I don’t know about you, but I frequently daydream about beaches. Especially beaches with crystal clear water and soft white sand. So with the help of other travel experts, I’ve put together this detailed guide on the most stunning white sand & clear water beaches in the US that are totally worthy of your next vacation — be it a romantic getaway, an adventurous solo trip, or a fun-filled family excursion.
In this guide, you’ll not only learn about the various activities to do on each of these beaches; you’ll also get helpful insider tips on things to look out for during your visit, where to stay, how long to visit for, the best places to taste the local cuisine, the facilities available at each beach, and more. You’ll find that many of these beaches are truly epic hidden vacation spots!
If you’re planning a trip to one of these white sand beaches in the US, indulge in some inspiring beach quotes to fuel your anticipation even more. Without further ado, here are the most beautiful beaches in the US with clear water and heavenly white sand.
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The Best Clear Water Beaches in the USA
24. Lanikai Beach, Hawaii
Explored by Luke of Wild About BC
How to get there: 30 mins by car from Honolulu, HI
Lanikai Beach is often regarded as the best beach on the island of Oahu in Hawaii, and it’s not hard to see why. It’s a palm-tree-lined, fine white sand beach with crystal clear water and an incredible view out to the Mokulua Islands just a few hundred metres from shore.
Located on the east side of Oahu, Lanikai Beach doesn’t get many waves, making it the perfect spot for swimming, kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding. There are also some sections of reef that you can snorkel around — you might be able to see some green sea turtles! If you want an amazing aerial view of this beach and its surroundings, you can complete the Lanikai Pillbox Hike along Kaiwa Ridge, which overlooks the beach.
This beach is also an amazing place to catch the sunrise. If you’re feeling adventurous, rent a kayak from Kailua Beach Park and paddle all the way to Moku Nui, one of the stunning islands of Mokulua. You can even do this on a small-group kayaking tour of Kailua Bay, a half-day eco-adventure that takes you to the pristine beaches and bird sanctuaries of the Mokulua Islands.
There are no public parking lots, lifeguards, or facilities at Lanikai Beach, and it can only be accessed by a few walking paths between the houses that sit on the beach. You won’t need more than a few hours to enjoy this beach and can either relax and unwind in the sun or kayak around the Mokulua Islands if you’re feeling more adventurous.
🏡 WHERE TO STAY:
Honolulu: Waikiki Beachcomber by Outrigger (⭐️ 8.6) | Hyatt Centric Waikiki Beach (⭐️ 8.7) | Halepuna Waikiki by Halekulani (⭐️ 8.7)
Lanikai: Unique Find Suite (⭐️ 9.7) | Lovely Relaxing Lanikai Studio (⭐️ 9.3)
23. South Beach (Miami Beach), Florida
Explored by Claire of Stoked To Travel
How to get there: 15 mins by car from downtown Miami, FL
Miami’s world-famous South Beach is renowned for partying and Spring Break, but it’s actually a beautiful beach in itself and well worth a visit for glistening white sands and the turquoise ocean. It’s an absolute must-visit on any itinerary in Miami, not least just to soak up the atmosphere.
Access to the beach is free, and the main section in front of Lummus Park has plenty of space to pop your towel down. You’ll spot along the beach sections of distinctly different sun loungers and umbrellas that belong to hotels — you’ll need to check which ones welcome day guests. Make sure to snap a photo with one of the famous colored beach huts!
Ocean Drive is the lively road that backs South Beach and is lined with iconic Art Deco hotels, such as the Clevelander and the famous Villa Casa Casuarina. You can take a local tour with a guide from the Miami Design Preservation League (MDPL), which is highly recommended. The guides are truly passionate about the conservation and protection of these unique historical buildings.
Just to the north edge of South Beach is Española Way, an awesome Latin-American-inspired street, where flamenco dancers perform each evening under the twinkling fairy lights, and where you can enjoy some excellent, vibrant restaurants and bars. You can stay right in the heart of South Beach, or just a little further along at Mid Beach, which has a few more affordable hotels.
🏖 FACILITIES: Parking | Showers | Restrooms | Picnic pavilions | Playground | Beach wheelchairs
22. Honeymoon Island State Park, Florida
Explored by Paula of Paula Pins The Planet
How to get there: 45 mins by car from Tampa, FL and 2 hours by car from Orlando, FL
Florida is home to some of the most beautiful white sand & clear water beaches in the US, but if you’re looking for a less touristy option, then look no further than Honeymoon Island State Park. This island is located in the Tampa Bay area and is made up of North Beach, Oasis Beach, and Dog Beach — where you can bring your furry friend with you, to one of the best islands in Florida.
