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

Secret Hideaway

Neskowin Beach State Recreation Site, Neskowin, Oregon

From U.S. 101, you barely notice the village, let alone the beach. That’s why you might have this breathtaking confluence of sea, sand, and scenery all to yourself.

Stay: The 11 fireplace-equipped shorefront cottages of The Breakers Beach Houses (503/392-3417 or overlook the ocean. Private cottages start at $160. To see available vacation rentals, visit

Eat: Hawk Creek Cafe (503/392-3838) serves excellent pizza from a wood-fired oven.

Shop: Head 13 miles south to Lincoln City for glass art at The Volta Glass Gallery (541/996-7600 or Or create your own art across the street at The Jennifer Sears Glass Art Studio (541/996-2569 or

Local secret: See that picturesque sea stack topped with trees? There’s a reason it’s called Proposal Rock.

More Hidden Beaches

■ Cumberland Island, Georgia: Because there’s no bridge access to these 17 miles of Atlantic beach, you may not see another soul (912/882-4336 or

■ Pfeiffer Beach, Big Sur, California: Steep terrain that requires a short hike is worth it for the sunset views (831/667-2100 or

■ Rialto Beach, Olympic National Park, Washington: Dr. Beach’s “best wilderness beach” in the Pacific Northwest. Equal parts coastal forest and ocean beach that’s ideal for camping (800/833-6388 or

■ St. Joseph Peninsula State Park, Port St. Joe, Florida: A little-known beach on the Panhandle with 10 miles of white sand and spectacular sunsets (850/227-1327 or florida


Meet the Expert
Dr. 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.

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