24 Best Beaches in the U.S. That Don’t Require a Passport

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“24 Best Beaches in the U.S. That Don’t Require a Passport”

Islands & Beaches

All the surf and soft sand you could ask for—no passport required.

July 6, 2022
24 Best Beaches in the U.S. from Hawaii to Nantucket


Coast Guard Beach Cape Cod Massachusetts
GettyCoast Guard Beach, Cape Cod, MassachusettsSwimmers on Cape Cod tend to be on the braver side, as sand is coarse and water temperatures only reach 60-70 degrees in the summer. (Getting here will also require a bicycle or shuttle bus ride from Salt Pond Visitor’s Center.) Still, views of the Nauset Spit barrier system and bay prompt travelers to pay repeat visits, and a photo of the quaint old Coast Guard station, which sits on top of sandy bluffs, is practically Instagram-required.Stay here: Surrounded by 380 bike-friendly acres, the Villages at Ocean Edge Resort & Golf Club is ideal for family vacations—and it’s just 20 minutes away from Coast Guard Beach by car.
Georgia Driftwood Beach
GettyDriftwood Beach, Jekyll Island, GeorgiaOne of the Golden Isles along Georgia’s Atlantic coast, Jekyll Island is a seven-mile-long stretch of marshes and Spanish moss. One of its star attractions is the prehistoric-looking Driftwood Beach. As its name suggests, the site is dotted with gnarled and weathered trees that double as excellent photo backdrops—just be sure to visit at low tide.Stay here: Jekyll Island Club Resort was considered one of the most exclusive resorts in the world in the early 1900s (past guests included the Vanderbilts and Rockefellers), and it honestly still looks pretty darn great a century later.
  • Grayton Beach State Park Florida
    GettyGrayton Beach State Park, FloridaIt should come as no surprise that some of the best beaches in the U.S. can be found in Florida. Grayton Beach State Park, spanning a total of 2,000 acres along the lovely Gulf Coast, is one of our favorites. Aside from classic white-sand beaches, the main attraction here is Western Lake, a coastal dune lake (one of only a handful in the entire world) teeming with fish and shorebirds. Visitors come to camp in the park and visit its other highlights—some of which are found under the water’s surface. The state park happens to be home to the Underwater Museum of Art (UMA), the first permanent underwater sculpture exhibit in the U.S., which lets travelers snorkel and scuba dive around massive pieces of art that are rotated once a year.Stay here: A much-loved Panhandle favorite, WaterColor Inn & Resort (flanked by Grayton Beach) is a stylish, contemporary spot with complimentary kayak rentals and farm-to-table dining options.
California Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
GettyJulia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, CaliforniaThe entire Big Sur coastline is stunning (and very road trip-worthy), but the winner for the most scenic spot has to go to Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. Situated about 35 miles south of Carmel, Pfeiffer Beach features huge cliffs, waterfalls, lush vegetation, and sometimes even dolphins and otters playing in the shallows. You can purchase park passes for $10 per car, per day.Stay here: To fully embrace your Big Sur vacation, you can’t find a hotel more iconic to the area than Post Ranch Inn. The views here are truly unparalleled—there are even skylights in the rooms so you don’t have to leave bed to do some stargazing.
Bowmans Beach Sanibel Island Florida
GettyBowman’s Beach, Sanibel Island, FloridaA quick causeway drive off Southwest Florida’s mainland, Sanibel Island has long drawn visitors with its biking trails, wildlife, and calm Gulf Coast beaches. But perhaps the island’s biggest claim to fame is the abundance of seashells strewn across its 15 miles of coastline—especially at Bowman’s Beach. Pack a picnic, refreshments, and a bucket—and perhaps an aspirin or two to alleviate any aches and pains from doing the “Sanibel Stoop” while collecting pastel-hued treasures along the sand.Stay here: Captiva’s South Seas Island Resort (a 17-minute drive from Bowman’s Beach) has 330 acres of condos, 20 pools, five restaurants, and a marina where manatees like to play.
Honokalani Beach
GettyHonokalani Beach, MauiHonokalani Beach is one of the most photographic spots on Maui, and that’s saying something. The spot is defined by its jet-black sand (which is actually made up of tiny lava pebbles), which stands out beautifully against the bright blue ocean and green, jungle-like foliage. You can also find seaside lava tubes and sea caves tucked along the shoreline—it’s wild, unspoiled Hawaii at its best.Stay here: You can’t beat the ocean views and private tranquility at Hotel Wailea, Hawaii’s only luxury adults-only resort.
  • Cannon Beach Oregon
    GettyCannon Beach, OregonCannon Beach may just be the most beautiful place in all of Oregon—and one of the most beautiful places in the entire United States. The boulder-studded beach is an essential pit stop off Highway 101 (a road trip that rivals even California’s Highway 1), and seeing the 235-foot Haystack Rock protruding out of the water is worth the drive alone.Stay here: One of the prettiest ocean retreats on the West Coast, Stephanie Inn offers direct views of Haystack Rock.
Kiawah Island
