Blake Walsh

These Are 11 of The Best Beach Vacations Spots in the U.S.

  • Published 2024/02/29

Beach vacations are a quintessential part of the American travel experience, offering a blend of relaxation, adventure, and stunning natural beauty. Whether you’re seeking the tranquil, turquoise waters of Hawaii or the lively shores of Florida, the United States boasts a diverse range of coastal destinations to suit every type of beachgoer.

Maui, Hawaii

maui sunset

Maui, known as “The Valley Isle,” is a paradise for beach lovers, offering some of the most breathtaking shorelines in the world. From the golden sands of Kaanapali Beach to the serene waters of Wailea, Maui’s beaches are as diverse as they are beautiful. Visitors can indulge in a variety of activities, from snorkeling among vibrant coral reefs to surfing the legendary waves of Honolua Bay.

Key attractions include the Road to Hana, where travelers can explore the island’s lush landscapes and hidden waterfalls, and Haleakalā National Park, known for its stunning sunrise views. The best time to visit Maui is typically during the spring and fall when the weather is pleasant, and the island is less crowded.

Maui not only offers stunning beaches but also a rich cultural experience, with opportunities to learn about Hawaiian traditions and cuisine. Whether you’re seeking adventure or relaxation, Maui provides an unforgettable beach vacation experience.

Key West, Florida

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Key West, the southernmost point in the United States, offers a unique blend of cultural influences, historical landmarks, and idyllic beaches. This small island is known for its laid-back atmosphere, vibrant nightlife, and crystal-clear waters, making it a perfect destination for both relaxation and adventure.

Tourists can enjoy a variety of water activities, such as snorkeling in the Florida Reef, the only living coral barrier reef in the continental U.S., or sailing into the sunset on a historic schooner. Duval Street, the heart of Key West, provides endless entertainment with its eclectic mix of shops, bars, and restaurants.

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Islamorada Florida Keys Dock Pier Sunrise

Travel tips for visiting Key West include exploring the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum, where the famed author lived and wrote for more than ten years, and taking a photo at the iconic Southernmost Point buoy. The best time to visit is from November to April when the weather is warm and dry, offering an ideal escape from colder climates.

Key West is not just a beach destination; it’s a place where history, culture, and natural beauty converge to create a truly unique vacation experience.

Malibu, California

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Malibu, with its iconic 21-mile stretch of coastline, is the epitome of a California beach paradise. Known for its celebrity homes and pristine beaches, Malibu offers a serene escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. Zuma Beach, with its vast expanse of sand and surf, is perfect for families and surfers alike, while the secluded El Matador Beach provides a more intimate setting with dramatic sea cliffs and caves.

Top things to do in Malibu include visiting the Getty Villa, which houses an impressive collection of ancient art, and hiking the trails of Malibu Creek State Park, offering stunning views of the Pacific and the Santa Monica Mountains. For wine enthusiasts, Malibu’s wine country offers tastings and tours that showcase the region’s burgeoning wine scene.

When planning a trip to Malibu, consider visiting between May and October for the warmest beach weather. However, even during the off-season, Malibu’s mild climate makes it a pleasant destination year-round. Whether you’re looking to catch some waves, explore the outdoors, or simply relax on the sand, Malibu provides an idyllic backdrop for any beach vacation.

Outer Banks, North Carolina

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The Outer Banks (OBX) is a string of barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina, known for its wide-open beachfronts, historic sites, and a laid-back atmosphere. This destination is perfect for those seeking a mix of adventure and relaxation, with miles of sandy beaches, wild horses roaming free in Corolla, and the famous Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kitty Hawk.

Visitors can explore the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, a haven for anglers, surfers, and beachcombers, or climb the historic lighthouses that dot the coastline, offering panoramic views of the Atlantic. The OBX is also renowned for its unique maritime culture and history, including the mysterious Lost Colony of Roanoke Island.

Outer Banks North Carolina 1

For the best experience, plan your visit between May and September when the weather is warm, and the water is suitable for swimming. However, the shoulder seasons can also offer quieter beaches and lower accommodation prices. Whether you’re parasailing above the ocean, discovering the rich history, or simply soaking up the sun, the Outer Banks offers an unforgettable beach vacation steeped in natural beauty and American heritage.

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

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Myrtle Beach, a popular destination on the East Coast, is renowned for its 60 miles of stunning sandy beaches, known as the Grand Strand. This family-friendly locale offers a plethora of attractions, including amusement parks, water parks, live entertainment, and golf courses, making it an ideal spot for travelers of all ages.

The Myrtle Beach Boardwalk and Promenade, with its iconic SkyWheel, shops, and restaurants, provides endless entertainment and dining options. For nature lovers, the Myrtle Beach State Park offers a more serene environment with opportunities for fishing, hiking, and spotting local wildlife.

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Travelers should consider visiting Myrtle Beach between June and August for the warmest beach weather, although the spring and fall seasons also offer pleasant temperatures and fewer crowds. Seasonal events, such as summer music festivals and autumn harvest fairs, add to the area’s charm and appeal.

Whether it’s lounging on the beach, exploring the vibrant boardwalk, or enjoying the numerous family attractions, Myrtle Beach offers a dynamic and enjoyable vacation experience for every visitor.

Clearwater Beach, Florida

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Clearwater Beach is celebrated for its white sand beaches and crystal-clear waters, making it a top choice for beachgoers. This award-winning beach offers a variety of water activities, including stand-up paddleboarding, parasailing, and jet-skiing, ensuring a fun-filled vacation for both families and adventure seekers.

