33 Best Beaches in the USA

There’s no doubt about it: from sea to shining sea, there is an incredible number of beautiful US beaches. We’ve rounded up the best beaches in the USA here!

We teamed up with dozens of other travel writers for this guide to the prettiest beaches in the USA and asked them to nominate their favorites.

The answers varied wildly, from tropical paradises to laid-back, family-friendly beach towns, from beaches perfect for water sports to those perfect for sunbathing, and even a few especially unique options, like a beach that is home to wild horses!

Unsurprisingly, Hawaii and Florida were popular locations, but lesser-known corners of the USA made the cut as well, including absolutely magnificent beaches in Michigan and Alabama.

We arranged these US beaches by category to make it easier to sort through–and hopefully to help you pick out your next beach vacation in the USA!

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Best Beaches in the Southeast USA

Cape San Blas, Florida

From Tanya of Rad Family Travel

White sugar soft sands await on this quiet cape that’s home to Florida’s best secret beach.

Near Port St. Joe, the Cape’s long beaches invite you to unplug and reconnect with those you love most. Beautiful beach homes invite you to enjoy both the Gulf side and the Bayside. You won’t find high-rise condominiums here. 

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Take long walks, search for sea critters, ride the waves with a boogie board, kayak, paddleboard, sail, fish, lounge, enjoy a picnic, throw a frisbee, play beach volleyball, and build sandcastles by day.

You can also take a long bike ride on the paved bike path and head to Coneheads for an ice cream treat.

At night, build a fire on the beach and indulge in s’mores. Don’t miss a drive to Indian Pass Raw Bar for the best parmesan baked oysters around.

Cape San Blas, Florida is the perfect USA beach destination with your family to unwind, play, and enjoy gorgeous sunsets.

Cape San Blas Beach in Florida, with gold sand visible in the foreground and layers of waves approaching the shore in the background.

Biloxi Beach, Mississippi

From Charles McCool of McCool Travel

Biloxi Beach is part of the longest manmade stretch of beach in the United States—26 miles in length and 200 feet deep—and is both currently and historically prominent.

Plentiful water and beach activities attract travelers from around the world and the Mississippi Gulf Coast’s most popular casinos tempt most visitors. Devote time for a boat ride to a barrier island, along with the Mississippi sound, or just around Biloxi Bay.

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Savor fresh innovative cuisine at places like White Pillars (chef/owner Sumrall is a 2020 James Beard best chef nominee) and Le Bakery (creative Asian/French fusion). Also, find the world’s most expensive Waffle House to be built.

In addition to the gorgeous beach, Biloxi Beach is historically recognized for being a location of wade-ins during the US Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.

It’s also home to the beautiful Biloxi Lighthouse (climb it before 9:30am), the birthplace of Barq’s Root Beer, former Seafood Capital of the World (take the highly-rated Biloxi Shrimping Trip and visit the Maritime & Seafood Industry Museum), the first capital of New World France, and home to evidence of Native American presence to 8000 BC.

Wooden, teel beach chairs set out on Biloxi Beach at sunset, one of the best white sand beaches in USA

Cumberland Island, Georgia

From Emily of Em’s on the Road

Cumberland Island National Seashore is home to some of the most pristine beaches in the Southeast and part of a unique chain of barrier islands on Georgia’s coast.

The island was once the winter retreat for the Carnegie family and made famous again in recent history for JFK Jr’s wedding to Carolyn Bessett.

Today it is celebrated as one of the most ecologically diverse barrier islands offering a novel wilderness experience and lots of outdoor recreation opportunities for visitors.

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Explore the towering sand dunes, lakes, undeveloped stretches of beach, and maritime forests on foot or by bike. You will likely see some wild horses along the way.

If you’re interested in the island’s history, check out the guided tours exploring the Dungeness Ruins, Plum Orchard Mansion, and the First African Baptist Church.

Most visitors take day trips to the island but the adventurous will love camping underneath the stars on the island. If you want to experience a luxurious getaway, plan a stay at the all-inclusive Greyfield Inn.

It was once the home of Lucy Carnegie and now it is a one-of-a-kind hotel with an award-winning chef duo.

3 wild horses on a sandy beach on Cumberland Island Georgia, one of the prettiest USA beaches in the south

Orange Beach, Alabama

From Karen of Family Travels on a Budget

The wide, sandy beach of Orange Beach, Alabama on the Gulf Coast is one of the best family-friendly beaches in the United States.

Located just an hour west of the Pensacola airport (which is also not far from popular-but-more-expensive beach towns like Destin, Florida) and a short drive from Birmingham or New Orleans, Orange Beach is easy to get to.

