The USA is known for its stunning beaches. Whether you head to San Diego or Miami, you’ll find pristine beaches and exciting beach culture.
You could find yourself surfing, playing beach volleyball, sunbathing, swimming, or even meeting sea turtles. Better still, the best beaches in the USA are surrounded by things to do and see – making them fantastic beach destinations for a weekend away.
1. Cannon Beach, Cannon Beach OR
Cannon Beach is easily one of the best beaches in the USA. In fact, it made National Geographic’s top 100 most beautiful beaches in the world. This beautiful sand beach is identifiable by Haystack Rock, a dramatic rock formation that juts up from the shoreline and is accessible during low tide. If you want natural beauty, don’t read any further without jotting Cannon Beach down as an option.
The beach is located in Cannon Beach, a tiny coastal city that draws in tourists seeking a beautiful coastal experience and houses locals wanting a quiet life. One of the best ways to get around Oregon is to rent a car, you can compare car rental prices at CarRentals.com
Despite its laidback appeal, Cannon Beach has plenty to see and do. Silver Point Interpretive Overlook is the best place for coastline views, while in the North of the city you’ll find a group of art galleries and, further North, Ecola State Park. Cannon Beach has a lot to offer. Read more: 21 Awesome Places to Visit in Oregon
2. Sandy Beach, Honolulu HI
Prefer surfing to swimming? Then Sandy Beach is a good option. Not only are the waves famously huge, but swimmers are banned from entering the water – meaning no dodging rogue swimmers while you surf. There is also a coast guard tower, just for peace of mind.
Of course, non-surfers frequently enjoy the beach from the land. It’s the perfect spot to sunbathe, read a book, and admire the surfing talent. Sandy Beach has an amazing reputation for its sunsets as well, so don’t rush off too quickly. Read more: 5 Unforgettable Reasons to Visit Oahu
Located on the Honolulu outskirts, the beach’s backdrop is the Koko Crater. If you want to explore the surrounding area, we’d recommend completing the crater hike, visiting the Koko Crater Botanical Garden, or heading to Halona Beach Cove.
3. South Beach, Miami FL
South Beach is where Miami goes to play and the most popular section of Miami Beach. The beachfront is lined with clubs, restaurants, attractions, and shops, which are broken up by the occasional skyscraper or two.
South Beach itself is obviously worth a visit, and its sandy shores are full of brightly painted art-deco beach architecture. It is not uncommon to see celebrities visiting the beach, and it is so beautiful that we understand why.
Check out more great beaches in Florida: 18 Best Beaches in Florida for Fun in the Sun
However, the true allure of this beach spot is the suburb atmosphere. You can experience this first-hand by heading to the Art Deco Museum, World Erotic Art Museum, or PALACE, a snack bar by day and a drag bar by night.
If you are planning a trip to Miami, check out these places to stay.
- Budget – Miami isn’t a haven for budget travelers, but Hotel Shelley comes with cozy rooms with Art Deco charm. Enjoy modern amenities, free WiFi, close to all the action.
- Mid-Range – Right on the beach and along Ocean Drive, Marriot Stanton is a superb choice for traveling families. Make the most of two on-site pools, spas, saunas, and a gym with the beach and restaurants all within walking distance.
- Luxury – Occupying an entire city block, 1 Hotel South Beach is the epitome of Miami luxury. Soak in the expansive floor-to-ceiling ocean views, with exquisite decor and the largest rooftop pool in town.
4. Coast Guard Beach, Eastham MA
Okay, Coast Guard Beach on Cape Cod is the opposite of Miami Beach. Uncommercialized and lined by bushland, not skyscrapers, it is one of the best beaches in the USA to experience a rural coastline.
The beach is famous for its resident seals, which you can spot bobbing along in the shallow waters. We’d highly recommend visiting if you want to spot wildlife, paddle, and sunbathe.
If you want to swim though, look elsewhere. Cape Cod is known for sharks, so this Beach has a no swimming policy. Of course, the thrill of spotting great whites from the shore has its own draw.
Once you’ve finished your time on the beach, drive inland to Eastland, a small beach town. Here, you can visit attractions like the 1869 Schoolhouse Museum and Captain Penniman House.
5. Henderson Beach State Park, Destin FL
Henderson Beach State Park is that classic, soft white sand beach that you picture visiting as an ideal beach destination.
You can walk the gorgeous beach on a wooden boardwalk – enjoying the coastal views without even getting your feet sandy. Campers will love the beachfront campground, and families will appreciate the nature trail and playground.
Nearby you can unleash your inner child at Urban Air Adventure Park or splurge on a dreamy aerial tour with Timberview Helicopters. Destin is coined ‘the world’s luckiest fishing village’ because of all the local types of fish as well, so don’t forget your rod.
