The United States, with its vast coastline, offers a plethora of stunning beaches that cater to every kind of traveler. From the East Coast's serene shores to the West Coast's vibrant vibes, the tropical allure of Hawaii, and the freshwater beauty of the Great Lakes, America's beaches are as diverse as they are stunning.
Let's dive deep into some of the best beaches in the US.
Best Atlantic Coast Beaches
The East Coast is renowned for its long stretches of sandy shores and historic beach towns along the Atlantic Ocean.
Coquina Beach, Outer Banks, North Carolina
The Outer Banks in North Carolina features pristine beaches and unique sand dunes, with Coquina Beach standing out in the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. The white sand beach is named after the tiny coquina clams along its shores and offers a secluded getaway with long stretches of sand and gentle waves, perfect for families and beachcombers.
Visitors can easily access the beach via a boardwalk, and amenities like restrooms and picnic tables are available. Nearby, the Bodie Island Lighthouse provides stunning views and a glimpse into maritime history.
Race Point Beach, Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Cape Cod in Massachusetts offers a classic New England beach experience with lighthouses and seafood shacks. Race Point Beach, known for its soft, golden sand, is near Race Point Lighthouse and is part of Cape Cod National Seashore.
It attracts experienced swimmers and surfers due to its strong currents and waves and is great for beachcombing. Visitors can tour the historic lighthouse, use amenities like restrooms and showers, and explore Provincetown’s arts, shops, and nearby dining.
South Beach, Miami, Florida
Florida's Miami Beach offers a vibrant mix of city life and beach relaxation at South Beach. It's a quintessential Miami destination with miles of white sand, palm trees, and crystal-clear waters. The area is famous for its colorful Art Deco architecture, with numerous hotels, restaurants, and shops.
South Beach is a lively spot from day to night, offering beach activities, water sports, and a bustling nightlife along Ocean Drive. The area also features a rich cultural scene, including art galleries, museums, and the annual Art Basel Miami Beach event.
Hilton Head Island Beach, South Carolina
Hilton Head Island Beach, along the Atlantic, features miles of inviting sandy shores and calm waters, ideal for family-friendly water activities like swimming and paddleboarding.
Dolphin sightings frequently delight visitors, with the playful marine mammals often visible close to shore. For a more in-depth experience, guided dolphin tours are available. The beach also provides amenities such as public restrooms, showers, picnic areas, and rental shops for beach and water sports equipment.
Ogunquit Beach, Maine
Ogunquit Beach in Maine spans three miles of fine sand and gentle surf, attracting families and water sports enthusiasts alike. A tidal river offers a calm swimming area, while the main beach faces the Atlantic for stronger waves.
The beach features stunning scenery, wildlife habitats, and amenities like restrooms and rental shops. Conveniently located near Ogunquit’s town and the scenic Marginal Way walk to Perkins Cove, the sandy beach is easily accessible and close to dining, shopping, and cultural attractions.
Best Pacific Coast Beaches
The West Coast is a haven for surfers and nature lovers, with dramatic cliffs and Pacific waves.
Zuma Beach, Malibu, California
Zuma Beach, one of Los Angeles County's largest beaches, stretches nearly two miles along the Pacific Coast Highway, providing plenty of space even on busy days. Renowned for its consistent surf, it attracts surfers worldwide, hosting competitions and offering lessons and equipment rentals.
Visitors enjoy the clean sand, stunning ocean views, and spectacular sunsets. There is a year-round lifeguard presence, but swimmers should be mindful of potentially strong rip currents. Amenities at Zuma Beach include restrooms, showers, picnic areas, ample parking, and food stands for refreshments.
Hug Point Beach, Cannon Beach, Oregon
Nestled along the rugged Oregon coast, Hug Point Beach offers visitors a chance to marvel at its natural wonders, including a waterfall cascading directly onto the sand — a rare sight on the Pacific coast. Named after a 19th-century wagon road, the beach features tide pools teeming with marine life, providing a hands-on educational experience.
In addition to waterfalls and tide pools, visitors can explore sea caves and sandstone cliffs carved out by the ocean over thousands of years. However, being mindful of the tides is crucial, as some areas become inaccessible during high tide. The beach is easily accessible with a parking lot and short trail; it does not have restroom facilities.
Blacks Beach, La Jolla, California
Blacks Beach, secluded and favored by nature lovers, is accessible via a steep cliff trail, maintaining its tranquility. It stands as one of Southern California’s prime surf spots, with an underwater canyon producing powerful waves, drawing experienced surfers globally.
The beach offers expansive sandy spots for sunbathing, set against dramatic cliffs, and is a popular launch site for paragliders and hang gliders. Visitors should be cautious of the cliff descent and changing tides and bring essentials, as the beach has no facilities.
Second Beach, La Push, Washington
Accessible through a lush forest trail, Second Beach in Olympic National Park is a secluded retreat. The trail highlights the Pacific Northwest’s biodiversity, leading to a sandy expanse and dramatic sea stacks shaped by erosion. Visitors can explore tide pools rich in marine life during low tide.
The scenic beach, enclosed by forest and sea stacks, is a tranquil spot for photography and sunset viewing. However, visitors should be tide-aware and bring all necessary provisions, as there are no facilities on-site, and the nearest amenities are in La Push or Forks.
