These Are the Beaches Travelers Can’t Wait to Return To
Golden sand, sparkling sea, swaying palms, and lots of fun in the sun: These are the top sandy spots travelers have been dreaming of during stay-at-home measures and can't wait to visit again—when it's safe, of course!
Every editorial product is independently selected, though we may be compensated or receive an affiliate commission if you buy something through our links. Ratings and prices are accurate and items are in stock as of time of publication.
Take me back to the beach
Sand, sun, and sea have been filling the daydreams of beach lovers while they been sheltering in place because of coronavirus for the last several months. And as travelers fantasized about returning to their favorite beaches, they lived vicariously by posting past vacay moments with the #takemeback hashtag on Instagram, inspiring others to do the same. CashNetUSA analyzed more than 200,000 of these posts and found all the spots around the world that travelers were missing most, including these top 10 beaches in the United States they can’t wait to return to. When the time is right, we’ve got all the deets on how to soak up the sun in these gorgeous beach spots. A beachside vacation doesn’t necessarily equate to an ocean; these 15 lakes with crystal-clear water deserve a spot on your bucket list, too.
Venice Beach, California
A visit to Venice Beach is usually less about actual beach activities, like swimming and surfing, and much more about the always bustling scene surrounding the sand. This is a quintessential SoCal funky and fun beach scene, with weight lifters, roller skaters, skateboarders, and artists filling the boardwalk and contributing to a laid-back atmosphere that makes Venice a magnet for people watchers and street performers alike. In other words, don’t expect a serene day on the beach! Venice Beach doesn’t have the ritzy beachside boutique hotels that Santa Monica just to the north boasts; instead, you’ll find more low-key beach vibes at Venice on the Beach Hotel, an affordable waterside option in the heart of all the beach action. Extra bonus: Venice Beach is also one of the best free beach getaways in America.
South Beach, Florida
Another vibrant beachside scene, Miami’s South Beach sizzles with nightlife and a non-stop party vibe on its golden sands. Soak up the sun during the day alongside models and an international coterie of beautiful people (South Beach, with its Art Deco flair, is one of the go-to beach vacations of the rich and famous). At night, the beach boulevards pulse with music, dancing, and a cocktail-fueled crowd. Enjoy it all at the Kimpton Surfcomber, which sits on the Atlantic Ocean’s edge along 200 feet of oceanfront property in the heart of South Beach on historic Collins Avenue. With direct beach access, an expansive outdoor pool deck, and cabanas and outdoor activities, the hotel offers a distinctively relaxed beach vibe, yet still has a hip mix of dining and lounge options and easy access to all the South Beach fun.
Santa Monica Beach, California
Stylish sun and fun along the Los Angeles’ stylish beachfront make Santa Monica a must-visit in sunny Los Angeles. You’ll find excellent shopping at the 3rd Street Promenade; some of the most iconic dining spots, including The Ivy; and unparalleled views of the Pacific Ocean from the numerous swanky hotels, including the iconic Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows. Situated on five expansive acres on a bluff north of Santa Monica Pier overlooking the ocean, the Fairmont sits on what was originally the exclusive private estate of Senator John P. Jones, the founder of Santa Monica. Today, The Miramar is home to 31 beach-inspired bungalows perfect for channeling quintessential SoCal style in addition to a traditional hotel building. They all offer easy access to Santa Monica’s golden sand beaches and expansive bike paths that follow the Pacific Ocean, so they’re ideal for a social distancing vacation. Here are another 15 crowd-free summer vacations you can book at the last minute.
Clearwater Beach, Florida
Spend the day on Clearwater Beach’s unique white sugar sand with the aqua waters of the Gulf of Mexico lulling you into complete relaxation and you’ll soon see why Clearwater was the best beach in America last year. Leave the beach to visit Winter and Hope, the movie star dolphins from the Dolphin Tale movies at Clearwater Marine Aquarium, a rescue and rehabilitation center for marine animals such as dolphins, turtles, and otters. Or hit the waves kayaking, on a boat tour (there are even pirate ship adventures), or stand-up paddleboarding. And be sure to get outside for the nightly sunset festival at Pier 60. For views of the sparkling Gulf right from your bed, stay at the Sandpearl Resort with its own 700-foot private beach, spa, and outdoor swimming pool, plus a children’s activity program, Camp Ridley, for children aged 5-11.
Waikiki Beach, Oahu, Hawaii
It’s easy to see why Waikiki is one of the best beaches to visit in Hawaii: It’s been combining wide white sand beaches, tropical ocean waters, great waves, and endless sunshine with sophisticated hotels, hopping bars, and gourmet restaurants in a winning combination since the 1950s. Stay at Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort, Waikiki’s only beachfront resort. The property takes full advantage of its prime location with 22 acres of activities to explore, from Waikiki’s longest water slide and surfing lessons at the world-famous Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon to cultural activities such as hula lessons and lei making with views of the Pacific. In the evening, the resort features Friday Night Fireworks, Waikiki Starlight Luau, and movie night under the stars.