6. Coligny Beach Park, Hilton Head Island SC
Coligny Beach Park is a great day out, with landscaped trails and impressive amenities. The beach has everything from WIFI to bike paths, guaranteeing you won’t get bored or be sacrificing any luxuries.
This beach has shaded lounge chairs, public showers, changing rooms, swings, and a water fountain. The facilities and amenities place this beach in a league of its own.
Nearby there are lots to do and see. Visitors should prioritize a visit to Stoney Baynard Ruins, an old Civil War plantation home, where you can learn more about the atrocities of slavery.
7. Driftwood Beach, Jekyll Island GA
For the ultimate beach vacation, forget classic white sand and chase driftwood scenery instead. Driftwood Beach is one of the most popular beaches in the USA, thanks to its numerous driftwood trees.
The washed-up, desolate aesthetic draws in millions of visitors, most desperate to snap the iconic shot for social media. If a photoshoot is on your bucket list, Driftwood Beach is definitely one of the best beaches in the USA.
Once you’ve snapped your shots, Jekyll Island State Park is yours to explore. Make sure to stop by Horton House, Indian Mound Cottage, and Mosaic Jekyll Island Museum.
Jekyll Island is one of the USA’s most popular barrier islands, so make the most of your visit.
8. First Beach, La Push WA
If driftwood scenery sounds amazing but the crowds not so much, note down this lesser-known alternative.
First Beach has humongous driftwood trees that have been washed ashore and run aground. The trees create a dramatic picture against the mountainous islands just offshore, and the beach is a definite contender if you want a similar but quieter atmosphere to Driftwood Beach.
First Beach was also mentioned in the Twilight trilogy, which is worth noting for any literature or movie fans.
When you’ve finished exploring, head up to Hole-In-The-Wall for low tide. You’ll find unusual rock formations and tide pools to peek in – plenty to keep you entertained for a few hours.
If you are heading to this part of Washington make sure to check out our article on the 24 Beautiful Cabins in Washington State.
9. Main Beach, Laguna Beach CA
Beach vacations on the West Coast are what dreams are made of. The West Coast, especially California, has some of the best beaches for laidback beach culture. Main Beach in Laguna is no exception.
The waves are gentle enough for swimming, and there’s a wooden boardwalk for coastal views, volleyball courts, basketball courts, and public restrooms. If you want a stylish beach destination to hang out, Main Beach is one of the most relaxing beaches.
After your beach day, Laguna Beach city has plenty to keep you occupied. Walk up the road to the Laguna Art Museum or picnic by the tide pools at Heisler Park.
10. Carmel Beach, Carmel-By-The-Sea CA
Fancy an experience of Californian surf? Carmel Beach is where you want to go. It’s a soft white sand beach, idyllically flanked by cypress trees and perfect for a romantic beach walk. However, it also has great conditions for amateur surfers to practice their moves.
Carmel is a stunning beach with lots of surfing potential. And, once you’ve enjoyed Carmel Beach, you can head to Pebble Beach Golf Links or head to see the sun-bleached ghost trees at Pescadero Point. Explore more of Carmel by the Sea with this article: Things to do in Carmel by the Sea, California.
11. Poipu Beach, Koloa HI
Remember that we promised the best beaches for sea turtles? Well, here is one of them. Poipu Beach is home to many a green sea turtle, and you can spot huge, fully-grown animals along the sandy shore.
Poipu Beach is also popular with monk seals, who love sunbathing on the warm sand as much as the human beachgoers. Pay attention to the signs and taped-off areas that protect the local animals.
Poipu Beach is fantastic for wildlife lovers and those wanting to spot a turtle up close. After you’ve got your fix, you are within walking distance of eateries like Hono Bar. And, if you are feeling daring, you can go ziplining in Poipu.
12. Lanikai Beach, Kailua Hi
Prepared to don snorkeling gear to go in search of marine life? Lanikai Beach is one of our most stunning beaches to consider.
Lanikai has a simplistic beauty, with an open stretch of soft sand, bright blue water, and a few palm trees dotting the beachfront. It also has some of the best beach snorkeling in Hawaii. You can spot colorful fish amongst the corals and sea turtles if you are lucky.
Nearby, there is plenty to warrant sticking around after the beach. We’d particularly recommend hiking the Lanikai Pillbox and visiting the Lanikai Monument.
13. Siesta Beach, Siesta Key FL
Siesta Beach is one of our favorite sandy beaches in the USA. The white sand is quartz, meaning it doesn’t get hot like other USA beaches. Instead, the sand stays nice and cool on your feet.
Siesta Beach is also huge, so you won’t have to tolerate noisy beachgoers or socialize unless you want to. Bring a towel and a book, and have a relaxing beach experience.
