimming, snorkeling, and diving to fishing, kayaking, parasailing, boating, and more. It’s also a great spot to watch for dolphins that frequently pass by.
Dr. Beach and numerous esteemed publications have named Caladesi as one of the best beaches in the U.S. It’s been called “pristine perfection.” Framing Caladesi Island, it can be reached by ferry from Honeymoon Island in Clearwater, and features enchanting swirls of soft white sands and outstanding beachcombing on the stretch that juts out toward the Gulf. Relax and just enjoy the view, swim, paddle the three miles of kayak trails or walk the three miles of nature trails. There are no hotels on this island, so if you want to overnight you’ll need to stay nearby in Dunedin or Clearwater.
A relatively short jaunt from Boston, Sandy Neck Beach is located in the town of Sandwich on Cape Cod, just a little over an hour’s drive away. It has six miles of shoreline and protected waters for a refreshingly cool dip. If you venture beyond the sand there are lots to explore too, including forest, cranberry bogs, and wetlands. It’s rarely crowded and it extends all the way to sheltered Barnstable Harbor, with picturesque little dunes seldom seen on the bayside. If you hike in far enough it’s easy to find your own secluded spot.
Hawaii is filled with gorgeous sands but Lanikai is a treasure that offers secluded swimming and sunbathing. It’s only a half-mile long, but it’s postcard-perfect and far from the crowds at Waikiki, a 30-minute drive northeast. While it’s easily accessible, it somehow manages to remain one of the quietest stretches on the island of Oahu. The sand is fine and white while the water is crystal clear, protected by an offshore reef, ideal for snorkeling and many other water sports like sailing and windsurfing when the winds pick up. Kayakers can even paddle out to uninhabited islands about a mile offshore.
Located at the west end of Bogue Banks, a barrier island along the Crystal Coast, Emerald Isle offers 12 miles of shoreline that edges the Atlantic. Mostly protected from outside development, abundant flora and fauna thrive here, and it’s a great place for enjoying a wide range of activities, including diving, fishing, kayaking, paddle boarding, and scenic nature hikes. There’s only one hotel, but that just means it enjoys a more peaceful feel than most and there are some vacation rental homes and condos offering accommodation. Visitors can enjoy golfing and antique shopping nearby too.