Planning a summer vacation to the best beaches in the USA? Looking for white sand beaches in the US for your next holiday? Read our epic guide on the best beach vacations in the US to enjoy some sun and sand this summer. You may also like our post on Best Places to Visit in the USA.
From the West Coast to the East Coast, there are a lot of beautiful sandy beaches to visit in the USA. Add in the Gulf Coast, the Great Lakes, Hawaii, Alaska, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands and you have got too many amazing beaches to count on one hand. So you don’t need to crowd around the most popular beaches, you can enjoy the sand and the surf in solitude in plenty of places.
All of these are different: some offer white sand while others offer sea stacks and coastal bluffs. Some have log upon a log of driftwood while others are the perfect shelling beaches. Almost all of them are perfect to dip your toes or splash headlong into the water. Some of them are right beside towering skyscrapers while others need a mile-long hike through the forest. But they all are perfect for the beach lovers!
That means, come this summer, you can plan a beach vacation no matter where you are. Just pack your swimsuits and sunscreen, pile up in the car, and go to one of our favorite beaches to get your tan on. Some of these beaches are warm year-round and also make great winter holiday destinations. After all, there is no time like the present to walk barefoot on a beach!
Best beaches in the USA to visit this summer
Here is an epic list of the best beach destinations in the USA for couples as well as families.
South Beach, Miami, Florida
Looking for a party in the sand? Want to add some flourish to your Florida vacation? Miami is one of the party cities of the southern United States, and it doesn’t take one long to find out why. All you need to do is pass through one of the many popping bar streets or beachfront strips, hear the Latin music bumping from the storefronts, and you’ll realize that spring break never stops.
The beach is a small part of the 9 mile Miami Beach, making up the southernmost 2.5 miles. The area is a hot spot for tourists not only for its sparkling white sands and shiny waters but also for the multiple clubs, restaurants, and art exhibits.
The beach’s diversity and uniqueness make South Beach more of a neighborhood in Miami as opposed to just a beach destination. So, get yourself some good Cuban cuisine, maybe a nice sun hat or pair of sunglasses and get ready for some fun.
Also Read: Miami Key West Drive Road Trip Itinerary
Clearwater Beach, Florida
In central Florida on the Gulf of Mexico, you can find one of the most impressive and highly popular beaches in Florida. The milky white sands, palm trees, boardwalk, and incredibly clear waters can be found on an island opposite the small surf town of Clearwater Florida.
In 2018 Tripadvisor nominated Clearwater Beach as the #1 beach in the U.S. This is probably because you won’t find the crowds of Miami or Panama city or even Ft. Lauderdale here. Yet, it still offers one of the best views and experiences that you would expect at a good Florida beach.
At Clearwater Beach, you can go on a dolphin adventure, take a segway tour along the island’s coast, head over to Pier 60 for some fun games and beach snacks, and even participate in watersports like water skiing, tubing, shelling, and more.
Coronado Island, San Diego, California
Coronado Island isn’t actually an island at all, but a peninsula connected to mainland San Diego via a thin wisp of land called the Silver Strand. It is a great day trip from San Diego because beyond the beach itself there is the small town of Coronado where you can enjoy awesome local seafood or go shopping.
Also, if you’re a golf lover, there are two courses here that are literally walking distance from the beach. So take a dip and then go for a swing at a ball. At the end of the peninsula is a naval air station, open for visits and tours.
The beach itself is 1.75 miles long and has soft, powdery sands. Towards the end of the beach is Heritage Park, a great place to go for events. On top of that, San Diego is one of the more relaxed cities with some of the best weather in California. If Coronado Beach doesn’t suit you, feel free to try one of the several other beaches in and around the city of San Diego.
Also Read: Southern California Road Trip Itinerary
Cannon Beach, Oregon
Just a 90-minute drive west of Portland, Cannon Beach is a small coastal town in Northwest Oregon. The town has about four miles of breezy North Pacific beach which can be divided into three sections.
The two miles of sand between Ecola Creek and Tolovana Park holds one of the area’s most popular attractions: Haystack Rock. The 235-foot dome-shaped behemoth emerges out of the sea in front of the beach and is one of the most photographed places in Oregon.