When you want some entertainment, you can join in the Siesta Key Drum Circle, have a go at watersports, or stop by the Marie Selby Botanical Garden.
14. Ocean City Beach, Ocean City MD
Ocean Beach is a 10-mile stretch of sand paired with cheesy, fun entertainment, looking straight out over the Atlantic Ocean. Fantastically commercial and packed with entertainment, Ocean City Beach is brilliant for families or those wanting to let their hair down.
After sunbathing and swimming to your heart’s content, you are just a few seconds away from endless entertainment. Spend an afternoon in one of the many amusement parks and arcades or enjoy a specific activity like go-karting.
Alternatively, for a more natural experience, visit Assateague Island National Park to meet the wild horses that roam freely on the beach.
15. Lighthouse Beach Park, Sanibel FL
For dolphin spotting, Lighthouse Beach Park is one of the best beaches in the USA. The beach is part of a 32-acre park and also has picnic tables, showers, and restroom facilities that make it ideal for a full day out.
We suggest walking along the beach to visit Sanibel Lighthouse, an 1884-built example of American architecture. Keep your eyes peeled for marine life as you walk and relax with the scenery of one of the USA’s most stunning beaches.
Save some energy to walk Periwinkle Way, though, as the street is lined with the best shops and restaurants.
16. Myrtle Beach, Myrtle Beach SC
Myrtle Beach is our first recommendation from South Carolina. While South Carolina might not be as famous for beaches as Florida and California, it certainly shouldn’t be overlooked as a beach holiday destination. And Myrtle Beach is a prime example of why not.
The beachfront has a quiet seaside charm. You can ride on the Ferris wheel, stop by old souvenir shops, and stroll the promenade. Myrtle Beach is a relaxing place for a resort-style holiday without having to try too hard.
Of course, there is still a thrill park and haunted house if you want to indulge in the cheesy side of seaside escapes.
17. Headlands Beach State Park, Mentor OH
Ohio might be landlocked from the ocean, but you can still get your beach fix at Headlands Beach State Park. The sand beach lies along the shores of Lake Erie and is the perfect day out from nearby Cleveland.
The beach itself is massive, leaving plenty of space to distance yourself from other beachgoers. You can swim, walk the sand dunes, or just soak up the sun – all while enjoying the peace and quiet.
There is also a scenic wooden boardwalk through the surrounding wetlands, restrooms, and picnic tables to facilitate a full day out.
18. Coronado Beach, Coronado CA
Coronado Beach is famous for good reason and is one of the best beaches in the USA. The beach is family-friendly and urbanized but in a socially historical way. See more California travel ideas at the 16 Best Cities in California
Along its beachfront, the Hotel Del Coronado has welcomed stars like Marilyn Monroe and politicians like George W. Bush. The hotel is one of the most renowned in the USA, never mind just San Diego, and the reputation has given Coronado Beach a claim to fame as well over the years.
Beachgoers can admire the sand sculpture displays, peer into tide pools, or just go for a cooling swim in the ocean.
The Gaslamp Quarter and Old Town San Diego State Historic Park are only a short drive away for non-beach-related entertainment. While, just half an hour’s drive away, you can meet sea lions at La Jolla Cove. See Where To Stay In San Diego – The Best Neighborhoods & Areas if you plan on exploring the area.
19. Kaanapali Beach, Kaanapali HI
Kaanapali Beach is swimming heaven. The sand is soft, the sea is shallow, and even the occasional sea turtle drops by. If you are looking to combine a relaxing day with some swimming, Kaanapali is definitely one of the best beaches to visit. If you are planning a trip to Maui, read Where to Stay in Maui: Best Hotels, Condos & Vacation Rentals by Area.
The Best Hotels in Maui
The beach is only three miles long and has a small community atmosphere. This atmosphere becomes electric at sunset when the daily diving ceremony takes place at Black Rock. If you wait until sunset, you’ll be able to watch the professional cliff divers put on an impressive performance. After, head out around the rest of the island to experience the best things to do on Maui.
20. Huntington State Beach, Huntington CA
Surfers, listen up. This California beach is one of the best beaches in the USA for surfing and has over 120 acres of shoreline to enjoy. You may also like: 15 Best Hikes in California – Inspiration to Get Outdoors
We’d recommend bringing a board to save money, but if you don’t have yours handy you can rent one from any of the shops along the promenade. There are lifeguards and surf schools along the beach as well if you are less confident.
After surfing, you can play beach volleyball on the beachfront courts. But, if you want a break from the beach, you can visit one of the many local parks in the area.
