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Makena Beach
Photograph: Shutterstock

Best beaches in the United States that are open (and closed)

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

By Frederick Dreier and Tim Lowery
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Gear up for some serious snorkeling, surfing, swimming or even just chilling out—we’re all in need of some much-needed taking-it-easy time—by checking out our tried-and-true list of the very best beaches in the United States. This roundup spans the country, from East Coast gems and West Coast favorites to beautiful Hawaii coasts and even an essential respite in Chicago. We’ve even singled out what each destination is known for to help you better plan your trip. Thirsting for more travel inspiration? Don’t miss our rundowns of the best places to visit in the USA, hiking trails in the United States and the best road trips in America

NOTE: We've identified which of our favorite beaches are open and closed, as well as any restrictions for visitors. As always, practice social distancing and wear a mask if you visit any of the places below. 

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Best beaches in the USA

Waimanalo Bay
Waimanalo Bay
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Geoff Livingstone

1. Waimanalo Bay, Oahu, HI (OPEN)

NOTE: Visitors must remain six feet apart.  

Far from the busy streets of Waikiki, Waimanalo Bay beach provides a secluded, end-of-the-Earth beach atmosphere within a short drive of Honolulu. The beach is located on the windward side of Diamond Head and features shallow, warm water and fine-grain sand. Its mellow surf and calm current make it ideal for swimming and wading. And forget about trash—it’s one of the cleanest beaches in the entire island chain. 

Good for: Swimming, wading and sunbathing

Discover the best things to do in Hawaii

Surfing at San Onofre
Surfing at San Onofre
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Roger Howard

2. San Onofre State Beach, San Clemente, CA (OPEN)

NOTE: The beach allows water sports, walking and running, but sunbathing is prohibited. 

San Onofre State Beach is one of California’s best destinations for sand and surf. In fact, San Onofre is the place to go for beginning surfers looking for a judgment-free spot to learn. Located just three miles south of San Clemente, San Onofre draws crowds from both San Diego and Orange County, so weekend crowds can swell. But so can the waves, which wash slowly into shore along four different breaks. We recommend Surf Beach and Trails for entry-level surfers. 

Good for: Surfing, boogie boarding and camping

Discover the best things to do in California

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Makena Beach
Makena Beach
Photograph: Shutterstock

3. Makena Beach, Maui, HI (OPEN)

NOTE: Visitors must remain six feet apart.  

Located on Maui’s southern edge, Makena Beach serves up a mile of orange and yellow sand, dramatic cliffs and blue-green water. There’s little to no reef present, so the sandy bottom shines up through he water, and creates a great spot for swimming and wading. The beach break can get big, so bring your trunks and get ready to bodysurf. 

Good for: Swimming, bodysurfing and accessibility

Discover the best things to do in Hawaii

Delray Beach
Delray Beach
Photograph: Shutterstock

4. Delray Beach, FL (OPEN)

NOTE: The beach allows swimming, walking and running, but prohibits sunbathing, surfing and congregating.  

While South Beach and Fort Lauderdale get the attention, Delray Beach provides a similar Florida coastal experience without the enormous crowds. The two-mile stretch of sand is family-friendly, and ideal for building sandcastles, relaxing or swimming. At night, the adjacent Atlantic Avenue is where to hit for world-class seafood, bars and art galleries along the Pineapple Grove Arts District. 

Good for: Swimming, sandcastles and nightlife 

Discover the best things to do in Florida

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Cape Hatteras National Seashore
Cape Hatteras National Seashore
Photograph: Shutterstock

5. Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Outer Banks, NC (OPEN)

NOTE: Visitors must remain six feet apart.  

Vacationers from both sides of the Mason-Dixon line flock to North Carolina’s Outer Banks to enjoy the warm water and endless miles of sand. The jewel of the area is the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, which is the farthest point from the mainland. The seashore is the largest stretch of undeveloped land along the Outer Banks and provides a great spot for surfing, fishing, walking or just soaking in the unobstructed views of the ocean. This is a place to chill, so don’t expect too much nightlife. 

Good for: Relaxing, swimming and surfing 

Discover the best things to do in the Outer Banks

6. Hulopo’e Bay Beach, Lanai, HI (OPEN)

NOTE: Visitors must remain six feet apart.  

