You’ve got your sun, sand and surf--a universal marker of serenity, right? Well, not so fast, bathing beauty--some beaches are intrinsically better than others. Here we rank the top 14 for you.
1. Waikiki Beach, Oahu, Hawaii
Yes, it’s Hawaii. Yes, it’s one of the most stunning places in the whole entire world. But it’s also a terrific spot to learn to surf thanks to gentle waves with long breaks. Plus, it’s very Hawaii 5-0.
2. South Beach, Miami, Florida
This stretch of Art Deco hotels, wide sidewalks and ocean-view cafés is a mingling mecca for the international jet set.
3. North-End Beach, Captiva, Florida
Wanna see seashells by the seashore? You will here, at the best beachcombing spot in the continental U.S. (A broad underwater shelf means currents drop off their glittering prizes before flowing onward.)
4. Corolla, North Carolina
This wide, unspoiled Outer Banks beach has an added attraction: herds of wild Mustangs (descended from horses that escaped from Spanish explorers in the 1500s) that roam freely.
5. Moshup Beach, Aquinnah, Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts
Backed by tall cliffs where nudists used to paint themselves with natural clay in the '70s, this shoreline is still public and clothing optional. Just don’t touch the clay, or Johnny Law will fine you.
6. Ke’e Beach, Kauai, Hawaii
It’s the wild kingdom up in here: Monk seals loll on the sand, wild roosters roam the shoreline and, in the distance, you can spot cliffs used as the set for Jurassic Park.
7. Siesta Beach, Florida
This is hands-down the most powdery sand in the country (99 percent pure quartz). Going barefoot is like whoa.
8. Victoria Beach, Laguna Beach, California
The end of this cliff-backed beach has an abandoned stone stair tower to explore, and tidal pools puddle on the shore. Best of all, throughout most of the year you can bring your dog.
9. North Avenue Beach, Chicago
Hunky volleyball players drinking PBR. Bespectacled Gold Coast matrons sunning themselves. The Chicago skyline at your back, and placid Lake Michigan rolling out before you. What’s not to love?
10. Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park, Naples, Florida
This natural barrier island’s pristine stretches are what attracted everyone to Florida in the first place. Sunbathe while keeping an eye out for bald eagles and ospreys.
11. Ballston Beach, Truro, Massachusetts
This Yankee slice of wind-swept sand and steel-gray sea has an arty claim to fame: It was the inspiration for painter Edward Hopper’s Truro series.
12. Gulf Shores, Alabama
Turquoise waters and powdery sand eroded from the Appalachian Mountains make for a quiet beachcombing experience…as long as you stay away during spring break.
13. Ditch Plains, Montauk, New York
The natural beauty of this rocky stretch of shoreline almost makes up for the douchey i-bankers who descend every weekend.
14. Santa Monica, California
Guys: Baywatch was shot here.