Everyone in central Florida who wants to have an epic beach day makes their way here on the weekend. What results is one of the best beach parties in America, a sand-borne tailgate party where instead of playing football, people play in the ocean. If you find yourself on a landlocked Florida vacation to theme parks or otherwise, spending a day here is affordable and a whole lot of fun.
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Huntington Beach, otherwise known as Surf City U.S.A. is a mecca for surfers of all ages and abilities. Lessons and equipment rental are available for individuals and groups at the Banzai Surf School, an accredited member of the National Surf Schools & Instructors Association. Beachgoers who would rather catch some rays than catch a wave can stretch out on a beach towel along 10 miles of award-winning sandy shoreline. Beach volleyball is a popular waterfront sport and tournaments are held throughout the year. For bicycle rentals and burger baskets, tourists can hit one of the concession stands along the beach. Things to Do in Huntington Beach
This new gay-friendly hotel stands out among the South Beach crowd for its cheeky, fun design sense—a giant polar bear holding a beach ball greets guests in the lobby. Rooms may be modest in size, but they make a big splash with yellow striped upholstery and large silkscreen prints of Cleopatra. It’s a quick stroll to the beach, and even quicker to access the hotels’ trio of pools on a semi-secluded patio.
Sail (metaphorically or literally) into beautiful Newport, Rhode Island, for a summer girlfriend getaway at the timeless Hotel Viking, which is celebrating its 90th anniversary with a makeover that has brightened up the lobby and restaurant but keeps intact the history and charm that makes this a great Newport address. The hotel’s central location at the head of Bellevue Avenue is convenient to the shops and restaurants there and Thames Street, as well as the city’s fabled mansions and Cliff Walk (shown here). Packages include discounts at the hotel’s SpaFjor, and the rooftop Top of Newport Bar is the best place in town for sunset cocktails with friends. Book it here: Hotel Viking.
This new gay-friendly hotel stands out among the South Beach crowd for its cheeky, fun design sense—a giant polar bear holding a beach ball greets guests in the lobby. Rooms may be modest in size, but they make a big splash with yellow striped upholstery and large silkscreen prints of Cleopatra. It’s a quick stroll to the beach, and even quicker to access the hotels’ trio of pools on a semi-secluded patio.
Located just several miles up the coast from Ormond, Flagler Beach boasts excellent fishing and equally beautiful views of the Atlantic. It’s the perfect place to send a kite soaring or take an early-morning bike ride at low tide. Trek through beautiful natural terrain at Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area, where you might spot some wildlife as you kayak through the mangroves.
The National Park Service typically posts lifeguards here from Memorial Day to Labor Day, along with chair and umbrella rentals (you’ll find a restroom and cold-water showers too). The ferry has a snack bar, but most folks bring a small cooler (you must pack out what you bring in). On the island’s west end, explore Fort Massachusetts, which dates to 1866.
Known for its Broadway-quality entertainment, outlet stores, and a 23-acre zoo, West Palm Beach has got something for everyone. Visitors can spend the day checking out one of the four entertainment and shopping districts, all of which offer a variety of shops, shows, and dining choices. Theatergoers are bound to have a great time at one of the acclaimed performing arts centers. For art lovers, West Palm Beach is home to the renowned Norton Museum of Art. With great weather no matter the season, West Palm Beach is the perfect place to enjoy outdoor entertainment. It’s also the annual home of Florida’s largest waterfront music festival. Things to Do in West Palm Beach
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.

Surf City is the cultural center of Topsail Island, a long barrier island off the coast of North Carolina. For visitors looking to surf in the aptly named city, there are plenty of sporting goods stores to suit your needs. The larger area is known for its organic blueberry farms, with some farms allowing guests to come out and pick their own fresh pesticide-free blueberries. Guests can unwind in Surf City’s cozy bed and breakfast spot overlooking the ocean waves. For the outdoorsy types, the area has an array of campgrounds where visitors can pitch a tent or park their RV.


