Top 10 Best Beaches in the USA for 2024
Top 10 Best Beaches in the USA for 2024 - Florida's Paradise Coast is Home to America's Best Beach
With over 1,300 miles of coastline, Florida is synonymous with beautiful beaches. But even among the Sunshine State's abundant shores, one stretch stands above the rest - the Paradise Coast. Located along the Gulf of Mexico in southwest Florida, the Paradise Coast is aptly named for its pristine beaches, balmy weather and relaxing atmosphere.
The crown jewel of the Paradise Coast is Naples Beach. With its powdery white sand and gentle surf, Naples offers the quintessential Florida beach experience. The beach slopes gradually into the calm, clear waters of the Gulf, making it ideal for swimming, kayaking and paddleboarding. Naples Pier is a popular spot to throw in a line or simply take in the sunset views. Beachgoers can easily walk from Naples Beach to Lowdermilk Park and Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park, extending their options for recreation.
Nearby Marco Island also boasts spectacular beaches, including Tigertail Beach. Flanked by natural sand dunes, Tigertail is renowned for its soft sand and excellent shelling. The island's isolated location keeps crowds to a minimum. Further south, Keewaydin Island is a true hidden gem, reachable only by boat. With no roads or buildings, its deserted shores feel like your own private island escape.
While the Paradise Coast beaches offer relaxation and seclusion, amenities are still close by. Beachfront resorts, restaurants and shops can be found in Naples and Marco Island. Golf, fishing charters, kayak rentals and other activities make it easy to enjoy the coastal lifestyle.
What else is in this post?
- Top 10 Best Beaches in the USA for 2024 - Florida's Paradise Coast is Home to America's Best Beach
- Top 10 Best Beaches in the USA for 2024 - Hawaii's famous North Shore Still Delivers Endless Surf
- Top 10 Best Beaches in the USA for 2024 - Sleepy Coastal Towns with Off the Radar Beaches
- Top 10 Best Beaches in the USA for 2024 - Major Cities Offer Surprising Beach Getaways
- Top 10 Best Beaches in the USA for 2024 - Best Beaches for Snorkeling and Scuba Diving Adventures
Top 10 Best Beaches in the USA for 2024 - Hawaii's famous North Shore Still Delivers Endless Surf
Hawaii's North Shore remains one of the world's premier surfing destinations, luring wave riders from around the globe to tackle its legendary breaks. While the North Shore always delivered mind-blowing surf, some worry this surf-centric region has lost its soul amid growing crowds and development. But veterans maintain the North Shore's magical surfing experiences endure.
"The North Shore is timeless - the waves are always pumping and the vibes stay chill," says pro surfer Jamie O'Brien, who grew up riding the Banzai Pipeline. "It doesn't matter how built up it gets, that place stays true to its roots."
The 7-mile stretch from Haleiwa to Sunset Beach hosts the famed "Seven Mile Miracle," renowned for consistent, powerful waves. During the winter months, swells generated in the Aleutian Islands deliver surf up to 50 feet high on outer reefs like Waimea Bay and Pipeline - a testing ground for the world's best surfers. But the North Shore also boasts countless reef, point and beach breaks that offer surf for all abilities year-round.
"I've been coming to the North Shore for over 30 years and I'm still discovering new secret spots," says Tom Graham, owner of Oahu Surf School. "You can surf perfect, uncrowded waves just minutes from all the action."
While the North Shore attracts huge crowds during competitions like the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, the core community maintains its signature casual vibe. Laid-back surf towns like Haleiwa and Pupukea offer great waves right off their beaches, along with hip cafes and shops catering to surfers. Just being immersed in surf culture here is a one-of-a-kind experience.
"I love hanging with the local surf crew, talking story and listening to them play Hawaiian music by the beach," says Jen Nesseth, who spent six months living on the North Shore. "The strong sense of community makes the North Shore special."
Visiting surfers should be respectful by avoiding dropped-in waves and watching for locals in the lineup. With some etiquette, there's room for everyone. And the thrill of riding a wave first ridden by Duke Kahanamoku never gets old.
"I'll never forget catching my first wave at Pipeline," recalls surfer Tony Roberts. "It was the best feeling in the world being inside that perfect blue barrel. The North Shore lives up to the legend."
Top 10 Best Beaches in the USA for 2024 - Sleepy Coastal Towns with Off the Radar Beaches
Dotting America's coastlines are numrous sleepy towns with hidden beach gems just waiting to be discovered. Though they lack the renown of more popular beach destinations, these out-of-the-way communities boast some of the country's most gorgeous stretches of sand. With smaller crowds, slower pace of life and old-fashioned charm, they offer an idyllic beach retreat.
"I stumbled upon the town of Rockport on Texas' Gulf Coast by chance about eight years ago, and it's been my favorite beach destination every since," recounts Jill Thompson, an avid beachgoer. "Though it's just off a major highway, the expansive beach along Rockport feels so remote. You have the whole place to yourself to comb for shells or just sit and watch pelicans glide by."
Other Texas beach towns like Port Aransas, Surfside Beach and South Padre Island also offer pristine shorelines far from crowds. On the East Coast, places like Cape May, New Jersey, Rehoboth Beach, Delaware and Ocean City, Maryland deliver charming, walkable downtowns along with quiet beaches. Tybee Island off the coast of Georgia provides quintessential southern beach vibes without the congestion of more well-known Savannah.
