We’ve never found a beach we didn’t love, so to help us narrow down the list, we asked Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman, better known as Dr. Beach, to lend us his expertise. Every year, he picks America’s top 10 beaches after considering factors such as sand softness, water temperature, pollution, and views. Dr. Beach is currently the director of Florida International University’s Laboratory for Coastal Research, but when he isn’t working, he retreats to his favorite seashore, Cape Florida State Park.

We’ve never found a beach we didn’t love, so to help us narrow down the list, we asked Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman, better known as Dr. Beach, to lend us his expertise. Every year, he picks America’s top 10 beaches after considering factors such as sand softness, water temperature, pollution, and views. Dr. Beach is currently the director of Florida International University’s Laboratory for Coastal Research, but when he isn’t working, he retreats to his favorite seashore, Cape Florida State Park.
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At party-hardy Myrtle Beach, you won’t get the peace and serenity of more under-the-radar beach escapes. What you will find? Plenty of budget-friendly accommodations, family-friendly attractions (think: mini golf courses and amusement parks), outlet shopping, and 60 miles of sandy shoreline. And if you make the Marina Inn Dunes your home base, you’ll have access to a more secluded stretch of sand—plus, free umbrellas, chairs and towels, and water sport equipment. There are more than 1,700 restaurants in the area, but you don’t want to miss the mouthwatering shrimp and grits at Mr. Fish, or the tropical drinks at 8th Avenue Tiki Bar & Grill, whose motto is “Good vibes. Good food. Good music. Good times.”
Latin America’s new it destination is Panama, and its mascot is the starchitect-designed, sail-like Trump Ocean Club. Everything is over the top, from the slick service (customized mini-bars, personalized stationery) to the soon-to-open private island beach accessible by sailboat. You’ll spend most of your time on the 13th-floor deck, where cabanas surround five infinity pools with views of the water and the tony Punta Pacifica neighborhood.
There are more than 700 islands in the Bahamas, but the vast majority of travelers never get beyond the mega resorts of New Providence (home to Nassau), Paradise, and Grand Bahama islands. That means there are plenty of lightly trafficked “Out Islands” to choose from for off-the-beaten-path beach vacations. For glassy, gem-colored water, condo-free beaches, affordable accommodations, and some the best sailing grounds in the world, head to Staniel Cay, a two-square-mile island within the Exuma Cays.
Big Sur is California’s most beautiful and unspoiled stretch of coastline, with the legendary Highway One running between the central coast’s dramatic cliffs and the vast, protected swath of Los Padres National Forest. The 59-room Ventana Big Sur resort blends effortlessly into the rolling coastal hills, bluffs, and redwood groves, channeling New Age spirituality with luxury amenities like outdoor Japanese hot baths, daily guided walks of the 243-acre property, and programs that focus on HoloSync, Quartz Bowl, and Drum Circle music therapy. Hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, diving, and windsurfing are among the many options when you’re ready to explore. Book it here: Ventana Big Sur.
Contact Guest Services or check out our Oak Island Travel Guide to discover the many exciting activities such as the Southport 4th of July Festival, water sports, boating, area attractions and neighboring Brunswick beach communities, and many more fun island activities. Planning a wedding or special event? Peruse our list of event-friendly homes for that perfect setting for a wedding, family reunion, or other special gathering. Let us help you create lasting memories with the perfect Oak Island, NC vacation rental.
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Robin and Sue Ricketts, who helped create and manage such luxurious island hotels as Malliouhana and Cap Juluca. Now the Ricketts have embarked upon a new project: the 27-room Anacaona Boutique Hotel, a stylish and affordable alternative on an island that is known for its sky-high prices. The modern, tropical rooms (Frette linens; gold and lime pillows; iPod docking stations) look out onto one of two swimming pools, and those on the upper floors have vistas of the sea. The mile-long Meads Bay beach is just steps from the property.

Mendocino is a fun and funky destination for a drive north of San Francisco that takes in the majesty of the redwoods and the magic of the Pacific Coast Highway. Perched on scenic headlands overlooking the ocean and the Big River, this laid-back town is full of quirky shops and surrounded by parkland where you can hike, bike, and camp in splendid settings from old-growth forests to driftwood-covered beaches. The exclusive, 48-room Heritage House Resort sits on 37 acres of unspoiled Mendocino coastline, offering couples the option of unwinding on a private beach, cuddling on Duxiana beds in oceanview rooms, or drifting away at the resort’s soon-to-open spa. Book it here: Heritage House Resort.

Roatan, a minnow-shaped island within Honduras’ Bay Islands, attracts divers who come to experience the world’s second-largest barrier reef and those looking for a cheap, off-the-beaten-path beach vacation in the Caribbean. The island is one of Central America’s once-hidden, now-on-the-rise beach destinations, but thankfully it still lacks big chain resorts and some of the other trappings of mass tourism.
Asbury Park has been experiencing a renaissance, now with a hip hotel, modern restaurants and cool attractions (like Asbury Lanes bowling alley and concert venue, which opened in May) and more crowds, thanks to a revitalized waterfront. Ranked No. 1 as Budget Travel's coolest small town in America last year, it's the former stomping ground of iconic American musician Bruce Springsteen, who's first studio album is entitled "Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J."

Particularly popular with surfers and fitness fans, Dana Point is simply charming. Join a tour to watch whales and dolphins or choose calm Salt Creek Beach, with its sands, grassy recreation areas, and picnic tables pointed right at those fantastic North Pacific views. Head up to higher ground for an even better look at this gorgeous stretch of California.
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