The 21 Best Beaches In The US
Looking for the best beaches in the US for the perfect beach vacation? With so many to choose from, it’s hard to know where to start.
But what makes the perfect beach for you? A family-friendly beach with powder-white sand and calm blue waters? A city beach with a buzzing atmosphere or maybe you want to get away from it all at a hidden gem?
If you’re starting to think about your next US beach vacation, here is some really helpful information on the best beaches in the USA that we have compiled with the help of some fellow travel bloggers.
There’s a fantastic geographical spread with a choice of east coast beaches, west coast beaches and some stunning tropical beaches on the US islands. There are beaches with powdery white sand, beaches for watersports enthusiasts and beaches for nature lovers.
Really, there’s something for everyone and with such a wide choice all over the USA, you’ll find inspiration for both your summer and winter vacations.
Here are the best beaches in the US..
Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Submitted by Shobha from Martha’s Vineyard Tourist
A perfect spot for a family vacation, Cape Cod has some beautiful beaches especially along the 40 miles of the Cape Cod National Seashore. Our favorite beach on the Cape Cod National Seashore is Race Point Beach which is near Provincetown.
Race Point Beach has a beautiful lighthouse as well as Instagram worthy sunsets. Race Point Beach is in biking distance from Provincetown and faces onto the Atlantic Ocean. It’s positioned to be sunny all day which is great for sunbathers and children who like to play in the sand. The water is good for surfing but the waves may be too much for young children.
Nearby Provincetown is lively with lots of cafes and boutiques as well as an enormous monument to the Pilgrims. Before moving onto Plymouth, the Pilgrims landed on Cape Cod first and decided the soil was not great for agricultural purposes.
Along with the Cape Cod National Seashore, there are plenty of other beaches on Cape Cod. The beaches on the bay side of Cape Cod have calm waters and are good for families with young children. Some family resorts on Cape Cod have direct access to the beach as well so you don’t need to travel very far for a beautiful beach or to engage in water sports like kayaking and SUP. The wide variety of beaches means that everyone in the family can find their perfect beach.
Fire Island National Seashore, New York
Submitted by Victoria from Tori Leigh
One of the country’s most beautiful beaches, Fire Island National Seashore sits off the coast of Long Island, NY. With twenty six miles of protected coastline, Fire Island is known for its iconic dunes, crashing waves, panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean and the Great South Bay, and for the famous Fire Island Lighthouse.
With the exception of the lighthouse and the small beach that sits at its footsteps, the remainder of Fire Island is accessible only by ferry. Beach communities, such as Ocean Beach, do not allow vehicles, and are popular among vacationers, especially families, looking for a true beach escape.
Catch a sunrise over the atlantic, spend the afternoons swimming, or simply stroll the endless coastline. Within the small communities visitors will discover plenty of restaurants, bars, shopping, and rental options, as well, to round out the trip.
Visitors looking for an exceptionally unique experience will enjoy Sunken Forest, a shoreline estuary both protecting Fire Island and showcasing its natural beauty and wildlife.
Those in search of a beach escape, with a few extra, unique experiences, will love Fire Island and its expansive coastline.
Rockaway Beach, New York
Submitted by Lyndsay from The Purposely Lost
If you’re looking to spend time on one of the best beaches in the U.S. you don’t even have to leave New York City. On the coast of the borough Queens, you can find Rockaway Beach.
While the City has several different beaches throughout the five boroughs, Rockaway Beach is right on the Atlantic Ocean and is the best to truly lay back and relax. While Coney Island has the famous boardwalk and aquarium, you’ll find that Rockaway Beach is where locals go for a day out in the sun.
Other than lying by the beach, you can find restaurants, local cafés, and ice cream shops only a few minutes from the water. And, since entry to the beach is free and it only costs the round-trip price of your MetroCard to get there and back, this is easily one of the best free things to do in New York City.
Virginia Beach, Virginia
Submitted by Megan from Virginia Travel Tips
One of the best beaches in Virginia (and in the US) is Virginia Beach and its surrounding beaches.
While it may not be on the radar of many of those not on the east coast, it is a fantastic spot for families on the eastern seaboard who are looking for a lively and active beach with several activities in the surrounding area.
Virginia Beach is not only a beach, it is also Virginia’s most populous city. The city has numerous beaches which makes it easy to try different ones on different days and explore less-crowded ones.
You can even hop across the Chesapeake Bay over to Cape Charles if you want an Eastern Shore experience.