21. Clearwater Beach, Clearwater FL
Clearwater Beach is one of our favorites and easily one of the best beaches in the USA. Located on a sea island out of the CBD, Clearwater Beach has that typical Florida beach feel – with a unique blend of skyscrapers, fun, and class.
The promenade is somewhat of a fashion runway, and you can expect a fresh and trendy crowd. At night Clearwater Beach becomes a festival location, with Pier 60 coming alive with street performers and live music.
Clearwater Beach is also full of opportunities to indulge in water activities like parasailing and jet skiing. We’d particularly recommend parasailing to appreciate Clearwater Beach from above, as you can reach heights of 800 feet.
22. Grand Isle Beach, Grand Isle La.
Let Grand Isle be the persuader if you are on the fence about going to Louisiana for a beach holiday.
The town is situated on a narrow barrier island, so it has a secluded appeal. And, for those that have their own water activity equipment and like to enjoy activities independently, Grand Isle Beach is perfect. You can fish straight from the beach, go sea kayaking, snorkeling, and even spot dolphins while sunbathing on the beach.
After enjoying the beach, we suggest driving north to hike in Grand Isle State Park.
23. Isla Blanca Beach, South Padre Island TX
For a Texan beach holiday, Isla Blanca is a deservingly popular option. The beach is just over a mile long and is lined with plenty of facilities, entertainment, and attractions. Isla Blanca has a busy, hospitable feel without feeling too much like a resort.
Rent a cabana, snorkeling or fishing gear, or even go diving – there is a lot to choose from. At the north end of the beach, there is also the Beach Park at Isla Blanca, which is a fantastic waterpark for the kids.
Isla Blanca is located on the south end of South Padre Island, so you can head north for the rest of the day after enjoying the beach and waterpark. We’d recommend visiting South Padre Island Adventure Park at the very top of the island as well.
24. Little Hunters Beach, Mt. Desert ME
Mt. Desert Island is known for Acadia National Park. But what about its beautiful beaches? Sure, you won’t get that glitzy white sand aesthetic. However, you will find serene beaches surrounded by pine trees forests and remote woodland trails.
Intrigued? Good. You should consider detouring to Little Hunters Beach when visiting Acadia National Park. You’ll have the beach either mostly or entirely to yourself – especially if you visit out of peak hours.
Make sure to stop at nearby Thunder Hole and Otter Cliff Overlook after visiting.
25. Corolla Beach, Corolla NC
Corolla Beach is an amazing spot and we rate it as one of the best beaches. North Carolina’s outer banks feel removed from the mainland both geographically and community-wise. If you want a beach trip to get some much-needed distance from everyday life, Corolla is the one.
The outer banks have long stretches of relatively untouched beaches, and Corolla Beach is no exception. It is a quiet beach, with lots of space for privacy.
Being located in North Carolina’s outer banks has another benefit. Corolla has the only surviving wild herd of Spanish Mustangs in the world, and they live right on the beach.
You can visit the horses for yourself, learning more about them and their conservation at the Corolla Wild Horse Fund.
26. Central Beach, Michigan City, MI
Another incredible lakeside beach, Central Beach is on the shore of Lake Michigan. While the lake is freshwater, it still provides an amazing beach experience, with all the benefits you might expect from the seaside.
In fact, Lake Michigan has the largest freshwater sand dunes in the world. The sand dunes around Central Beach give beachgoers plenty of shelter. When sunbathing in spring and summer, watch out for Bank Swallows too, as they nest in the dunes.
Central Beach is one of the best beaches in the USA, and you won’t even need to worry about getting saltwater in your eyes. It’s a win, win in our opinion.
27. Orange Beach Waterfront Park, Orange Beach AL
Speaking of watersports, Orange Beach has the best jet skiing. Alabama might not be known for its coastline, but this city is a gem. You can go jet skiing with any of the numerous tour and rental operators, exploring whichever bit of the coast takes your fancy.
Out of all those nearby, Waterfront Park is one of the best beaches. There is a pier, a small waterfront for swimming, and a playground for families. You can also cook up a storm on the public barbecues and enjoy your meal on one of the picnic benches.
Don’t rule out this little Alabama city when planning seaside getaways and stop by the Waterfront Park if you visit. It isn’t too far from Pensacola either if you fancy a detour.
28. Sunset Beach, Sunset Beach NC
Sunset Beach is a sedate seaside town with a population of only a few thousand. The town motto is very much manana, manana, and its land is mostly covered by a golf course, fishing ground, and the beach.
Like its town, the beach is a Zen coastal destination. The beach is large enough to find space and time for yourself, and it is remarkably clean.
After relaxing on the beach, we’d recommend walking down to the Kindred Spirit Mailbox. It is a local tradition to post hopes and thoughts through the mailbox, which are often then advocated for by the community.