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El Matador State Beach, Los Angeles, California
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The best beaches in the USA in 2022

Soak up some rays at the best beaches in the United States, which are ace for shredding waves, snorkeling and more

Scott Snowden
Written by
Scott Snowden
&
Sarah Medina
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What a roller-coaster ride it's been. After more than a year spent trying not to go insane indoors, this summer's going to be different. With spring now well and truly in the air, we owe it to ourselves to get (safely) outside and once again feel the sun on our skin, the sand between our toes and the refreshing splash of cool ocean water slowly soaking the legs of our jeans that haven't been rolled up quite high enough.

If the thought of some serious snorkeling, surfing, swimming or even just some much-needed take-it-easy time spent listening to the ASMR-like sound of waves crashing on the sandy shore appeals, then you're definitely going to need our guide to the very best beaches in the US. 

Unfortunately, we live in an ever-changing world and the Covid-19 pandemic certainly made its presence felt in ways we couldn't even dream of before the outbreak.

Who'd have thought it would cause such an upset to the global shipping industry? Who could've conceived that would result in a container ship parking lot outside of Long Beach, California? And who could possibly have imagined that one of those container ships would accidentally snag an undersea oil pipeline with its anchor, resulting in a 13-mile wide oil slick off the coast of Orange County..?

As such, this crucial countdown might not contain some of the beaches you're expecting to find as we like to keep it current and that's why you need to keep checking.

So, what's the nicest beach in the USA right now? Well, this essential index spans the country, from East Coast gems and West Coast favorites to beautiful Hawaii coasts and even an essential respite in Chicago. 

Thirsting for more travel inspiration in 2022? Don’t miss our rundowns of the best places to visit in the USA, hiking trails in the US and the best road trips in America

RECOMMENDED: Your ultimate guide to the great outdoors

Best beaches in the United States

Hanalei Bay | Kauai, HI
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1. Hanalei Bay | Kauai, HI

One of Hawaii's lesser-visited islands, Kauai is home to stunning beaches. Located on the island's north shore, Hanalei Bay is the largest bay in Kauai and offers more than two miles of soft white sand, a calm bay and a mountainous backdrop. The beach is rarely crowded, which means families will have plenty of room to spread out, and in the summer, the bay offers excellent mooring for sailboats, stand up paddle boarding and swimming.

Discover the best things to do in Kauai

Siesta Beach | Siesta Key, FL
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2. Siesta Beach | Siesta Key, FL

As its name suggests, Siesta Key is the place to relax. The expansive beachfront rarely feels overcrowded and the fine quartz-crystal white sand stays cool to the touch, so be sure to dig your feet in whilst reading your favorite book. Pack your cooler with your adult beverages—no glasses allowed—and should you feel the need to exert yourself, kayaks and paddleboards are available for rental.

Discover the best beaches in Florida 

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Coronado Beach | San Diego, CA
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3. Coronado Beach | San Diego, CA

Anchored by the grand Hotel del Coronado, this iconic white-sand beach is a SoCal gem that literally sparkles (it's flecked with the gold-like mineral mica). Gentle waves encourage frolicking in the breakwater, while a vast sandy expanse—which never feels crowded—invites sandcastle-building and kite-flying. The beach was immortalized by Marilyn Monroe in Some Like it Hot and you can play the role of starlet with a stay at "The Del" which gains you access to retro, candy-striped loungers and swanky cabanettes on the sand. Navy SEALs can also sometimes be seen training at the north end.

Discover the best beaches in San Diego

Moshup Beach | Martha’s Vineyard, MA
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4. Moshup Beach | Martha’s Vineyard, MA

Martha’s Vineyard fills up with holiday makers in the summer, but most stay on the northern edge of the island. Down south, or 'up island' as it's known, locals and island veterans head to Moshup Beach in the community of Aquinnah. Located below the sandy cliffs, at what was once called Gay Head (before its Native American name Aquinnah was officially reinstated), the white sand beach is a sanctuary from the horde.

Discover the best things to do in Martha's Vineyard

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Seaside Beach | Seaside, OR
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5. Seaside Beach | Seaside, OR

Cannon Beach, home to the iconic Haystack Rock, might be the most well-known beach in Oregon, but we're partial to this seaside enclave better known for its sweet waves and literal sweets like local saltwater taffy. (This is also where some of The Goonies was filmed.) There's plenty to do here, with shops, restaurants and an oceanfront promenade all boasting great views of the Pacific. Surfing, hiking, biking, kayaking and kite-flying are all popular pasttimes. 

Discover the best things to do in Oregon

El Matador State Beach | Malibu, CA
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6. El Matador State Beach | Malibu, CA

Small and dominated by rocky outcrops, El Matador my not fit your typical idea of an afternoon on the sand, but it's a beautiful beach in an area of Los Angeles that offers some superior, sandy coastline, with Zuma and Point Dume just a few miles south along the Pacific Coast Highway. Shoes will definitely be required and don’t bring too much gear as the western Malibu spot is only accessible via a steep gravelly path. The beach itself isn't particularly wide, so you'll need to keep an eye on the tides, plus it features blufftop parking and offers some impressive and sizable rock formations. Arriving early or staying late should reward you with a memorable dawn or sunset.

Discover the best beaches near Los Angeles

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Kaanapali Beach | Maui, HI
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7. Kaanapali Beach | Maui, HI

Vacation like royalty at Kaanapali Beach, where Maui’s monarchy once enjoyed waves and sunsets. This popular stretch of white sand is home to surf schools, cocktail bars and an amazing nightly torch lighting ceremony that dates back to the late 1700’s when King Kahekili ruled Maui and Oahu for 45 years. Visit the Maui Ocean Center kiosk on the beach before a snorkeling session to help identify the colorful marine life you encounter. Then walk along the boardwalk and revel in the eateries and luau performances that take place all around.


Discover the best beaches in Maui

Ocracoke Island | Outer Banks, NC
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8. Ocracoke Island | Outer Banks, NC

At the southern tip of the Outer Banks sits Ocracoke Island (pronounced like the southern vegetable and the cola), a onetime pirate haven that’s now one of North Carolina’s premier beaches. Blackbeard and his boys hid out and partied on the beaches here and if you don’t mind a ferry ride, you can also play pirate for a week. Find stress-free beaches and locals who don’t mind sharing their turf. 

Discover the best beaches in North Carolina

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Shi Shi Beach | Olympic National Park, WA
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9. Shi Shi Beach | Olympic National Park, WA

Perhaps the most dramatic-looking beach on the West Coast, Shi Shi Beach features dozens of arches and rock pyres jutting abruptly out of the water. While its not the best spot for sunbathers, science geeks will rejoice. The rocks create hundreds of tide pools, which house an ornate ecosystem of starfish, crabs, kelp and fish. Be sure to bring your shoes: reaching the beach requires a 3.3-mile hike through dense forest. But the payoff is worth the walk, and overnight camping is allowed. 

Discover the ultimate guide to Washington

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