Shore Enough: The 50 Most Beautiful Beaches in America

Beautiful Beaches

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Most Beautiful Beaches in America
Cheapism / Robert Kirk/istockphoto/ Dancestrokes/shutterstock

Life Is a Beach

As summer kicks off, hitting the beach may be on our to-do list. From the sandy shores of popular Florida beaches to smaller lake beaches, there are shores in every state worth admiring. We consulted reviews on sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp and aggregated rankings from expert sources such as Travel Channel. Here's a peek at 50 of the most gorgeous beaches in the nation. 

Cannon Beach, Cannon Beach, Oregon

Cannon Beach | Cannon Beach, Oregon

This scenic shore of Cannon Beach features the impressive and distinctive Haystack Rock, which is said to be the third-tallest intertidal structure in the world and has shown up in movies such as "The Goonies" and "Kindergarten Cop." It's particularly striking (and photogenic) at sunset. The city of Cannon Beach is also worth visiting for its wide variety of shopping and dining spots.  

Sunrise At South Bethany Beach, Delaware in Sussex County, Rustic Fence Snaking in the Foreground Onto Beach
Robert Kirk/istockphoto

Bethany Beach | Bethany, Delaware

The Diamond State might not be the first to come to mind when planning a beach vacation, but Bethany Beach in the Delaware town of the same name more than fills the bill. The town is small and quiet, but the beach is expansive and has a boardwalk for picking up souvenirs or grabbing lunch. The waves can get big enough for surfing.  

Lake Harriet, Minnesota

Lake Harriet | Minneapolis

Minnesota is the Land of 10,000 Lakes, and Lake Harriet in Minneapolis stands out for more than swimming. Enjoy watersports and watercraft rentals, biking or rollerblading around the paved path in the park, a playground, and a rose garden. Stay long enough to end the day with a free concert at the bandshell.

Related: Best Lakes in All 50 States

Clearwater Beach, Clearwater, Florida
Jon Bilous/shutterstock

Clearwater Beach | Clearwater, Florida

The biggest draw in the resort town of Clearwater is the amazing Clearwater Beach on the Gulf of Mexico. The beach can get very busy year-round, so visitors have to share the pristine sand. The waterfront Clearwater Marine Aquarium gives visitors a chance to meet dolphins and rescue animals up close. 

Images of Woods Hole, MA, September 4, 2014
Images of Woods Hole, MA, September 4, 2014 by Bill Ilott (CC BY-NC-ND)

Coast Guard Beach | Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Cape Cod has long been a favorite summer vacation destination, and Coast Guard Beach is one reason. Spacious with powdery white sand and nearby trails for hiking, the beach has free but limited parking. In summer, the lot is closed to everyone but staff and people with disabilities, and a shuttle bus transports visitors to the beach from another lot.

Related: 35 Beach Towns for an Affordable Summer Vacation

Gulf Shores Public Beach, Gulf Shores, Alabama
Darryl Vest/shutterstock

Gulf Shores Public Beach | Gulf Shores, Alabama

The beautiful dunes and white sand of the public beach in Gulf Shores are only part of the appeal. Wildlife aficionados will appreciate the chance to hike through the Bon Secour National Wildlife Reserve, and the historic Fort Morgan State Historic Site is a must for history buffs. Visitors can explore a fort that was active during the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, and both World Wars.  

Waialea Beach, Big Island, Hawaii
Dmitri Kotchetov/istockphoto

Beach 69 | Big Island, Hawaii

It's no secret that Hawaii has an abundance of beautiful beaches, but one standout is the Big Island's Beach 69 (also known as Waialea Beach) on the Kohala Coast. The beach has calm, crystal-clear waters ideal for snorkeling, as well as tide pools for viewing sea life on land. Trees lining the beach provide shade on toasty days. 

Related: The Best of Hawaii on a Budget

Balneario Luquillo Beach, Luquillo, Puerto Rico

Balneario Luquillo Beach | Luquillo, Puerto Rico

It can get incredibly hot in Puerto Rico, so it's a good thing Balneario Luquillo in Luquillo has palm trees for much-needed shade. The calm waters, courtesy of shore reefs, appeal to body surfers, and sunrises over the water appeal to early risers.   