The sandy shore is a big draw to Orange Beach. The surf is usually pretty gentle, thanks to the sheltered location of the beach. Facing south, the beach offers great sunrises and sunsets.

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Locally owned restaurants in Orange Beach focus on great food, a relaxed atmosphere, and a commitment to local ingredients.

Attractions include catamaran day cruises, boat rentals, bike rentals, parks, and music venues, which means there is something for everyone to enjoy. Hotels, beach condos, and house rentals offer a wide range of lodging options.

Orange Beach festivals make beach vacations even better. Some annual events include the arts festival each spring, the national shrimp festival each September, and the annual Interstate Mullet Toss Festival and beach party.

For family-friendly US beaches, Orange Beach, Alabama is among the very best.

Orange Beach Alabama as seen from the water, with small grouping of skyscrapers in the background. Orange Beach is one of the prettiest white sand beaches in the USA

Nags Head, North Carolina

From Pam & Kathrine of Everywhere Forward

Nags Head, North Carolina is one of the many beaches lining the Outer Banks.

At Nags Head, you can relax at the uncrowded beaches, fish, and walk along Jennette’s Pier or the Outer Banks Fishing Pier, and enjoy plenty of non-chain local restaurants.

Nags Head is centrally located along the Outer Banks, so you can easily take day trips to neighboring beaches and attractions like The Wright Brothers National Memorial and Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

Nags Head is home to some of the Outer Banks’ most unique attractions. In Nags Head, you’ll find Jockey’s Ridge State Park, which is the site of the largest active sand dune system in the eastern United States. Jockey’s Ridge State Park is a beautiful spot to fly kites, take hang gliding classes, and watch the sunset.

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Don’t miss out on doing a self-guided walking tour of the Nags Head Beach Cottage Historic District. These homes are some of the earliest beach cottages built along the Outer Banks, some of which dating back over 140 years.

Just south of Nags Head, you can visit one of the Outer Banks’ lighthouses, the Bodie Island Lighthouse. This lighthouse is still operational and is open for climbing and tours. Nags Head is a perfect beach for memorable family vacations, retirement, and those looking to slow down and relax.

Once you visit Nags Head once, you’ll want to keep visiting year after year!

Best Things to Do in Beaufort NC: sunset over sand dunes

Beaches of Key West, Florida

No post about the best beaches in the USA could possibly be complete without mentioning the tranquil beauty of Key West, Florida’s own little slice of Caribbean paradise.

Known for its colorful homes, Key Lime pie, and a plethora of beautiful Florida beaches, including options both calm and lively, sandy and pebbled, best for families and best for couples, Key West is the perfect US beach destination.

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Be sure to stick around in the evening for one of the legendary sunsets, and if you can swing it, a peaceful sunrise as well.

If you have time, driving from Miami to Key West is indisputably one of the best coastal road trips in the country!

Palm-tree lined path leading to Caribbean Sea beach in Key West Florida, one of the best southern weekend getaways

Cape Lookout National Seashore, North Carolina

Located on a barrier island a short ferry ride away from either Beaufort, North Carolina, or Harkers Island, North Carolina, Cape Lookout National Seashore is a positively stunning beach, and definitely one of the best US beaches in the south.

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With powder-fine sand, some of the best shelling around, and calm, bright blue water that is overlooked by an idyllic lighthouse (that you should definitely climb when visiting!), Cape Lookout is an unmissable beach in North Carolina.

On the ferry ride over to the island, be sure to keep an eye out, as well: you just might spot some of the wild horses of Shackleford Banks on some of the barrier islands you pass on the way!

Boats near Cape Lookout seen from above--the coast of north carolina is one of the best honeymoon destinations in usa

Beaches of Naples, Florida

From Lori of Travlinmad

There are many reasons to visit Naples, Florida and at the top of most everyone’s list are the incredible beaches. In fact, Naples has some of the highest-rated beaches in Florida making it a beach lover’s paradise.

With a wide variety of beaches, there’s something for everyone to love whether you want a family atmosphere or secluded trails and dunes. 

Lowdermilk Park is one of the best beaches in Naples with its wide stretch of beach and a string of thatched palapas to rest under. There’s also a snack bar, and kayak and paddleboard rentals too.

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If you love a wild and natural atmosphere, head to Delnor Wiggins State Park. Bordered by a stretch of natural dunes, and there are several picnic and fishing areas to choose from. There is a modest State Park entrance fee.