Spanning the island are 4 miles of pristine white sand beaches and a 3-mile hiking trail through one of the last remaining virgin slash pine forests. You can spend a day enjoying the scenic beaches and can also do a picnic in one of the designated areas. If you have more time, rent a kayak and visit Caladesi Island, which is only 15 minutes away.
Honeymoon Island is the perfect place for outdoor lovers. It offers plenty of fun activities such as kayaking, swimming, fishing, biking, and hiking. It is also one of the best places in Florida to observe wildlife such as dolphins, manatees, turtles, rattlesnakes, and armadillos. The beaches in Honeymoon Island are extremely well-preserved, meaning the wildlife there lives undisturbed.
There are two cafes on Honeymoon Island if you want to buy food and beverage. While there are no accommodations on the island, it is only a 20-minute drive from Clearwater and a 15-minute drive from Dunedin, where you can find several accommodation options. The admission fee to the island is $8 per car and $4 per person.
🏖 FACILITIES: Parking | Showers | Restrooms | Free beach wheelchairs | Picnic pavilions | Pets
21. Flamenco Beach (Culebra), Puerto Rico
How to get there: 45 mins by ferry from Ceiba, which is a 1-hour drive from San Juan, PR
It’s no doubt that Puerto Rico is home to some of the clearest water in the US, and there’s no better place to enjoy that than at Flamenco Beach on the island of Culebra. Getting to this beach requires some planning, but it’s completely worth the visit. If you’re staying in San Juan, you’d first have to grab a taxi to Ceiba, where you can then take the ferry to Culebra.
I highly recommend booking your ticket in advance on PORFERRY as there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to purchase it on the spot. The ferry ride is approximately 45 minutes long, but be sure to get to Ceiba’s ferry terminal an hour before it departs. After a scenic ferry ride, it’s time to enjoy one of the most beautiful beaches in the US!
To say that Flamenco Beach is postcard-perfect is an understatement. Its soft white sand and clear turquoise waters will take your breath away the minute you lay your eyes on it. There are practically no waves at this beach, and it’s the perfect spot for snorkeling, swimming, and sunbathing. There’s also an iconic landmark parked on the sand: an old navy tank — a reminder of when the US Navy used the island as a gunnery range.
There’s no shortage of delicious food at Flamenco Beach either — you’ll find tons of delicious Puerto Rican street food at the food stands by the beach. There are also tons of outdoor activities to do in other parts of Culebra, such as diving and turtle-watching!
🏖 FACILITIES: Parking | Showers | Restrooms | Lifeguards | Camping area | Food stands
20. Waimea Bay Beach Park, Hawaii — One of the Most Beautiful Beaches in the US
How to get there: 45 mins by car from Honolulu, HI
Waimea Bay Beach Park is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful beaches in the USA. Located on the stunning North Shore of Oahu, this beach is very famous for its 30-foot waves in the winter. In fact, it’s a hotspot for some of the best and bravest surfers on earth. During the summer, though, the waves go flat and the water is crystal clear, making it the perfect vacation hub for snorkeling, diving, and swimming.
The underwater landscape at Waimea Bay is truly breathtaking; you’ll come across tons of large rocks that’ll make you feel incredibly tiny, as well as lots of gorgeous fish and sea turtles. Another popular (and thrilling) thing to do is to climb the big 30-feet-high rock that sits on the shoreline and to take a leap of faith into the water below. While this sounds incredibly fun, it can also be dangerous, so do take precautions.
You can easily spend a whole day relaxing, snorkeling, or surfing at Waimea Bay. Don’t miss out on the gorgeous sunset from the beach, either. If you get hungry, there are food trucks just a few minutes away. If you’re happy to go a bit further, stop by Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck to taste their famous local garlic shrimps!
Waimea Bay is only one of the many beautiful sights on the North Shore of Oahu. You can do an entire day tour of the North Shore and Hanauma Bay. You can also easily see the North Shore on a day trip from Waikiki. To make the most of your day, hop onboard the Surf Bus activities tour and enjoy various water activities on the turquoise beaches of the North Shore.
🏖 FACILITIES: Free parking | Showers | Restrooms | Picnic tables | Lifeguard on duty
19. Calusa Beach (Big Pine Key), Florida
How to get there: 2.5 hours by car from Miami, FL
Nestled inside Bahia Honda State Park in the Florida Keys is the pristine Calusa Beach. Though it isn’t a big beach, it’s known for its soft white sands and is definitely one of the best beaches in the US with clear water. This beach is also very family and child-friendly, as the water is calm and shallow. It’s definitely worth spending at least a few hours relaxing here.
There are plenty of fun activities to do at this beach, including snorkeling, swimming, and wading. You can also do a short hike up to the top of the bridge by the beach and get stunning panoramic views of the ocean from there. Just south of Calusa Beach is Loggerhead Beach, another stunning beach with clear water and gentle waves. Loggerhead Beach is also a great place to catch the Milky Way at night as it’s far enough from any city lights.