Whitefish City Beach, Kalispell, Montana

Whitefish City Beach | Kalispell, Montana

In addition to a sandy beach where beachgoers can lay out and sunbathe, Whitefish City Beach in Kalispell offers boating, water skiing, fishing, and a stunning view of the mountains. Cool down with a dip in Whitefish Lake. 

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Coopers Beach, Southampton, New York

Coopers Beach | Southampton, New York

Coopers Beach in Southampton has sparkling blue water, sand dunes, and waves perfect for body boarding — all straight out of a postcard. The downside is beach parking for non-residents that's some of the most expensive in the country, at $50 a day May 15 to Sept. 15. Some visitors take a taxi to the beach to skip the fee (or visit the Southampton beach that doesn’t require a parking permit, Road D Beach). 

Related: The 20 Best Beaches on the East Coast

Crystal Cove State Park, Laguna Beach, California

Crystal Cove State Park | Laguna Beach, California

Crystal Cove State Park, near Laguna Beach, is a step back in time. The Historic District was built in the 1920s to be part of a South Seas movie set, with cabins now available to the public to rent. The beach is a great place to find crabs and other creatures in tide pools. 

Islanders Beach, Hilton Head, South Carolina
Rick A./Yelp

Islanders Beach | Hilton Head, South Carolina

For a quieter beach in Hilton Head away from the crowds, Islanders Beach Park attracts fewer people than nearby Tybee Beach but is no less charming. It has white sand, tree-lined playgrounds, walking paths, and, visitors note, immaculately clean bathrooms.  

Cape Arago State Park, Coos Bay, Oregon
Randy King/istockphoto

Cape Arago State Park | Coos Bay, Oregon

Another great spot on the coast of Oregon is Cape Arago State Park. The rocky shores are perfect for spotting sea lions and whales, finding fossils, and fishing. The views are stunning (and entry is free), but don't expect soft white sand here. Instead of sandals or bare feet, opt for sturdy shoes for clambering over the rocks. 

Cape May Lighthouse, Cape May Point, New Jersey During Sunset

Cove Beach | Cape May, New Jersey

One of the best things about Cove Beach in Cape May is the lighthouse. The historic structure still lights up the beach to create oceanside enchantment each evening. It's a charming footnote to a full day of swimming, hunting seashells, and exploring the dunes. 


Ruby Beach, Olympic National Park, Washington
Phil Lowe/shutterstock

Ruby Beach | Olympic National Park, Washington

Plan to visit Ruby Beach in Washington's Olympic National Park during low tide to best appreciate the sea stacks and tide pools. Driftwood is scattered across the sand, and the imposing and jagged rocks will wow any nature lover.

IMG_4703 by Bendini (CC BY-NC)

Malaquite Beach | Corpus Christi, Texas

Visitors to Malaquite Beach can enjoy the white sand and search for sand dollars during the day, then pitch a tent on the south beach in the evening and let the ocean waves lull them to sleep. The campground has 48 semi-primitive, designated sites. Each can host two tents and up to eight people.  

Crane Beach, Ipswich, Massachusetts

Crane Beach | Ipswich, Massachusetts

Crane Beach in Ipswich has pristine sand and clear water, but the biggest draw may be the wildlife. This beach is a nesting site for the threatened piping plover. Avoid fenced nesting areas and the wrack, a debris-lined area where the birds hide. 

Related: Bird Watchers Flock to These 15 Prime Spots Across America

Schoolhouse Beach, Washington Island, Wisconsin

Schoolhouse Beach | Washington Island, Wisconsin

Schoolhouse Beach on remote Washington Island in Lake Michigan is not the standard beach. It has smooth rocks instead of sand — considered one of only five such beaches worldwide — and offers a unique beach day of skipping stones and observing stone sculptures in addition to great swimming. (Note: It's not permitted to remove even one of the beach's glacier-polished rocks.)

East Beach, Santa Barbara, California

East Beach | Santa Barbara, California

East Beach in Santa Barbara has more than a dozen volleyball courts and rents out balls to anyone who wants to play. The beach is a popular one with lots of visitors, which makes it one of the best beaches for metal-detecting. 