The Beach Walk, a picturesque promenade lined with cafes, shops, and hotels, provides the perfect backdrop for a leisurely stroll or an evening sunset watch. Clearwater Marine Aquarium, home to Winter the dolphin, offers educational and interactive experiences for visitors of all ages.

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For the best experience, visit Clearwater Beach from September to December, when the weather is still warm, but the summer crowds have thinned. The area’s annual events, like the Clearwater Jazz Holiday and the Sugar Sand Festival, offer unique experiences beyond the beach.

Clearwater Beach combines the allure of pristine beaches with the convenience of urban amenities, making it an ideal spot for a rejuvenating beach vacation. Whether you’re seeking relaxation or outdoor activities, Clearwater Beach caters to all tastes and preferences.

Cannon Beach, Oregon

mor Cannon Beach

Cannon Beach, located in the scenic Pacific Northwest, offers a different beach experience with its rugged coastline and dramatic rock formations. Famous for Haystack Rock, an iconic sea stack that rises 235 feet above the shore, this beach is a haven for wildlife enthusiasts, photographers, and nature lovers.

The town of Cannon Beach is known for its charming art galleries, cozy cafes, and local boutiques, making it a perfect retreat for those seeking relaxation and culture. The surrounding area is ripe for exploration, with hiking trails in Ecola State Park providing stunning views of the Oregon coast and opportunities for spotting elk and bald eagles.

Visiting Cannon Beach between June and September offers the best chance for warm weather and clear skies, although the moody and misty off-season has its own appeal for those looking for a more introspective beach experience. Regardless of the season, Cannon Beach’s natural beauty and laid-back atmosphere make it a must-visit destination for beachgoers seeking a tranquil escape.

Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Cape cod national seashore

Cape Cod, with its quaint villages, lighthouses, and scenic beaches, offers a quintessential New England beach vacation. The Cape’s National Seashore boasts miles of sandy beaches, marshes, ponds, and uplands supporting diverse species of wildlife, making it an ideal spot for nature walks and bird watching.

The region is famous for its historic charm, with Hyannis being known for the Kennedy Compound and Provincetown for its vibrant arts scene and LGBTQ+ friendly community. Visitors can enjoy whale-watching tours, seafood dining, and visiting the numerous art galleries and museums.

The best time to visit Cape Cod is from late spring to early fall when the weather is warm and the towns are bustling with activities. However, the shoulder seasons offer quieter beaches and lower prices, with the unique beauty of Cape Cod’s autumn foliage.

Cape Cod’s blend of history, culture, and natural beauty offers something for every traveler, from serene beach days to exploring maritime history and enjoying local cuisine.

South Padre Island, Texas

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South Padre Island is a barrier island off the southern coast of Texas, renowned for its beautiful white sand beaches and clear blue waters. It’s a favorite spring break destination, but beyond the party scene, it offers a plethora of family-friendly activities and water sports like dolphin watching, parasailing, and kiteboarding.

The island is also a haven for nature lovers, with the Laguna Madre Nature Trail providing opportunities for bird watching and the Sea Turtle, Inc. facility offering educational programs about sea turtle conservation. Additionally, visitors can explore the South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center, which features boardwalks and viewing towers for observing native wildlife.

The best time to visit South Padre Island is from September to February, when the weather is mild, and the crowds are smaller. However, if you’re looking to partake in the lively spring break festivities, March is the time to go.

South Padre Island’s warm Gulf waters, abundant wildlife, and diverse range of activities make it an ideal destination for those looking to enjoy a beach vacation with more than just sunbathing.

Laguna Beach, California

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Laguna Beach offers more than just stunning coastline; it’s a cultural hub nestled along the Pacific Ocean. Known for its picturesque coves, expansive vistas, and artistic community, Laguna Beach provides a unique blend of natural beauty and refined culture. Visitors can explore more than 30 beaches and coves, such as the secluded Thousand Steps Beach or the tide pools at Crystal Cove State Park.

The city is also famous for its art festivals, including the Pageant of the Masters and Sawdust Art Festival, where art comes to life in various forms. For outdoor enthusiasts, hiking trails in Laguna Coast Wilderness Park offer breathtaking views of the coast and lush hillsides.

The ideal time to visit Laguna Beach is during the summer months, when the weather is warm, and the city’s cultural events are in full swing. However, the mild climate makes it a delightful destination year-round.

Whether you’re an art aficionado, an outdoor adventurer, or a beach lover, Laguna Beach caters to all interests, making it a must-visit for those seeking a beach vacation with an artistic twist.

Waikiki, Hawaii

Waikiki HI

Waikiki is one of the most famous beach destinations in the world, known for its golden sands and clear blue waters, set against the backdrop of Diamond Head Crater. This bustling neighborhood of Honolulu offers more than just beach activities; it’s a place where Hawaiian culture and modern amenities blend seamlessly.

Visitors can learn to surf in the gentle waves, enjoy a traditional Hawaiian luau, or simply relax on the iconic Waikiki Beach. The area is filled with world-class shopping, dining, and entertainment options, making it perfect for travelers seeking a vibrant beach experience.

The best time to visit Waikiki is from April to June and September to December when the weather is pleasant, and the tourist crowds are thinner. However, Waikiki’s tropical climate and lively atmosphere make it a great destination to visit year-round.

Waikiki is not just a beach; it’s an experience that combines the beauty of Hawaiian nature with the luxuries of modern living, making it an unforgettable destination for any traveler.

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