There are also plenty of other activities to do around Bahia Honda State Park, including biking, camping, fishing, hiking, geocaching, and scuba diving. This park is also home to over 150 species of flora and a variety of birds. In fact, it’s a part of the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail and is a great place to see shorebirds, wood warblers, and even endangered white-crowned pigeons.
🏖 FACILITIES: Parking | Showers | Restrooms | Picnic pavilions | Sunbeds | Gear rentals | Grills
18. Huntington Beach, California
Explored by Olivia of Girl With Blue Sails
How to get there: 1 hour by car from Los Angeles, CA
Huntington Beach, California is definitely one of the best clear water & white sand beaches in the US. From strolling the pier after brunch to walking in the sand at sunset, this surf town is a hotspot for both locals and tourists alike. Located on the coast of sunny Southern California, Huntington Beach is perfect for an afternoon or a long weekend.
While the warm sand and cool waves of the beach are undoubtedly Huntington’s major attractions, this town offers many other activities like volleyball, rollerskating, and surf competitions. It is open to visitors year-round with no entrance fees and has plenty of free parking. There are restrooms located at the beach as well as public showers for rinsing off after playing in the waves.
No matter how long you plan to be in Huntington Beach, strolling along the iconic pier is a major must-do. Offering beautiful clear views of the coast, the pier stretches far into the ocean, also giving you a great view of the surfers below. At the very end of the pier is the perfectly located Ruby’s Diner, a classic 50’s style diner serving burgers, shakes, and an unbeatable view.
In the heart of town, you’ll find some amazing accommodation options, all with similar gorgeous views of the beach. Highly recommended is Paséa Hotel & Spa. This upscale beachfront hotel offers amazing views of the shore and extremely luxurious amenities. Relaxing at your hotel while overlooking the California sunset is the perfect way to end your evening in Huntington Beach.
🏖 FACILITIES: Parking | Showers | Restrooms | Beach wheelchairs | Bike rentals | Beach bonfires
17. Marquette (Lake Superior), Michigan
Explored by Kiki of BookRetreats
How to get there: 4 hours and 45 mins by car from Milwaukee, WI
Marquette is the perfect place for a fun weekend getaway. It’s settled right on the beaches of Lake Superior, which is reminiscent of a warm East Coast beach during the summer.
The local university brings a vibrant energy that fuels local bars, restaurants, and outdoor spaces for those looking for lots to do. Just outside of town is the cutest Airbnb called “The Point of the Point”. This photo-worthy cabin is tucked behind some trees on a rocky beach, making it the perfect getaway from the buzz of Marquette.
When you’re ready for warm white sand beaches, take a scenic drive back to town and grab a bite to eat before heading to the beach. If you’re looking for a more active getaway, then hike up to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain for epic views. It’s just 15 mins to get there and about 15 mins to the top.
If you’re a diver, then explore the 24 miles of shoreline that the Marquette Underwater Preserve offers. You can also just grab a paddleboard and explore the surface of the lake on calm days. Marquette truly has all the best parts of city life, outdoor adventures, and warm beaches in one tiny town.
16. Fort Zachary Taylor Beach, Florida
Explored by Emma of Journey Of A Nomadic Family
How to get there: 15 mins by car from Key West, FL and 4 hours by car from Miami, FL
The 54-acre Fort Zachary Taylor in Key West, Florida is the US’s southernmost state park. It’s also home to one of the best white sand & clear water beaches in the US. This stunning white sand beach is located on a historical fort, so it’s a great place for both nature and history lovers. The old, red-brick fort predates the Civil War and houses the largest cache of armament in the world.
The beach is open 8 am to 5 pm all year round and costs $4 to enter with a car. With its gently-lapping turquoise waves and long stretch of spectacular white sand, it’s a perfect spot for swimming, snorkeling, paddling, and picnicking. The waters are calm enough and you can see tons of tropical marine life such as parrotfish, yellowtail snappers, lobsters, and various corals.
Once you’ve dried off, you can take a walk around the wooded nature trails to discover more of Fort Zachary Taylor State Park. You can easily spend all day in this park swimming, exploring, learning, and eating. Alternatively, you can just pop in for a quick swim or sunbathe.
Key West is a fun and lively place and there are plenty of hotels to stay in locally. Don’t forget to watch the sun go down from Mallory Square and have your photo taken at the Southernmost Point of the Continental US. For local food, head to the funky and modern Date & Thyme Cafe or the Sugar Apple Organic Cafe & Market. Both serve deliciously fresh food.