At Virginia Beach proper, however, you will find long sandy stretches of beach, hundreds of restaurants, ice cream parlors, souvenir shops, and more.
Not only is Virginia beach home to beach volleyball events and the East Coast Surfing Championships, but it is also a great place to eat.
You will find some of the freshest and tastiest seafood in the country in Virginia Beach and there is never a shortage of Old Bay seasoning to sprinkle atop your blue crabs.
Virginia Beach is one of the best east coast beaches for several reasons but it is also definitely one of the best places to travel for families.
Outer Banks, North Carolina
Submitted by Julie from More Than Main Street
The Outer Banks of North Carolina are home to some of the best beaches in the United States and is one of the best places to visit on the east coast. Over 175 miles of coastline from Corolla to Ocracoke attract visitors year-round.
The Outer Banks’ beautiful sandy beaches are perfect for families to play in the sand and surf, build sandcastles, hunt for the perfect seashell, or try ghost crab hunting at night. Looking for a little more adventure? On the water, there are plenty of waves for boogie boarding, surfing, or kayaking.
The Outer Banks is also the perfect spot to try hang gliding, parasailing, or take a 4×4 vehicle tour to see the wild horses.
Beyond the beach you can visit four different lighthouses, Jockey’s Ridge State Park (home to the largest active sand dune system on the east coast), and the Wright Brothers National Memorial.
Want to try the freshest and best seafood while you’re in town? We recommend Sugar Creek. Need somewhere to stay? Choose from camping, bed and breakfasts, or hotels, but most people go with private beach rentals in the Outer Banks.
If you’re looking at kid friendly vacations on the east coast, a beach vacation to the Outer Banks is guaranteed to fit the bill.
Folly Beach, South Carolina
Submitted by Karen from Somewhere Down South
Folly Beach is just minutes from downtown Charleston, South Carolina and has been called one of the last true beach towns in the US. This old-fashioned beach town is fun and funky and family friendly!
Folly is located on a barrier island with the Atlantic on one side and the Folly River on the other. At Folly you will find miles of wide, sandy beaches with plenty of ocean and river and beach town activities. You will have opportunities to kayak, fish, paddle board, and surf, as well as view birds and other wildlife. It’s one of the best beaches on the east coast.
Folly Beach is known for gorgeous sunrises and sunsets so be sure and catch one or the other…or both! The Folly Beach Fishing Pier is a must see. It stretches over 1,000 feet into the Atlantic Ocean and is the second longest pier on the east coast of the US.
You will also find delicious local restaurants and unique and quirky shopping in this lovely beach town. Folly Beach is the perfect place to relax and play and experience southern hospitality with a beach-y twist.
Anna Maria Island, Florida
Anna Maria Island is a small barrier island located off the west coast of Florida near Tampa.
What makes Anna Maria Island stand out as one of the best west coast Florida beaches is that it has managed to preserve much of its Old Florida charm. This is mostly due to the fact it was only accessible by boat up until 1921 but also because it has strict building regulations in place.
This creates a lovely, laid back beach vibe which makes it one of the best east coast beaches for families. It has a number of beautiful, white sand beaches and being located on Florida’s Gulf Coast, it has calm waters.
The best place to escape the crowds is up in the north of the island at Bean Point. It is a little bit of a walk but it’s the perfect spot to take a picnic and enjoy a sunset. Note that there are no facilities here.
There are also great restaurants all over the island and it’s easy to get about on the (free) Island Trolley if you don’t want to drive. Head to Bradenton Pier if you want to try a spot of fishing off the pier.
Cocoa Beach, Florida
Cocoa Beach is located on Florida’s Space Coast, not far from Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Centre which is one of the best places to visit on your Florida vacation.
It is also one of the closest beaches to Orlando, making it the perfect choice if you are looking for a day trip to the beach from Orlando.
If you have any space enthusiasts in the family, it’s the perfect spot to watch the rocket launches.
There are 6 miles of beaches within the Cocoa Beach city limits with white sand and clear blue water.
At the centre of it all is the historic Westgate Cocoa Beach Pier where you’ll find lots of restaurants.
Cocoa Beach is also a great spot to learn to surf as the waves are the perfect size for beginners.
There are loads of surf schools to choose from as well as the famous Ron Jon Surf Shop, the largest surf shop in the world, for all the latest surf gear.
