The United States has thousands and thousands of miles of coastline. The exact measure of that coastline is debatable. It depends on several things including how the coastline is measured, whether or not islands count, and whether or not the beaches are in the continental US.
Also, whether or not US territories count, how high the ocean tide is at any given time, and a variety of other things. No matter how one measures it, though, one thing is certain – there’s a lot of it.
Fortunately for us, that means there are a lot of beaches for us to enjoy along it, too! The ocean beaches in the US are spectacular and varied. There are rocky beaches and sandy beaches. Some beaches have huge waves and others that are nearly still.
There are some upon which it snows in the winter and others where palm trees grow year-round. They are all vastly different from one another, but they are all beautiful in their unique ways.
If you want to learn more about the stunning beaches in the US, you came to the right place. In this post, we’ll tell you about the best of the best, so you can start putting them on your bucket list, and then start checking them off immediately.
These are the top beaches in the United States and some of the top beaches in America. There’s a lot of ground to cover, so you’d better get started!
Best Beaches on the Atlantic Coast
The coast of the Atlantic Ocean in the United States begins in Maine and goes all the way down to Florida, and ends at Milepost 0 in Key West.
The beaches at the top of this enormous coast look and feel little like those at the bottom, and since everyone’s tastes are different, some will impress each visitor more than others. However, the variance among them helps to demonstrate the beautiful diversity of the different east coast states.
If you’re looking for some special United States beaches to visit in the east, you’ll surely love some (or all) of these.
1. Ogunquit Beach – Ogunquit, Maine
The beach is on a long, quiet peninsula with grassy dunes, and you can walk the nearby Marginal Way trail to visit rocky outcroppings with tidepools to explore.
The town is a picture-perfect example of a small New England fishing village. There’s plenty to see and do in and near Ogunquit, and it’s no wonder that many people come back year after year.
There aren’t a lot of hotels in Ogunquit, so you’ll want to book a room way ahead of time if you plan to stay in town. Terrace By The Sea is an excellent choice if you can get a reservation; it’s located directly on the beach.
2. Coast Guard Beach – Wareham, Massachusetts
The Cape Cod National Seashore is a big draw in New England, and everyone in the nation should make a point to visit Cape Cod at least once in his or her lifetime.
Visitors love Coast Guard Beach because it’s a fine combination of the sandy beach that many people seek on the ocean side, but it’s also adjacent to a salty, marshy area that’s wonderful for watching sea birds do their thing.
Also, Coast Guard Beach is in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean side of The Cape, making it a great home base for exploring more of the area.
See Related: Best Day Trips from Boston, Massachusetts
3. Napatree Point Beach – Westerly, Rhode Island
You can swim at Napatree Point Beach in Westerly and many people do; however, more people visit this unique point to walk and enjoy nature.
This beach was created by a natural process called longshore drift – a long, skinny point with a tall dune in the middle and long narrow beaches on each side. Nearby, you can enjoy the ritzy and historic Watch Hill area. You may even bump into a movie star in town!
If you’re looking for something fun to do in the evening while visiting Westerly, you might find it interesting to learn that this part of Rhode Island is quite haunted! This Downtown Westerly Ghost Tour from Viator is a spooky option for you and your companions.
See Related: Best Things to do on Nantucket Island
4. Wildwood State Park – Wading River, New York
There are a number of excellent beaches on Long Island making it difficult to choose just one for this post. However, the beach at Wildwood State Park stands out above the rest because it’s quite different from most others.
This state park on Long Island’s north shore includes 600 acres of undeveloped forest and that alone is reason enough to visit.
However, the beach itself, located on Long Island Sound rather than on the Atlantic Ocean, is striking; tall dunes tower above sunbathers and the water is often a nearly Caribbean blue. It’s easy to forget you’re in New York when visiting Wildwood State Park on a summer day.
See Related: Best Parks in New York City & New York to Visit
5. Cape May Beach – Cape May, New Jersey
Beach culture is a part of life in New Jersey – ask the cast of Jersey Shore. People from New Jersey and other surrounding states flock to The Garden State’s beaches in the summer, and with good reason – there’s something for everyone there!
