What makes a beautiful beach? For some, it’s sand as soft as powdered sugar and sunsets that look like cotton candy being swirled in the sky. For others, namely surfers, it’s big barrel waves rolling in towards the shore. Others will prioritize crystal-clear waters so they can spot tropical fish darting about as they snorkel. Really, beauty is in the eye of the beachgoer.
In all, the United States has more than 95,000 miles of shoreline, which means there are lots of great beaches to explore. To help narrow down some of the best, though, TripAdvisor releases a best beaches list every year.
These beaches are worth having on your radar this year.
So, how exactly does TripAdvisor determine the best of the best when it comes to beaches? The travel website says the award winners were determined based on the quantity and quality of traveler reviews, and the ratings they gave beaches on TripAdvisor, which were gathered over a one-year period.
Best Beaches Around The World
In all, TripAdvisor has recognized 352 beaches around the world. The travel company has dedicated best-beaches lists for Africa, Asia, Europe, South America, Australia, Central America, the Middle East, South Pacific, Caribbean, Brazil, Costa Rica, France, Germany, Greece, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Portugal, Spain, Thailand, Turkey, U.K. and the United States. Plus, TripAdvisor put together a best-beaches in the world list.
The No. 1 Beach In The World
We’ll get to the best beaches in the United States here shortly. But, if you want to pull out your passport and are looking for the best beach in the world, TripAdvisor reviewers are recommending Baia do Sancho (or Sancho Bay) in Brazil. It earned the lofty title of TripAdvisor’s best beach.
Sancho Bay is among the islands that make up Fernando de Noronha, an archipelago off of the Brazilian coast and in the Atlantic Ocean. Sancho Bay is protected, and foreign visitors are required to pay about $50 for 10 days of beach access and to help preserve the area.
The U.S. State With The Highest-Rated Beaches
Florida beaches are the most loved by TripAdvisor reviewers. Of the best beaches on the 2019 list, 40 percent happen to be in Florida. With 663 miles of beach, the Sunshine State has plenty to offer vacationers. Because beaches have personalities of their own, Florida’s tourism department will help you pick out a beach that best fits your interests, whether it’s quiet and secluded or bustling with nightlife or an area that’s renowned for having sugary white sand.
Hawaii Is Highly Rated, Too
After Florida, Hawaii was next up when it comes to beaches most-loved by travelers. Thirty percent of the beaches on the U.S. list are concentrated in Hawaii. Hollywood loves Hawaii beaches, too. Films like “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” “50 First Dates,” and “Blue Crush” have been filmed in the Aloha State. Now, on to the top 25 list…
25. Sandbridge Beach In Virginia Beach, Virginia
Sand dunes, marshes and golden dancing sea oats set a serene scene at Sandbridge Beach, which is among the more secluded hideaways in Virginia Beach and is ranked No. 25 on this year’s TripAdvisor list. The beach is about 15 miles away from the bustling Virginia Beach resort area. The quiet beach is a draw for kayaking (be on the lookout for dolphins!) as well as beginning surfing.
24. Race Point Beach In Provincetown, Massachusetts
Bring binoculars: Come spring, you just might spot humpback whales off the coast of Race Point Beach, which is in Cape Cod National Seashore. One of just two northeastern beaches on TripAdvisor’s U.S. beaches list, Race Point’s star amenity is a picturesque lighthouse. If you’re lucky and can snag a reservation, you can slumber in the charming lighthouse or keeper’s house, with views looking out at the ocean.
23. Napili Beach In Lahaina, Hawai
Snorkeling and swimming are big draws at this crescent-shaped beach in west Maui. Waters in Napili Bay are often calm, and the beach has garnered a reputation as being laidback and family-friendly. In addition to tropical fish, you may be able to spot sea turtles when you’re exploring the waters with your snorkel gear. Keep your eyes peeled for monk seals.
22. Manini’owali Beach (Kua Bay) In Kailua-Kona, Hawaii
Scoop up a handful of the white sand on this beach and you might spot pieces of lava rock scattered in the mix. Kua Bay is a small beach on the big island, with big waves rolling in for wintertime surfing. The bay provides nice snorkeling when the waters are calmer, and turtles and dolphins make cameos. Locals love the sunsets here, but, as TripAdvisor reviewers warn, be prepared to scramble over sharp lava rocks to get to the actual beach.
21. Coligny Beach In Hilton Head, South Carolina
The amenities at this beach are deserving of a mention. In addition to beach chair and umbrella rentals, outdoor showers and changing rooms, Coligny Beach Park has swings and wooden chairs in shaded gazebos as well as free WiFi. Plus, there is beach matting, making the beach accessible to wheelchairs. Coligny also gets lauded for being family-friendly with pop jets and fountains that kids can play in (and simultaneously rinse off the ocean’s salt water).
