24 Best Beaches in the U.S. That Don’t Require a
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Best Beaches in the U.S. That Don’t Require a Passport
“24 Best Beaches in the U.S. That Don’t Require a
We’re always dreaming about our next warm-weather
escape, whether it’s jetting off to tropical islands or
Mediterranean ports. And while the idea of traveling abroad every
weekend is wonderful, it’s not exactly feasible.
Luckily for those in the U.S., you don’t
necessarily have to go far to enjoy some of the world’s best
stretches of sand. America’s seashores—from New England to
Hawaii—offer enough beautiful sand and surf to keep us warm and
satisfied all year long. Here are 24 of the best beaches in the
U.S., all just an easy plane ride away.
This gallery has been updated with new
information since its original publish date.
GettySouth Beach, MiamiPeople come to Miami for white-sand beaches,
beautiful people, and major party vibes—and that’s exactly what
you’ll find (and then some) at South Beach. Stretching the length
of more than 15 city blocks, the beach is definitely crowded, but
big enough to carve out your own little peaceful section of sand.
Stick close to the locals around SoFi (South of Fifth) and you
should be fine. And while most visitors choose to exclusively work
on their tans, don’t miss the chance to swim in the warm turquoise
ocean: Even in the winter months, the water usually stays above 70
Your best bet for
a quality hotel in the heart of South Beach lies on 15th Street, at
elegant beachfront boutique property, The Betsy South Beach.
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.
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.
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
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
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
Panhandle favorite, WaterColor Inn & Resort (flanked by Grayton
Beach) is a stylish, contemporary spot with complimentary kayak
rentals and farm-to-table dining options.
GettyJulia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, CaliforniaThe entire Big Sur
coastline is stunning (and
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
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.
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.
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
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.
You can’t beat the ocean views and private
tranquility at Hotel Wailea, Hawaii’s only luxury adults-only
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.
One of the prettiest ocean retreats on
the West Coast, Stephanie Inn offers direct views of Haystack
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
One of the best
places for an active vacation is The Sanctuary Hotel, with 24
tennis courts, five golf courses, and six pools.
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.
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
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.
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
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
Agua Norte, a
timber-frame cabin in Grand Marais, makes a terrific home base for
exploring these parts of Lake Superior.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
White Elephant is an excellent choice
for families or groups of friends who want a space of their
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.
For accommodations, choose from one of
the many excellent Airbnbs near Acadia National Park.
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
Virginia Hotel is a favorite of our readers, thanks to super
comfortable beds and a great in-house restaurant.
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