🏖 FACILITIES: Parking | Showers | Restrooms | Free beach wheelchairs | Cafe | Kayak launch
15. Kailua Beach, Hawaii
Explored by Noel of This Hawaii Life
How to get there: 30 mins by car from Honolulu, HI
Kailua Beach is one of the most well-known beaches in Hawaii and is located on the eastern side of Oahu, about a half-hour drive from downtown Honolulu. You can also easily get there via public transportation. This beach is not only a local favorite but has also become a must-see attraction for visitors. In fact, soaking up the sun there is one of the top things to do in Kailua.
There are plenty of fun outdoor activities to enjoy at this beach, including kayaking, surfing, boogie boarding, and windsurfing. You can also take a stroll on the soft and powdery white sand set against the clear blue water. If you want to sit down and relax, go underneath the large ironwood trees by the parking lot; they’ll protect you from the scorching hot sun.
With free parking areas, showers, and lifeguard stations located throughout the beach, you’ll be fully covered for a day of epic beach fun. You can even kayak all the way to the stunning Mokulua Islands with a guided kayak tour. You’ll not only receive expert paddling tips but will also get to snorkel with green sea turtles at Mokulua!
Kailua Town itself has a lot to offer as well. Spend some time there exploring the variety of hip bars, craft beer breweries, art galleries, trendy boutiques, and fine dining venues.
🏖 FACILITIES: Free parking | Showers | Restrooms | Bike path | Pay phones | Picnic pavilions
🏡 WHERE TO STAY:
Honolulu: Waikiki Beachcomber by Outrigger (⭐️ 8.6) | Hyatt Centric Waikiki Beach (⭐️ 8.7) | Halepuna Waikiki by Halekulani (⭐️ 8.7)
Kailua: Kailua Beach Guest House (⭐️ 9.0) | Paradise Palms B & B (⭐️ 9.2) | Brand New Kailua Beach (⭐️ 8.7)
14. Fort Lauderdale Beach, Florida — One of the Cleanest Beaches in the US
Explored by Daniel of Layer Culture
How to get there: 20 mins by car from downtown Fort Lauderdale, FL
Fort Lauderdale Beach should be at the top of any sun-seeker’s bucket list and is definitely one of the best white sand & clear water beaches in the US. Just a short car ride away from downtown Fort Lauderdale, arriving at this super clean beach to find a chilled spot to relax is a breeze.
With temperatures in the high-50s to the mid-80s during the winter, visitors are guaranteed to catch the winter sun, which is virtually non-existent in many other states. There are also various local amenities such as restaurants, food trucks, and bars. The Rendezvous Bar & Grill is a popular waterfront dining venue that offers delicious food.
The boardwalk area is especially safe and even offers some exuberant nightlife options for those who are staying overnight. Remember to carry some travel bug spray for those pesky mosquitos during the evenings. This beach also offers many amenities, such as places to wash sandy feet at the many exits, which makes it a pleasant experience for any visitor passing through.
There are plenty of things to do around the beach, too. The NSU Art Museum is just 25 mins away by car, and it exhibits the work of some of the world’s most famous artists, including a collection of ceramics by Pablo Picasso. All in all, Fort Lauderdale is a great location for anyone looking to enjoy the same luscious white sands found in Miami Beach, but with fewer crowds.
🏖 FACILITIES: Parking | Showers | Restrooms | Picnic tables | Basketball court | Playground | Grills
13. Myrtle Beach (The Grand Strand), South Carolina
How to get there: 2.5 hours by car from Charleston, SC
Myrtle Beach is a stunning coastal city located in northeastern South Carolina. The unique thing about it is that it sits at the center of a 60-mile stretch of stunning white sand beach known as “The Grand Strand”. You can easily spend 3 days to a week in this area enjoying all kinds of outdoor and cultural activities — it truly has something for everyone.
Outdoor lovers and adventure seekers will love the variety of water activities that the Grand Strand offers. You can go kayaking, parasailing, fishing, surfing, and jetskiing, to name a few. For a different kind of adventure, you can even go horseback riding on the white sand and along a nearby forest trail to explore various plants and birds in the area.
There are also plenty of family-friendly activities to do at Myrtle Beach such as arcades, pirate-themed adventures for kids, rollercoasters, aquariums, art galleries, and museums. On the other hand, if you’re looking to party on your holiday, you’ll find your haven here as well; there are plenty of dance clubs, beach clubs, and lively beachfront bars around too.
Be sure to stop by Melting Pot Myrtle Beach for some of the best food in town, and don’t leave without strolling the 1.2 mile-long oceanfront boardwalk.
The Best White Sand Beaches in the USA
12. Cape Kiwanda, Oregon
Explored by Xin of Xinventure
How to get there: 2 hours by car from Portland, OR
Cape Kiwanda is one of Oregon’s most underrated attractions. While it might not appear on lists of Oregon’s top destinations to visit (and is frequently overshadowed by the more popular Cannon Beach nearby), locals and visitors rave about Cape Kiwanda’s haunting beauty, and some would even declare it to be the crown jewel of Oregon’s coastline. In fact, it’s definitely one of the best stops on an Oregon road trip.