20. Waikiki Beach In Honolulu, Hawaii
Located on the south shore of Honolulu, Waikiki Beach was once a playground for Hawaiian royalty. Today, it’s a hotspot for surfers and those wanting to learn the sport. You can rent surfboards and paddleboards right on the beach. Several high-rise hotels line the beach, and high-end shops are just a couple of blocks away. After a day on the beach, pineapple soft-serve ice cream is a must.
19. Newport Beach In Newport, California
Newport Beach has a luxe vibe, but also exudes vintage charm, thanks in part to a bayside boardwalk where a Ferris wheel spins. With 10 miles of coastline, Newport also has fire pits for bonfires, as well as parks with play equipment and basketball courts. Throughout the year, this beach town hosts a yacht race, film festival, summer concert series, art walks, wine tastings and a Christmas boat parade.
18. Ogunquit Beach In Ogunquit, Maine
The beach town was named by the Abenaki tribe, and it translates to “beautiful place by the sea.” The northeastern beach town doesn’t just have sandy, picturesque beaches, though. Ogunquit also boasts a vibrant arts and theater scene, and is known as a welcoming LGBTQ destination. A fun way to enjoy the town’s beaches is by taking the trolley to Footbridge Beach, where you can walk across a long footbridge that stretches out to the Ogunquit River.
17. Wailea Beach In Wailea, Hawaii
Surely, it was a tough task for TripAdvisor reviewers to pick out a favorite beach in Maui. Out of all the Hawaiian islands, Maui has the most miles of swimmable beaches, Travel and Leisure points out. Resorts line the beach, so the beach is a popular one (read: get there early to get reserve your spot on the golden sand). Visitors here enjoy boogie boarding and snorkeling.
16. Coronado Beach In Coronado, California
Coronado Beach has a magic trick: Its beaches sparkle. No hyperbole! Mica is found in its sands, and the mineral gives the beaches a shimmer. Coronado is a regular on best-beaches lists, also garnering recognition from the Travel Channel and Dr. Beach’s favorite beaches. The famed Hotel del Coronado sits on the beach and starred in Marilyn Monroe’s 1958 movie “Some Like it Hot.”
15. Hollywood Beach In Hollywood, Florida
In between Fort Lauderdale and Miami, Hollywood Beach charms visitors with a vintage vibe. A fan favorite here is the brick-paved boardwalk that traces the Atlantic Ocean for 2.5 miles. Rent a bike and cruise up and down the boardwalk for a different perspective of the beach. Also, a trolley makes runs between the beaches and town. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled as more than two dozen murals can be spotted throughout Hollywood.
14. South Beach In Miami Beach, Florida
The beach is a consummate host for those wanting to take a sun-soaked nap after a night out at Miami Beach’s buzzy clubs and bars. While thrumming with energy and known for its nightlife, there’s still plenty to enjoy in Miami Beach even if the last time you went clubbing was when Madonna and Janet Jackson were still topping the Billboard charts. Take a self-guided tour of the Art Deco buildings that characterize the neighborhoods or enjoy an oceanfront view.
13. Poipu Beach Park In Poipu, Hawaii
The aerial view of Poipu Beach Park is especially beautiful because the park is made up of a series of golden sand crescents. Beachgoers in Poipu, on Kauai, enjoy snorkeling in the crystal-clear waters, as well as boogie boarding, surfing and wading in the ocean. Plus, humpback whales can be spotted in the distance from December to April. Poipu is also considered a family-friendly, safe beach because lifeguards are on duty seven days a week.
12. Navarre Beach In Navarre, Florida
Quiet, sugary white sand beaches define Navarre Beach, which is in the heart of Florida’s panhandle. Interestingly, monarch butterflies migrate to the area every fall, which makes for a spectacle. If your beach trip doesn’t line up with the migration, though, you can spot butterflies year-round at the Panhandle Butterfly House in Navarre. Snorkelers visiting Navarre Beach can find calm, protected areas near the Santa Rosa Sound artificial reefs.
11. Cherry Grove Beach In North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Instead of looking for shells, TripAdvisor reviewers suggest combing Cherry Grove Beach for shark’s teeth. This beach is less crowded than others in North Myrtle Beach and is a favorite spot for local families. A point of pride at this beach is the fishing pier that stretches out into the Atlantic Ocean. Rods can be rented and crab nets can be purchased at the pier.
