There’s just something about a vacation to the beach that feels so very American.
A love of sun, sand, and water can almost be felt deep in our bones, as if the saltwater was whispering to us the moment we came into range. With a tractor beam like pull, this happens almost anytime we come near the beach – but even more powerfully when we visit the top 10 beaches America has to offer.
If you’ve been trying to decide on the ultimate summer vacation spot – without having to break the bank – then you’re going to find more than a few great locations to investigate in the list below. Each and every one of the beaches profiled here have the potential to help you create lifelong memories, promising the kind of experience you and your loved ones will never forget!
On to the beaches!
1. Manele Bay, Hawaii
Photo Credit: @andrewghayes
While it should come as no surprise that the most fantastic beach in the United States is in Hawaii, Manele Bay is as close to a picturesque shoreline and beach experience as you’re going to find in the United States.
Our very own subtropical island that is absolutely beautiful and breathtaking – with 70° water all year round just calling for you to take a dip – the honey colored sand is welcoming to all. There are a number of resorts situated close to the bay, though all of them were created with the good sense of staying as far back as possible to preserve the natural beauty of this shoreline.
2. Coronado, California
Photo Credit: Dirk Hansen
San Diego is well-known and highly regarded for its amazing temperate climate and truly stunning local culture (a uniquely American and Mexican hybrid cultures that has to be experienced), Coronado is widely regarded as one of the most expensive places to live in the United States – and for good reason.
Spanish for “the crowned one”, it should come as no surprise to anyone that Coronado is a breathtaking beach ranked as the very best in all of the United States. Travel magazines include shots of this iconic beach on an annual basis – and the tourism numbers certainly speak to its greatness.
3. Main Beach, East Hampton, New York
Photo Credit: Chris Smart
Not all of the amazingly exclusive and exciting beaches are located in the lower half of the United States – in fact, at the Hamptons may just be one of the most famous locations on the globe.
A hotspot for the rich and famous whenever the summer sun is high in the sky, Main Beach in East Hampton is a can’t miss experience for anyone who loves the glitz and glamour that New York City brings to the table.
When not surrounded by the rich and powerful who live in the Hamptons, you’ll be able to experience a uniquely northern beach experience. A gorgeous beach that can get a bit crowded at times, you’ll still be kicking yourself if you don’t check this out.
4. Kauna'oa Bay, Hawaii
Photo Credit: Scott Carpenter
The only state on this list to have two beaches crack the top 10, Hawaii is also home to Kauna'oa Bay – maybe not as well-known as our top beach but certainly a gem that should be investigated.
Slightly smaller than many of the other Hawaii beaches you could enjoy, you’ll find that this picturesque little inlet is perfect for swimming, sunbathing, or other water sports. And because of the restriction on the amount of people who can hit the beach at anyone given time, it will never feel over cramped or crowded.
Again, the resorts that are close to Kauna'oa Bay have for the most part stayed back as much as possible, keeping the natural beauty of this beach well protected – but you’ll find that it’s just a short walk and that your little bit of exercise will most definitely be rewarded.
5. Nantucket, Massachusetts
Photo Credit: Ethan Oringel
One of the most luxurious places to live or vacation in the world – especially when summer rolls around – you’ll find that Nantucket is a picturesque northern fishing town that has been almost turned into the Hamptons of Massachusetts.
The place where the Kennedys call home during the summer months – and it’s not uncommon to run into more than a few of them at any given time when you are out and about enjoying all that Nantucket has to offer – the population of the island explodes from about 10,000 to 50,000 during the summer months, just more evidence of its tight hold on the American people. Not exactly filled to the brim with the sunbathing culture of other beaches, this northern beach is very much about boating, sailing, and other watersports.
6. Beachwalker Park, Kiawah Island, South Carolina
Photo Credit: Bill Sutton
Not all of South Carolina is sweet tea, porch swings, and Spanish moss – in fact, South Carolina has its own coastline of some of the most visually stunning and naturally breathtaking beaches you’ll find, and Beachwalker Park tops the list.
While not exactly one of the most accessible islands in the Carolinas, you’ll find that the people here are incredibly friendly and neighborly, always willing to help out whenever possible. There is a tight sense of community here. Many of the beaches are private, but you can almost always score an invite from someone in the know – even if you’re a complete and total stranger.
7. Clearwater Beach, Florida
Photo Credit: Daniel Oines
While Florida has gotten a bit of a bad rap as the “silver hair” state, with its gigantic number of northern transplants swooping into Florida in a great migration, the fact of the matter is that Florida has some of the most incredible beaches you could ever imagine. But Clearwater Beach may just be the very best of the best.
Now think about this for a moment.
You have Miami Beach, Daytona Beach, and all of Palm Springs– and still Clearwater Beach tops them all. Known for its massive palm trees and snowy white beaches – not to mention its absolutely gorgeous blue sea that is the perfect temperature for swimming all year round – all it takes is a single visit to Clearwater Beach and you’ll be hooked instantly.
8. Cape May, New Jersey
Photo Credit: Nick Harris
Sure, Atlantic City gets all of the summer fun attention when it comes to New Jersey – but you’d be foolish not to investigate all that Cape May has to offer as well.
Another one of those Nantucket-like northern towns that spring up all over the New Jersey shoreline, it’s tough not to be pulled in like a tractor beam by all of the down-home charm and small-town feel that Cape May brings to the table. A unique experience that is unlike any other northern beach, there’s just something special about Cape May.
9. Assateague Beach, Assateague Island, Virginia
Photo Credit: Mrs. Gemstone
Assateague Beach in Virginia is maybe one of the only places you’re going to be able to take in the sun, sand, and water – and also watch the wild ponies that call this island home.
Yes, you heard that right – there are herds of wild ponies that roam all of Assateague Beach, and it’s a once in a lifetime kind of experience to see them in their natural habitat.
There’s just something about taking in the traditional beach trip and then seeing a family of wild ponies come out of the woodlands and walk around the beach. While you’re not encouraged to feed or interact with the ponies for liability reasons and safety concerns, a number of people have reported amazing experiences doing just that.
But when you’re not taking in all that the wild ponies have to offer, you’ll still be able to enjoy the traditional water sports and beach activities just as you would at any of the other world-class beaches in the United States.
10. Cape Hatteras National Seashore, North Carolina
Photo Credit: betancourt
We couldn’t leave North Carolina out in the cold, especially since South Carolina featured so prominently in this list. But once you are able to take a trip to the National Park that is Cape Hatteras National Seashore, North Carolina you’ll see that it would have made the list on its own merits anyways.
One of the few beaches and seashores that is designated as a National Park, it’s not uncommon to see all different kinds of wildlife, plant life, flowers, and other truly once-in-a-lifetime experiences. If you’re really feeling adventurous you should look to take one of the many self-guided kayak tours all through the seashore, maybe all the way over to the historical Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.
All in all, and these top 10 beaches in the United States make for an incredible summer bucket list and can help you create the kind of lifelong memories that are impossible to forget. Each and every one holds its own special features, secrets, and moments that will have a transformative effect on you forever. It would be in your best interest to enjoy just as many of these as humanly possible.