North of Ecola Creek you’ll find Chapman Point. Here you can see the “Bird Rock,” large offshore rocks home to a colony of Common Mure that occupy the area year-round.
Finally, south of Tolovana Park is Silver Point. At low tide, the sea deposits hundreds of its tinier creatures into tidepools on the rocks here. They’re great for exploration by the whole family where you can learn more about marine biology.
There are other beaches in the area surrounding Cannon Beach as well. Indian Beach, Crescent Beach, Arcadia Beach, Hug Point, and Oswald West State Park have their own ocean-based fun to offer.
Also Read: Best Places to Visit in Oregon
Pfeiffer Beach, Big Sur, California
Do you want to go to a beach in California that nobody has heard of? Are the massive crowds of San Diego and L.A. too much for you? Well, pack up your car and head over to Big Sur. Located along California Highway 1, the beach can be reached along an unmarked path past Big Sur Ranger Station.
Pfeiffer Beach isn’t just about a sandy beach and the blue ocean. Off the coast, you can see several rock formations as well as sea stacks. One of the most famous with a natural arch in its base is called the Keyhole Rock. Sunsets look fantastic here. Pfeiffer Beach is also known for being a pretty good surfing destination.
The sand on certain parts of the beach even has a slight shade of purple. This makes the perfect building material for a one of a kind sandcastle! Just be careful of the wind. Blowing sand can turn this normally peaceful location into a chaotic place.
Baker Beach, San Francisco, California
Set beneath the cliffs of the Presidio of San Francisco and in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge, Baker Beach has a charm of its own. This beach perfectly represents the blending of an urban atmosphere with the coastal environment.
Located right next to America’s iconic bridge, Baker Beach is an awesome place for a walk, hike, or even a boat tour. This is also a popular place for photographers, especially at sunrise and sunset. This is also a perfect place to go for a picnic and spend a relaxing day in San Francisco.
There are no entrance fees to enter Baker Beach, but if you want to go for a swim you had better bring a wetsuit. The oceans near San Francisco have an average temperature of 60 degrees and feel cold even in the summer. Be aware that the part closest to the bridge is often populated by nudists. If that is something that bothers you, best to remain as far from the bridge as possible.
Grayton Beach, Florida
The sands on this beach are so snowy white and the water so blue that you’ll think your plane took a wrong turn and dropped you off in the Caribbean. The sands are interspersed with tiny patches of seagrass and a winding river that gives the area a unique beauty.
Grayton is located in South Walton in the Florida panhandle and beyond its scenic beauty, it also has a number of activities and attractions. In Grayton Beach state park you can rent a kayak and take it through a series of intricate waterways; weaving in and out of the ocean and wetlands.
Inside the town, there are a lot of great places to eat like the Red Bar, Chiringo, and Hurricane Oyster Bar where you can enjoy a nice meal after a day in the sun. Grayton Beach is a great place to visit for couples as well as families and a great summer vacation destination.
Calusa Beach, Bahia Honda, Florida
If you’re in the Florida Keys, it would truly be a shame to miss out on Calusa Beach. It is located on the gulf side of Bahia Honda State Park. This vibrant ocean setting is the closest that the United States has to the tropical beaches of the Caribbean.
The ocean here is a playful light blue in the deeper parts and the shallows are clear enough for you to see your toes wiggle underneath the water. Like most of the Florida Keys, the water here is very calm which makes it a safe place to bring your children.
Off the coast, you can snorkel over the Key’s colorful coral reefs and spot plenty of aquatic life. If you’re curious about the animals swimming around you visit the nature center near the beach to learn more about the local wildlife. Bahia Honda State Park also has many hiking trails and you can climb over the old Bahia Honda Beach to see Calusa Beach from above.
South Padre Island, Texas
Texas isn’t exactly known for its beautiful beaches because most of the Gulf Coast has refineries and muddy water. However, this tiny strip of land close to the border with Mexico is certainly an exception to that stereotype.
South Padre Island has everything you can ask for from a beach destination: smooth sands, surfing, nature trails, sea turtles, and sandcastles! You’ll appreciate the golden sands here even more because they don’t come with the price tag of the more popular California and Florida beaches.
