Find Your Coastal Escape Among the Top Beaches in the USA

A serene tropical beach at sunset with colorful clouds, palm trees, white sands, and gentle waves.

Discover the breathtaking beauty of America’s most spectacular seaside getaways in this captivating journey along the coast. From serene shores to bustling boardwalks, here are my picks for the top beaches in the USA.

When it comes to white sands and swaying palm trees, it’s easy to dream of an exotic beach vacation. However, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports that the United States has more than 95,000 miles of shoreline, offering a wide range of experiences right here at home. From the rugged shores of Acadia National Park on the Atlantic Ocean to the soft waves of the Gulf Shores and from the wild West Coast to the lush islands of Hawaii, these are the top beaches in the USA. 

Collage of scenic us beaches with various features like palm trees, boardwalks, and sunset views, titled "best beaches in the us.


What’s Your Favorite Beach?

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A person walking on a sandy beach in Nantucket, with a house on a grassy hill in the background under a blue sky.
Photo Credit: YayImages.

Nantucket, Massachusetts

Starting in the Northeast, Nantucket is a quintessential New England island retreat. About four hours directly east of Mystic, Connecticut, it effortlessly weaves charm and history into a picturesque seaside destination. 

Known for its cobblestone streets, historic gray-shingled homes, and beautifully preserved 18th-century architecture, Nantucket transports visitors to a bygone era. The island’s inviting beaches, such as Jetties Beach and Surfside Beach, offer a serene and relaxing atmosphere, where the Atlantic Ocean laps gently at the shore, and the sunrises are nothing short of spectacular.

During your stay on Nantucket, immerse yourself in the island’s rich history and maritime heritage by touring its iconic lighthouses, such as Brant Point Light and Sankaty Head Light. Dive deeper into the island’s past at the Whaling Museum or the Nantucket Shipwreck & Lifesaving Museum, open from the end of May through mid-October. 

Better yet, hop on a working schooner for a true ocean adventure. For a leisurely day of exploration, wander through the island’s quaint villages, such as Siasconset, and discover charming shops, galleries, and eateries.

A lighthouse with black and white stripes seen beyond a sandy beach covered with tall grass.
Photo Credit: YayImages.

Outer Banks, North Carolina

North Carolina’s Outer Banks is a wild and scenic wonderland that offers a unique coastal experience characterized by its narrow barrier islands stretching over 200 miles along the Atlantic Coast. This natural playground is beloved for its pristine beaches, dramatic sand dunes, and diverse wildlife, providing a serene and unforgettable escape from the everyday hustle.

As you explore the Outer Banks, you’ll find that each island has its own personality and treasures. The northern shores of Corolla offer wild Spanish Mustangs roaming freely against a backdrop of luxurious vacation homes while the windswept sands of Hatteras Island are home to the nation’s tallest lighthouse and a haven for anglers, surfers, and those simply wishing to disconnect from the hustle of daily life. 

A stretch of sand and sea in Myrtle Beach.
Photo Credit: Visit Myrtle Beach.

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, is a family-friendly beach destination that boasts over 60 miles of sandy coastline, known as the Grand Strand. The area is home to several beautiful beaches, from the bustling central Myrtle Beach to the more serene North Myrtle Beach and Surfside Beach. Myrtle Beach offers endless opportunities for family fun, relaxation, and seaside recreation with its sunny weather, warm Atlantic waters, and plenty of beach access points.

Aside from its inviting shoreline, Myrtle Beach offers exciting attractions that cater to visitors of all ages. Thrill seekers can spend a day at the Family Kingdom Amusement Park, open April 1 through the summer season, while marine enthusiasts can explore the wonders of Ripley’s Aquarium. For a stroll, shopping, and dining experience, the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk is a must-visit, offering oceanfront views, eateries, and entertainment venues to delight the entire family.

A large beachfront house with a balcony, surrounded by sand dunes and tall grass under a clear blue sky.
Photo Credit: Jake Johnson on Unsplash.

Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

Hilton Head Island beckons visitors deeper south in the Palmetto State. This upscale beach retreat features hard-packed, sandy shores (ideal for long beach bike rides), world-class golf courses, and lavish accommodations. Just east of the Georgia state line, it’s a sanctuary for those seeking both sophistication and relaxation.

Coligny Beach Park is a favored spot thanks to its comprehensive amenities, including outdoor showers, shaded gazebos, and even free wifi. For a more secluded experience, Driessen Beach Park offers a quieter alternative, and the untamed beauty of Mitchelville Beach invites exploration over swimming.

But Hilton Head is not just a place for sunbathing — it also offers a wealth of activities for the discerning traveler. Hilton Head Island offers an exceptional blend of natural beauty and high-end leisure, from wildlife-watching excursions, where dolphins, alligators, and other creatures can be observed in their natural habitat, to golfing by the sea.

A long wooden pier extending into the sea under a clear blue sky.
Photo Credit: Airam Dato via Pexels.

St. Augustine, Florida

Along Florida’s Atlantic Coast, the nation’s oldest city, St. Augustine, offers visitors a unique blend of history and picturesque coastal beauty. Steeped in rich Spanish colonial heritage, St. Augustine enchants travelers with its charming cobblestone streets, historic forts, and museums. In addition, the city’s beautiful beaches — such as St. Augustine Beach and Vilano Beach — provide an inviting backdrop for relaxation and sunbathing along the Atlantic coastline.

Explore the stunning coastline by kayak or paddleboard, try your hand at surfing, or take a scenic boat tour to spot dolphins and other marine life. After a day at the beach, you can wander through the city’s historic district, visit the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, and enjoy a meal at one of the many outstanding restaurants. Use this three-day St. Augustine itinerary to explore this captivating destination that combines the allure of a beach getaway with the charm of a historic

A sunny beachside walkway with palm trees, modern high-rise buildings, and a clear blue sky.
Photo Credit: YayImages.

Clearwater Beach, Florida

Clearwater Beach is a beautiful beach destination on Florida’s central Gulf Coast with pristine white sand and inviting warm water. This popular destination offers a quintessential beach experience, blending relaxing beaches and entertainment in an idyllic setting. The soft sands and gentle waves create the perfect conditions for swimming, sunbathing, and building sandcastles, while the area’s thriving marine life offers unforgettable dolphin-watching excursions.

Besides its natural beauty, Clearwater Beach boasts several nearby attractions catering to a wide range of interests. At the heart of the beach, Pier 60 comes alive each evening with a vibrant sunset festival. Visiting the Clearwater Marine Aquarium is a must for those passionate about marine life conservation. Visitors can learn about the rescue and rehabilitation of injured sea creatures, including the famous dolphin, Winter, the star of the movie Dolphin Tale. If you’re planning a trip to Tampa or St. Petersburg, be sure to add Clearwater Beach to your itinerary.

A pier jutting out into the Gulf of Mexico at sunset.
Photo Credit: Sariann Irvin from Pixabay

Gulf Shores, Alabama

With its pretty palm trees, crystal-clear waters, and pristine white sands, the Gulf Coast of Alabama is the crown jewel of the Yellowhammer State. Gulf Shores Main Public Beach offers visitors stunning seaside views and a lively atmosphere filled with beach-bar fun and volleyball games on the sand. The area boasts restrooms, beach rinse showers, lifeguards, open-air pavilions, and a spacious grassy gathering area. Beyond the bustling main beach, the coast stretches into Orange Beach, offering miles of white quartz sand against the backdrop of the blue-green Gulf waters. 

Beyond the sun-soaked beaches, Gulf Shores and Orange Beach are treasure troves of outdoor adventures and culinary delights. Nature enthusiasts can explore the Backcountry Trail, a network of paths winding through lush landscapes that offer chances to spot local wildlife. For thrill-seekers, parasailing and deep-sea fishing ventures provide an adrenaline rush against the backdrop of the Gulf’s vast beauty. As the day winds down, the culinary scene comes alive with the flavors of the Gulf. From casual beachfront eateries, serving up the day’s freshest catch, to upscale dining experiences where local chefs put innovative twists on Southern classics, the area’s food landscape is as diverse as it is delicious. 

