The best way to celebrate the start of summer is to take yourself on a well-deserved beach getaway. While tropical islands and international trips are great, you don’t need to go too far to bask in the goodness of a classic beach vacation. The U.S. offers a plethora of coastal gems that can make you feel like you’re worlds away.
To help you find the absolute best beaches to visit this season, we asked 10 travel writers and influencers to share their all-time favorite U.S. beaches. From classic California hotspots to a lakeside oasis to unexpected, rocky coastlines, the beaches below will inspire your summer travel itinerary.
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- Travel Influencers Share Their Biggest Travel Mistakes (So You Don’t Make Them Too)
- Travel Writers And Influencers Predict 2022 Travel Trends
- Hotels We Love: Surfhouse In Encinitas (CA) Is A Beach Lover’s Dream
EDITOR’S PICK: STEVE BRAMUCCI (@steve_bramucci) — LAGUNA BEACH, CALIFORNIA
Is it a homer pick for me to vote for Laguna Beach — having lived there on and off for quite some time now? Or did I choose to live in Laguna because it’s the best beach in the nation? All I know is this: As far as beach destinations go, I’ve never seen a mix of weather, waves, and scenery inside the United States quite like Laguna Beach. And I’ve been to 45 states and territories with beaches always on my mind.
What’s so great about Laguna Beach? It’s the cliffs.
See, unlike Newport to the north or San Clemente to the south, Laguna is cut into segments by sandstone cliffs that often push into the sea, thereby creating a series of coves. Some of these many coves are well known. Others are not. If you pressed me, I could show you a beach in Laguna that you can share with maybe a handful of other people on the freaking 4th of July. No joke — beaches like Totuava in the south of town and Shaw’s Cove in the north are legitimately never crowded.
For my money, you can’t beat the famed Thalia Street Beach — Laguna’s most well-known longboarding surf spot and a favorite among… just about everyone. Not to veer into cliche but this beach is seriously vibey. You’ve got the surfers sharing “party waves,” the families playing along the shoreline, and the teenagers camped out next to the lifeguard tower. It feels like a scene out of another, more idyllic time where everyone is surfing and laughing and flirting.
Best of all, thanks to some very vigilant locals, Laguna’s beaches are clean — nearly devoid of trash. That’s such a pleasure and adds to the experience tremendously. Whether you’re hanging at Treasure Island Beach with the movie stars staying at The Montage or getting “body whomped” by the shore break waves at Crescent Bay, please help us keep it up when you visit next!
NICOLETTA DARITA DE LA BROWN (@vida.magica.love) — TAMPA, FLORIDA
You gotta go to Tampa. I will pack a bikini in my carry-on. So that as soon as I get off my flight, I take a car service to my hotel which is always right on the beach. Then walk from my room in a bikini to the pool and then to the beach. I’m in the water in just a few steps. The water is a crystal clear, gorgeous turquoise blue. It is so calm, peaceful, and warm.
There are beautiful little crabs that dance up and down the beach, and the sand is super soft. It’s so expansive. No matter if there are so many people on the beach, you always feel like you have so much space. I can feel like I’m in my own oasis even if I’m clearly on a beach with lots of people who are also staying at their own glamorous hotels.
My favorite time is to go in the morning right after sunrise and just dance on the beach. It’s so cool still in the morning in Florida. So before it gets really humid and sticky hot, I’m out there dancing in the waves. That’s my favorite thing. It’s definitely going to Tampa, whether that’s St. Petersburg Beach or Clearwater Beach. You can only do things right in Tampa. Everyone should definitely book a flight to Tampa and book a gorgeous hotel on the coastline.
JOE SILLS (@joesills) — NEPTUNE BEACH, OREGON
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Neptune Beach is as barebones as they come. While the beaches of northern Oregon are popular escapes for weekend crowds coming out of the cities, crowds start to thin further south. Three hours from Portland, a blip on the map gives road trippers the perfect place to unplug.