Vacationers to Hawaii often overlook the small island of Lanai, which sits between Maui and Oahu. The island is home to several amazing beaches, but most are inaccessible, due to the island’s lack of roads or infrastructure. Hulopo’e Bay beach is the easiest to get to and is located a short walk from the ferry terminal. Bonus: The crescent-shaped beach is a protected marine reserve, so it’s great for snorkeling. 

Good for: Beating the crowds and escaping

Discover the best things to do in Hawaii

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Moshup Beach
Moshup Beach
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Jonathan Bell

7. Moshup Beach, Martha’s Vineyard, MA (OPEN)

NOTE: People who can't remain more than six feet apart are required to wear masks.  

Martha’s Vineyard fills up with vacationers in the summer, but most stay on the northern edge of the island. Down south, or “up island” as the locals call it, locals and island veterans head to Moshup Beach in the community of Aquinnah. Located below the sandy cliffs at Gay Head, the white sand beach is a sanctuary from the horde. There’s a cleared path to the beach, which takes about 15 minutes to walk. 

Good for: Beating the crowd, surfing and sunbathing

Discover the best things to do in Massachusetts

8. Coronado Beach, San Diego, CA (OPEN)

NOTE: The beach allows water sports, walking and running, but sunbathing is prohibited. 

This California classic stretches 1.5 miles along Ocean Boulevard in San Diego. It’s a popular destination for college kids, families and off-duty marines from the nearby Naval base. It also attracts guests from the luxurious Hotel Del Coronado, located a few steps from the sand. Swimmers, bodysurfers and surfers flock to the beach’s southern end, where the waves arrive in regular sets. On the north end, dog owners let their pooches frolic in the surf at Dog Beach, which does not require leashes. 

Good for:
Accessibility, swimming, food and libations

Discover the best things to do in San Diego

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Atlantic Beach
Atlantic Beach

9. Atlantic Beach, Amagansett, NY (OPEN)

NOTE: Crowds are capped at 50-percent capacity.   

The Hamptons have built a reputation for attracting the high-end crowd and for good reason. Instead, we recommend heading to Atlantic Beach in Amagansett, where the crowds are still fancy, but not as over-the-top as at other nearby destinations. There’s ample parking along Atlantic Avenue, making Atlantic Beach the most convenient of the Hamptons beaches. And with ample concessions available (including lobster rolls), you won’t go home with an empty stomach. 


Good for: Accessibility, food and libations

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Fort Jefferson, Key West
Fort Jefferson, Key West
Photograph: Shutterstock

10. Dry Tortugas National Park and Ft. Jefferson, Key West, FL (OPEN)

Talk about remote. Dry Tortugas sits 70 miles west of Key West and is accessible only by private plane or boat. The park is comprised of seven different islands, and each one features a coral reef teeming with sea life. Eco travelers flock here to snorkel and scuba dive right from the beach. The destination also includes Fort Jefferson, which was built in the 1840s to guard the Mississippi River from pirates. 

Good for: Escaping, snorkeling and scuba diving

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Shi Shi Beach
Shi Shi Beach
Photograph: Shutterstock

11. Shi Shi Beach, Olympic National Park, WA (CLOSED)

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. This is not a spot for sunbathers, as sharp rock outcropping and loose stones regularly interrupt the sand. Science geeks, however, should rejoice. The rocks create hundreds of tide pools, which house an ornate ecosystem of starfish, crabs, kelp and fish. 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. 

Good for: Tide pools, hiking and camping

Discover the ultimate guide to Washington

North Avenue Beach
North Avenue Beach
Photograph: Shutterstock

12. North Avenue Beach, Chicago, IL (CLOSED)

Things to do Lincoln Park

Beaches aren’t just for coastal cities. Chicago is home to several, and North Avenue Beach is one of the most popular. On hot summer days, folks flock here for the volleyball, swimming and kayaking. The beach is home to a 22,000-square foot beach house shaped like an ocean liner, which contains bars and restaurants, as well as equipment rental and lifeguards. 

Good for:
The scene, food and libations and accessibility

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