The Naples Pier Beach at 12th Avenue South can get a bit crowded during the season, but it’s the closest to the downtown shopping areas and a popular spot at sunset. You can stroll the nearly mile-long Naples Pier and watch dolphins frolic underneath.

Whatever you prefer, there’s a Naples beach with your name on it, and a nearby cocktail to sip as the sun goes down.

Beach in Naples Florida at sunset, with a paddleboard in the foreground and a bright orange sunset over the water

Topsail Island, North Carolina

From Christina Riley of NC Tripping

Stretching for 26 miles along the North Carolina coast, Topsail Island has some of the best beaches in the Southeast.

While some crave that touristy beachy town, Topsail still has a small friendly vibe with both views of the sound and the sea.

Walk the sandy shores of either Topsail Beach or North Topsail Beach and keep your eyes peeled for one of the best things to do in Topsail and hunt for seashells and shark teeth.

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If you aren’t beach bumming it in the sand, then you’ll find that Topsail’s Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center is an awesome way to spend an afternoon.

Public tours help to teach about the care of sea turtles and education the importance of their existence in ocean life.

 In true small-town fashion, you will find this beach town filled with local mom-and-pop ice cream shops and hot dog joints. After you grab a dog, head out to the Surf City Ocean Pier and watch as the fishermen wait for their daily catch. 

Beach on Topsail Island North Carolina, with the partly cloudy sky taking up most of the image

Clearwater Beach, Florida

From Pauline of Beeloved City

Located on the western side of Florida, Clearwater is a very popular spring break destination.

It’s also very famous for being home to one of the most beautiful beaches in the USA! It was even voted number 1 beach in Northern America in 2019.

Clearwater Beach is 2.5 miles long. If you are looking for white sand and crystal clear water, it’s the place to go! It’s also a very good spot if you want to see dolphins! They are all around! 

Watersport enthusiasts will love it! Snorkeling, kayaking, boating… you can do everything! 

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If you want to go for a walk, you can stroll along the promenade. There are many ice cream parlors and bars. Perfect for a refreshing break! There are also plenty of restaurants. You can eat outside and enjoy the view or choose the takeaway option and have a picnic on the beach.

In the evening, head to Pier 60 to watch the stunning sunset. After that, you can make your way to Shepard’s Beach Resort for a drink and some music!

Finally, if you feel like driving for 30 minutes, you can go and explore Honeymoon Island, Caladesi Island, St. Petersburg, and Tampa!

Clearwater Beach, Florida, is one of the best white sand beaches in the USA. As seen from the water.

Folly Beach, South Carolina

From Michele of Adventures Abound

Tucked away in the laid-back Lowcountry, Folly Beach is one of Southern USA’s best-kept secrets and sure to showcase the best of Charleston, SC.

This beachy island has warm waters and an expansive shore protected by healthy sand dunes beyond a bustling downtown and plenty of hotels and rentals to rest for a weekend visit. 

On the far East end of the beach is an area known as The Washout – where the strong waves slowly eat away at the shore and are a favorite spot of local surfers.

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Head on further Northeast to the edge to see the infamous Morris Lighthouse beyond a driftwood-scattered shore and learn why Folly Beach has earned the local nickname The Edge of America. 

Back in town, the main strip is lined with locally-owned shops, cafes, and restaurants filled with tempting options and famous Southern flavors.

For lunch on a hot day, grab tacos at the local favorite Taco Boy or Chico Feo, and be sure to also try the Lowcountry staple Shrimp and Grits at Rita’s Seaside Grille for an authentic Southern taste.

Sandy pathway to Folly Beach near Charleston South Carolina with the Morris Lighthouse visible in the water in the distance

White Sand Beaches of South Walton, Florida

From Priya of Outside Suburbia

Have you heard of the Hamptons of the South? Yes, there is such a place and it is one of Florida’s best-kept secrets!

Pure white sand and emerald waters are what you will find here on the beaches of South Walton, Florida. As a bonus, the waters in the Gulf tend to be calmer than the ocean making it a popular destination for families.

With houses that look like they belong in the Mediterranean, these upscale beach communities like Inlet Beach, Rosemary Beach, Seaside, Alys Beach, WaterSound, Seagrove are well planned.

They have cute ice cream shops, restaurants and are pedestrian-friendly. People from the nearby states drive up to spend lazy summer days lounging at the beach. 

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The beach towns of South Walton are a little more upscale, compared to the nearby Panama City Beaches.

Summer is the popular time to visit the beaches of South Walton but do keep in mind that June to November is also hurricane season. Come prepared for some rainy days.