Although some people love Wildwood, some love Atlantic City, and some prefer Seaside or Brigantine, everybody can agree that Cape May is something extra special.
The colorful Victorian homes in this area, plus attractions like the Cape May Lighthouse and Lucy the Elephant are all things that make this beach and beach town a little bit better than all the rest.
There are lots of vacation homes to rent in Cape May, and many are within walking distance of the beach. If you can afford it, you’ll probably want to book a house in the Cape May Historic District, like The Whaler’s Cottage on Corgie Street.
See Related: Best Islands in the US to Visit
6. Cape Henlopen State Park – Lewes, Delaware
Few people know about Cape Henlopen State Park in Delaware, but those who do love it and consider it to be a hidden gem.
This park was one of the first official public lands in the (now) United States by declaration back in 1682, and it was an important strategic location for the US military in numerous wars, starting with the American Revolution.
This state park has a great campground, a quiet beach, lots of wildlife, a fishing pier, and World War II observation towers that you can climb during your visit. Don’t miss the park’s Seaside Nature Center to learn more about the ecology of the park.
See Related: Best National Parks to Visit in November
7. Assateague Island National Seashore – Berlin, Maryland
Have you ever seen a wild horse?
Many people have not. However, if you visit Assateague Island National Seashore, you are almost guaranteed to see one!
There are around 100 small horses living on this island and they roam free. Keep an eye on your snacks, as they like to dip their noses into picnic baskets in search of treats.
The horses are a big part of the reason that people come to Assateague, but the beach itself is lovely too and is entirely free of development.
You’ll feel like you’re on a deserted island here – well, deserted, that is, other than you, other beachgoers, and the horses!
A great way to really immerse yourself in the beauty of Assateague is to get out in a boat and see it from the water. There are a number of boat tours available on Viator; you can view the islands and horses by kayak or motorized boat, and both tours include knowledgeable guides.
See Related: Best Places to Visit in the US
8. Virginia Beach – Virginia Beach, Virginia
Virginia Beach is a happening and developed beach with high-rise hotels along it, and that’s exactly what some people are seeking when taking a beach vacation.
There’s a three-mile-long boardwalk that runs along this beach that’s great for walking and people-watching and it provides easy access to the beach, the hotels, and the beach attractions here.
Virginia Beach can get very crowded during the high season but it’s a great place to meet people and there’s always something fun going on.
See Related: Virginia Beach vs Ocean City: What’s the Difference
9. Emerald Isle Beach – Emerald Isle, North Carolina
When most people think of North Carolina’s beaches, their minds go first to North Carolina’s Outer Banks and stay there. While the Cape Hatteras National Seashore is amazing without a doubt, the area is very busy in the summertime and the upscale atmosphere can be off-putting to some.
A great alternative is Bogue Banks Island and the town and beach of Emerald Isle. Bogue Banks Island is another barrier island like the barrier islands of the Outer Banks, but it’s not as busy. This thin island is just wide enough for a row of homes, a road, and the beach, and feels very private.
See Related: Best South Carolina Beaches | Top Getaway Options
10. Driftwood Beach – Jekyll Island, Georgia
Driftwood Beach on Jekyll Island in Georgia is not like any other beach in the nation and it’s a photographer’s dream.
Due to sand erosion, this beach has moved inland over the years, and in doing so, the salt water has killed many of the trees that once grew along the shoreline.
What remains are dead trees and lots of driftwood, which sounds less impressive than it is, but you have to see it to truly understand. There are many fun things to do on Jekyll Island that you should not miss.
The browns of the sand and the trees are a memorable contrast to the blues of the sky and the water, and it’s likely you’ll return to this beach in your dreams for years to come.
Fortunately, you can in your physical form, too, and easily – you’ll be happy to hear that there are several dozen affordable vacation rental homes all over Jekyll Island, so you can and should come back again and again.
