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A couple walking along the beach at Sanibel Island, Florida
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The 7 Best Beach Destinations in the U.S.

SmarterTravel

Nothing puts you in the vacation mindset faster than a trip to the beach. It’s pretty impossible to be stressed when you have your feet in the sand, salt in your hair, and sun on your face. Fortunately, you don’t have to go far to find your own little slice of paradise—there are some incredible beaches right here in the U.S. if you know where to look. 

Fort Myers & Sanibel Island, Florida

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Turquoise waters and brilliant white sand beaches are fringed by wild greenery, lending a tropical paradise feel to the beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel Island. This vacation spot feels miles away from the real world—on Sanibel, it’s said that no building is taller than a palm tree, and any lights near the beach are blacked out for sea turtle nesting and stargazing—but this Florida location is just 20 minutes from the airport. 

There are more than 50 miles of shoreline to explore along Fort Myers and Sanibel. Collect some of the 400 shell species dotting the beach for a unique souvenir, watch dolphins frolic just offshore, or take a swim in the always-warm Gulf.

Cape Poge Wildlife Refuge, Massachusetts 

Cape Poge Lighthouse
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A visit to Cape Poge Wildlife Refuge requires two boat rides—first over to Martha’s Vineyard, then a two-minute ferry to Chappaquiddick Island. From there, it’s about a 10-minute bike ride to reach the remote Cape Poge Wildlife Refuge. As you approach and see the miles of uninterrupted sand backed by wild sand dunes, you’ll quickly realize that the destination was worth the journey.

The seven miles of pristine beach are rarely crowded (even on summer weekends), and there are 14 miles of oversand vehicle and walking trails to explore. 

Coronado, California

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Sitting on one of Coronado’s numerous beaches feels like being inside an Instagram filter—the sand literally sparkles around you, due to the mineral mica that makes up the golden sand. It’s an easy and scenic drive across the 200-foot tall Coronado Bridge to get here from San Diego, making it the perfect beach for a day trip or weekend getaway. 

Stay for a spectacular sunset and then light up one of the many fire pits dotted along the sand to keep you warm (and to heat up s’mores) as you extend your beach time into the evening. 

Padre Island National Seashore, Texas

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If your idea of the perfect beach is one where you don’t have to be near other people, head to Padre Island National Seashore, which is the longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island in the world. With over 70 miles of coastline, dunes, prairies, and wind tidal flats to explore, you’re sure to find a section with solitude to claim as your own.

Although you might avoid the human crowds here, you’ll have plenty of wildlife to keep you company on the beach, with over 380 bird species calling this seashore home. It’s also a nesting ground for the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle in the summer.

Hanalei Bay, Hawaii

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Hawaii is home to hundreds of amazing beaches, but perhaps the most spectacular ones of all can be found in Hanalei Bay, where the picture-perfect sandy beaches are dominated by a stunning view of Bali Hai mountain. Within the bay, there are three beach parks to choose from—Black Pot, Hanalei Pavilion, and Wai’oli, and you won’t be disappointed by any of them.

When you’re tired of lounging on the beach, the water here is perfect for surfing, snorkeling, sailing, and swimming.

Cape Lookout National Seashore, North Carolina

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This uninhabited string of barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina is kept pristine and protected, thanks to a law that keeps out commercial facilities, homes, shops, or any development. You’ll need to be prepared for a trip to the beach here, and bring all the food, water, and supplies you’ll need for the day with you.

To reach the Cape Lookout National Seashore, you can take a ferry, paddle a kayak over from the mainland, or visit on a private tour. Once you’re here, you can visit a lighthouse, take a ranger-guided tour, search for wild horses, kayak, or swim.

Papakōlea Beach, Hawaii

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You may have seen a beach with white or black sand before, but odds are you’ve never seen one with green sand—because there are only four green sand beaches in the world. One of the most spectacular can be found at Papakōlea Beach in Hawaii. The green sand here comes from the olivine mineral, which creates the unique look.

To reach this beach, you’ll have to drive to the southernmost point of The Big Island, followed by a 2.5-mile hike along the cliffs and a climb down to the famous green sand. 

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