The most popular part of the beach is Isla Blanca. This area is home to some of the best spots for swimming, sunbathing, fishing, and boating activities. If you want a break from the ocean head inland to Beach Park at Isla Blanca. This fun-filled water park has tons of rides and amusements for the whole family to enjoy.
Sanibel Island, Florida
If you really want to avoid the tourists in Florida then take a trip to this little well-kept secret. Sanibel Island is close to Cape Coral and Fort Myers on the Gulf Coast and has a number of very attractive beaches along with a lighthouse.
If you’re into collecting shells then take a stop by Bowman’s beach which is famous for its multi-colored and oddly shaped seashells. When the sun sets and your stomach starts to grumble you can take a short walk over to Periwinkle Way, a strip of well-lit sidewalk lined with several classy and delicious restaurants.
If you want to save money on this island then don’t drive to the beach. All the beaches have parking meters and they don’t come cheap.
Honopu Beach, Kauai, Hawaii
Hawaii is known for its fabulous beaches and tropical climates. It’s the only island state of the U.S and lives up to that name with immense smoking volcanos, dense tropical forests, and sterling beaches with vibrant blue oceans.
Honopu may not be the most famous beach on the island of Kauai, however, it probably has the most memorable feature: the Honopu Arch. The massive hole in a seacliff is 124 feet wide and 90 feet tall and serves as the passageway between the two halves of Honopu Beach. This beach is perfect for adventurers.
Located along the Na Pali Coast, you won’t find a road to this beach or even a hiking trail. The beach is utterly inaccessible and isolated. It is located at the bottom of massive cliffs towering thousands of feet above the ocean. The only way to reach Honopu Beach is to charter a boat and swim the final stretch.
Playa Caracas, Vieques, Puerto Rico
On the southern coast of the island of Vieques, there is a white sand beach that will make you never want to leave. Also known as Red Beach, Play Caracas is a favorite among both visitors of Puerto Rico and the locals.
The reason they all enjoy it so much is because of its calm atmosphere, soft white sands, and turquoise waters. The location adds its own value as a crescent of tropical plants lines the edges of the Caribbean bay.
The beach is located inside of the Vieques National Wildlife Refuge and also has a number of hiking trails and leisurely walks where you can explore the surrounding region. Vieques itself is only a short boat ride from mainland Puerto Rico and has a lot of other beaches you can see and enjoy as well.
Venice Beach, Los Angeles, California
A must-see attraction for any Los Angeles visitor, Venice Beach holds the surf-culture identity of Los Angeles. This coastal community lined with boardwalks, thrift stores, street performers, outdoor gyms, and even amusement rides really completes and defines the images of Los Angeles that you see in all the magazines and movies.
If Venice was a body, then Dogtown would probably be its heart. This little surfer village in the middle of Venice is said to be where skateboarding was invented and has all the fun of Venice without the excessive crowds and tourists.
A pro tip for any Venice beach walker is to tip any street performer you take a picture of. They work hard to keep onlookers entertained and can be offended if you don’t show any financial appreciation.
Sand Harbor, Lake Tahoe, Nevada
The only non-ocean beach on this list has made it here for a reason. Sand Harbor may not have the crystally white sands or aquamarine waters of the Caribbean, but what it lacks in tropical appeal it makes up for with rustic mountain lake ambiance.
In addition, Sand Harbor is one of the few beaches on Lake Tahoe that actually has sand, the rest of the lakeshore is primarily made of rocky terrain. During the summer Lake Tahoe is full of water vehicles like jet skis, kayaks, motorboats, and plenty of others. Sand Harbor Beach is the perfect place to enjoy these water sports.
The facilities here are plentiful. Right near the swimming area is a great picnic/BBQ zone equipped with tables, electricity, grills, and water supply. You can even rent a vacation home on the shores and have a long summer getaway.
Red Sand Beach, Maui
As you probably have guessed, Red Sand Beach – also known as Kaihalulu Beach – is famous for its moody mahogany sands. The sand here gets its color from the large deposits of iron nearby and is one of the reddest beaches in the world.
The beach is located on the eastern tip of Maui, and there is plenty you can do here. Take a hike in Hana Beach Park to see the rocky forest streams and tropical plants. Hike up to Wailua waterfall and take a picture of the white rushing water among the leaves.