Little more than a pullout on the side of the 101, this stretch of Oregon sand is a natural playground. Low tide delivers access to a labyrinth of tide pools filled with starfish, sea urchins, and crabs beneath coastal cliffs. A freshwater creek cuts through the beach that often hosts harbor seals and passing whales—and it’s all located just minutes from seaside coffee stands that dot the small towns up and down the Oregon Coast.
EMILY HART (@emilyventures) — JACKSON LAKE SWIM BEACH, WYOMING
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When I visualize the perfect summer beach day, I don’t often think of a sandy coastline. While I love a traditional tropical vibe, my favorite beach could not be more different. Its coastline is rocky, the water is often frigid, and I would choose it over any other any day.
Jackson Lake Swim Beach is a stretch of rocky shore on Jackson Lake in Grand Teton National Park. Located within the Colter Bay area of the park, it is the perfect place to take a dip, read a book, or get in some sunbathing. Bring a chair or a thick blanket for comfort, and some water shoes if you’re getting in.
The view over the lake is truly unreal. The glacially carved canyons tower above you in a way that I haven’t experienced anywhere else. There are no foothills here, the peaks just jut out magically above. It is a beach experience I hope everyone can have one day.
To access, you’ll need to enter the Colter Bay area of Grand Teton National Park. You can pick up food or drinks at the general store then turn to the right on Cottonwood Way when you get to the water. There is parking along the lakeside — I recommend parking at the far end of the road where it turns around. If the water is too cold, head to the marina to rent a kayak or boat. And spend your beach day enjoying the view.
JARED RANAHAN (@jaredranahan) — OUTER BANKS, NORTH CAROLINA
It’s a pretty tough decision, but my ultimate favorite beach has to be the entire Outer Banks shoreline. I’ve been coming here on family vacation for the past decade and a half, I have a massive extended family so we get a beach house that fits about 20 people and just hang out for the week, it’s a really beloved tradition for us. But aside from the nostalgia factor, the beaches across the Outer Banks are gorgeous, with soft sand and a lot of potential for bodyboarding.
Also, the Outer Banks coast has one pretty incredible feature that few beaches around the world are able to match. As a writer who focuses on wildlife and ecotourism, the wild beach horses are so incredible to see in person. No one is sure exactly how they arrived in the area—it’s possible that they were tossed overboard by Spanish ships to reduce weight and they swam to shore and survived, which is a pretty fascinating origin story. They’ve actually adapted quite well to survive in the area — they dig trenches in the sand to find potable water underground, they’re really incredible creatures. There are a couple of tour operators in the area that give ample insight into the history of the horses, I’ve personally had a great experience with Wild Horse Adventure Tours.
Beyond the horses, there’s a lot more to love about the Outer Banks. History-wise, the Wright Brothers’ first successful flight took place in Kitty Hawk, and the famed pirate Edward Teach—better known as Blackbeard—used to prowl the nearby shores for loot, and even met his demise on the Outer Banks coast. For modern-day visitors, I recommend checking out the local brewery scene (I’m a big fan of Northern Outer Banks Brewing Company, they have great lagers), sampling some of the local seafood restaurants, checking out the Roanoke Aquarium, and—speaking as a serious fan of birdwatching—going on a birding expedition around Cape Hatteras National Seashore.
I’ll be heading back to the Outer Banks this August and I can’t wait to see them again!
JORDAN FIELDS (@theplacesjogoes) — SIESTA KEY, FLORIDA
When it comes to US Beaches I have to say I am definitely a Florida girl. From the North Beaches in Destin all the way down to the Florida Keys, I’ve had the opportunity to see my fair share of Florida beaches and I have yet to be disappointed!
For a long time, Destin was definitely my favorite, up until recently when my family and I took a family vacation to Siesta Key, and I have to say that it’s definitely the front runner now!
From the white-sand beaches to the most charming little town filled with the cutest shops, bars, and restaurants, everything about Siesta Key makes for a perfect beach vacation!!
ESTHER SUSAG (@estherelsewhere) — TANGUISSON BEACH, GUAM (U.S. Territory)
I wish I had been better at photography when I was in Guam to properly showcase how insanely beautiful this beach is. But, Tanguisson is the prettiest beach I have been to in the U.S. (even if it is “just” a territory). This beach is the absolute best at sunset. Get yourself a friend or significant other, grab a bottle of wine, and go enjoy one of the most beautiful picnics you’ll ever have. I had heard that this beach was pretty, but until I saw it with my own eyes, I had no idea just how beautiful it was.