Cape Kiwanda is the southernmost cape in the Three Capes Scenic Drive and is surrounded by miles and miles of white sand beaches. It is located in Pacific City, a quaint fishing town that prides itself in its humble origins and maintains an undeveloped feel, despite its popularity soaring dramatically in recent years.
You must climb the giant sand dune at Cape Kiwanda — it is quite the workout, so don’t be afraid to take breaks. At the top, you’ll be treated to spectacular views of the surrounding area. In the summer, you might even see whales breaching!
Once you’re done exploring the cape, you can easily spend the rest of your day at the beach admiring the beauty of Haystack Rock & the sandstone cliffs, picnicking, flying kites, and checking out the tide pools during low tide. For the more intrepid, Cape Kiwanda is also a popular place to surf and hang glide.
Cape Kiwanda is oftentimes visited as a day trip from Portland. To stay overnight, there’s a wide range of accommodations in Pacific City, including boutique luxury hotels, modest inns, RV parks, and multiple campgrounds. It is $10 to park in the official lot near the Pelican Pub and Brewery, which also has a restroom and foot wash station.
🏖 FACILITIES: Parking | Restrooms & foot wash station at the nearby Pelican Pub and Brewery
11. Crandon Park Beach, Florida
Explored by Claire of Stoked To Travel
How to get there: 15 mins by car from downtown Miami, FL
Crandon Park Beach is located in the beautiful island paradise of Key Biscayne, just a short drive from downtown Miami, but a world away from the hustle of the city. Key Biscayne was once a coconut plantation but has been developed into a true tropical oasis. While there are several beautiful beaches there, Crandon Park Beach definitely stands out.
This beach is home to an expansive 2-mile stretch of white sand with typically calm, aquamarine sea lapping the shoreline. From the beach, there are plenty of watersports on offer, including kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, and kiteboarding. There’s also a golf course, a tennis center, a marina, and tons of nearby wildlife to spot. Alternatively, you can relax at your own brightly colored beach cabana.
Another cool thing to do at Crandon Park Beach is to dive and snorkel at its coastal barrier reef, which is home to the only underwater archaeological trail in the US. You can also head into the adjacent Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, where you can hire bikes to explore the whole area at your leisure. The admission fee for the beach is based on the mode of transport, so if you drive, parking is $8 per vehicle, and for pedestrians and cyclists, it is $2.
Although there are a few lovely hotels in the area, including the Ritz Carlton Key Biscayne, it’s best to visit Crandon Park Beach on a day trip from Miami and stay in either downtown Miami or in Miami Beach. Both of them are two of the best neighborhoods in Miami.
🏖 FACILITIES: Parking | Showers | Restrooms | Beach wheelchairs | Picnic pavilions | Cabanas
10. Gulf Shores Public Beach, Alabama
Explored by Catalin of Travel Trained
How to get there: 1 hour by car from Pensacola, FL
Alabama is known for its several beautiful beaches characterized by the warm waters of the Gulf and unique ivory sands. Out of all of them, the Gulf Shores Public Beach is considered the best one thanks to its sparkling quartz-grain sand, which has attracted a lot of tourists from all over the world. This beach is the perfect spot for a laid-back and family-friendly getaway.
There are tons of fun things to do at this beach to keep you busy for half a day to a whole day. You can enjoy swimming, windsurfing, parasailing, kayaking, and a variety of other water sports. There are also beach volleyball nets on site and tons of picnic pavilions to relax in. When preparing for your trip, remember to bring some good beach shoes to make it easier to walk on the sand and water. A bike would also be handy to have as there are tons of nice trails on the Gulf Coast.
Just a 12-minute drive away is Orange Beach, another great adventure spot. From there, you can even take an unforgettable Gulf Coast dolphin cruise! If you want to see more wildlife, head over to Alligator Alley, a sanctuary that has rescued alligators from dangerous places. It’s just a half-hour drive from the Gulf Shores Public Beach.
There are plenty of nice places to stay at the Gulf Shores Public Beach, such as The Lodge at Gulf State Park. Don’t leave without tasting the delicious seafood in the area either. The nearby Gulf Shores Seafood offers some of the freshest ones.
🏖 FACILITIES: Parking | Showers | Restrooms | Beach wheelchairs | Picnic pavilions | Gear rentals
9. Pacific Beach, California — One of the Prettiest Beaches in the US
Explored by Adria of The Emerald Palate
How to get there: 15 mins by car from downtown San Diego, CA and 2 hours by car from Los Angeles, CA
Pacific Beach, or “PB” to locals, is located along a stretch of beautiful white sand beach that includes three beaches in one: Tourmaline State Park, Pacific Beach, and Mission Beach. Tourmaline is known for surfing and Mission Beach can get rowdy with the younger crowd drawn to the nearby bars and nightlife, but Pacific Beach is just right.