Best Gulf Coast Beaches
The Gulf Coast, especially along Florida, is known for its white sandy beaches and emerald waters.
Crystal Sands Beach, Destin, Florida
Located along the Gulf of Mexico, Crystal Sands Beach boasts stunning views and a calm ambiance, with its exceptionally clear waters attributed to the pure quartz crystals in the sand. These crystals lend the sand a soft texture and enhance the water's clarity.
Famous for its shimmering emerald waters under the Florida sun, the beach offers a range of activities such as swimming, sunbathing, and beachcombing, making it perfect for families. Additionally, it's a popular spot for fishing and dolphin watching, with easy access to nearby dining, shopping, and beachfront accommodations.
Malaquite Beach, Padre Island, Texas
Malaquite Beach, part of the Padre Island National Seashore, offers miles of serene, sandy shoreline for relaxation, unwinding, and beachcombing. It's a prime birdwatching spot located on the Central Flyway. The area attracts a variety of bird species and provides excellent opportunities for photography, especially during sunrises, sunsets, and stargazing due to low light pollution.
The National Seashore ensures visitor comfort with amenities like restrooms, showers, and picnic areas, and the Malaquite Visitor Center offers educational exhibits and guided programs.
Best Hawaiian Beaches
Hawaii, America's tropical paradise, is in a league of its own. Hawaii's beautiful beaches offer something for every kind of traveler.
Sunset Beach, Oahu
Sunset Beach, spanning over two miles, offers golden sands and clear waters for various activities. In summer, it’s perfect for swimmers, snorkelers, and families due to its calm waters. Come winter, it becomes a big wave surfing destination, with waves reaching up to 30 feet, hosting events like the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing.
Despite its reputation for big waves, Sunset Beach is also known for its breathtaking sunsets, creating a dramatic scene with surfers' silhouettes against vibrant skies.
Easily accessible with parking along Kamehameha Highway, the beach has lifeguards on duty, but winter waves are recommended only for experienced surfers, with spectators advised to keep a safe distance.
Hapuna Beach, Big Island
Spanning half a mile on the island's western shore, Hapuna Beach is part of the Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area, offering a spacious and scenic spot for relaxation. With its soft, white sand and deep blue waters, the beach is a visual treat and provides gentle slopes for easy swimming.
It's a favorite for snorkeling, showcasing diverse marine life; the rocky ends of the beach offer more underwater exploration. With consistently good weather, Hapuna Beach is safe and well-equipped, featuring lifeguards and amenities.
Napili Bay, Maui
Nestled away from crowded tourist spots, Napili Bay offers a tranquil and intimate beach experience. Its natural shape provides protection from high waves, creating a serene environment for swimming and snorkeling. The beach features soft, golden sand and is surrounded by lush vegetation, enhancing its tropical charm.
Teeming with marine life, the clear waters of Napili Bay make it a snorkeler’s paradise, with vibrant coral formations, colorful fish, and occasional sea turtles.
The bay fosters a sense of community and a laid-back atmosphere, popular among both locals and visitors for gatherings, picnics, and sunset-watching, while its calm waters ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for families.
Best Freshwater Beaches
The US is also home to some stunning freshwater beaches along the Great Lakes.
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, stretching over 35 miles along Lake Michigan's northeastern coast, is a top destination for freshwater beach enthusiasts in the United States. The park is celebrated for its impressive sand dunes, lush forests, and nature trails, providing visitors with spectacular views and a wide array of recreational activities.
Adventure seekers can take on the challenge of the Dune Climb or enjoy serene kayaking on the inland lakes, with activities suited for all levels. Lake Michigan's clear and calm waters offer ideal conditions for swimming, drawing families and water enthusiasts alike.
Presque Isle Beach, Erie, Pennsylvania (Lake Erie)
Presque Isle State Park, spanning 2,133 acres, features Presque Isle Beach, a highlight among the pristine beaches along Lake Erie. With soft sand and gentle waves, it offers the perfect spot for visitors to enjoy various activities like exploring trails, fishing, and kayaking. This beach is a treasure on Lake Erie’s shoreline, boasting recreational opportunities and natural beauty.
Situated on a peninsula, it provides a sheltered bay and additional sandy shores, making it a favorite for swimming, sunbathing, and picnicking, with clean waters and well-maintained conditions. Lifeguards are on duty in the summer, and amenities like restrooms and picnic areas are available.
Nature enthusiasts will appreciate the beach’s appeal, with over 300 bird species and diverse surrounding habitats. The park boasts abundant activities, offering scenic views along its trails for a peaceful escape.
More To Explore & Enjoy at the Best Beaches in the US
Whether you're looking to surf, sunbathe, hike, or simply relax, the US has a beach for you. Each coast offers something unique, ensuring that every beach trip is a new adventure. So, pack your sunscreen, grab your swimsuit, and get ready to explore the best beaches the US has to offer.
Ashley Pichea is the Content Manager for RootedWanderings.com and curates in-depth travel guides and deep-dives on hidden gem destinations across the US for sites like AwesomeMitten.com, VisitMaine.net, and more. When she's not geeking out over SEO, you'll find her exploring the Midwest with her husband and five kids.