See Related: Best Vacations for a Group of Friends
11. Melbourne Beach – Melbourne Beach, Florida
Melbourne Beach is a family-friendly beach in the middle of the east coast of Florida. It’s not far from Orlando so many families combine a trip to Disney World and its related parks with a beach vacation to Melbourne.
Although the town is small, there are a lot of activities, stores, and restaurants to try, and the beach has warm waters and cool waves.
Everybody loves Melbourne.
See Related: Best Day Trips From Tampa, Florida
12. South Beach – Miami Beach, Florida
South Beach in Miami is one of the most famous beaches in the US and it has had roles in countless movies and television shows. The beach is broad, beautiful, sandy, and warm, and the many hotels along it welcome guests from all over the nation and all over the world.
This beach is historic, too; you’ll love the Miami-specific Art Deco architecture design of the local buildings, and you might even consider taking a Miami Beach Art Deco Segway Tour from GetYourGuide to learn more about it.
Later, if you’re looking for nightlife after a day of playing in the waves, this is one of the best spots in the nation for it. Then, if you want to stay right on South Beach, 1 Hotel South Beach is a great choice. It has four pools, a private beach, and onsite dining options, too.
Best Gulf of Mexico Beaches
When it comes to saltwater beaches in the US, people tend to think that there are only two categories – Atlantic beaches and Pacific beaches.
However, those in the know know that there’s a third option too – beaches on the Gulf of Mexico – and that some of the best beaches to visit in the US are in this giant cove.
Thanks to the gulf, not only does Florida have an east coast, a west coast, and panhandle, but Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas all have beaches, too. Here are a few to try.
See Related: Best East Coast Vacation Spots in the US
13. Lighthouse Beach – Sanibel Island, Florida
Sanibel and Captiva Islands are just off the southwestern coast of Florida near Fort Myers; you’ll just need to take a short toll bridge to reach them. Both islands have numerous impressive and memorable beaches, but good luck finding parking.
Lighthouse Beach Park, at the southern tip of Sanibel Island, was built in 1884 and has paid parking, a beach, nature trails, a fishing pier, grills, picnic areas, and of course, a lighthouse.
See Related: New Mexico vs Colorado: Which Is Better?
14. Clearwater Beach – Clearwater, Florida
Clearwater Beach is a favorite of both Tampa-area locals and visitors from all over. Its name is fitting as the water at this beach is very clear indeed, and the white sand beach here is exceptional and popular all year round.
There are lots of beach activities at Clearwater Beach as well including jet ski rentals, parasailing, stand-up paddleboarding, and even boat trips on pirate ships if you so desire! The beachfront promenade is full of interesting shops and welcoming restaurants.
This beach is also adjacent to lots of nightlife, but Clearwater Beach is far less hectic and fancy than Miami Beach – everyone is welcome here!
See Related: Key West Day Trip: The Florida Keys in a Day
15. Caladesi Island State Park – Dunedin, Florida
Caladesi Island State Park is in the gulf near Tampa and is just north of Clearwater Beach. If you want to get away from it all while still being close to everything, then you’ll love this quiet and serene state park.
Although it’s on the same island as Clearwater Beach, it’s only accessible by boat, but it’s worth the extra effort. You’ll feel like you’re on a deserted island here while you lounge on the white sand and explore the nature trails on foot and the mangrove forest by kayak.
See Related: Best Things to Do in California
16. St. George Island State Park – St. George Island, Florida
There are a number of amazing beaches on the Florida panhandle but St. George Island State Park is really special. Again, this is another beach that’s on a barrier island, and another beach that seems like it is a million miles from anywhere.
St. George Island is pummeled by hurricanes every few years, but it keeps coming back stronger.
I guarantee you, the water here is a color you’ve never seen before, and the boardwalk, nature trails, playground, and campground are all things you’ll want to come back to year after year after year – just like the hurricanes.
See Related: Most Famous Landmarks in California to Visit
17. Gulf Shores Main Public Beach – Gulf Shores, Alabama
Gulf Shores is a resort town but unlike other resort towns, the beach here is big enough for everyone to spread out if they’d like. There’s a lagoon that’s great for fishing between the public beach and the mainland; it’s full of wildlife for those who enjoy nature viewing.