Or, once you’re done here, visit any of the other beaches in the area or head into town for a MaiTai to relax with. Maui is the second biggest Island in Hawaii so once you’re done with the red sand beach, make sure you save enough time to visit the plethora of other attractions in the area.
Oak Street Beach, Chicago
Chicago’s Oak Street Beach is an urban beach located on the shores of Lake Michigan along the North Lakeshore Drive. The man-made beach was created way back in 1890 as part of the shipping pier construction project. Today, it is a great place for people to hang out at the beach without leaving the city.
The beach has beautiful views of the Chicago skyline. It is very popular among locals due to its proximity to the trendy Gold Coast / Streeterville neighborhoods. The beach is also one of the top tourist spots to visit in Chicago during the summer.
Visitors can relax by the beach, people watch, rent beach chairs, and play volleyball at the beach. Dipping your toes and swimming in the icy water of Lake Michigan feels amazing on the hot weekends. In the evening, it attracts couples taking a romantic stroll and is one of our favorite places to see the lit-up skyline at night.
Destin is a top-rated beach town in Florida. Located on Florida’s Emerald Coast AKA the Panhandle, Destin is famous for its crystal clear water and pristine white sand beaches. It is located on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico and has 24 miles of powdery soft white sand beaches.
Add in the 340 sunny days per year and the city is a great spot for your next summer vacation. One of the most popular attractions in Destin is the Henderson Beach State Park. Called the ‘Crown Jewel of Destin’, this park is home to a mile-long white sand beach, multiple picnic areas, and a nature trail that traverses the coastal dunes.
There are also many other beaches in Destin to enjoy the Florida sand and sun including Miramar Beach and beach. Destin’s HarborWalk Village is great for chartering cruises and tours, dining at seafood restaurants, bar hopping, and boutique shopping. Visitors can also try various water activities such as snorkeling, parasailing, fishing, dolphin cruises, etc.
Outer Banks, North Carolina
Located off the coast of North Carolina, the Outer Banks is a popular summer travel destination. This 200-mile long stretch of barrier islands is well-known for its wide, expansive beaches.
Outer Banks is home to America’s first national seashore at Cape Hatteras and also the tallest brick lighthouse in the US, Cape Hatteras Light. At 200 feet height, the lighthouse is a major attraction of the Outer Banks.
There are so many beaches in the Outer Banks that there is a bit of something for everyone! If you want to enjoy the laid-back vibe and spend the entire day sunbathing, then head to the town of Southern Shores. Shop at local businesses, browse the art galleries, and enjoy dining at local restaurants.
If you are looking for a bit of history, go to Kill Devil Hills. This is the site of the Wright Brothers’ first airplane flight. Visit the Wright Brothers Memorial National Memorial to pay your respects to the aviation pioneers. Pet lovers enjoy Duck Beach, one of the most pet-friendly beaches in the USA.
Other popular Outer Banks attractions include hiking on the coast, sandboarding the dunes at Jockey’s Ridge State Park, seeing the lighthouses at Currituck Beach and Bodie Island, and traveling back in time at the Roanoke Island Festival Park. With all its attractions, Outer Banks is truly one of the best beach destinations on the east coast for families.
Nantucket Island, Massachusetts
If you are dreaming of an island holiday, but you cannot travel internationally then Nantucket Island is the perfect alternative! Located just 30 miles away from Cape Cod in Massachusetts, Nantucket island feels like a different world.
The island is spread over just 105 square miles and is easy to bike across. The town of Nantucket has cobblestone streets, charming churches, and interesting boutique stores. It reminds visitors more of Europe than America.
But the island is undoubtedly most famous for its beaches. Surf lovers like the rough waves on the southern shore of the island while those with kids prefer to spend a relaxing day on the northern side. This area is known for its calm water and family-friendly beaches.
Cisco Beach and Surfside Beach on the southern coast are popular for water sports. Cisco Beach even has a surf school and is a good place for beginner surfers. If you have toddlers and preschoolers, visit the Children’s Beach which is closest to the town.
Brant Point on the north side has a lighthouse and is a great place to watch the sailing boats. Visit Madaket on the southern shore for spectacular sunsets. End your day, by enjoying an evening stroll by the pier and dining or fresh seafood at a local restaurant.