AlamyKiawah Island, South CarolinaWe can’t get enough of Kiawah Island, a mostly private, gated community less than a one-hour drive from Charleston International Airport. The island’s East Beach and West Beach stretch for 10 combined miles along the Atlantic; and while most of the shoreline is privately owned, you can find public beach access at Beachwalker County Park near the island’s far southern end. The sand is flat, the water is shallow, there are lifeguards on duty, and you can rent beach chairs and umbrellas.Stay here: One of the best places for an active vacation is The Sanctuary Hotel, with 24 tennis courts, five golf courses, and six pools.
Coronado Beach San Diego
GettyCoronado Beach, San DiegoOne of Southern California’s most popular beaches, Coronado has fine sand, mild surf, and a Mediterranean climate that makes it a year-round destination. After enjoying some water sports and trying to spot the beach’s sunken ship at low tide, make sure to head to Coronado’s Dog Beach at the north end of the island—a favorite with those who wish to let their pup run off-leash.Stay here: The landmark hotel associated with the beach, Hotel del Coronado, was built more than a century ago and continues to impress with Queen Anne-style architecture and its on-site shops and restaurants.
Caladesi Island State Park Dunedin
Courtesy Caladesi Island State ParkCaladesi Island State Park, Dunedin, FloridaAccessible only by boat or ferry, Caladesi Island State Park is a truly untouched piece of Gulf Coast paradise. Get a taste of desert island life by strolling on the pristine white-sand beaches, kayaking through mangrove trees, and hiking the paths tucked away in the dunes—you may even spot some sea turtles and shorebirds along the way. Stay here: It takes under 10 minutes to drive up to Caladesi from Sandpearl Resort, a lovely property on Clearwater Beach Island with spacious rooms and balconies affording some seriously epic sunset views.
  • Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
    GettyTwelvemile Beach, MichiganThe Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore (which hugs the southern shore of Lake Superior) is one of the most stunning natural sites in the country, though it’s definitely known more for its limestone cliffs than sandy beaches—until you reach this 12-mile-long stretch in the middle of the park. The appropriately named Twelvemile Beach is one of the most popular camping spots for people exploring the lake, thanks to its water views and ample space to set up a tent for the night.Stay here: Agua Norte, a timber-frame cabin in Grand Marais, makes a terrific home base for exploring these parts of Lake Superior.
Coligny Beach Hilton Head
AlamyColigny Beach, Hilton Head, South CarolinaColigny Beach features five miles of perfect Atlantic coastline cutting across the southern half of Hilton Head—and it might just be the most perfect beach on a near-perfect island. Visitors can reach the beach via a boardwalk at the end of Pope Avenue, where they can then enjoy soft sand and calm waters that are great for swimming (surfers should look elsewhere). Aside from its natural charm, sand showers, shops, restaurants, lifeguards, and well-maintained restrooms are all part of the allure—especially for families.Stay here: The Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort ranked the highest of Hilton Head’s many properties in our latest Readers’ Choice Awards survey—and it’s a quick 12-minute drive from Coligny Beach.
Waikiki Beach Oahu
GettyWaikiki Beach, OahuWaikiki is not only the best-known beach in Hawaii—it is arguably the most famous city beach in the world. It can get crowded, of course, but it still manages to feel fun and laidback. Instead of neon signs and intrusive beach traders, you’ll find gentle waves, luxurious oceanfront resorts, and beach boys ready to give surf lessons. Those views of the Diamond Head crater certainly don’t hurt either.Stay here: Just south of Waikiki Beach is the Kaimana Beach Hotel, a brand-new stay with colorful aesthetics, outdoor yoga classes, and floor-to-ceiling windows looking out over Diamond Head.
Mustang Island Texas
GettyMustang Island State Park, TexasMustang Island State Park is an almost eerily pretty (and clean) swath of land on the Gulf Coast, complete with a Texas-sized roster of activities: trails for hiking and cycling, tide pools for exploring, big waves for surfing, and white-sand, car-free beaches for relaxing and watching the sunset. For even more adventure, spend the night at one of the many campsites or rent a kayak and venture the 20-mile-long Mustang Island State Park Paddling Trail.Stay here: The best option here is to take advantage of one of Mustang Island’s 48 water and electric campsites (all 1/3 mile from the beach). But if you absolutely must stay in a hotel, Corpus Christi’s Omni Hotel is about a 30-minute drive west of the state park.
  • best beaches in the U.S. Ruby Beach Washington
    GettyRuby Beach, WashingtonOlympic National Park contains so many different landscapes, it’s nearly impossible to see them all in one trip. But we recommend driving Highway 101 (which circumnavigates the Olympic Peninsula) and pulling out at all the viewpoints along the coast—especially the ones at Ruby Beach. The beach is known for its rock formations and sun-bleached driftwood, and truly encapsulates the moody beauty of the Pacific Northwest.Stay here: Just a 10-minute drive from Ruby Beach, Kalaloch Lodge boasts the best location in the national park. The lodgings are rustic, but the views are spectacular.
Singing Beach Massachusetts