Gulf State Park is adjacent to the beach as well and it’s full of nature trails, a campground, and picnic areas, and it has a beach of its own.
Gulf Shores Main Public Beach is another great option for people who want to enjoy everything wonderful that a gulf coast beach has to offer, while still being close to action and activities when they want them.
If you’re looking for accommodations right on the beach, Island Winds East is a well-rated and affordable option. It has a pool and all rooms have kitchens and patios. It’s a great option for families or groups, especially.
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18. Ship Island, Mississippi
Ship Island is a small island off the coast of Mississippi between Gulfport and Biloxi.
Actually, it was once one small island, but now it’s two (it was split in half by Hurricane Camille in 1969) but the Army Corps of Engineers is actually working to reconnect the two islands back into one, and they completed the first step of their project to do so in 2019.
Regardless of whether it’s one island or two, you’ll have to take a ferry or private or chartered boat to reach it. When you get there, you can fish, relax on one of the beaches, or tour historic Fort Massachusetts, which was built between 1859 and 1866.
Today, the island is part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore.
See Related: Best Things to Do on the Mississippi River
19. South Padre Island Beach – South Padre Island, Texas
South Padre Island was once known as a spring break destination (and it still is, to some degree), but over the past few decades, it has morphed into a very family-friendly beach destination that is enjoyed by all who visit it.
It’s on the southern tip of Texas and in addition to a beautiful, sandy beach, great restaurants, and plentiful shopping, it is home to the South Padres Island Birding and Nature Center, and the South Padre Island Dolphin Research and Sealife Nature Center where you can learn about aquatic animals.
The weather on South Padre Island is warm and perfect year-round, which makes it a great destination no matter the season.
There are lots of affordable, beachfront condos to rent in South Padre, making it an accessible vacation destination for all. Even townhomes like this one that sleeps six in three bedrooms and has its own private pool can be had for under $200 a night.
See Related: Best Beaches on the East Coast
Best Beaches on the Pacific Coast
Fortunately, the United States has not only one long ocean coast but two! The Pacific coast is even longer than the Atlantic coast when you take Alaska and Hawaii into consideration.
The Pacific Ocean is not as salty as the Atlantic, and the Atlantic coast is not as rocky as the Pacific. The two oceans vary in other ways too, so it’s no surprise that the beaches on the west coast are rather different from those on the east.
Both coasts and oceans offer numerous truly fantastic beaches, though, and we are quite lucky to live in a country with so many!
20. Coronado Beach – Coronado, California
Coronado Beach is a popular San Diego beach just ten miles from the border of Mexico. The beautiful, famous, and historic Hotel del Coronado is at the southern end, and from there, the beach extends north along Ocean Avenue.
This beach often appears on lists of best beaches in the US, and residents of San Diego and visitors alike enjoy relaxing on the sand here, which sparkles in the sun thanks to the presence of the mineral mica in it. Coronado Beach is a perfect place for sunbathing, swimming, surfing, and watching the sunset, and it is a prime example of everything that Southern California represents.
A great way to get to know this area better and to learn more about the Hotel del Coronado is this 2.5-hour walking tour from GetYourGuide. Visitors love it and find it both entertaining and informative.
See Related: Best & Fun Things to do in San Diego, California
21. Crescent Bay Beach – Laguna Beach, California
Laguna Beach is a small city between San Diego and Los Angeles and it’s famous for active but laid-back folks and it’s signature curved beach.
The Main Beach is nice; there’s a boardwalk that is always full of people exercising, dog-walking, and socializing, and palm trees peek up above the beachfront buildings. Like Coronado Beach, it is a quintessential Southern California beach, and the people-watching there will undoubtedly be as enjoyable as the relaxation itself.
