body of water during daytime

Where Are the Best Beaches in the US?

Let’s face it: there’s no shortage of beaches in the United States. However, when it comes to spending your hard-earned money, you don’t want to visit just any beach. You want to visit the one that checks all your boxes.

Dr. Beach, also known as Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman, selects the best beaches in the US based on a comprehensive evaluation. Each year, he conducts a thorough assessment of numerous coastal locations using his established criteria. The evaluation process involves collecting data and on-site visits to the nominated beaches.

His factors include:

  • Water quality
  • Safety
  • Cleanliness
  • Beach width
  • Sand quality
  • Amenities
  • Environmental management efforts

Dr. Beach combines scientific analysis with his expertise in coastal processes and environmental stewardship to determine the rankings.

With that in mind, here’s a list of the ten best beaches in the US for 2023. 

10. Coast Guard Beach, Cape Cod, Massachusetts

people on beach during daytime
Coast Guard Beach. Photo credit: Taylor Rooney

Renowned for its scenic beauty, Coast Guard Beach is part of the Cape Cod National Seashore. Its vast stretch of sand, historic lighthouse, and opportunities for seal-spotting make it an idyllic spot for a New England beach vacation. Grab your bicycle and enjoy the Cape Cod Rail Trail alongside the water, where you may even catch some sights of seals relaxing on the beach.

9. Poipu Beach, Kauai, Hawaii

brown and green turtle on brown sand
Turtle at Poipu Beach. Photo credit: Zane Persaud

A popular choice for families, Poipu Beach, has calm waters in a lagoon-like setting, making it safe for swimming and snorkeling. The palm-lined beach offers spectacular sunset views, adding to its tropical allure. And, of course, plenty of nearby resorts you can call home during your stay. What makes it so popular, though, is the opportunity to see monk seals lying on the beach in perfect contentment with nature, along with turtles and the local fish. 

8. Beachwalker Park, Kiawah Island, South Carolina

people walking on beach during sunset
Beachwalker Park. Photo credit: Johannes Beilharz

Offering unspoiled natural beauty, Beachwalker Park provides a serene beach experience with its picturesque tidal inlets and expansive ocean vistas. A sanctuary for wildlife, it’s excellent for bird-watching, shell-collecting, and peaceful nature walks. Renowned for its tranquility and captivating sunsets, it is a hidden gem on the South Carolina coast. Come here early during a weekday to avoid the larger crowds as this is a popular destination, and finish the day with some local seafood.

7. Wailea Beach, Maui, Hawaii

people on beach during daytime
Wailea Beach. Photo credit: Alan Rodriguez

This stunning Hawaiian beach offers golden sands and calm, clear waters. Known for snorkeling, body surfing, and boogie boarding, there is no shortage of water fun out here.  You may also have the chance to spot the local and camera-friendly sea turtles (try looking between 11 am and 2 pm). It’s surrounded by luxury resorts and lush green landscapes, ensuring an unforgettable beach vacation. 

6. Coronado Beach, San Diego, California

photography of seashore during sunset
Sunset at Coronado Beach. Photo credit: Richard Pasquarella

This scenic beach boasts sparkling sand thanks to mica minerals and offers striking views of the grand landmark Hotel Del Coronado (a great place to stay if your budget allows for it). Locals and visitors flock here daily to enjoy that Southern California lifestyle we have all come to know and love. Coronado Beach is perfect for sunbathing, surfing, and family beach games, making it a must-visit for a San Diego, California, beach experience.

5. Lighthouse Beach, Buxton, Outer Banks of North Carolina

sea waves crashing on shore during daytime
Lighthouse Beach. Photo credit: Jason Pischke

Nestled near the historic Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, this beach offers a unique blend of history and natural beauty. Known for its large surfing popularity (with many considering it the best on the east coast), fishing, and charming beach homes, it’s the place to be. There are even the lesser-known but popular kite-surfing and windsurfing activities here due to the perfect weather in this slice of coastal heaven.

4. Caladesi Island State Park, Dunedin/Clearwater, Florida

White Sand Beach Under Clear Sky
Caladesi Island State Park. Photo credit: Brooke Candy

Accessible only by ferry, this secluded island beach in Clearwater, Florida, offers untouched beauty with its white quartz sand and crystalline waters. It’s one of the few untouched islands left in the area. Experience peaceful beach strolls on the boardwalks, shell-hunting, and glimpses of local wildlife in their natural habitats. The mangroves are a particular delight to see by kayak or canoe. When peace and quiet are at the top of your priority list, there’s no better option than Caladesi Island State Park. 

3. Coopers Beach, Southampton, New York

gray wooden fence on brown sand
Coopers Beach. Photo credit: Clay LeConey

Known for its beautiful dune landscapes and picturesque Atlantic shoreline, Coopers Beach boasts soft white sands, clear waters, and historic mansions. This well-maintained beach is a perfect getaway for a luxurious Hamptons summer experience. There are even opportunities to see whales and dolphins migrating during the season.

2. Kahanamoku Beach, Oahu, Hawaii 

black bird flying over the beach during daytime
Kahanamoku Beach. Photo credit: little plant

Named after the legendary Hawaiian Duke Kahanamoku, this iconic beach offers a stunning view of the Diamond Head volcano and is perfect for water sports enthusiasts. It’s turquoise waters and golden sands make for a picturesque tropical escape for individuals, couples, and families alike. Enjoy the Hawaiian delicacies at Gilligan’s Beach Shack as you enjoy the pristine weather and relaxing atmosphere.

1. St. George Island State Park, Florida Panhandle

a bird flying over the ocean on a beach
St. George Island State Park. Photo credit: Jake Hill

This tranquil paradise is famed for its pristine white sandy beaches, clear blue waters, and abundant bird life. A haven for hobbyist shell-seekers, it’s also a prime location for fishing and peaceful beachside camping. There is also an active kayaking scene here with rentals if you choose not to bring your own.

This article originally appeared on Wander With Alex.

Featured image credit: frank mckenna

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After 30 years, Scott and Julie McConkey left the corporate world for a life of travel and adventure. What started as a gap year became a second act, and they are now full-time travel bloggers!