For birdlife enthusiasts, head into the maritime forest at Lori Wilson Park.
If you’re looking for accommodation, here are some great recommendations for Airbnbs in Cocoa Beach.
Lighthouse Beach (Sanibel Island), Florida
Submitted by Lori from Travlinmad
Located near Ft. Myers in southwest Florida, the barrier islands of Sanibel and Captiva (separated from each other by a hurricane years ago) offer some of the prettiest natural landscapes in Florida.
Lined with palm trees rather than high-rise hotels, Sanibel Island beaches offer beach lovers a laid-back vacation with a tropical vibe. It’s a place where families can play in the sand, watch fiery sunsets, watch dolphins and manatees play around them, and comb the beach for beautiful shells.
You’ll find the best shells on Sanibel’s Lighthouse Beach. Sanibel generally has a gentle surf, which is perfect for children to swim. Lighthouse Beach wraps completely around the eastern tip of the island with the charming Sanibel Island Lighthouse towering overhead, making for spectacular photo ops. A small fishing pier on the opposite side of the beach offers anglers a great place to fish, and there’s plenty of parking. Meters cost $5.00 per hour.
Go early, do the Sanibel Stoop and scoop up handfuls of local shells. They’re the perfect souvenir of any Sanibel vacation.
Clearwater Beach, Florida
Clearwater Beach on the west coast of Florida near Tampa is one of the best beaches in Florida. In fact, it was named best beach in the US by TripAdvisor in 2018 and when you see its beautiful clear water and pristine white sand, you’ll understand why.
The beach is great for families because of the calm waters. It’s also a good spot for paddleboarding or kayaking.
At the centre of the beach is Pier 60 where you’ll find most of the restaurants and entertainment. You’ll also see lots of people fishing off the pier. If you fancy giving it a go yourself, you can rent fishing equipment on the pier.
Clearwater Beach is the perfect beach to enjoy a Florida sunset and a laid back vibe.
Make sure to check out our guide to the best beach resorts in Florida for families if you are thinking of a Florida beach vacation.
Submitted by Bryanna from Crazy Family Adventure
If soft white sand beaches and turquoise water is what you want then Destin, Florida is where you want to be! There is nothing quite like walking out on the soft sands of James Lee or Henderson Beach State Park in Destin.
The water is also perfect for paddleboarding and for families since it is normally calm. You do want to visit from about March – October since it does get cooler in winter. Besides the beaches there are also so many amazing things to do in Destin.
You can go on a dolphin watching cruise or a pirate cruise, rent a pontoon boat and go out to Crab Island. If speed is your thing then rent a jet ski and hit the open water. Destin is also known for amazing fishing!
Take note the beach facilities are very limited but most people either rent a condo or stay in a hotel on the beach or rent a vacation home that is just a couple blocks walk from the beach.
Mississippi Gulf Coast, Mississippi
Submitted by Charles from McCool Travel
Spacious soft sugar sand stretches, savory scrumptious seafood, and stunning scenery, sunsets, and sunrises spotlight several shining staples of spectacular Coastal Mississippi.
The highlight of Mississippi Gulf Coast is USA’s largest manmade beach—200 feet wide and 26 miles of that gorgeous US Gulf Coast sugar sand from Biloxi to Gulfport, Long Beach, and Pass Christian. The western 12-mile section from Pass Christian to Gulfport features plenty of free parking along the beach but showers or restroom facilities are available only from Long Beach Harbor to Biloxi.
The calm Gulf of Mexico waters here create ideal conditions for swimming, kayaking, SUP, and small craft boat tours. Many boating and fishing excursions leave from harbors in Biloxi, Gulfport, and Bay St Louis.
A family favorite activity is the Biloxi Shrimping Trip on which guests can view and handle freshly caught sea creatures. Take a boat trip to Ship Island (part of Gulf Islands National Seashore) and explore Fort Massachusetts and what many consider the best beach along the Mississippi coast.
Padre Island National Seashore, Texas
Submitted by Kate from Lone Star Travel Guide
Stretching for over 70 miles, the Padre Island National Seashore on Texas’ Gulf Coast is where you can find the longest stretch of undeveloped coastline on a barrier island in the world!
While the coast may not be the first thing you think of when planning a trip to the Lone Star State, the reality is that with around 600 miles of coastline along the Gulf of Mexico, there are a near-limitless number of beaches in Texas to visit and you won’t find one more beautiful than the federally protected Padre Island National Seashore.
