The 31 Best Beach Vacations

Whether you want to stroll for seashells, ride waves, or build sand castles, our list of amazing beaches will guide you to your new favorite coastal playground.

Writer Steve Millburg

Splendid Sand

Siesta Beach, Siesta Key, Sarasota, Florida

Says Dr. Beach, “Sugar sand with a beach that is hundreds of yards wide; you’ve gotta love this place.” We do.

Stay: Sara Sea Beach Resort (800/235-3493 or has 21 beachy rooms, each with a kitchen and, on your arrival, a complimentary bottle of wine. Boutique rooms start at $237. For vacation rentals, visit

Eat: Try Ophelia’s on the Bay (877/229-9601 or for waterfront fine dining, Siesta Key Oyster Bar (941/346-5443 or for casual fun.

Shop: Hip fashions—shoes, clothing, swimwear—await at Foxy Lady (941/349-6644 or, in a cottage just across from the beach.

Local secret: The Siesta Key Drum Circle ( draws hundreds to the beach for music and dancing every Sunday before sundown.

More Beaches With Beautiful Sand

Coast Guard Beach, Eastham, Cape Cod, Massachusetts: Cushy mounds—slightly coarse, but very clean—pile up against the cliff (508/771-2144 or

Hilton Head Island, South Carolina: Twelve miles of fluffy beaches embrace this high-end resort island (800/523-3373 or

Shoal Bay (East), Anguilla: Sleepy Anguilla wakes up—a little—at this two-mile expanse of feathery white sand that glitters in the sun. The quiet Shoal Bay Villas (562/366-4813 or puts you just a few steps from the water.

Torrance, California: A little-known but wonderful mile and a half of soft sand framed by hills (310/316-3636 or



Huntington Beach, California

Huntington fought a legal battle with Santa Cruz for the right to crown itself “Surf City, U.S.A.”—and won. It really does have a mellow surfer vibe; Dr. Beach calls it the “No. 1 family surf beach in the United States.”

Stay: The Shorebreak Hotel (877/744-1117 or overlooks the ocean and features surfer-chic design. Waterfront rooms start at $259. For charming rental cottages, visit

Eat: Join the locals for breakfast at the comfy Sugar Shack (714/536-0355 or Then join the tourists at Duke’s (714/374-6446 or You’ll pay for the ocean view, but it’s worth it.

Shop: Walk past the giant Huntington Surf & Sport (714/374-6266 or at the pier and down the block to the Billabong surf fashions at its sister store.

Local secret: Ocean vistas along the 11⁄2-mile nature trail at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve (714/846-1114 or can soothe away your stress.

More Beaches To Hang Ten

Cape Hatteras, Outer Banks, North Carolina: “The best board surfing on the East Coast,” says Dr. Beach; paddle out near the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse (877/629-4386 or

Northside Beach, Sheboygan, Wisconsin: This surfing beach, surprisingly on Lake Michigan, is the site of the Dairyland Surf Classic (

Santa Cruz, California: The Santa Cruz Surfing Museum (831/ 420-6289 or at Lighthouse Point overlooks the famous Steamer Lane surf break.

Sebastian Inlet State Park, near Sebastian, Florida: Three miles of tranquil Atlantic beach beloved by surfers and fishermen (321/984-4852 or

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