Choosing the best American beach isn’t easy. With almost 100,000 miles of coastline plus infinite lakes, rivers and ponds perfect for summertime splashing, there are plenty of sandy spots worthy of praise. These are five of our favorites. What are yours? Share with us in the comments or via Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.
Corolla, North Carolina
Two hundred miles of narrow barrier islands comprise North Carolina’s Outer Banks, a popular summer retreat. Our favorite stretch is in Corolla. Just north of the small town of Corolla, the road ends and locals kick in the four-wheel drive to find the perfect beach spot. Bring a cooler - there are no restaurants or commercial outposts - and be on the lookout for wild horses, which roam the dunes. Penny’s Hill, the area’s largest sand dune, is fun for climbing, and be sure to check out the Currituck Lighthouse and historic Whalehead Club before heading home.
Haena Beach, Kauai
This two-mile long beach on Kauai’s verdant North Shore has something for everyone - sections of calmer water for young children, stronger waves in others for more serious surfers (and spectators). Adjacent Tunnels Beach, which is technically part of Haena, is also consider some of Hawaii’s best snorkeling and scuba diving thanks to underground caverns created by lava tubes.
Children’s Beach, Nantucket
As the name says, this calm seaside spot on the north shore is designed for young swimmers. The shallow harbor waters, good facilities (playground, picnic tables, bathrooms and a park) plus lifeguard make days here popular, while the free summer evening concerts and movie screenings bring in families for alfresco picnic dinners. Children’s Beach is walking distance from town and adjacent to the White Elephant, one of our favorite Nantucket hotels.
Zuma Beach, California
A frequent backdrop for Baywatch, Malibu’s Zuma Beach is one of the area’s best and cleanest. Parking can be tricky on a summer day, so arrive early and stake out a spot with a good view of the sea - you can often spot pods of dolphins swimming beyond the break. For older kids, there are good waves for boogie boarding, while younger ones can play in the surf. Just beware of strong tides in certain areas. The helpful lifeguards will point out which parts to avoid.
Crandon Beach, Florida
While Miami’s South Beach may get all the attention, families should head to Key Biscayne and explore Crandon Park Beach, at the tip of the island. This quiet, kid-friendly park has calm surf, a picturesque lighthouse, walking trails and even a nature center for learning about local ecology. Arrive early to rent one of the cabanas, equipped with showers, and bring the burgers - there are full-size grills for use by visitors.