They say ’twas a bold man that first ate an oyster, but you don’t have to be an adventurer to enjoy a drive along the Virginia Oyster Trail. Virginia produces more farm-raised oysters than any other U.S. East Coast state, and the Oyster Trail combines a lovely drive on the Eastern Shore with an opportunity to meet local oystermen like those at Topping, Virginia's Rappahannock Oyster Co., who will show you how they bring these magnificent mollusks from water to table (don't miss the company's Merroir Tasting Room, shown here). For oysters fresh off the reef, the Dog and Oyster Vineyard in Irvington is a great choice—after all, this is Virginia wine country, too. After a day of shucking and slurping, the Tides Inn in Irvington keeps you close to the water: the resort is set on a peninsula between Chesapeake Bay and the Rappahannock and Potomac rivers—in other words, oyster central. (In the fall, Tides Inn offers a cool oystering experience package worth returning for.)
Surfers are no longer the only ones lured to Panama’s Pacific beaches. Boldface names like Angelina Jolie have been spotted in the Pacific village of Pedasí, four hours from Panama City. That’s where you’ll find the rustic-but-stylish El Sitio Hotel. Accommodations range from rooms with bunk beds to oceanfront suites with private balconies; whitewashed walls, ceiling fans, and dark wood furnishings are a theme throughout.
* Prices reflect the lowest "base rate" found over the next 30 days. Rates are subject to change and may not include taxes and fees, hotel service charges, extra person charges, or incidentals, such as room service. All rates are displayed in USD unless otherwise noted. Converted rates are provided for your convenience. They are based on today's exchange rate, but the hotel will charge you in the local currency.
Not all beach trips have to be about bikinis and sunbathing, and Oregon’s stunning beaches prove that beach vacations can go beyond the stereotypes. You’ll only need to drive about an hour and a half from Portland to reach this area, but you’ll feel like you’re a world away. Haystack Rock is the iconic natural landmark here that you’ll see protruding from the ocean a couple hundred feet from the surface. The route to get here highlights stunning views of the coastline, so pull over a couple times to snap photos of the scenery along the way. Ecola State Park nearby is great for hiking, biking, and flying a kite.
For many families, Ocean Isle Beach is the best of both worlds: it’s less crowded, with gentler waves and warmer water than other popular North Carolina beaches like the Outer Banks, but it’s only a 45-minute drive from bustling cities like Wilmington and Myrtle Beach. The Museum of Coastal Carolina hosts a wide range of daily events tailored to small children, including story time, planetarium shows and “Touch Tank Feeding,” a chance to help staff members feed the museum’s marine animals.
Pickleball proves that active sports and competition don’t have to end when you get older: this mix of badminton, tennis, and ping-pong has exploded in popularity in recent years, and seniors comprise the majority of competitors. The well-regarded tennis center at the Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, has eight pickleball courts as well as five POP Tennis courts (the latter appeal to young and beginner players, since it uses a bigger ball eliminates the challenging overhead serve); pickleball packages include instruction, villa stays, bike rentals, and daily court time. The resort also has a trio of 18-hole golf courses, kayaking on an 11-mile inland lagoon, surfing, and other water sports. 
Located on the barrier island of Topsail, North Topsail Beach has a reputation for attracting a wide variety of coastal wildlife. Instead of high-rise buildings and towering condos, you’ll find exceptional fishing, unobstructed birdwatching and sea turtle nests on the beach. Book a jet ski tour to see striking views of the whole island from the water.
Huntington Beach, otherwise known as Surf City U.S.A. is a mecca for surfers of all ages and abilities. Lessons and equipment rental are available for individuals and groups at the Banzai Surf School, an accredited member of the National Surf Schools & Instructors Association. Beachgoers who would rather catch some rays than catch a wave can stretch out on a beach towel along 10 miles of award-winning sandy shoreline. Beach volleyball is a popular waterfront sport and tournaments are held throughout the year. For bicycle rentals and burger baskets, tourists can hit one of the concession stands along the beach. Things to Do in Huntington Beach
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For diversity of nature on a budget, few beaches in the western hemisphere can rival this little island in the Lighthouse Reef atoll on the Belize barrier reef. Half Moon Caye is a national park, with crystal clear waters and world-class wall diving. Because the area is completely undeveloped, it’s absolutely teeming with marine creatures and birds. It happens to be the breeding ground for the hemisphere’s only red-footed booby colony.
The 17th-century pilgrim settlement of Eastham makes a tranquil Cape Cod getaway. Wander the paths along the shore taking in sweeping views of the dunes and marshes. To really get away from it all, turn off your phone, pick up your book, and make your way to Dyer Prince Beach. It’s only accessible via a rather overgrown pathway, making it a bit of a hidden gem. Here you’ll find a small beach edged with calm waters.
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