You can stand up paddleboard, check out coastal dune lakes or drive up to St. Andrews State Park located on a peninsula at the far eastern edge of Panama City Beach and go on a boat ride to see dolphins in the wild.

Another activity to try is snorkeling in South Walton Artificial Reef which is made up of more than 150 artificial reef structures. They lie close to shore and have easy-to-reach snorkel depths. 

Wooden steps descending to a beach in South Walton Florida. Blue umbrellas are set up on the sand.

Duck, North Carolina

From Charles McCool of McCool Travel

The Outer Banks (OBX) is a series of beautiful barrier islands along the North Carolina coast and the quaint town of Duck has one of the best beaches anywhere.

In most of Duck NC, the island is less than a mile wide and is a convenient place to witness phenomenal sunrises and sunsets (tip: find a spot along the sound side boardwalk for beautiful sunset pictures).

Popular OBX beach activities include skimboarding, surfing, fishing, kite flying, walking, and running—early morning exercisers watch out for sea turtles—building sandcastles, and relaxing, tanning, and catching up on reading. On the sound side, kayaking and parasailing are fun OBX activities.

Bicycling is a popular way to get around Duck—park the car and explore Duck by foot and two wheels!

Some local favorite Duck NC restaurants include The Blue Point (chef/co-owner Sam McGann is a James Beard Foundation member), Roadside Bar & Grill, Red Sky Cafe, and Dockside Seafood Market.

For breakfast treats, try Tullio’s and the original Duck Donuts. Nearby suggested OBX attractions include Wright Brothers Memorial (first human airplane flight), Jockey’s Ridge Dune (tallest Atlantic US sand dune), Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, Currituck Beach Lighthouse, and the wild horses of Corolla.

Stick of driftwood washed ashore on a North Carolina beach at golden hour

South Beach, Miami

Iconic South Beach is easily one of the most famous white sand beaches in the USA–and it definitely deserves the honor!

This famous stretch of sand is the kind of destination that has inspired everything from songs to TV shows to quotes about beaches.

Known for its incredibly photogenic Art Deco lifeguard stands, its long stretch of white sand, and its stunning turquoise water, South Beach is an incredibly fun getaway. 

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Located within walking distance of plenty of Miami Beach’s popular hotels and places to eat, South Beach is a dream vacation for travelers hoping to avoid driving to the beach every day while still heading to an urban setting.

The downside is that South Beach does struggle with a bit of a seaweed problem during certain months–but it’s worth the hassle to get to enjoy such a phenomenal US beach.

Kate in a pink dress standing in front of a blue art deco lifeguard stand on South Beach in Miami Beach.

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Sand Beach, Acadia National Park

From James of Travel Collecting

Sand Beach is not only the only sand beach in Acadia National Park (hence the name), but it is also one of the most beautiful places on Mount Desert Island, which makes up most of the national park. The sand is actually formed from shells pounded into powder over thousands of years. 

It is a popular spot for families and is the perfect place to cool off in summer. Be aware, though, that the water never gets above 55° F, so it is chilly! 

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The 290-yard long beach is surrounded by wooded mountains and rocky outcrops. Several of the best hikes in Acadia surround the beach.

It is the starting/ endpoint for the Ocean Path and the Great Head Trail and has stunning views of the famous Beehive. It’s the perfect place to cool off after a hike or spend the day relaxing surrounded by natural beauty. 

The park shuttle stops at the beach and there are change rooms, a parking area, and a lifeguard in summer. 

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Poodle Beach, Delaware (Rehoboth Beach)

From Derek and Mike of Robe Trotting

One of the best American beach towns is quite underrated and located along Delaware’s Atlantic coastline.

It’s also a popular gay beach destination: Rehoboth Beach.

There’s a lengthy boardwalk in Rehoboth, and if you walk to the southern end of it, you’ll hit Queen Street. That’s where the gay beach begins which is known to visitors as Poodle Beach. With a name like that, you can be sure of a fun experience.

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Poodle Beach is full of umbrellas, beach chairs, and gay men relaxing in the sun. Beach access is free and there are stands for renting umbrellas and beach chairs.

There are permanent volleyball nets set up and if you visit Labor Day weekend you can watch the annual drag volleyball event. It’s as ridiculous and fun as it sounds and a tradition on Poodle Beach dating back to the late 1980s!

There are vendors selling water, snacks, and other items although most visitors to Poodle Beach bring their own cooler of beach refreshments.

If you find yourself in Rehoboth, check out Poodle Beach -Delaware’s premier straight-friendly, gay beach.