Flamenco Beach, Culebra, Puerto Rico, a Colorful Umbrella Under a Palm Tree on the Beach Next to the Ocean

Flamenco Beach | Culebra, Puerto Rico

Travelers have called Flamenco Beach in Culebra, Puerto Rico, one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. It's easy to see why, with sparkling white sand and no chain hotels or stores to spoil the charm.  

La Jolla Shores, San Diego
Market Share Media/shutterstock

La Jolla Shores | San Diego

La Jolla Shores is a mile-long stretch of sand that has some of San Diego's gentlest waves in summer. Bring a picnic lunch to enjoy between sunning, swimming, surf lessons, snorkeling, or paddle boarding.  

Hanalei Bay Beach, Kauai, Hawaii
Steve Minkler/shutterstock

Hanalei Bay Beach | Kauai, Hawaii

Hanalei Bay on Kauai has an awe-inspiring backdrop of waterfalls and mist-covered mountain peaks just beyond the beach. The coral reefs are perfect for snorkeling, and water sports from windsurfing to kayaking and boating are available. Serious surfers, though, are some of the most devoted fans. 


The Cliffs At Gay Head, Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, Ocean Waves in Motion Reaching the Beach in the Foreground

Moshup Beach | Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts

The remote location of Moshup Beach is often overlooked by visitors to Martha's Vineyard. It's partially surrounded by beautiful cliffs but has an unobstructed view of the Atlantic Ocean. A lighthouse makes for dramatic photos, and while some use the colorful clay from the Aquinnah Cliffs for mud baths, removal of the clay is actually illegal as the cliffs are an Endangered National Landmark. Better to just enjoy the view.  

Related: 22 Places to Hang Out Where You're Most Likely to See a Celebrity

Kiawah Beachwalker Park, Kiawah Island, South Carolina

Kiawah Beachwalker Park | Kiawah Island, South Carolina

Though the park is closed until the end of May due to construction, if you're vacationing in South Carolina after that, plan an excursion to Kiawah Island's Beachwalker Park. Dogs are welcome at this white sandy beach, and anyone can get a fishing permit to cast out a line.  

Mansion Beach, Block Island, Rhode Island

Mansion Beach | Block Island, Rhode Island

Block Island's Mansion Beach is a bit less crowded than others on the island, but visitors may still want to bike to it instead of struggle to find one of the limited parking spaces. The secluded spot is called Mansion Beach after the great house that used to stand on the property but burned down in the 1950s. Now the beach is known for its impressively big waves.

North Avenue Beach, Chicago

North Avenue Beach | Chicago

North Avenue Beach near downtown Chicago has scenic views in both directions, with Lake Michigan kissing the sand and the dramatic city skyline behind. When more normal times return, you can ride a bike down the Lakefront Path, too.

Related: 70 Free Things to Do in America's Most Popular Cities

Main Beach, Santa Cruz, California
Gina N./Yelp

Main Beach | Santa Cruz, California

Main Beach is sunny, sandy, and beautiful, and the nearby boardwalk features arcades, food vendors, and carnival rides. The boardwalk has a nostalgic appeal for many adults, and kids get a kick out of all the rides and games.  It's possible to park in the pay lot, but it's more fun to spend a quarter to take the Santa Cruz Trolley to the beach. 

Dramatic Lights from Buildings Along Ocean Drive, Miami Beach, Florida During Early Sunset, Beach in the Foreground with a Line of Palm Trees
Sean Pavone/istockphoto

Miami Beach | Miami

The perfectly transparent waters of Miami Beach are just one reason this destination is so immensely popular. The pastel-colored Art Deco buildings along the water, as well as the possibility of spotting a celebrity catching some sun, are even more compelling. 


Lifeguard Beach, Outer Banks, North Carolina

Lifeguard Beach | Outer Banks, North Carolina

Located 26 miles off the North Carolina coast on Ocracoke Island, Lifeguard Beach is one of many gems on North Carolina's Outer Banks. Supposedly once frequented by Blackbeard the pirate, Lifeguard Beach is now a favorite for present-day vacationers. Visitors can hop a boat or ferry to access the island's beach for a day in the sun. 