Pacific Beach is completely free to access and features the 3.2-mile paved Ocean Front Walk, which is perfect for walking or biking between all the beaches. Even if you only have one day in San Diego, plan to spend at least a few hours at Pacific Beach. During your time there, go on a fish taco crawl along Mission Boulevard. Don’t miss La Perla Cocina for the best shrimp tacos and Oscars for fried fish tacos. You can also try the delicious carne asada California burrito from Taco Surf.
Since Pacific Beach is a lively area of San Diego, there are a lot of nearby amenities. Lifeguards are on duty during daylight and there are bathroom and shower facilities in a few areas. Parking can be a challenge at Pacific Beach, especially on weekends from April through October. Your best bet is trying to snag free street parking before 10 am. You can also find small parking lots on Tourmaline Street, Grand Avenue, and Pacific Drive, some of which are paid.
If you have more than one day in San Diego, stay overnight in Pacific Beach so you can make the most of the area. With the extra time, walk along the bay via Bayside Walk. You can even rent stand-up paddleboards and enjoy the view from the water of locals running along the path!
🏖 FACILITIES: Parking | Showers | Restrooms | Lifeguards | Beach wheelchairs | Restaurants
8. Smathers Beach (Key West), Florida
Explored by Lori of Travlinmad
How to get there: 15 mins by car or bike from downtown Key West, FL
Florida has some of the most spectacular white sand beaches in the US, and the beaches of southwest Florida are definitely among the best in the Sunshine State. The beaches of Key West weren’t always beautiful, though. Originally a mangrove island, the white sands have formed from decades of storms and hurricanes, creating wider and more tropical beaches along its shores.
Smathers Beach in Key West is among the island’s only public beaches, and it’s completely free to access. Located at the south end of Key West, this beach is still an easy car or bike ride from most places in the Old Town. Grab a shady spot under a palm tree and spend an hour or more enjoying the quiet side of the island. The water is clear and calm, and the sandy bottom is soft on your feet.
You can also rent paddleboards and kayaks or enjoy other water sports such as parasailing along the beach. One interesting tip, if not a bit macabre, is to keep an eye out for cow teeth in the sand. Smathers Beach was a processing site for cows brought over from Cuba, and teeth can sometimes still be found washing up in the surf.
If you want to stay close to the beach, the Southernmost House Hotel is a great option for a waterfront hotel close to beaches. Whether you’re driving or riding bikes, be sure and stop in Louie’s Backyard on your way back to the Old Town — it’s a Key West institution and always a great idea for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or afternoon drinks overlooking the water.
🏖 FACILITIES: Parking | Showers | Restrooms | Jet ski rentals | Beach volleyball nets
7. Assateague Island, Maryland
Explored by Denise of Chef Denise
How to get there: 3 hours by car from Baltimore, MD, Philadelphia, PA or Washington, D.C.
With white sand beaches spilling into the Atlantic Ocean, the barrier Island of Assateague stretches 37 miles long and is part of two states: Maryland and Virginia. The Assateague Island National Seashore has an entrance in each state. The Northern one, just a 10 minute drive from Berlin or Ocean City, Maryland is open year-round with a 7-day pass for $20.
Assateague Island is most famous for its wild horses that roam freely, making wildlife viewing and photography very popular activities here. Horse sightings can happen anywhere on the access roads, on the trails, on the dunes, and if you’re lucky, right on the beaches too. Be sure to read the rules and keep a distance of at least 40 feet! Assateague is also one of the most popular birding destinations in the US, boasting over 300 types of birds including falcons, eagles, and herons.
The pristine shore extends as far as the eye can see. In addition to the typical beach activities like surfing and swimming, Assateague offers hiking, biking, fishing, crabbing, and kayaking. It also has a zone for OSV (over-sand vehicles) where you can 4-wheel drive on the beach with a special permit. With so much to do, you can easily spend the day at this beautiful beach, or reserve one of the 300 campsites and spend a leisurely week.
If you don’t want to camp, stay at the Atlantic Hotel in nearby Berlin, or at one of the many hotels in Ocean City, like the Cambria or Lighthouse Club. If you’re visiting, it’s mandatory to eat Maryland blue crabs and try a couple of the locals’ favorite restaurants: Waterman’s and Harborside.
6. Pensacola Beach, Florida
Explored by Dymphe of Dymabroad
How to get there: 3 hours by car from Tallahassee, FL and 3.5 hours by car from New Orleans, LA
Situated on the western tip of Florida, stunning Pensacola Beach on the Gulf Coast is home to gorgeous sugar-white sands and crystal clear waters. Spending a day here is the perfect way to relax and enjoy some fun-in-the-sun. While the main beaches here are lively and draw a lot of visitors, there are also some quiet, secluded beaches such as the Gulf Islands National Seashore.