Two men holding hands on Poodle Beach in Delaware, as seen from the waist down. The man on the left is wearing a blue bathing suit and the one of the right a red one.

Fire Island National Seashore, Long Island

From Tori of Tori-Leigh.com

Though much of Long Island is made up of coastal beaches, few stand out in particular. One of the most picturesque shorelines to visit is Fire Island National Seashore, a barrier beach off the coast of Long Island, NY.

With twenty-six miles of protected coastline, Fire Island National Seashore has some of the best dunes, views of The Great South Bay, and natural landscapes and wildlife.

The Otis Pike Fire Island High Dune, a protected US Wilderness Area, presents the classic Long Island Dunes and the animals that call them home. Sunken Forest, a true maritime forest, provides an opportunity to walk the boardwalk through preserved ocean coastal habitats.

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On the west side of Fire Island, visitors can enjoy a mostly quiet section of the beach, especially off-season, as well as The Fire Island Lighthouse.

Toward the middle and eastern end of the twenty-six-mile stretch, lies various beach communities, accessible only by ferry, such as Ocean Beach and Kismet, each with access to the shore.

Visitors looking for more amenities or a vacation feel will enjoy accessing the Seashore from here.

With its diverse landscape and offerings, it’s no wonder Fire Island National Seashore is still so beautiful.

Long stretch of aged wooden boardwalk on Fire Island National Seashore under a partly cloudy skySouth Beach, Edgartown, Martha’s Vineyard

From Shobha of Martha’s Vineyard Tourist

Some of the best beaches in New England are on the island of Martha’s Vineyard. Of the 20 beaches on Martha’s Vineyard, one of the most popular beaches is South Beach in Edgartown.

South Beach is on the popular bike route from Edgartown so it is easy to get to the beach. There is also plenty of parking if you choose to drive to South Beach. Lifeguards are on duty during the day during the summer season.

As per its name, this beach is south facing and so gets maximum sunshine and warmth all day.

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South Beach fronts onto the Atlantic Ocean on one side totally. The other side of the beach is partially pond and partially large sand dunes.

The waves can be high which is why it is popular with teenagers and surfers. There are better beaches on Martha’s Vineyard for young children who could be afraid of the waves.

South Beach stretches for approximately 3 miles long and also quite wide. Vehicles with permits are allowed on the beach. There is a popular sandcastle building contest held every year in early August. 

Bright blue water of South Beach in Edgartown Martha's Vineyard on a sunny day

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El Matador Beach, California

From Jenifer of The Evolista

Going for a drive on Pacific Coast Highway is one of the highlights of visiting Los Angeles. The coastline views and beach town life feel like a permanent vacation.

At the north end of Malibu, you’ll find El Matador beach. It’s off the beaten track but well worth the 35-minute drive from Santa Monica. 

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One of the prettiest beaches in Southern California, El Matador is dotted by rock formations and caves. It’s a favorite for photographers, locals, and visitors alike.

The best times of day to visit are sunset and low tide when entry into the caves is possible. It’s important to be careful because there are no lifeguards available and the incoming tide can take people by surprise.

You’ll also find interesting tide pools around the rocks and seaweed. It’s a fun place to explore or just set up some beach chairs and enjoy the beautiful view.

Parking is available in the lot with a pay machine or you can park for free on Pacific Coast Highway.

El Matador Beach in California as seen from above at golden hour, with a large rock in the center of the image

Shi Shi Beach, Washington

From Katie of Two Wandering Soles

Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula is scattered with ruggedly beautiful beaches, one of the most underrated being Shi Shi Beach.

While this beach is within Olympic National Park, the trailhead begins on the Makah Indian Reservation, meaning you’ll need a permit for both the national park and the reservation to visit this beach.

Plus, reaching the end of Shi Shi beach requires a 4-mile hike on a sometimes very muddy path.

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Being that there’s a fee to pay and a hike to get there, Shi Shi Beach attracts only the truly adventurous. If you make the trek, you’ll be rewarded with views of picturesque sea stacks, an expanse of a nearly empty driftwood-strewn beach, and one of the most memorable sunsets of your life.

While it’s possible to visit Shi Shi as a day trip, we’d recommend that you pack camping equipment and spend the night so you can experience it in all its glory.

After watching the sun sink into the ocean, build a fire out of driftwood and look up into a sky full of twinkling stars for a night on a beach that you’ll never forget.

Shi Shi Beach at sunset, with dramatic clouds in the sky and a sunflare in the right corner of the photo

Cannon Beach, Oregon

From Gina of Evergreen and Salt

Cannon Beach is the jewel of the Oregon coastline and is located right next to the coastal city that shares its name.