Historic Hotel del Coronado under a clear blue sky.
Photo Credit: Pixabay.

Coronado Beach, San Diego, California

Often called San Diego’s crown jewel, Coronado Beach is a stunning stretch of golden sand along the Pacific coast with gentle waves lapping at its shores. This picturesque beach is known for its family-friendly atmosphere, excellent swimming conditions, and the iconic red roof of Hotel del Coronado.  

There are plenty of things to do in San Diego. Try your hand at surfing, or rent a bike to explore the island’s scenic pathways and oceanfront eateries. After you’ve strolled along one of the top beaches in the US, wind your way through Coronado’s quaint downtown area, a delightful blend of beachside relaxation and small-town charm.

Santa Monica Pier at twilight, viewed from Santa Monica Beach.
Photo Credit: YayImages.

Santa Monica Beach, California

Santa Monica Beach is an iconic Los Angeles getaway that blends relaxed beach vibes with the hustle and bustle of a thriving urban scene. Located just a short drive from downtown Los Angeles, Santa Monica offers an inviting stretch of golden sand, gently swaying palm trees, beach volleyball, and the endless blue of the Pacific Ocean. The laid-back atmosphere is perfect for soaking up the Southern California sun while the city’s energetic buzz surrounds the soft sand.

One of the most iconic landmarks of this top California beach is the historic Santa Monica Pier. Not far from the “End of the Trail” marker for historic Route 66, you’ll find an amusement park, an aquarium, and a variety of eateries — all with a stunning ocean backdrop. For a taste of eclectic beach culture, a short walk or bike ride along the coastal path will take you to the vibrant Venice Beach, with its renowned boardwalk, skate park, and colorful street art.

Sage Advice: There’s no shortage of popular beaches along California’s Pacific Coast Highway, so it’s easy to plan a beach road trip north to its most prestigious wine country where your seaside getaway can evolve into a wine-tasting vacation.

Sunlight filtering through cloudy skies over a rocky coastline.
Photo Credit: Pixabay.

Carmel Beach, Carmel-by-the-Sea, California

A revered spot along California’s Central Coast, Carmel-by-the-Sea captivates with its breathtaking ocean views and distinctive white sands. Carmel Beach is uniquely dog-friendly, with visitors enjoying the company of their pets off leash, under voice control, adding to its charm. Carmel Beach is also a favorite among surfers for its clear waters and dynamic conditions. If you are looking to extend your stay into the evening, cozy up next to a beach fire under the starlit sky.

Adjacent to the beach, a well-maintained, scenic pathway winds above the bluff, offering panoramic views that stretch from the iconic Pebble Beach to the mesmerizing Point Lobos, creating a picturesque backdrop for walkers and joggers. Ocean Avenue’s historic boutiques, one-of-a-kind galleries, and local eateries invite visitors to immerse themselves in a lifestyle where the beauty of the natural world blends with the artistry and culinary excellence of one of America’s top beach towns.

Sunset at Cannon Beach with silhouettes of large rock formations in the sea, reflecting on the wet sand.
Photo Credit: YayImages.

Cannon Beach, Oregon

A true Pacific Northwest treasure, Cannon Beach enchants visitors with its unique beauty and dramatic coastline. It’s known for its expansive sandy beach and towering rock formations — including the iconic 235-foot Haystack Rock. The rugged coastal scenery, combined with the lush greenery of the surrounding forests, creates a captivating contrast that sets this beach apart from its Pacific Coast counterparts.

The area surrounding Cannon Beach features scenic hiking trails that meander through coastal forests and offer stunning viewpoints, epitomizing the Pacific Northwest – perfect for nature lovers and photographers alike. Complete your visit to Cannon Beach by exploring the tide pools teeming with marine life at the base of Haystack Rock or venturing to the nearby Ecola State Park for dramatic views.