Empty Beach with Ocean During Off-Season, Ocean City Beach, Ocean City, Maryland

Ocean City Beach | Ocean City, Maryland

When visiting Ocean City Beach, be sure to make time for the boardwalk, with all its shops, rides, and places to eat. Bring the dog, too — pets are allowed on the beach and boardwalk. Visitors may even spot a few dolphins.

Hulopoe Beach, Lanai, Hawaii

Hulopoe Beach | Lanai, Hawaii

Hulopoe Beach on Lanai, on the coast of Maui, stands out among Hawaii's many beautiful beaches for its large tide pools carved out of volcanic rock. Visit to see how hermit crabs, sea stars, and small fish weather the changing tides, but don't take home any stones or shells. The beach is a protected site, and the marine life need those souvenirs more than humans do.

Related: Cool Off Across America: Where to Swim in All 50 States

Sand Beach, Acadia National Park, Maine

Sand Beach | Acadia National Park, Maine

Located in Maine's Acadia National Park, Sand Beach on Mount Desert Island is a bit chilly for swimming, but the setting is magnificent and the sand sits in contrast to the area's rugged coastline. While just 290 yards long, this little beach is surrounded by an abundance of beautiful hiking trails. 

Coney Island, Brooklyn, New York

Coney Island | Brooklyn, New York

What's not to love about Coney Island Beach? The historic destination has 3 miles of sandy beach, a boardwalk, a Ferris wheel, vintage rides, and lots of classic, New York street food. This beach gets extremely busy in summer, but people watching is part of the appeal. It’s also one of New York’s best cheap places to enjoy.

Related: Cheap Things to Do in New York City

Male and Female Couple Walking in Ocean Along Beach of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina During Dramatic Early Sunrise

Myrtle Beach | Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Scenic views of the city skyline can be spotted from Myrtle Beach, but kids (and the young-at-heart) may have eyes only for the Ferris wheel and roller coaster. Anglers will want to join the many fishermen who frequent the Springmaid Pier to cast a line. 

Related: 25 Amusement Parks: Then and Now

Kapalua Bay Beach, Maui, Hawaii

Kapalua Bay Beach | Maui, Hawaii

Go early to beat the crowds at Kapalua Bay Beach on Maui. The beach is considered one of the island's best, and has activities for all ages. Try snorkeling to see tropical fish and even turtles in the crystal-clear water, which is also calm enough for stand-up paddle boarding. 

Park Point, Duluth, Minnesota

Park Point | Duluth, Minnesota

Park Point in Duluth, Minnesota, is the world's longest freshwater sandbar (more than 5 miles long), so be ready for a full day of exploring at the Western edge of Lake Superior. In summer, the Great Lake can get warm enough for swimming. There are no concessions or restaurants nearby, so visitors usually bring a picnic lunch.

Siesta Beach, Siesta Key, Florida

Siesta Beach | Siesta Key, Florida

The soft, powdery white sand at Siesta Beach on Siesta Key is one reason why the beach keeps appearing on best-beaches lists. The setting also scores points for cleanliness and amenities, such as showers, snack bars, and grills.

Point Dume State Beach, Malibu, California

Point Dume State Beach | Malibu, California

Point Dume State Beach in Malibu attracts fitness buffs eager to climb its moderate-pitch rock climbing routes, most of which have ropes attached to fixed anchors for safety. Less than an hour's drive away from Los Angeles, Point Dume State Beach is a quick getaway from urban stresses. 

Ditch Plains Beach, Montauk, New York

Ditch Plains Beach | Montauk, New York

Surfers in the Northeast can catch a wave at Ditch Plains Beach in Montauk. Rugged cliffs make for a memorable stroll, but for many visitors, the lure is that Ditch Plains is a point break, which creates ideal conditions for surfing. 

Lanikai Beach, Oahu, Hawaii
tomas del amo/shutterstock

Lanikai Beach | Oahu, Hawaii

The water at Lanikai Beach in Kailua, Oahu, is warm, shallow, and calm in the summer months, making it the perfect beach for long swims. The spectacular view is marked by nearby islands. Lanikai Beach doesn't get as crowded as some other local beaches, so a visit here promises to be a tranquil experience.