However, don’t miss out on Crescent Bay Beach in Laguna Beach as well. This smaller beach is a bit to the north of the Main Beach; it is also curved and is more residential, but most visitors agree that it’s far and away one of the most beautiful urban beaches in the country. Crescent Bay Beach is gorgeous and once you’ve been there once, you will never forget it.
22. Zuma Beach – Malibu, California
Everyone has heard of Malibu, even if they’ve never been there before and even if they’ve never seen a picture; this beach is famous for being full of beach houses that belong to the rich and famous.
However, all beaches in California are public so there’s no keeping the public away from the space between those homes and the water, and anyone can hang out here.
You can relax and swim on Zuma Beach or walk along the shore gawking at mansions perched on rocks and cliffs, but also stay alert – in Malibu, you never know when you might see a celebrity on a surfboard.
If you want to try to fit in and live like the rich and famous during your trip to Malibu, maybe you’ll consider rending this Ocean Front Luxury Villa in the center of Zuma Beach. It has six bedrooms, and eleven bathrooms, and covers 11,000 square feet of space on four acres.
See Related: Best Things to Do in Malibu, California
23. Pfeiffer Beach – Big Sur, California
Most of the coastline near Big Sur is rocky and steep, and the ocean can be viewed from above but is inaccessible. Pfeiffer Beach is one of few exceptions to this rule and will allow you to enjoy Big Sur from sea level.
This part of California is charming, mysterious, and ethereal, and there’s nothing else quite like it anywhere in the world. If you’ve never driven the Pacific Coast Highway before, a self-guided audio driving tour can be a helpful addition to your visit to this area.
Anyone traveling on the Pacific Coast Highway should take some time to walk on Pfeiffer Beach. The views along the beach are incredible.
Giant rock formations will surround you and tower over you, and when you look down, you’ll be amazed to see that the sand is purple. It’s only a mile long, but this beach is unique. And the north end of the beach is legally clothing optional if you’re into that sort of thing!
24. Pismo State Beach – Pismo Beach, California
Pismo Beach State Park is a seventeen-mile-long public beach with pleasantly rolling, grass-covered dunes, which makes it an excellent place for wildlife as well as people. You can expect to see pelicans, herons, crabs, sea urchins here, and a large group of monarch butterflies spends November to February at this beach each year.
Although this beach runs in front of the towns of Pismo Beach, Grover Beach, and Oceano, it’s very quiet and on the beach, and you’ll feel like you’re far away from the hustle and bustle of daily life.
The campground is the perfect place to spend a few quiet days. Cottage Inn by the Sea is an excellent choice if you’d rather stay in a quiet hotel with great views.
25. Carmel Beach – Carmel-By-The-Sea, California
Carmel Beach is another one of those beaches that you’ll never forget. Cypress trees back this curving, white sand beach, and looks very different from any other beach in the country. As a result, this beach often appears on lists of best beaches in the country, and it’s easy to see why.
The Scenic Pathway is a well-maintained trail that runs along the bluff; stairways descend from it to the beach below. This beach is dog friendly and great for surfing, and make sure your phone is charged because you’ll want to take lots of pictures.
If you want to explore this area further, and you should, be sure to do the famous 17-mile drive to see even more incredible scenery and to get a feel for the unique vibe of Carmel-by-the-Sea and Monterey. A 2.5-Hour Electric Bike Tour from Viator is another great way to experience this route.
See Related: Best Black Sand Beaches in the World
26. Santa Cruz Beach – Santa Cruz, California
The beach in Santa Cruz is one you can’t miss. If you’ve ever seen the 1987 film The Lost Boys, then you already know it well. This beach is famous for that movie and is also renowned for its traditional beach boardwalk amusement park.
It’s a mile long and is admission free – you only have to buy tickets to ride the rides. The amusement park is an excellent backdrop for a day at the beach full of family fun, but even if you don’t have kids, you’ll love it.
This beach, the amusement park, and Santa Cruz, in general, are so charming that you’ll want to return time and time again. The Carousel Beach Inn is the perfect accommodation choice if you want to be mere steps away from everything you want to see and do!