In addition to all the traditional beach day activities like swimming, fishing, and sandcastle building, this beach offers some more unique things to do, including trying to spot dolphins and sea turtles. If you’re lucky, you can even attend a sea turtle hatchling on certain summer mornings and watch the young turtles make their way to the Gulf of Mexico for the first time.
The Padre Island National Seashore is easily accessible from Corpus Christi and Port Aransas. It also makes an excellent weekend getaway from most of Texas’ major cities, including Austin, San Antonio, and Houston!
Maho Bay, US Virgin Islands
Submitted by Theresa from Fueled by Wanderlust
Maho Bay is a stunning white sand beach on St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Heading east, it is one of the last beaches along St. John’s North Shore Road.
This stretch is famous for being lined with fluffy white sand beaches and bright turquoise waters. The lush surroundings are kept in a pristine, undeveloped state thanks to protection from Virgin Islands National Park.
The waters of Maho Bay are particularly protected, which helps the water stay super calm all year. There is hardly a wave to speak of at this beach, which makes it ideal for families with small children.
Maho is also very conducive to activities like stand-up paddle boarding and snorkeling. The glass-like water makes for a very smooth paddling experience, where you can see all the way down to the bottom of the sea. Snorkelers flock here in search of the multitude of sea turtles that call Maho home.
Finally, after time spent paddling or splashing around, beach-goers can pop across the street to Maho Crossroads. These recently built facilities include a tiki bar, food truck and a couple small shops. A snack here is the perfect way to end the day at what is arguably one of St. John’s best beaches.
Kalaloch Beach, Washington
Submitted by Rebecca from Rebecca Noelle
Kalaloch Beach is located on the Olympic Peninsula within Olympic National Park. This beach has massive starfish and barnacles that are vibrant green and purple. The rocks here are stunning in the views on the rock.
Be watchful of the waves coming in. Thankfully, the shoreline is not rough. It is calm water. You can see all the tide pool sea life that is stunning. That is one of the major attractions of this beach.
The season’s major attraction is the Tree of Life. This is what draws people to this specific beach. I highly recommend checking tides before visiting the beach. If it is high tide, the waves can come all the way up to the roots!
Going during low tide to avoid getting soaked!
The Tree of Life is near the Kalaoch Lodge and a short walk down the beach. Route 101 is the only road that can access Kalaoch Beach and has many parking spots along the road. Pay attention to any road signs that mention no parking.
Cannon Beach, Oregon
Cannon Beach is located in the Pacific North West, about 85 miles west of Portland. It has been voted in the top 100 most beautiful beaches in the world by National Geographic and is truly a fabulous US beach destination for wildlife enthusiasts as well as surfers. Note that the water is not very warm here and there can be strong currents so it is not great for swimming.
At Cannon Beach you will find a long, sandy shoreline backed by old pine forests and the iconic Haystack Rock, one of Oregon’s most recognizable landmarks, that towers 235 ft out of the ocean and dominates the coast. At low tide you can walk right up to it and in the small tidal pools you will see colourful sea stars and other small sea creatures.
If you have time, stop in at Hug Point State Recreation Site to the south of Cannon Beach (visiting at low tide is best) for the beautiful waterfall that cascades onto the sand.
A trip to Cannon Beach would not be complete without also visiting Ecola State Park which is located at the north end of Cannon Beach. Here you will find and numerous hiking trails which offer fabulous vantage points over the coastline (Ecola Point and Indian Beach are the best spots).
Cannon Beach is one of the best beaches on the west coast for spotting marine life. If you’re lucky you may spot passing whales, bald eagles flying over, brown pelicans skimming the surface of the sea, the colony of tufted puffins on Haystack Rock or herds of Roosevelt Elk grazing. Cannon Beach really is one of the prettiest beaches in the US.
Carmel Beach, California
Submitted by Dhara from Roadtripping California
Carmel-by-the-Sea is a quaint seaside village in Central California with a pristine sandy beach that you must definitely visit when you are there. Go in the evening, with a blanket and some wine, and watch the sun set over the water.
Edged with Monterey cypresses, the beach is perfect for strolling and sunbathing, and for water activities like surfing. The water is too cold and there may be rip currents, so it’s not really much of a swimming beach.
Carmel State Beach is one of the most dog friendly California beaches and dogs are allowed off leash as long as they obey their owner’s voice commands. There are volleyball courts too if you plan to visit with friends, and picnicking at the beach is great fun.