Cannon Beach’s long sandy coastline is punctuated by a massive sea stack called Haystack Rock, which towers out of the waves and is visible from wherever you choose to lay your beach blanket down and makes for incredible photo ops at sunset.

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Cannon Beach is a great beach to head to for long walks along the shore, family picnics, and wildlife spotters (elk are often visible right on the sand in the winter months!).

In addition to the fun to be had right by the waves, Cannon Beach is a spectacular tourist town and has an abundance of restaurants, wine tasting rooms, and boutiques lining the streets and housed in quaint buildings.

It’s a great place to visit on a day trip from Portland (which is roughly 90 minutes away) or to choose as your base for an Oregon Coast vacation, with a multitude of hotels, B&B, and vacation rentals available right in Cannon Beach.

Oregon Coast at sunset looking toward Haystack Rock, one of the prettiest places in Oregon

Hermosa Beach, California

From Anne of Pretraveller

Los Angeles has many famous beaches, but the challenge is that the famous beaches can also become quite crowded with tourists. 

If you are looking for a more local Los Angeles beach experience then I strongly suggest that you instead plan to visit (and stay at!) Hermosa Beach, which is located only a 12-minute drive (6 miles) south of Los Angeles International (LAX) Airport.

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Hermosa Beach has the classic mix of beautiful seaside views, and lovely beach and foreshore area as well as many local shops, cafés, bars, and restaurants that you can enjoy during your visit. 

My favorite activity was walking along the Hermosa Beach seaside pathway – or alternatively, you can easily rent a bicycle to enjoy the experience! 

The walk along the wharf was a very restful experience, and you can see the surrounding area and surfers out enjoying the waves.  And then follow up with some evening drinks at one of the many bars and restaurants to watch the sunset over the ocean.

Hermosa Beach in LA at sunset with a lifeguard stand on the left side of the photo

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Waikiki Beach, Oahu

From Noel of Travel Photo Discovery

Why is Waikiki beach always on the top of visitors’ wish list of places to visit in the USA you ask?

Well, Waikiki in Honolulu, Oahu Island is a dream destination for many international visitors looking for that perfect slice of paradise combining beach, street, and hip scenes, food venues, and international shopping brands.

Waikiki Beach itself is a perfect beach for families with sheltered and protected beach areas, very shallow ocean water that extends out to the breakwaters.

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This allows for perfect and long surfing conditions to learn surfing or just do it on your own for a long stretch.

All sorts of water sports are available from snorkeling, sailing, paddling, kayaking to easy Boogey boarding fun on the beach, and all relatively inexpensive to do. 

Fun things to do on the street include window watching the ultra-trendy shops on the main drag, hanging out in open-air cafes and bars and just the fun see and be seen vibe of an international destination spot for visitors from around the world.

Waikiki Beach shot from above, with palm trees in the foreground and oceans in the background. Waikiki Beach is one of the best beaches in the USA

Tunnels Beach, Kauai

From Julie of Wandering Sunsets

Tunnels Beach in North Kauai is one of the most gorgeous beaches in the United States. This unique crescent-shaped beach has a dramatic backdrop of mountains and lush jungle, fringed by many palm trees.

Tunnels Beach is among the best sunset spots in Kauai, and the perfect place to end a fun day on the island. 

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Tunnels Beach is one of the best snorkeling spots on Kauai and a great spot to spot turtles. If you’re lucky you might even see Hawaiian monk seals, who love to lounge on this stretch of the beach, especially at the end of the day.

It is a wild beach so there are no shops around to buy drinks or food. With the Na Pali Coast in the background, Tunnels Beach is truly picture-perfect!

What makes Tunnels Beach so special is that there is virtually no parking available for non-locals. To access the beach, you must park your car on a side street about a mile away, then walk a path to Tunnels Beach. As a result, the beach is never crowded, especially at sunset.

Tunnels Beach on Kauai at sunset, a woman is visible in the background

Kailua Beach, Oahu

From Sarah of Borders & Bucket Lists

The island of Oahu, Hawaii is filled with stunning beaches, and Kailua Beach is one of them. The turquoise waters, soft sand, and shady trees keep locals and visitors alike coming back to this beautiful beach again and again.

One of the best things to do at Kailua Beach is simply to enjoy the water.

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Unlike most of the beaches on Oahu, the water at Kailua Beach stays calm throughout the year. In other words, if you’re looking for a beach that’s great for a relaxing swim, Kailua Beach is always an amazing option.