I genuinely think it’s one of the prettiest parts of Guam. Not to mention, it’s a little off the beaten path a bit and around a 20-minute drive from the main city on Guam, so it’s not very crowded. Also, if you are into star gazing, this place is absolutely insane for watching the stars at night.
CHLOE CALDWELL (@chloeicaldwell) — VENTURA BEACH, CALIFORNIA
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I grew up about 45 minutes from Ventura Beach, so maybe the nostalgia of spending many summer days of my childhood and adolescence there makes me biased. But to me, Ventura is an underrated beach destination that’s well worth a visit. Tucked on the coastline between LA and Santa Barbara, Ventura offers a more low-key, laidback beachside getaway.
You’ll find wide stretches of sand, sunset views from the Ventura Pier, boutique shopping and diverse dining on Main Street, outdoor sports like paddleboarding, surfing, and biking, and pretty much anything else you’d imagine a quintessential Southern California beach town to feature. You’ll never get bored during a weekend spent in Ventura.
While the water is chilly year-round and the beach gets crowded during summer, it’s not nearly as packed as the tourist-infested beaches of LA like Santa Monica and Venice (although these are still some of my favorite beaches, too). You’re able to enjoy your time in the sun without fighting for a spot in the sand or waiting an hour to eat at a nearby lunch spot. Whenever I need to get away from the city and relax, Ventura is my go-to staycation destination.
KIM LOGAN (@kim.n.logan) — BAKER BEACH, OREGON
If you’re driving south on the Pacific Coast Highway in Oregon, there’s a fantastic pullout after the Sea Lion Caves on the way to Florence, which offers a stunning view of Baker Beach and a trail through sand dunes will take you to the water. The lookout is perfect for a moment of wellness and the pristine sand is just begging to be walked on.
I’m Aussie, so I have high standards when it comes to beaches but with the pristine coastline and wild surf, Baker Beach gives Australian beaches a run for their money!
EMILY HART (@emilyventures) — INDIANA DUNES BEACHES, INDIANA
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I grew up in Illinois, so there will always be a place in my heart for a midwestern beach. There is something different about a day spent along the coast of the Great Lakes. And just like the midwest itself — it’s not pretentious or trying to be anything that it’s not. Luckily, what it is is pretty great.
Some of my favorite beaches are actually just over 30 miles outside Chicago — at Indiana Dunes National and State Parks. Indiana Dunes is one of the United States’ newest National Parks — changing designation from a National Lakeshore to a National Park in 2019. The park covers about 20 miles of the southern Lake Michigan coastline that is so vast and powerful you might forget you are in the middle of the country.
There are nine beaches within Indiana Dunes — with eight inside the National Park and one inside the State Park. West Beach is probably the most popular in the National Park, with the largest parking area, concessions, and a bathhouse. It’s the Westernmost beach (as you might have guessed) and can fill up on warm days.
Another option I love is the Indiana Dunes State Park Beach – although they are separate entities with separate entrance fees ($15 for the National Park and $12 for the State Park). The State Park beach has dunes and is also where you can access the 3 Dune Challenge – a hike that takes you up over the three tallest sand dunes in the park. At only 1.5 miles, but with 552 vertical gain on sand, trust me when I say you’ll want to jump in the water immediately after your attempt.
COLLETTE STOHLER (@roamaroo) — HERMOSA BEACH, CALIFORNIA
Hermosa Beach is the sweetheart of SoCal. Best known for its volleyball culture, great surf, and lively apres-beach cocktail scene, this quintessential California beach town has nearly two miles of soft sand beach that hugs the Pacific Ocean. When visiting Hermosa Beach, make sure to play volleyball (or take a lesson from a pro), grab coffee at Two Guns Espresso, dine on breakfast burritos at Brothers Burritos, rent bikes and bike along The Strand, and end the day with margaritas at Palmilla Cocina Y Tequila.