See Related: Fun & Best Things to Do in Mariposa, California
27. Fort Funston – San Francisco, California
When you’re on the beach in Fort Funston, you’d never know that you’re in San Francisco. That’s because you had to descend 200′ from the parking lot at the top of the bluffs to get there.
Although people swim here, this beach is usually a bit cold. Others come to walk on the beach or hike the trails, and you’ll often see hang gliders and horseback riders here as well.
This area used to be a fort but is now a protected area, and it’s part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. One thing is very consistent here, and that’s the wind, so hold on to your hat!
See Related: Best Places to Visit in San Francisco
28. Drakes Beach – Point Reyes National Seashore, California
The Point Reyes National Seashore includes nearly eighty miles of coastline north of San Francisco. This protected area is quiet and lonely, meaning more animals than people spend their days here; this beach is spectacular for nature enthusiasts.
Drakes Beach is backed by tall, white, sandstone cliffs and is one of four beaches visitors can drive to in Point Reyes National Seashore. Don’t be surprised if you spot an elephant seal or a whale at this beach.
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29. Trinidad State Beach – Trinidad, California
Trinidad State Beach in Humboldt County is strikingly beautiful, mainly because there are offshore rocks with trees growing on them and countless colorful tide pools to explore.
Twenty minutes north of Eureka, this beach is off the beaten path but popular. The best time to visit is at low tide; on your walk from the parking lot, you’ll pass through an open meadow full of wildflowers and you’ll half expect a bird to come rest on your shoulder as you take in the beauty of it all.
See Related: Best Vacation Dresses for Summer & Beach Trips
30. Cannon Beach, Oregon
Cannon Beach in Oregon may seem familiar to you if you’ve seen the 1985 film The Goonies; the central feature of this beach, Haystack Rock, appears in the movie’s final scene!
The rock is 295 feet tall and is the world’s third-largest intertidal structure; it can be reached on foot at low tide, and is home to thousands of nesting birds.
Hotels line this wide beach and visitors come from all over the United States and the world to walk and run up and down this beautiful beach. Cannon Beach is genuinely unforgettable.
See Related: The Ultimate Summer Trip Packing List
31. Kalaloch Beach – Olympic National Park, Washington
Olympic National Park is one of our nation’s largest national parks and there is so so much to see and do there. Much of the park is mountains and rainforests but there is also a great deal of coastline on its western side.
In fact, it covers the majority of the massive Olympic Peninsula. There are many beaches in Olympic National Park but one that you should not miss is Kalaloch Beach.
This beach actually has four different access points over several miles and you might as well check out all four. This rocky, rainy, dark sand beach is teeming with wildlife and beautiful vistas. Be sure to check out the Tree of Life near the Kalaloch Campground – it will blow your mind!
See Related: Tips for Traveling to Washington D.C. on a Budget
32. Fossil Beach – Kodiak, Alaska
People don’t often think of beaches when they think of Alaska, but we should. After all, Alaska has a very long coastline, and of course, many beautiful beaches are along it. One popular (but remote) beach in Alaska is Fossil Beach on Kodiak Island.
If you’re interested in prehistoric natural history, then you’ll love this beach. Beachcombers will be amazed by the many fossils embedded in the cliffs. Although the water is quite cold, this is also a popular spot for surfers. Not many people can say they have surfed in Alaska!
See Related: How Much Does an Alaska Trip Cost?
33. Waikiki Beach – Honolulu, Hawaii
There are dozens of beautiful beaches in Hawaii, but the most famous is Waikiki Beach in Honolulu. This beach has appeared in many movies over the years, and it’s almost as if it knows it; the beach and surrounding area have quite the movie star vibe.
Between high-rise hotels, beautiful people, soft sand, and brilliant blue water, this beach is everything an urban beach should be. Checking out attractions like beaches is one of the best things to do in Hawaii.
With Diamond Head mountain in the distance and palm trees towering overhead, Waikiki Beach is the ultimate American tropical paradise. This is also a great place to learn how to surf or to try scuba diving. In Hawaii, all things are possible!