If you’re looking for something a bit more adventurous to do at Kailua Beach, many people choose to kayak to the Mokulua Islands, also known as the mokes.

These two islands are about three miles away from the shores of Kailua Beach, so this adventure usually takes the better part of a day and leaves the adventurers who tackle it with adrenaline rushing through their veins.”

Kailua Beach on Oahu as seen from above, one of the most beautiful beaches in USA

Kaanapali Beach, Maui

From Sarah of CosmopoliClan

Kaanapali Beach is a tropical playground located between the West-Maui mountains and the ocean. It’s the perfect beach for a surfing lesson, the classic Hawaiian outrigger canoe experience, or a boogie-boarding session. It’s also a fantastic place to spend the day when visiting Maui with kids!

A meandering palm-fringed Beach Walk connects the resorts and restaurants that dot this stretch of golden to Whalers Village, where you’ll find a selection of shops, entertainment, and the intimate Whalers Village Museum. 

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Kaanapali Beach is also home to a mystic geographical landmark called Black Rock. Torch-lighting and cliff diving take place here every evening at sunset because, according to Hawaiian cultural beliefs, this is where the souls of the dead cross over to the spirit world.

Black Rock is also one of the best spots on Maui to go snorkeling, often in the company of honu or Hawaiian green sea turtles.

And the wildlife experience doesn’t stop there: When you scan the horizon from Kaanapali beach, you might even spot a breaching North Pacific Humpback whale.

The sheltered warm ocean channel in between Maui and Lanai is a preferred calving spot for these friendly giants. Whale-watching season in Maui runs from mid-December to mid-April.

Couple walking along Kaanapali Beach in Maui, shaded by a palm tree. Kaanapali Beach is one of the best beaches in America

Lanikai Beach, Oahu

From Darren & Lauren of Faramagan

Lanikai translates to “Heavenly Ocean” which is a perfect name for this paradise beach.

Located about a 30-minute drive from Waikiki, it can be tricky to find from the road as there are no signs, instead, there are small alleyways between residential homes that will lead you to this beautiful beach.

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Not only is it one of the most beautiful beaches on the island of Oahu, but it is also ranked as one of the best beaches in the world.

The tranquil waters are also some of the safest waves on the island for swimming and the white sands with views over the Mokalua Islands attract crowds from all over.

As a tip, to view this beach in its full beauty, head across the road for the Lanikai Pillbox Hike which is one of the easiest hikes on Oahu.

It takes just 30 minutes to reach the summit but it is worth every minute for the incredible views over Lanikai to capture this beach in its entirety.

Lanikai beach in Oahu Hawaii as seen from above. One of the best beaches in USA

Best Beaches in US Territories

Luquillo Beach, Puerto Rico

From Dhara of It’s Not About the Miles

Located on the northeastern part of the sun-soaked island of Puerto Rico, Luquillo Beach is one of the prettiest public beaches near the capital city of San Juan. An afternoon or evening enjoying the sun, sand, and sea at Luquillo Beach is a must on any Puerto Rico itinerary.

With more than a mile of pure shimmering sand and the beautiful aqua waters characteristic of the Caribbean, the crescent-shaped Luquillo Beach is captivating. Lots of palm trees line the shore, completing the postcard-worthy appearance of the beach.

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Swim in the warm waters, relax on the sand, or take a stroll on the beach. The beach has a Blue Flag rating, and you will find all the amenities you need: restrooms, changing facilities, and showers, and cafes and restaurants.

Getting a pina colada or a mojito in a pineapple (or a coconut!) is a must at Luquillo, as is gorging on Puerto Rican street food at the Luquillo kiosks.

Luquillo Beach is about 31 miles from San Juan, and you can drive there in about 40 minutes. There is a large parking lot. Luquillo Beach can also be visited on your way back from El Yunque National Forest, and in fact, many guided tours to the rainforest stop at the beach on the way back to San Juan.

Luquillo Beach in Puerto Rica with a blue sky above it and golden sand in the foreground

Cinnamon Bay, St. John

From Anna of Stuck On the Go

Along the north shore of St. John in the US Virgin Islands, Cinnamon Bay is one of the most romantic beaches you’ll ever find.

To reach this slice of heaven you can either take a cab directly to the beach or hike down the Cinnamon Bay Trail that begins on Centerline Road and is part of the Virgin Islands National Park.

The hiking trail provides beautiful views of the island and that stunning Caribbean water.

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Once you reach the entrance to the beach you’ll also find old sugar plantation ruins that you can explore before heading out to the water.

All of the amenities like concessions and bathrooms were destroyed by Hurricanes Irma and Maria but they are currently being rebuilt.

