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Capitola, CAWith its busy wharf and brightly hued hotels and downtown buildings practically on the beach facing Monterey Bay, California's oldest seaside resort town (population 10,093) hums with colorful fun.
Fairhope, ALA warm-hearted Southern town with Gulf style, this community of 17,386 is a haven for writers, including Rick Bragg and Fannie Flagg. Antebellum homes and moss-draped live oaks dot its cozy streets.
Hermosa Beach, CAGreat for strolling, shopping, and surfing, this compact, pedestrian-friendly city of 19,801 is just five miles south of Los Angeles. Its wide beaches and palm-lined avenues are magnets for locals and visitors alike.
Hilo, HINestled among volcanoes, waterfalls, and rain forests on the Big Island, Hilo (population 43,263) has it all: museums, galleries, boutiques, one of the world's leading producers of macadamia nuts, and a renowned hula festival.
Portland, MEA nationally recognized food mecca, this town of 66,318 has cobblestone streets and historic brick and stone buildings filled with independent shops and businesses. Vibrant cultural offerings make Maine's largest port a rich blend indeed.
Rehoboth Beach, DEKnown as “The Nation's Summer Capital,” this Mid-Atlantic destination that's traditionally lured Washington, D.C., vacationers has kept its homespun charms intact. With only 1,398 residents, everyone knows their neighbors, and kids still ride bikes on tree-lined streets.
Seaside, ORThis classic Oregon resort town just 90 minutes from Portland has been a Pacific Northwest playground since the 1800s. Its 6,471 citizens love its 1½-mile Promenade along the shore with sunset views against iconic Tillamook Head.
Stuart, FLThis Atlantic coast city of 16,078 on Florida's Treasure Coast is known as “The Sailfish Capital of the World.” Fishermen flock here, but so do folks who love its charming, lively downtown and white-sand beaches.
Sturgeon Bay, WIDating to 1835, this Great Lakes town of 9,144 residents has a bustling arts scene, fun food and drink, nearby state parks, and a historic waterfront with views of both Green Bay and Lake Michigan.
Sullivan's Island, SCPerched at the mouth of Charleston Harbor, this relaxed little community of only 1,875 has gorgeous homes and undeveloped beaches, and is only a few minutes' drive from the renowned arts, culture, and restaurants of the city.
How we picked the finalists:
We began with your nominations, plus all the past places we've lauded as Dream Towns. From there, we looked at the rank on the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, percentage of clear and sunny days, healthiness of beaches, commute times, walkability, crime ratings, standard of living and financial well-being of the locals, geographic diversity, and our editors' assessment of each town's “coastal vibe.” The result: an all-star list for 2016 from every coast! (Previous winners were not eligible.)
How often can I vote?
You can vote every 15 minutes. Votes are limited to one per IP address.
The final rankings will be revealed online beginning at 7am EST April 5th and featured in our May issue.