Some of the best things to do in Pensacola Beach include swimming, parasailing, surfing, and snorkeling. There’s also a mini-golf center, a fishing pier, a fun dolphin cruise to take, and many events that take place there throughout the year. Near the beach, you’ll find a variety of shops and restaurants. Enjoy delicious food and a brilliant seafront view from Flounder’s Chowder House or The Grand Marlin. If you’re a fan of crabs, don’t miss out on Crabs on the Beach!
There is no admission fee for entering the beach, and you can find lots of umbrellas, sunbeds, and showers once you’re there. There are also plenty of great places to stay near the beach, such as the Hampton Inn. Alternatively, if you prefer to base yourself in a larger city, one of the nearest ones is photogenic New Orleans, which, of course, has tons of amazing accommodation options.
🏖 FACILITIES: Parking | Showers | Restrooms | Beach wheelchairs | Gear rental | Restaurants
5. Coronado Beach, California
Explored by Trijit of Budget Travel Buff
How to get there: 12 mins by car from downtown San Diego, CA
If you want to enjoy one of the best white sand beaches in the US with your four-legged friends, then look no further than Coronado Beach, located just 6.7 miles from downtown San Diego on Coronado Island. Coronado Beach is one of the best dog-friendly beaches in San Diego. Here, you can let your dog go off-leash and watch it play in the water.
Some of the main highlights of this pet-friendly beach are the pristine white sands, the small dunes, and the clear blue waters. This is also a very family-friendly beach and there are plenty of spots for kids to build sandcastles. Take a walk along the 1.5-mile stretch of sand, or simply relax and sunbathe. Alternatively, you can also swim, surf, enjoy beachcombing, or play beach volley.
Coronado Beach is very close to the picturesque Hotel Del Coronado, which has a private beach itself. It’s definitely one of the most beautiful resorts in the area and a perfect place to treat yourself to a luxurious stay. It’s also a great place to grab food near the beach if you get hungry.
To get to Coronado Beach, you can either drive across the Coronado Bridge from San Diego or take a ferry ride. Free parking is available along Ocean Boulevard, but it fills up fast during weekends and public holidays, so try to get there as early as possible. This beach has public restrooms and shower facilities near the Lifeguard Tower, and there are no entrance fees.
🏖 FACILITIES: Parking | Showers | Restrooms | Lifeguards | Pets | Picnic tables | Restaurants
4. Pass Christian to Biloxi, Mississippi
Explored by Charles of McCool Travel
How to get there: 1.5 hours by car from New Orleans, LA
The 26-mile stretch of coastal Mississippi beach between Biloxi and Henderson Point in Pass Christian is the largest man-made beach in the US. Luckily, it is also one of the most beautiful and convenient ones to visit, with plenty of free parking spaces only a few steps away from the sugar-white sand. Visitors can spend anywhere from a few hours to several nights here enjoying the stunning nature and fun outdoor activities that this place has to offer.
The east end, Biloxi Beach to Gulfport, is the busiest area, featuring many wonderful casinos, small harbors, and restaurants. Two of the best places to eat at are White Pillars and The Chimneys. You can also visit the Mississippi Aquarium if you’re a fan of sea life. Don’t miss the West Biloxi Beach Boardwalk either; it’s a stellar setting for spectacular sunsets and shark sightings.
The western portion of the coastal Mississippi beach — from Long Beach to Henderson Point — is one of the most scenic US coastal drives as it’s made of 13 miles of nearly continuous and uninterrupted white sand views. Take advantage of frequent free parking, especially in Pass Christian, and sink your feet into some of the softest and most soothing white sand along the entire Gulf Coast. Enjoy fish and shrimp tacos at Sea Level in Pass Christian.
Nature-lovers should allow time to stop at the University of Southern Mississippi campus in Long Beach and visit the phenomenal southern live oak trees — including the over 500-year-old Friendship Oak. Choose from several hotels and vacation rentals on or near Beach Boulevard, such as the Grand Centennial Gulfport or the Margaritaville Resort Biloxi.
🏖 FACILITIES: Parking | Showers | Restrooms | Jet ski rentals | Chair rentals | Restaurants
3. Clearwater Beach, Florida — One of the Most Famous Beaches in the US
How to get there: 12 mins by car from downtown Clearwater, FL and 45 mins by car from Tampa, FL
Clearwater Beach is definitely one of the most dream-worthy white sand beaches in the US. In fact, Tripadvisor actually named it the best beach in the US in 2019, and the 6th best in the world. This beach is located on a barrier island and is characterized by a gorgeous 2.5-mile stretch of white sand. It is also connected by a short bridge to Sand Key, another barrier island in the south.