Travelers exploring beyond the coasts can discover even more secluded beach havens. Michigan's Upper Peninsula has Lake Superior towns like Marquette and Munising, where you can dip into the frigid Great Lake waters then warm up beside a campfire under the northern lights. Smith Island, only accessible by boat, provides a slow-paced Chesapeake Bay retreat with Maryland's Soft Shell Crab capital, Crisfield, just a quick ferry ride away.
"I've vacationed in Hawaii, Florida, California and nothing compares to Cannon Beach on Oregon's coast," says Lily Barnes. "Between the looming Haystack Rock, expansive beaches, cute shops and amazing seafood, this small town is my peaceful paradise. The only crowds are seagulls."
Without the hordes of tourists, off-the-radar beach towns allow for intimate experiences - long sunset strolls, hole-in-the-wall seafood joints, chatting with locals fishermen. And avoiding crowds makes beachcombing, swimming and sunbathing all the more enjoyable.
"Finding an amazing beach in a sleepy coastal village you've never heard of before is the best travel feeling," raves Elizabeth Cole, an avid beach lover. "You feel like you're let in on an amazing secret. I'll take these hidden gems over packed hotspots any day."
Top 10 Best Beaches in the USA for 2024 - Major Cities Offer Surprising Beach Getaways
While bustling metropolises may not immediately come to mind as beach destinations, major cities across the U.S. actually offer quick escapes to nearby coastal shores. After exploring a city’s urban attractions, travelers can refresh with a dip in the ocean just a short trip away.
“I absolutely love spending a few days exploring all of Boston’s historic sites, walking the Freedom Trail and taking in the views from the Prudential Tower, then capping off my trip with a ferry ride to relax on the beaches in Provincetown,” says Amy L., an avid Boston visitor. “It feels like you’re instantly transported to a quaint New England fishing village with miles of dunes and lively beach bars - a nice change of pace from the city.”
New Yorkers can ride the subway out to Coney Island for classic beachside amusement rides and Nathan’s Famous hot dogs. Escaping the concrete jungle of Manhattan to lounge on the sand feels like entering a whole different world. Long Beach on Long Island and the Jersey Shore are also popular easy beach getaways - just be sure to avoid peak summer crowds.
Further south, Washington D.C. visitors can take day trips to Maryland’s Sandy Point State Park on the Chesapeake Bay or the family-friendly beaches of Rehoboth, Delaware and Ocean City, Maryland. Philadelphians often head across the Delaware border for relaxing weekends in Cape May, with its Victorian architecture and clean beaches.
Over on the West Coast, residents of Seattle have the ocean beaches of Puget Sound practically in their backyard as well as the San Juan Islands a short ferry ride away. Portland locals often make the quick drive to Cannon Beach on the rugged Oregon Coast to explore the iconic Haystack Rock tidal pools and beachcomb for agates.
Even landlocked cities offer beach town escapes not too far away. Denver dwellers head up to Estes Park and Grand Lake for high alpine lakes with beautiful sandy beaches. Phoenix residents flee the desert heat to cooler northern Arizona lake beaches around Flagstaff. And Oklahomans escape muggy summer days at the shores of Lake Texoma on the border of Texas.
“I love exploring new cities, but always want to mix in a beach day to relax during my travels,” says Tyler S. an avid urban explorer. “I’m often pleasantly surprised by the great beaches I can find not too far from many major cities. It adds much needed variety to my itineraries.”
Top 10 Best Beaches in the USA for 2024 - Best Beaches for Snorkeling and Scuba Diving Adventures
For those seeking an underwater adventure, nothing beats snorkeling and scuba diving at America's top beach destinations. Gliding through crystal waters as schools of tropical fish flutter by delivers next-level beach experiences.
"The underwater scenery was even more stunning than above water," describes Claire S. of her first Hawaii snorkeling experience. "Spotting sea turtles lazily nibbling coral and eagle rays gracefully flapping their wings felt like entering another world."
Oahu's Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve offers one of Hawaii's premier snorkel spots, with over 400 species of fish inhabiting its curved bay and volcanic reef. Maui attracts divers to Molokini Crater, a crescent-shaped caldera filled with colorful coral reefs. Lush sea life also abounds in the Florida Keys, where Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park offers opportunities to snorkel and dive America's only living coral barrier reef.
"Diving the reefs and shipwrecks off Key Largo was the most exhilarating experience of my life," recounts James L. "Being submerged with sharks, goliath grouper, sea turtles and endless tropical fish swimming by is absolutely breathtaking."
The reefs of Puerto Rico's Culebra Island combine top-notch snorkeling and a secluded island escape. Flamenco Beach dazzles with its white sand and turquoise waters, while the adjacent Tamarindo reef hosts octopi, eagle rays and hawksbill turtles.
West Coast adventurers rave about La Jolla Shores in San Diego, where Garibaldi, California's state fish, populate the kelp beds along with bright orange bursts of spawning grunion runs. North of San Francisco, Salt Point State Park offers the chance to dive among seals, sheephead, rockfish and the occasional gray whale.
"Nothing compares to diving with dozens of curious sea lions who want to play and investigate you," says Michael C. of his Salt Point diving experience. "It was an incredibly joyful, hilarious adventure."
Avid snorkelers and divers planning beach trips should pack proper gear - masks, snorkels, fins, wetsuits and buoyancy control devices for scuba - and book boats or rentals from trusted local outfitters. Seeking out off-the-beaten-path coves and reefs with experienced guides provides the best opportunities to discover thriving underwater ecosystems.
"Impromptu snorkeling adventures can be fun, but going with a knowledgeable company opens you up to so many sites and marine life you'd never find on your own," advises Rebecca K., owner of Hawaii Snorkel Tours. "Letting pros handle logistics makes your experience smooth and rewarding."