If you plan on spending a whole day at Cinnamon Bay be sure to stop by North Shore Deli located in Mongoose Junction and pick up a picnic lunch.

The beauty of the white sand and baby blue water with other islands dotting the horizon will make up for any amenities it may lack.

If you have snorkeling gear be sure to bring it but the water is so clear that you can see the friendly fish without it.

Bright blue water of Cinnamon Bay in St John on a sunny day, with golden sand in the foregeround and a black rock on the right side of the photo. This Caribbean beach is a beauty.

Other Best Beaches in the USA

Mustang Island, Texas

From Stephanie of History Fangirl

The beach in Mustang Island State Park is one of the most relaxing beaches in the United States. Here the water is warm, will lolling waves that are perfect for riding a boogie board or doing handstands.

You’ll find long uninterrupted stretches of soft sand, good facilities, and ample parking.

In the water, it’s common to spot dolphins, sand dollars, and sea horses. Fishing enthusiasts can fish off the jetty.

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Make sure to bring your own snacks, since there aren’t businesses peddling things to tourists here. Instead, you’ll find trails, campsites, and nature.

When your day at the beach is done, you can relax and explore Port Aransas, the nearby beach town. This is where most of the accommodations are, though you can find closer vacation rentals and hotels if you’re looking for them.

You’ll need a car to enjoy the area and the island. Texas is not a public transportation-friendly place outside of the major cities. If you’re coming from far away, you can fly into Corpus Christi or San Antonio and drive down.

Mustang Island with a heron in the left foreground and the ocean in the background. Provided by Stephanie Craig.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Michigan

From Heather of Raulerson Girls Travel

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park is one of Michigan’s prettiest beaches with its hills of sand and aquamarine water.

Located in Glen Arbor, Sleeping Bear Dunes is a sandbox playground for kids and adults.

With pristine beaches that seem to go on for miles, huge dunes to run down to your heart’s content, winding drives with scenic overlooks, and nature paths taking you through all the ecosystems that can be found in this fabulous National Lakeshore, it is a must-see destination in the United States.

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The big highlight is the 450-ft climb down to Lake Michigan. What looks super fun to run down the hill to the water, make sure you remember that you have to climb back up.

Other things to do are the Dune Climb, explore the historic town of Glen Haven, and participate in a re-enactment of saving sailors in ships at the Maritime Museum.

This is a great beach to visit in the summer on your next Michigan adventure.

Sandy dunes of Lake Michigan with turquoise lake in the background and 2 small human figures in the distance. Lake Michigan is home to some of the best beaches in america

South Padre Island, Texas

Despite its long coastline, Texas isn’t typically known for its stunning beaches–but drive onto South Padre Island, and you’ll quickly become half-convinced that you’ve found a tranquil beach town on the east coast.

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Known for its long stretches of sandy beach, calm water, and beautiful sunsets, South Padre is the perfect getaway in Texas (just don’t show up during Spring Break unless you’re looking to join the party!).

While you’re there, consider visiting Sea Turtle, Inc. to check out the work they’re doing rehabilitating turtles, taking a horseback ride on the beach, and enjoying plenty of excellent Texan food–it just might taste even better on one of the best beaches in the USA.

Kate Storm riding a horse on the beach on South Padre Island Texas

London Bridge Beach, Arizona

From Nicole of American SW Obsessed

If you think Arizona is all deserts, think again.  London Bridge Beach is one of the best beaches in Arizona.

This beautiful US beach is located in Lake Havasu City which is about three hours from Phoenix.

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London Bridge Beach is a family-friendly beach on Lake Havasu that overlooks London Bridge – yes that infamous London Bridge. 

In the 1960s, the famous London Bridge in London was sinking into the Thames.  The Bridge was auctioned off and Robert McCulloch paid $2.5 million to have the bridge shipped to Lake Havasu and rebuilt.

This popular beach is pet-friendly and has several amenities such as volleyball courts, playgrounds, and picnic tables.  Anywhere you go around Lake Havasu is a great place to swim.

4 pictures of American beaches: waikiki, orange beach, cannon beach, maui. black and pink text reads "33 prettiest usa beaches"
About Kate Storm
Image of the author, Kate Storm

In May 2016, I left my suburban life in the USA and became a full-time traveler. Since then, I have visited 50+ countries on 5 continents and lived in Portugal, developing a special love of traveling in Europe (especially Italy) along the way. Today, along with my husband Jeremy and dog Ranger, I’m working toward my eventual goal of splitting my life between Europe and the USA.

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