Sunset views from Alki Beach in Seattle, Washington.
Photo Credit: Alabastro Photography via Visit Seattle.

Alki Beach, Seattle, Washington

Not all beaches are warm, sunny, and tropical. Alki Beach in Seattle offers beautiful views of the Pacific Northwest’s charm under an often-moody sky. This stretch of sand in West Seattle provides a unique blend of urban and natural beauty, where skyline views of downtown Seattle create a stunning backdrop against the calm waters of Elliott Bay. As the landing site of the first white settlers in Seattle, Alki Beach is a place where history and modernity meet

The beach is a hub of activity year round, inviting visitors to enjoy volleyball, picnics, and bonfires. Its pathway is a haven for joggers, rollerbladers, and those wishing to stroll while soaking in the views. Alki Beach captures the spirit of Seattle’s coastal edge, whether you visit on a rare sunny summer day or a typically moody, gray Pacific Northwest day.

A hand holding a collection of colorful, smooth sea glass pieces above a blue background.
Photo Credit: Pixabay.

Glass Beach, Port Townsend, Washington

About two hours north of Seattle, Glass Beach in Port Townsend offers a unique treasure-hunting experience far removed from a typical day of relaxing on a white sand beach. Located on the northern tip of the Olympic Peninsula, this unique shoreline is a beacon for those drawn to the allure of sea glass, jewelry-quality pieces smoothed by decades of tides. The beach’s origins as a dumping ground have transformed it into a collector’s paradise, where the ocean’s creative force turns trash into treasure.

The journey to Glass Beach is an adventure, requiring a six-mile round-trip hike along the coast. But the reward of discovering brightly colored sea glass, pottery shards, and an array of marine life is worth the effort. This spot appeals to beachcombers and anyone appreciating the Pacific Northwest’s serene beauty, offering fresh air, panoramic views, and a sense of discovery with each visit. A day at Glass Beach is a testament to nature’s ability to reclaim and beautify, providing a unique blend of history, ecology, and adventure.

Scenic view of a lush green cliff beside a Maui beach under a cloudy sky.
Photo Credit: YayImages.

Maui, Hawaii: A Tropical Paradise

With its pristine, picturesque beaches, Maui is a textbook example of a tropical paradise. The island’s dazzling shores, such as Ka’anapali Beach and Wailea Beach, feature powdery white sands and crystal-clear turquoise waters, creating an idyllic setting for relaxation and seaside exploration.

These stunning beaches offer more than just sunbathing and swimming; they also serve as gateways to various exciting ocean adventures. Snorkel in the vibrant coral reefs just off the coast or stroll along the shoreline, taking in the breathtaking views and gentle sea breezes.

Aerial view of a rugged Kauai coastline with steep, lush cliffs and a small beach next to a turquoise ocean.
Photo Credit: Pexels.

Kauai, Hawaii

Kauai, known as the Garden Isle due to its lush landscapes and impressive waterfalls. is home to some of Hawaii’s most stunning and diverse beaches. On Kauai’s sunny South Shore lies Poipu Beach, a series of golden sand crescents that have earned it the title of one of America’s best beaches. This family-friendly beach is perfect for a variety of activities, from snorkeling among tropical fish to sunbathing alongside the occasional Hawaiian monk seal.

At the end of the road on the North Shore, Ke’e Beach offers a tranquil escape protected by a reef barrier, creating the perfect calm and clear waters for snorkeling. This beach marks the gateway to the breathtaking Na Pali Coast and is a starting point for adventurers heading out on the Kalalau Trail. And, as the sun sinks below the Pacific Ocean, sections of Kauai’s beaches morph into a gathering spot for luau feasts and Hawaiian-style entertainment. 

What’s Your Favorite Beach in the US?

What’s your top beach pick in the US? Did a particular spot steal your heart with its sun-drenched sands or crystal-clear waters? Maybe you’ve got the inside scoop on the best time to visit, hidden gems nearby, or tips for making the most of a beach day. Comment below and tell me more about your favorite US beach.

Portions of this article originally appeared on Food Drink Life.

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