GettySinging Beach, MassachusettsAs its name suggests, Singing Beach is as much a treat for the ears as the eyes: When one walks along the dry shore, the sand emits a song-like squeak that is said to be quite delightful. (Watch a video of the phenomenon here.) But you’ll want to stick around long after this auditory novelty wears off, as the beach also offers incredible views of the sunrise and gorgeous rocky coastlines. As an added bonus, the beach is open to dogs from mid-October to mid-April.Stay here: Just a 45-minute drive from Boston, we recommend making the capital city your home base and day-tripping to Singing Beach. Boston has tons of great properties to choose from, but we’re fans of XV Beacon and The Envoy Hotel.
Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park Key Biscayne
GettyBill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, Key Biscayne, FloridaA quick drive from downtown Miami on the tip of Key Biscayne, this mile-long, undeveloped stretch of sand is easily one of the best beaches in the U.S. Aside from views of the Miami skyline, a visit here affords quiet shores, gentle waves, and plenty of hiking and biking trails. Be sure to stop by the historic Cape Florida Lighthouse during your visit.Stay here: Key Biscayne is only home to one hotel—but what a hotel it is. The beachfront Ritz-Carlton, Key Biscayne has all the five-star amenities you’d expect from the high-end hotel chain while still embracing the laid-back vibe of its neighborhood.
Blue Beach Puerto Rico
AlamyBlue Beach (La Chiva), Vieques, Puerto RicoA long, thin stretch of white sand and clear water makes La Chiva one of the Caribbean’s top beaches. Getting there is part of the adventure: It can only be accessed by parking in one of 21 tiny turn-offs along a bumpy, unpaved road in the middle of the island’s western National Wildlife Refuge (formerly off-limits as a U.S. Navy training base). Snorkel on your own around a small cay, or book a trip with one of the island’s operators to check out its secret underwater spots.Stay here: El Blok is one of our editor-approved favorites, with 22 rooms boasting private balconies, rain showers, and furniture that wouldn’t look out of place in a SoHo boutique.
  • Los Angeles Beach Beaches Venice
    GettyVenice Beach, Los AngelesCome to Venice Beach for the mile and a half of silky sands, where you can lay down a blanket and gaze out over the Pacific Ocean. But stay for the beloved Venice Beach Boardwalk, a veritable circus of street performers, vendors, bodybuilders, and groups of friends from every walk of life. It’s a lively spot for those who like a bit of excitement along with their relaxing beach day.Stay here: Just a block from Venice Beach, the artsy Rose Hotel (a 2015 Gold List winner) is as close to the beach as you can get without staying at an actual oceanfront.
Wrightsville beach North Carolina
GettyWrightsville Beach, North CarolinaNorth Carolina has 301 miles of coastline, from the Outer Banks to the South Carolina border—and nearly all of it is accessible beachfront. It’s difficult to pick the state’s absolute best stretch of sand, but we’re partial to Wrightsville Beach. For starters, it’s extremely accessible: directly off I-40 from the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill triangle, about 10-20 minutes from Wilmington (where there is an airport), and easily reached by boat. We also love the wide array of activities available here, from kayaking and surfing to biking and golfing. It’s an ideal spot to spread out your towel with your family, and there are plenty of bars and restaurants nearby if you need a break from the sun.Stay here: A family-owned historic retreat located right by the water, Blockade Runner Beach Resort has all the beach views and curated activities you could want.
Nantucket USA Siasconset
GettySiasconset Beach, NantucketOn the east end of Nantucket, Siasconset Beach can be reached from town via a six-mile bike ride on the Milestone Road path or a ride on the NRTA shuttle bus in the summer. Known for being one of the calmer and least-crowded beaches on the islands, ‘Sconset (as the locals call it) is also famous for its Sankaty Head Light, a picture-perfect classic lighthouse built in 1850. The lighthouse’s balcony is only open to the public a few times a year, so plan your trip accordingly.Stay here: White Elephant is an excellent choice for families or groups of friends who want a space of their own.
National Park Beaches Acadia National Park Sand Beach
GettySand Beach, Acadia National Park, MaineIt may only be 290 yards long, but what Acadia National Park’s Sand Beach lacks in size it more than makes up for in beauty. Nestled between two mountains, the beach is the perfect spot to explore after an early breakfast in Bar Harbor. Choose from two hiking trails—the mostly flat Great Head Trail and the more adventurous Beehive Loop—both of which afford stunning ocean and mountain views.Stay here: For accommodations, choose from one of the many excellent Airbnbs near Acadia National Park.
  • Cape May New Jersey
    GettyCape May, New JerseyThere’s lots to love about Cape May, all the way at the very tip of the Parkway: A perfect marriage of charm and history, the town’s historic Victorian district, and miles of intricate, candy-colored manses make for prime early-morning-stroll viewing. The tiny peninsula also offers some of the best birdwatching in the country—and, from March to December, fantastic whale watching.Stay here: The Virginia Hotel is a favorite of our readers, thanks to super comfortable beds and a great in-house restaurant.

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