Summer is the perfect time to head to the beach, but there are lots of ways to enjoy a beach vacation, from relaxing on the soft sand to exploring a rugged coastline, visiting a secluded spot or enjoying a bustling resort.
Whichever you prefer, here are some places that are often included on lists of the best beaches in the United States.
In Ogunquit, on Maine’s southern coast, you can explore 3½ miles of sandy beaches and coastline just a 10-minute walk from the town center. You’ll find great swimming for all ages and when you’re ready for a break, the town has a vibrant cultural scene, which includes the Ogunquit Playhouse and the Ogunquit Museum of American Art.
Cape May, at the southern tip of New Jersey, is one of the country’s oldest seaside resorts and a good location along the East Coast to spot a variety of dolphins and whales, including humpbacks. The area is also known for its grand Victorian homes and the Cape May Lighthouse, with its cast-iron spiral staircase to the top.
Driftwood Beach, on the north end of Georgia’s Jekyll Island, is a unique and enchanting spot. You’ll find a sandy shore lined with gnarled and weathered tree trunks and branches, left behind after years of erosion. This is a popular beach for photographers and as a location for weddings.
Located on a barrier island a short drive from downtown Sarasota, Florida, Siesta Key Beach is a gateway to the Gulf of Mexico. The beach is known for its white quartz sand, turquoise waters and breathtaking sunsets. You’ll also find lots of choices for shopping, dining and nightlife.
For a more secluded spot, try the Dry Tortugas National Park, at the southwest corner of the Florida Keys, accessible only boat or seaplane. The picturesque blue waters are home to coral reefs teeming with marine life, making this a great choice for swimming, diving and snorkeling.
Coronado Beach, across the bay from San Diego, is set against the backdrop of the iconic Hotel del Coronado. The presence of the mineral mica gives the long, sandy beaches a golden sparkle. At low tide, pools fill with sea life. The boardwalk is a great place for strolling, with dining and shopping nearby.
Cannon Beach, along the Oregon coast, is a terrific choice for outdoor adventures. Haystack Rock, one of the state’s most recognizable landmarks, rises 235 feet from the edge of the shoreline, and puffins rest on the rock from April through July. Nearby, you’ll find hiking trails.
There are amazing beaches wherever you go in Hawaii. Oahu is home to Honolulu’s famous Waikiki Beach, in the shadow of the Diamond Head crater. At Kaanapali Beach, on Maui, you can go snorkeling in crystal clear water. Punaluu Black Sand Beach — a result of volcanic activity — is one of the most unique spots on the island of Hawaii.