Clearwater Beach is a haven for adventure seekers as it’s the perfect spot for water activities such as jet-skiing, parasailing, and stand-up paddleboarding. You can also enjoy dolphin-sighting boat tours in the Gulf waters! Families with kids would love the pirate-themed cruise ships that are on offer, and there are also plenty of party buffet cruises for the fun-loving souls.
This turquoise beach is characterized by calm, shallow, and beautifully clear waters, and is overall an amazing playground for families and kids. To relax and sunbathe, rent a cabana or beach umbrella & chair from a local vendor. You can simply just pick one, settle down, and wait for someone to come by to collect payment.
One unmissable thing to do at Clearwater Beach is to catch sunset at Pier 60. There’s a vibrant festival there every night featuring tons of street performers, artisans, and of course, spectacular sunsets. Clearwater Beach is also home to a beachfront promenade that’s perfect for cycling and rollerblading, and which is also lined with tons of restaurants, shops, and cafes.
🏖 FACILITIES: Parking | Showers | Restrooms | Picnic areas | Beach wheelchairs | Cabanas
2. Carmel Beach, California
Explored by Dhara of Roadtripping California
How to get there: 2 hours by car from San Francisco, CA
Carmel-by-the-Sea, on the Central California Coast, is a charming little village, but adding to its popularity as a getaway destination is its pristine, crescent-shaped white sand beach. In fact, Carmel Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in the northern half of the Golden State. Depending on your preferred activities, you can spend anything from 30 mins to half a day there.
The most popular activity at Carmel Beach is strolling the sandy expanse. You may also see shorebirds playing at the waterline and whales out in the water in season. The beach is very dog-friendly: dogs are allowed off-leash as long as they are under voice command, so it’s a great beach to bring your pooches.
Carmel Beach is also a very scenic photo spot, especially with the ancient cypress trees on the land end of the beach forming a frame for the water. You can also enjoy a spectacular sunset here on good weather days. Bring a blanket or beach chairs, and a picnic or wine and cheese from Carmel Village, to enjoy at the beach. Surfing and beach volleyball are other Carmel Beach activities to enjoy.
This beach is free to visit. Restrooms and parking are available by the beach but parking can get full, so arrive early. There are also lots of cute inns in Carmel Village. Hofsas House Hotel is an affordable option, or you can stay at the Tradewinds. If you enjoy Italian, Little Napoli is a great place to eat in the village.
🏖 FACILITIES: Parking | Showers | Restrooms | Pets
1. Miami Beach, Florida
Explored by Victoria of Guide Your Travel
How to get there: 20 mins by car from downtown Miami, FL
Miami Beach is the name of an entire island in Miami which has a large stretch of beach along its eastern coast. While the beach is divided into segments of South Beach, Mid Beach, and more, it’s technically one long beach. Florida is known for its stunning clear-water and white-sand beaches, and Miami Beach might just be one of the best ones.
Because Miami Beach is so large, there’s something there for everyone. While the area is known for its wild nightlife and beachfront parties, there are also quieter stretches perfect for those who want to relax and unwind. You’ll love the great selection of restaurants, bars, and beach clubs that sit right on the beach, giving you plenty of things to see and do.
Miami Beach is also fantastic for shopping, so once you’ve had enough of swimming and relaxing, why not buy yourself a new summer outfit? Definitely head to South Pointe Park in the early evening for a cocktail and a walk along the pier. This spot marks the southernmost end of Miami Beach and is especially beautiful.
Miami Beach is free to access and you’ll find public bathrooms and showers at multiple points. Since there’s a lot to see and do in the area, you can easily spend an entire day there.
🏖 FACILITIES: Parking | Showers | Restrooms | Picnic pavilions | Playground | Beach wheelchairs
Planning Your Trip to the Prettiest Beaches in the US
- ✈️ Find the best flights around the US with Skyscanner or Kiwi.com
- 💸 Get reliable travel insurance from World Nomads
- 🚖 Book your private transfer from the airport to your hotel with Expedia
- 🏨 Find the best accommodations on Booking.com or Expedia
- 🧔🏻 Get the best tour guides via Get Your Guide, Tiqets, or Viator
- 🚗 To rent a car for road trips, get great deals on Rentalcars.com
- 🎒 Pack a bathing suit cover-up, water-proof phone case, and a picnic cooler bag
- 📚 Read Lonely Planet USA and some dreamy beach quotes for more inspiration
- 📸 Bring the best photography gear (including these must-have Sony lenses!)
Final Thoughts on These Beautiful US Beaches
I hope these pretty beaches in the US have inspired you, and that this guide has helped you plan your next beach getaway! If you have any questions at all, feel free to leave a comment and I’ll try my best to help you! 🙂