Pfeiffer Beach, Big Sur, California

Pfeiffer Beach | Big Sur, California

Pfeiffer Beach is known for a remarkable, one-of-a-kind feature — purple sand. Beaches in Big Sur can be hard to find or access, due to the steep terrain, and many are on private property. But few regret making the effort to reach Pfeiffer Beach, and the drive through Big Sur is breathtaking. 

Sea Camp Campground, Cumberland Island, Georgia
Paula Stephens/shutterstock

Sea Camp Campground | Cumberland Island, Georgia

Sea Camp on Georgia's Cumberland Island National Seashore is a must for beachgoers who also love to camp. Visitors who take the ferry can hike and spy wild horses and other wildlife in addition to traditional activities on a wide, often uncrowded beach.

Related: 55 Surprising Facts About America's Beaches

Sandbridge Beach, Virginia Beach, Virginia
Jay Yuan/shutterstock

Sandbridge Beach | Virginia Beach, Virginia

Sandbridge Beach is popular with locals, while tourists crowd the nearby Virginia Beach boardwalk. Leave the French fries and crowds to them. With 5 miles of sandy beach, clusters of sea oats, and the marshes and open waters of Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge and False Cape State Park, Sandbridge Beach is a serene site for kayaking, hiking, fishing, or just relaxing. 

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Empire, Michigan

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore | Empire, Michigan

The water at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is so blue that visitors may feel like they're at the ocean instead of Empire, Michigan. Scenic drives, wildlife, towering bluff views over Lake Michigan, hikes (including a challenging hike of the dunes), and well-done ranger exhibits at the visitor center make this national park well worth a visit. 

Related: 32 Bucket-List Experiences in America's National Parks

Jacob Riis Park Beach, Far Rockaway, New York

Jacob Riis Park Beach | Far Rockaway, New York

If headed to Jacob Riis Park Beach in Far Rockaway, New York, plan to make it a full day outing. There are lots of great restaurant and snack options for a midday meal. The waters can get rough, so it's not always the best choice for a swim, but the beach doesn't get too crowded. 

Siesta Beach, Siesta Key, Florida

Smathers Beach | Key West, Florida

Smathers Beach in Key West is a half-mile of man-made beach that invites visitors to relax with a good book (chair rentals are available) or try one of a number of watersports, such as jet skiing, parasailing, or windsurfing. Whatever visitors choose to do, they will appreciate the ample free parking, picnic tables, and concession stands.

Surfside Beach, Nantucket, Massachusetts
Surfside Beach, Nantucket, Massachusetts by shell belle (CC BY-NC)

Surfside Beach | Nantucket, Massachusetts

Surfside Beach in Nantucket is all about the views. The waves are often strong, making the beach a beautiful one but not the best for a leisurely swim. A shuttle bus takes visitors to local points of interest, and the beach sells concessions (including a beloved burger), so there's plenty to keep visitors busy.

Related: Where to Find a Good, Cheap Burger in Every State

Stinson Beach, Marin County, California

Stinson Beach | Marin County, California

Stinson Beach is narrow but long, so it can accommodate a good crowd. Visitors enjoy sightings of sand dollars and sea lions while hiking into neighboring Mount Tamalpais State Park, fishing, or taking part in all sorts of beach sports (with rental equipment available in the nearby town). Parking is free, but Stinson Beach — only slightly more than a half-hour from the Golden Gate Bridge — can also be reached by public transportation.

Related: The Best State Park in Every State

Tybee Island Beach, Tybee Island, Georgia
Jon Bilous/shutterstock

Tybee Island Beach | Tybee Island, Georgia

At Tybee Island Beach on Tybee Island, outside Savannah, beachgoers should keep their eyes peeled for seashells, dolphins, and historic sights. Visitors can seek out the 1736 lighthouse and Fort Screven Historic District fortifications from the late 1800s — and contemplate the 7,000-pound nuclear bomb lost offshore in 1958.

Jones Beach, Long Island, New York

Jones Beach | Long Island, New York

Jones Beach on Long Island isn't just a beach; it's more like a swimming park. In addition to the beach, there are two swimming pools, as well as frequent air shows and volleyball tournaments. Visitors say the beach and bathrooms are clean and the boardwalk is great for families.

Related: Iconic and Beautiful Boardwalks in the Country 

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