The top 10 US beaches to visit this year

iStockHawaii’s Hapuna Beach made this list.
  • Stephen P. Leatherman a.k.a Dr. Beach, a coastal ecologist and Florida University professor, just released his annual ranking of the top beaches in the US for 2019.
  • The best beaches are determined by many factors such as sand softness, noise level, scenic vistas, water colour, and safety records.
  • According to Dr. Beach, the top beach in the US this year is Kailua Beach Park in Oahu, Hawaii.
  • Other top beaches on this list are located in places like South Carolina, Massachusetts, California, Florida, and New York.
  • Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.

Planning your next beach getaway? You might want to start with this list. Coastal ecologist and Florida International University professor Stephen P. Leatherman, a.k.a “Dr. Beach,” has just released his annual ranking of the best beaches in the US.

Leatherman determines the most vacation-worthy seaside spots in the US by looking at 50 different criteria, including factors like sand softness, water colour, noise level, scenic vistas, and safety records. Plus, many of the beaches on this list have regularly been a part of Dr. Beach’s rankings for years – so they’re definitely worth adding to your to-travel list.

Here are the top 10 beaches in the US for 2019, according to Dr. Beach.


10. Kiawah Beachwalker Park, Kiawah Island, South Carolina

Shutterstock / JASON TENCHThe beach has gentle currents.

This public beach is tucked away on the west end of Kiawah Island. It’s about a 40-minute drive from Charleston, but feels worlds away from the bustle of the city.

Visitors can kayak or canoe through the beach’s natural tidal inlets or cycle down to Captain Sam’s Inlet to check out ospreys, eagles, and other sea birds. And, if you’re lucky, you may even spot dolphins playing just offshore. Families with small children will appreciate this beach’s gentle currents and broad shallows.


9. Coronado Beach, San Diego, California

Robert Cravens/ShutterstockThe sand sparkles in the sun.

Coronado Beach in Southern California was named Dr. Beach’s number-one beach in 2012 and it’s once again made his list. It offers warm, gentle waves and pure white sand that literally sparkles in the sunlight due to its high content of the mineral mica.

Surfing and paddleboarding are popular pastimes here, but it’s equally fun to relax in the soft sand and watch the sailboats glide by.

The legendary Hotel del Coronado also sits along the beach and is well worth a visit – the hotel was featured in Marilyn Monroe’s 1959 film “Some Like it Hot” and is a hot spot for celebrities who are visiting San Diego.

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8. Hapuna Beach, Big Island, Hawaii

Anna Abramskaya/ShutterstockYou can snorkel and scuba here.

Just 1/2 a mile long, Hapuna Beach is Big Island’s largest white-sand beach. Its location in the surreal volcanic landscape of Hapuna Beach State Park means it’s a perennial favourite with visitors.

The beach is almost always sunny – the park only gets about 10 inches of rain per year – and its clear waters make it a scuba diving and snorkelling hotspot. There’s a $US5 parking fee for non-locals, which helps maintain the park and support the beach’s year-round professional lifeguards.

This was Dr. Beach’s top beach in 1993.

Read More: 19 things people commonly get wrong about Hawaii


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

rcgtrrz / FlickrThe beach can only be reached by boat.

This was number one on Dr. Beach’s top-10 list in 2008 and it’s no surprise why.

This pristine beach can only be reached by boat, but it’s likely worth the effort. The public ferry to the island takes about 20 minutes and costs $US14 round trip for adults.

The sand here is made of powdered crystalline quartz that feels plush beneath your feet. Caladesi Island beach also offers visitors the opportunity to explore shady mangrove forests and shimmer seagrass flats by kayak on the island’s special paddling trail. There are also plenty of spots to fish and hike.

Read More: 5 things to know before visiting Florida, from what to eat to where to visit


6. Coast Guard Beach, Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Jay Petersen/ShutterstockYou might see seals at this beach.

Located in the Cape Cod National Seashore in Eastham, Coast Guard Beach is an expansive stretch of white sand and silvery beach grass on the outer edge of Cape Cod.

While here, you can often see seals swimming just a few feet offshore and enjoy unspoiled views of the Nauset Spit barrier system from the beach’s towering bluffs.

Visitors looking for the perfect photo op should check out the postcard-worthy old Coast Guard station that crowns the dunes. You can reach the beach by bicycle or hop on a shuttle bus from the park’s Salt Pond Visitor Center.

Read More: Lifeguards reveal the 16 most annoying things they have seen people do


5. Duke Kahanamoku Beach, Oahu, Hawaii

ShutterstockYou might be able to see a volcano from the shore of this beach,

This curved beach is named after Hawaiian Olympic swimmer Duke Paoa Kahanamoku and is part of Oahu’s famed Waikiki Beach. The beach is protected by an offshore coral reef and offers gentle, warm waters for swimmers and snorkelers.

Those looking for an even more family-friendly spot can also head to the nearby Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon, a 5-acre enclosed beach attached to the Hilton Hawaiian Village beach resort.

This beach was number one on Dr. Beach’s list back in 2014.


4. Coopers Beach, Southampton, New York

iStockThere’s plenty of sand and sun.

East-Coast beachgoers will appreciate the stunning dunes and warm waters of Coopers Beach on the southern shore of Long Island.

It features hundreds of yards of white-quartz sand to spread out on and, though the view over the ocean is impressive, the shoreline is studded with equally breathtaking mansions and beach homes.

Visitors can grab food and drinks at the beach snack bar but should bring extra cash to cover the per vehicle parking fee that is around $US40.

In 2010, this was Dr. Beach’s number-one pick.

Read More: 13 places to travel to in New York that aren’t the city


3. Grayton Beach State Park, Walton County, Florida

Wikimedia Commons/Larry D. Moore (CC BY-SA 3.0)There are coastal hiking trails you can follow, too.

This charming beach benefits from being a protected natural area and visitors can enjoy the beauty of its lofty dunes while staying within easy reach of amenities in the nearby towns of Grayton Beach and Seaside.

Along with powdery white sand, the beach offers over 4 miles of coastal forest hiking trails through scrub oaks and magnolia trees. Visitors also have the chance to paddle around a 100-acre coastal dune lake.

In 1994, this was Dr. Beach’s top beach in the US.


2. Ocracoke Lifeguarded Beach, Hyde County, North Carolina

ShutterstockThe beach is patrolled by professional lifeguards.

Ocracoke Lifeguarded Beach is one of the jewels of North Carolina’s Outer Banks. As the name suggests, this beach is patrolled by professional lifeguards who help keep summer bathers safe from the strong currents.

Visitors can enjoy soft, white sand and stunning emerald waters, not to mention plenty of showers and changing facilities.

In 2007, this was Dr. Beach’s number-one beach.

Read More: Where to go on vacation with your partner, depending on how long you’ve been together


1. Kailua Beach Park, Oahu, Hawaii

ShutterstockThe beach has a gentle surf.

According to Dr. Beach, the best beach in the US this year is Kailua Beach Park on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. Kailua Beach Park also topped Dr. Beach’s list in 1998.

This seaside spot has it all: dreamy turquoise waters, powdery sand, gentle surf, shady trees, lifeguards, and plenty of parking. The beach has actually grown in the past few decades due to erosion prevention efforts in nearby Lanikai.

Kailua Beach is only five minutes away from downtown Kailua, but limited development along the shore has kept the area feeling like a remote tropical paradise.

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