10. Driftwood Beach in Jekyll Island, Georgia
Driftwood and fallen trees scattered across the beach make for a dramatic landscape, which is hauntingly beautiful. Soil erosion over time made it difficult for trees to grow, which gave way to the unique landscape on this barrier island. Driftwood Beach is pet-friendly and has become an especially popular spot for photographers.
9. Fort Lauderdale Beach In Fort Lauderdale, Florida
At one point, Fort Lauderdale Beach was a spring break party destination made popular in movies. Today, while some spring breakers still flock to the beach, it’s become more of a luxe destination with opulent hotels springing up alongside chic boutiques and high-end restaurants. A beachfront promenade is lined with picturesque palm trees and is a popular spot to rollerblade or jog.
8. St. Augustine Beach In St. Augustine, Florida
This might surprise you: St. Augustine is America’s oldest city. St. Augustine Beach is known for its lively surf. But, in addition to its 42 miles of white sand beaches, visitors here will pick up on European influences throughout the city, with sangria bars, a Spanish fort, centuries-old buildings and hidden courtyards.
7. Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area In Puako, Hawaii
Along the Kohala Coast on Hawaii, the half-mile stretch of Hapuna Beach is the big island’s largest white-sand beach. The beach has a snack bar that serves fish tacos and shaved ice, and where you can rent boogie boards, beach chairs and umbrellas as well as snorkeling gear. Parking is relatively easy here, too, so, logistics-wise, there’s little to get between you and a day of R&R. In the early part of the year, beachgoers just might spot migrating whales.
6. Siesta Beach In Siesta Key, Florida
With sugary soft quartz-crystal sand that stays cool underneath your feet and pastel sunsets resembling watercolor paintings, Siesta Key is certainly a stunner. To make it even more magical, on Sunday nights, the Siesta Key Drum Circle turns the beach-going experience into a multi-sensory one, with tribal drummers and belly dancers participating in a sunset ritual.
Siesta Beach is one of three Gulf Coast beaches along the 8-mile Siesta Key stretch. It’s a family-friendly beach, with beach wheelchairs that can be borrowed, lifeguards on duty year-round and a shaded playground and picnic area. Crescent Beach nearby tends to be quieter, and Turtle Beach is more sporty.
5. Pensacola Beach In Pensacola, Florida
With sand as soft as confectioners’ sugar and emerald green waters, Pensacola Beach is a favorite of TripAdvisor reviewers. It helps that the beach averages 343 days of sunshine. The Pensacola Pier is also the perfect perch for spotting dolphins, manatees and rays, and the Pensacola Lighthouse is an ideal spot for admiring sunsets. It was built in 1859 and offers panoramic views of Pensacola Pass, a trio of historic forts and the skyline.
4. St. Pete Beach In St. Petersburg, Florida
St. Pete excels in the laidback vibe so many travelers crave when it comes to beach vacations. Plus, the area has cool “Old Florida” motels and inns to wax nostalgic on during a visit. While it’s A-OK to spend your vacation simply soaking up sunshine on undeveloped beaches, St. Pete will also entertain visitors with water sports like parasailing, stand-up paddleboarding and kiteboarding.
3. Panama City Beach In Panama City Beach, Florida
Celebrate at least one sunset at Schooners, a beachfront bar on Panama City Beach that blasts a cannon each night when the sun dips below the horizon. The city of Panama City Beach has 27 miles of white-sand beaches to enjoy. One of the best ways to scope out the view of the emerald waters, though, is from the top of the SkyWheel that soars as high as an 18-story building.
2. Ka’anapali Beach in Lahaina, Hawaii
The natural beauty of Maui’s Ka’anapali Beach, which stretches for three miles, will certainly wow you. But for its next trick, there’s a daily cliff diving ceremony that happens on Puu Kekaa, the beach’s northernmost cliffs. At sunset, a cliff diver lights the torches along the cliffs and then dives into the water. It’s a reenactment of a feat that was performed by Maui’s revered King Kahekili. The beach, in its past life, was a retreat for Hawaiian royalty.
1. Clearwater Beach in Clearwater, Florida
This year’s best beach award, according to TripAdvisor reviewers, goes to … Clearwater Beach! Clearwater Beach topped the 2018 list, too. Its neighbor, St. Pete Beach, came in at No. 4, so you could visit two award-winning beaches in a single vacation. TripAdvisor reviewers are impressed by how well Clearwater embodies its name, as well as the soft white sand and family-friendly nature of the beach. At Pier 60, sunsets are celebrated every evening with a festival that brings out vendors and street performers.
So, which beach is on your must-visit list?