The beach is walking distance from the village, where you can stroll and browse the shops, wine tasting rooms, and art galleries. The village is famous for its storybook cottages, and you can see them on a self-guided tour. There are great places in the village to eat as well.
Butterfly Beach, California
Submitted by Daria from The Discovery Nut
Located in Montecito near Santa Barbara, Butterfly Beach is an incredible place for picnicking and people watching. If you want a spot to relax after exploring one of the the best cities in California, head there for an incredible sunset.
Butterfly Beach on California’s Central Coast is one of the best west coast beaches for beginner surfers. The point breaks here are calm and long enough for surfers to get to the shore. Winter is the best time of year for surfing here.
Butterfly Beach located in the heart of the American Rivera offers rich culture and outdoor opportunities, so it’s not just for surfing. Hiking, sightseeing and prime dining options are all within a few minutes’ drive of Santa Barbara.
Los Angeles is less than 90 minutes away so if you are wanting to visit Los Angeles, make sure to check out this guide on things to do in LA.
La Jolla Cove, California
Submitted by Gina from One Day in a City
When spending a day in San Diego, it’s well worth it to travel to the northernmost community within the San Diego city limits: La Jolla.
This is especially the case if you are a beach lover. La Jolla is a ritzy enclave that no doubt became a coveted place to live due to its proximity to the stunningly gorgeous La Jolla Cove. Just a short walk from downtown La Jolla, the Cove curves against a rocky and sandy coastline, culminating at the Children’s Pool.
Though make no mistake: this calm part of the coastline isn’t for children anymore; seals have claimed it and now it’s a great place to watch seals frolicking about. For a beach you can actually lie on, head down the steps leading from the La Jolla Cove walking trail at the bottom of Coast Boulevard near the large grassy area in front of the Cove. There is usually a strip of sand down there that is surprisingly not usually that crowded.
Just keep an eye on the tides. And speaking of tides, when it goes out, parts of the La Jolla Cove beachfront turn into a rocky expanse that is excellent for tidepool viewing; crabs, octopus, jellyfish, and other sea creatures can often be spotted hanging out in the shallow tidepools, waiting for the surf of the Pacific to come back in.
Looking for more beaches in the area? Check here for the best beaches in San Diego.
Lanikai (Oahu), Hawaii
Submitted by Melisssa from The Family Voyage
Lanikai Beach on Oahu’s Windward Coast is one of the island’s can’t-miss spots. It has everything visitors to paradise could ask for: pristine white sands, calm turquoise waters and incredible snorkeling among the coral heads just off shore.
It’s promises one of the best beach vacations for families visiting with young children as the water is extremely flat. Lanikai is the perfect place to while away an afternoon taking in the best that Hawaii has to offer and a visit should be on every Oahu itinerary.
The beach has no formal services or parking, as it’s located adjacent to a residential neighborhood. For showers and restrooms, it’s easy to access Kailua Beach just up the road. For a complete day, start your day with the nearby Lanikai Pillbox hike and then head downhill to the beach for some much-deserved relaxation.
Never been to Hawaii before? Make sure to read up on visiting Hawaii for the first time.
Hanalei Bay (Kauai), Hawaii
Submitted by Erin from Never Ending Voyage
Hanalei Bay on Kauai’s North Shore is one of the best beaches in Hawaii with a stunning 1.6 mile stretch of golden sand backed by rugged green mountains.
The turquoise waves are more suitable for surfing than swimming, especially in the winter months, but the wide beach is ideal for strolling and relaxing. There are toilets at various points along the coast and lifeguards are stationed at the Black Pot Beach Park section—check with them before going for a swim.
The beach is only a few minutes’ walk from laidback Hanalei village where there are plenty of cute boutiques, cafes, restaurants, and food trucks such as Cafe Turmeric for tasty Indian food and Wishing Well for a refreshing shave ice.
On Saturday morning there’s an excellent farmer’s market where you can pick up crafts, clothes, fresh produce, and prepared food. Keep an eye out for some deliciously refreshing Ahi Poke, a Hawaiian dish that it worthy of any U.S. food bucket list.
Hanalei Bay is the ideal base for exploring the many other beaches along the North Shore as well as hiking the Napali Coast, one of the best things to do in Kauai. Unfortunately, accommodation is limited and expensive in the village—the lack of huge resorts is part of its charm. Nearby Princeville has more options.