Mission Beach, California
The azure Pacific waters of Mission Beach make it a hub of water and sand activities. The golden sand spot is a mecca of beach volleyball, with top players spiking and setting in the sun every day. Mission Beach is also the closest resort area to the water antics of Sea World and the vintage fun of Belmont Park, an amusement park built in 1925 with a classic wooden rollercoaster. Take in all the sun and fun at Paradise Point Resort & Spa, located right on Mission Bay. The resort comprises 462 beach bungalow-style guest rooms and has a private, full-service marina where guests can enjoy aquatic fun, including sailing, jet-skiing, motor boating, and kayaking. Additionally, learn to shred the waves like a local at the Paradise Surfing Academy, or stick to the mainland and explore the tropical grounds in beach cruiser bike rentals. California is also home to some of the most beautiful colored sand beaches in the world.
Pacific Beach, California
Pacific Beach is a surfer’s paradise out on the waves during the day, and a magnet for a fashionable crowd drawn to Ocean Front Walk, one of the best beach boardwalks in America, the paved pathway that runs behind Pacific Beach and continues south behind Mission Beach to the end of the peninsula. This is a popular bike path and is lined with shops and restaurants at Pacific Beach. Crystal Pier is a public fishing pier during the day and has a great vantage point to look at the city, the beach, and the surfers below. Near the pier is lifeguard tower 23, which lends its name to the stylish and contemporary TOWER23 Hotel, which sits along the lively Pacific Beach boardwalk and is the perfect place to sip sunset cocktails, listen to the waves, or take a leisurely walk along the beach.
Ocean Beach, California
The best views of San Diego’s Ocean Beach aren’t from the sand or boardwalk, instead, walk out onto the water to watch the waves crest on the Pacific Ocean. We don’t mean actually walk on water, of course, but instead take a stroll out onto the Ocean Beach Pier, one of the longest piers on the West Coast. It’s popular with anglers all day who drop lines into the 30-40 foot surf, and the pier is an especially scenic spot to watch the sunset, one of the reasons it’s an Instagram favorite, too. Follow the beach back on land and you’ll discover tide pools that are revealed as the tide recedes. Back on land, you’ll find The Pearl Hotel, a mid-century modern gem with modern updates that’s within easy walking distance to the beach. After the beach, cozy up in the hotel’s “Shag Lounge,” offering extra-plush floor seating tucked away in the perfect reading corner with blankets and board games, just steps from the hotel restaurant, Charles + Dinorah. For an even more intimate (albeit rustic) experience, check out these 25 spots around the country where you can camp on the beach.
Siesta Key Beach, Florida
Southwest Florida’s gentle Gulf Coast is where to find Sarasota County. Sarasota is a sophisticated coastal town that’s rich with the best of metropolitan art, music, media, performances, and galleries. Once the winter home of the Ringling Brothers Circus, Sarasota offers visitors an eclectic blend of arts and culture, history, fine dining, and of course the powder white sand of Trip Advisor’s 2020 Top Beach: Siesta Key. The beach itself is 99 percent pure quartz, and that pure white sand stays cool to the touch even in the Florida heat. The Gulf waters are calm and always perfect for a swim, but you can boat, fish, jet ski, and parasail, too. And all this wonderful beachside fun adds to the party atmosphere after the sun sets. Siesta Key Beach is so beautiful, it’s no wonder it’s one of the Florida beaches locals want to keep secret (although the MTV series Siesta Key may make that a lot more difficult now). Check into Sea Spray Resort, a favorite of visitors (it has a perfect five-star rating on TripAdvisor!) that puts you close to the sand and just a few blocks to all the action in town. There are beautifully landscaped grounds, a pool, and kitchenettes in the apartment-like rooms, providing everything you need for a relaxing beach vacation.
Honokalani Beach, Hawaii
One of Maui’s most scenic beaches, known for its jet-black sand beach, is hidden off the beaten track at the end of the long and twisting road to Hana. It’s worth the trip to the outer reaches of Waianapanapa State Park to experience the jet sands, lava tubes, and sea caves that give the tropical coast an otherwordly feeling. The only resort on this part of the island is happily also one of the best places to stay in Hawaii: Travaasa Hana. With views out over the Pacific, rolling green lawns, and individual bungalows that offer lots of privacy and plenty of elbow room, you’ll feel light-years from the hustle and bustle of Maui’s more populated western coast, making it the ideal getaway for privacy and relaxation for both the COVID era and beyond. These 37 most photogenic beaches in the world deserve a spot on this list, too.
CashNetUSA: “The Places in Every Country That People Miss the Most”
TripAdvisor: “Top 25 Beaches—United States”