Start Planning Your Vacation: These Are the 12 Best Beaches in America

Daydreaming at your desk about being somewhere on a beach? Make those daydreams productive and start coordinating your next vacation with a little help from us.

Clearwater Beach, Florida

clearwaterbeachJon Bilous/ShutterstockSince Clearwater Beach is essentially an island that barriers Tampa Bay from the Gulf of Mexico, you have double the opportunities to hit the waves and soak up that Florida sun. If you want to get out of the sun, close by is the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, home of Winter the Dolphin, star of the movie Dolphin Tale. (Science says dolphins are probably smarter than you.)

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

myrtlebeachTom Hirtreiter/ShutterstockThe perfect combo of a beach and a carnival, Myrtle Beach is a central hub on South Carolina’s Grand Strand, a 60-mile string of beaches. Plus, the boardwalk is known for its Family Kingdom amusement park and the SkyWheel, one of the largest Ferris wheels in the country at 187 feet tall.

Kauna’oa Bay, Hawaii

kaunaoabayDmitri Kotchetov/ShutterstockAccording to the Travel Channel, Kauna’oa Bay is “quintessential, picture-postcard Hawaii.” Its crystal clear water and white sand draw all sorts of visitors, from families to water sports enthusiasts. Find it on the Kohala Coast of Hawaii’s Big Island. Here’s what you should know before booking that Hawaii vacation.

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Coronado Central Beach, California

coronadocentralbeachtrubach/ShutterstockThe view of the Pacific Ocean from Coronado Central Beach is beautiful, but there’s an equally stellar view on the other side of the beach, where the iconic Hotel del Coronado stands with its unmistakable red roof. As for the beach itself, its 1.5 miles of sand prove especially great for athletes. It sports six volleyball courts and is loved by surfers and swimmers alike. (These are some of the most unusual surfing locations in the world.)

Cape Cod, Massachusetts =

capecodCO Leong/ShutterstockWith nearly 560 miles of coastline, it’s difficult to choose just one of Cape Cod’s numerous beaches, especially when they include the Cape Cod National Seashore. Coast Guard Beach is a favorite among the six that makes up the National Seashore. From Martha’s Vineyard to Provincetown, there are picturesque destinations all over the cape. Just ask these frolicking dogs.

Folly Beach, South Carolina

follybeachCvandyke/ShutterstockLocated 15 miles from downtown Charleston, Folly Beach is the perfect escape for laid-back vacationers. It also makes a great spot to check out the local wildlife, like loggerhead turtles, dolphins, and bald eagles.

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Cape Hatteras National Seashore, North Carolina

capekatterasKenneth Keifer/ShutterstockThis 72-mile stretch of North Carolina’s Outer Banks is known for its high sand dunes. So if you’re looking to swim or body-surf, you’re in luck. When you’re done in the water, climb all 248 steps of the Cape Hatteras lighthouse, the tallest one in the country.

Wailea Beach, Hawaii

waileabeachTomKli/ShutterstockA lot of beaches and beach towns are known for their entertainment atop the sand, but at Wailea Beach on the island of Maui, you can swim and sunbathe without distractions. If you’re feeling adventurous, its calm waters are ideal for snorkeling. With so many picturesque, relaxing locations, it’s no wonder Hawaii is one of the happiest states in America.

Siesta Beach, Florida

siestabeachfotomak/ShutterstockHome to some of the finest, white sand in the world, Siesta Beach is one beach you definitely need sunscreen for. The surrounding Sarasota has a diverse collection of shops, restaurants, museums, and historical sites—something for everyone in your group can enjoy.

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Ocean City, Maryland

oceancityAlexander Briggs/ShutterstockOcean City is a resort town if there ever was one, with mini golf courses and surf shops lined up on the city’s main drag. But the miles of clean, relaxing beach make up for its touristy vibe. Complete with amusement parks and one of the country’s best boardwalks, there’s always something to do in Ocean City. Don’t leave without sampling locally brewed beer and cracking open a freshly caught crab.

Waikiki Beach, Hawaii

waikikibeachyuruphoto/ShutterstockSurfing—at least, trying to surf—is a must at the birthplace of modern surfing, known for its gentler waves. The two-mile beach on the Hawaiian island Oahu is divided into eight sections, each with its own attractions, including a man-made lagoon, tennis courts, and of course, plenty of surf shops.

Cape May, New Jersey

capemayPaul Hakimata Photography/ShutterstockAs America’s oldest resort, Cape May is as much a landmark as it is a vacation destination. It houses nearly 600 preserved Victorian buildings, in addition to the bed and breakfasts that line its gorgeous beaches. Plus, its nickname is Queen of the Seaside Resorts. Need we say more? For more vacation inspiration, consider these unusual hotels you’ll want to go out of your way to visit.

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