If you're looking for a relaxing getaway that will leave you feeling at ease and looking tan, the beach never fails. However, dreaming up tropical vacations to faraway places may not suit your budget. Luckily, you don't have to leave the country to experience some of the best beaches out there.
"When you think of beautiful beaches, stunning islands might come to mind but the truth is, the United States has some of the best beach fronts in the world," says Tara Cappel, founder of the boutique curated travel company For the Love of Travel. From the east coast to the west coast, there are plenty of gorgeous beach towns and cities by the water to be explored. You just have to know where to look.
That's why we tapped Cappel for her insights on the very best beaches in the U.S. Whether you're looking for a secluded, private beach, hoping to get in on the action with a surf lesson, or ready to relax during the day and go out on the town at night, here are 10 beaches in the U.S. that belong on your travel bucket list. Just remember to pack your sunscreen, a swimsuit, and your best sunnies. Sun and sand await.
Hanalei Beach, Hawaii
Of all the gorgeous stretches of coastline in Hawaii, Cappel names this spot on the island of Kauai as one of the best. "This stretch of sand of Kauai is particularly stunning," the travel pro says. You may even recognize this beach from the movie, The Descendents, which was filmed here—likely due to its lush, tropical surroundings and crystal clear waters. "Hanalei has great snorkeling, fun surf spots, and perfect white sand," Cappel adds.
South Beach, Florida
It's no surprise that the Florida coast makes this list of the best beaches in the U.S. While it may not be ideal for everyone (especially if you're looking for a more private, secluded destination), Cappel explains that South Beach is just the place for people in search of a vacation spot that combines the best of a relaxing beach vacation with a bit of nightlife. "For those looking for a vacation that combines beautiful beaches with booze-y bars and wild nightlife, you just can’t beat Miami’s South Beach," she says ."It might be crowded and a bit chaotic, but there is something undeniably amazing about this beach scene," the traveler continues.
North Avenue Beach, Chicago
"Chicago might not be the first place that comes to mind when thinking about a beach vacation, but North Avenue Beach is actually an amazing option for people looking for a good city and beach combo," Cappel says. As long as you visit during the summertime, you can enjoy both the city life and the calming beachy atmosphere. "You can go stand up paddleboarding, play beach volleyball, or just hang out with the throngs of Chicagoans making the most of the summer months," Cappel points out.
Ocracoke Beach, Outer Banks
If you're keen to visit the Carolinas, make sure to add Ocracoke Beach to your list of local spots to find. "What makes this stretch of sand on Ocracoke's Island so spectacular is how undiscovered it feels," Cappel says. Located off the coast of North Carolina, the island's population is no more than 1000 people, ensuring that you'll be able to enjoy a secluded stretch of beach. "In the high season, you may see a handful of other beachgoers but many times, it will feel like you have your own private island," she continues.
Clearwater Beach, Florida
"No best beaches list would be complete without Florida’s stunning Clearwater Beach," according to Cappel. One of the most well-loved beach towns in the sunny state, this beach deserves a spot on your beach bucket list. "Its pillowy white sand and frequent dolphin sightings make it a pretty magical place to visit—and one you can enjoy pretty much year-round," the travel pro explains.
Meyers Creek Beach, Oregon
Meyers Creek Beach, located on Oregon's southern coast might not be your typical beach vacation destination, Cappel explains. However, she believes it's worthy of your attention due to its unique beauty. "Its undeveloped coastlines and famous sea stacks (tall rocks scattered along the coast) are an otherworldly experience," she says. One look at the unusual coastline and you'll think you're on another planet. If you're in the area, it's definitely worth the road trip.
Blacks Beach, California
Located in the Southern California beach town of La Jolla, Blacks Beach does not disappoint. According to Cappel, in order to even reach the coastline, you'll have to hike down a steep cliffside, but this only adds to the exclusivity of the breathtaking spot. "It’s also a popular spot for paragliders who dot the sky and surfers scattered throughout the waves," she notes.
Flamenco Beach, Puerto Rico
"For a true Caribbean beach experience, look no further than Flamenco Beach in Puerto Rico," Cappel says. It's the perfect way to visit a beautiful, tropical coastline without even needing to bring along your passport. "Its shallow, turquoise water means you can spend most of the day leisurely swimming before napping on the powdery white sand," she adds. Just look at the way that clear, blue water contrasts with the light sand and lush landscape.
Coast Guard Beach, Cape Cod
If you're looking to visit a beach on the east coast, Coast Guard Beach in Cape Cod should be on your list. "[It's] the perfect place to post up with a good book before cooling off in the refreshing Atlantic water," Cappel says. A far cry from the colder, harsher water of the Pacific, this spot was made for relaxing and enjoying a quiet moment with only the sounds of the lapping water to keep you company. "The picturesque dunes and mild temps make this a super romantic beach getaway," she adds.
Avila Beach, California
"I love Avila Beach because it feels Iike you’re stepping back in time," Cappel says. One look at the dreamy coastline and it's tough to disagree. Tucked away in the city of San Luis Obispo about 160 miles northwest of Los Angeles, Avila Beach offers everything you'd expect from a central California beach town—from wine tastings to surf lessons. "This charming, under-the-radar spot in the middle of the California coast oozes retro SoCal vibes," according to Cappel. "Grab an ice cream, stroll the boardwalk, and pretend it’s the summer of ‘69 again," she continues.