Wailea Beach, Maui, Hawaii
Wailea Beach, located on the island of Maui, is one of the most popular beaches in Hawaii. It is also known as America’s best beach. Wailea is actually a resort community and many luxury resorts are located within walking distance of the pristine beach. Consequently, the beach is always crowded but still too beautiful to skip.
Located on the south shore, the fine white sandy beach is perfect for a fun family day. The water is shallow making it safe and fun for small kids. Picnic and recreational areas are also available on the beach. A paved walkway is present along the length of the beach.
The beach is known for its excellent swimming and snorkeling conditions due to crystal clear water. It is also popular with water sports enthusiasts including surfers, jet skiers, and parasailers. You can also spot whales in the winter.
Alternatively, you can take a stroll along the coast and admire the stunning views of the Maui coast. Honeymooners and couples especially enjoy this romantic beach; they can enjoy the soft sand, wide beachfront, and surreal ocean views in the paradise island of Hawaii.
Ruby Beach, Olympic Peninsula, Washington
Ruby Beach is a stunning beach located in the coastal section of the Olympic National Park in Washington. With its unique sea stack rock formations and a large amount of driftwood, Ruby Beach is the ultimate wild, rocky beach.
The entire area surrounding the beach is extraordinarily beautiful and a must for nature lovers. Visitors can have a variety of adventures along the beach. There are a couple of trailheads that start from the beach, all of them are easy walks at low tides.
You can hike down to Steamboat Creek and admire the views of the famous lighthouse on Destruction Island. For even more stunning views, head down to the beach during sunset. This is when Ruby Beach is at its poetic best and you won’t be disappointed!
Also Read: Olympic Peninsula Loop Road Trip
Coney Island, New York
For those who like urban beaches and the Big Apple, Coney Island is the ultimate summer beach destination. It is located an hour away from Manhattan. This beach destination is a favorite with New Yorkers and Coney Island’s crowded, touristy vibe is not that far from the busy, urban lifestyle of New York.
Located in southwestern Brooklyn, Coney Island is known as much for its entertainment options complete with old-school wooden roller coasters as its beaches. Visitors can ride the famed Cyclone roller coaster, visit Luna Park, play some beach volleyball, and see marine life at New York Aquarium.
Another essential on Coney Island is to eat the famous hot dogs at Nathan’s Famous. With its famous boardwalk and beautiful Atlantic beaches, Coney Island is the perfect short summer getaway and should be right on the top of your bucket list.
Tybee Island, Georgia
Situated less than 20 miles away from Historic Savannah, Georgia, Tybee Island is one of the best summer escapes in the country. Tybee Island is a barrier island surrounded by the turquoise waters of the Atlantic Ocean. It is home to over 5 miles of beautiful sandy beaches.
The island is fantastic for both a family holiday or a romantic beach getaway. There are many things to see and do on the island including the iconic Tybee Island Light Station and Museum. The colonial-era lighthouse dates back to 1736 and is still functional. A visit to the top requires 178 steps but is totally worth the view over the island.
Other attractions include the Tybee Island Marine Science Center, where kids can see sea turtles and other marine life and the beautiful North Beach. Spend a day sunbathing and swimming at this pretty and clean beach. Eat fresh seafood and shop local restaurants. See a beautiful sunset at the Tybee Beach Pier to end the day.
Rockaway Beach, Queens, New York
Rockaway Beach is where entire Queens congregates during the summer! Situated on the Rockaway Peninsula in New York, this beach has a vast sandy stretch with a 5.5 miles long boardwalk. It is the largest urban beach in America and attracts thousands of New York residents during the summer months.
It was once known as the Irish Riviera due to the large numbers of the Irish descent population in nearby areas. Today, Rockaway Beach attracts beach lovers of all colors and ages. Outdoor activities at the beach include beach volleyball, swimming, skateboarding, and sunbathing. This is also the only legal surfing beach in NYC.
The beach was destroyed during Hurricane Sandy in 2012 but has been rebuilt and is more popular now than ever. The beach is great to people watch and enjoy typical urban treats like shaved ice, ice creams, fish tacos, pizzas, and drinks at local bars.
Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama
Hidden away on the Alabama Gulf Coast, the beach towns of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach are the most underrated beach vacation destinations in the country. Both the towns are adjacent to the Emerald Coast of Florida, which means the water is a clear turquoise blue.
Gulf Shores is famous for its 32 miles of clean and soft white sand beaches while Orange Beach is more known for its vibrant culture. Something is always happening here; whether it’s a music festival, shrimp festival, or an arts walk. The best beach in Gulf Shores is undoubtedly Orange Beach. This beach is so spectacular that visitors feel as if they have been transported away to the Caribbean islands.
The seaside towns are also great for nature lovers. Spot the alligators in the marshlands or take a dolphin-watching cruise out to the sea. You can also try various outdoor activities like hiking, biking, and water sports. From birding to riding roller coasters, Gulf Shores and Orange Beach have something for everyone.
Mustang Island, Texas
As a barrier island on the Gulf Coast, Mustang Island has some of the most stunning beaches across the state of Texas. The island is protected ad a part of the Mustang Island State Park and is popular for camping, hiking, shelling, and birding. The island is named after the wild horses that once roamed over the island.
The warm waters and the sunny Texas weather make the state park a year-round travel destination. Combined with the 5 miles long wide, sandy beaches, this the perfect spot for a family fun day. The water here has plenty of marine life; we have spotted stingrays, crabs, and sea turtles on our visits.
Water activities at the park include swimming, kayaking, paddle boarding, and fishing. Building sandcastles is also a popular activity to enjoy at Mustang Island State Park. For an adventure, you can paddle down the Mustang Island State Park Paddling Trail for stunning shoreline views. While you are there, head to Port Aransas Beach, which has excellent surfing conditions.
Cinnamon Bay, St. John, US Virgin Islands
Want to enjoy the Caribbeans without leaving the country? Visit Virgin Islands National Park! Located on Saint John, one of the Virgin Islands, the park is known for its beautiful beaches and coral reefs.
Cinnamon Bay, a picture-perfect white sand beach, is the longest and most beautiful beach on the island. Just one glimpse of the beach and you will feel like you are in paradise. The soft powdery sand is surrounded by the clear turquoise waters of the Cinnamon Bay. Tall palm trees line the beach, creating perfect shady picnic spots.
Cinnamon Bay is the perfect summer family destination. With shallow water and a gentle slope, the beach is perfect for small children. Water sports enthusiasts can try windsurfing, snorkeling, and paddleboarding. While snorkeling you can spot colorful tropical fish, corals, seaweeds, stingrays, and sea turtles.
Indiana Dunes, Indiana
Indiana Dunes National Park is located just 60 miles away from Chicago and is a great family vacation destination for those in the Midwest. Located on the shores of Lake Michigan, the beaches of Indiana Dunes are fantastic for enjoying a laid-back holiday far from busy city life.
There are two parks located at Indian Dunes: Indiana Dunes National Park and Indiana Dunes State Park. Both the parks provide access to miles and miles of the stunning Lake Michigan coastline and hiking, biking, and equestrian trails through dense woods. Hence, visitors can either play and swim on the beach or go on a nature adventure and spot wildlife.
The beaches at Indiana Dunes are known for being some of the best family beaches in America. As a result, the area attracts millions of visitors annually. Many local towns located near Indiana Dunes have charming downtowns, specialty shops, and fine dining restaurants and are perfect for exploring.
Rehoboth Beach, Delaware
While I lived in Wilmington, Delaware this was my go-to beach! This Atlantic Coastal town has a boardwalk, a bandstand that hosts free concerts, and crystal clear water for swimming. Rehoboth Beach is one of the few places in the US awarded a 5-star rating for its water conditions and is one of the cleanest beaches on the East Coast.
The little beach town has a population of only 1000 but swells in size on weekends and during summer when visitors flock to Rehoboth Beach to enjoy the beach life. We love exploring the town’s charming streets, historic downtown, and immersing ourselves in Rehoboth Beach’s arty vibe. A must visit is the Rehoboth Beach Museum where you can see vintage postcards on the town.
We hope you liked our post on the best beaches to visit in the USA this summer. Did we miss any amazing beaches? Let us know in the comments.