If you want to plan an unforgettable beach trip, TripAdvisor is a valuable resource that’s a quick click or tap away. For more than 20 years, it’s helped millions of people decide where to go on vacation and where to stay once they get there. Using input from actual travelers, the online travel platform has compiled a list of the top 10 beaches in the U.S.
Are you ready to hit the beach? Let’s let TripAdvisor point the way to the nation’s very best surf and sand. Some of these locations are in more rustic, secluded areas, while others lie amid retail centers busy with tourists. Let’s find out where to do some snorkeling among lava rocks or find genuine gemstones.
What Makes a Beach ‘the Best?’
The TripAdvisor ratings are helpful because they provide user ratings for each beach, links to informative websites, and a list of the top things to do in the area. To determine its top-ranked beaches, TripAdvisor averages out the ratings from actual consumers. Let’s find out more about 10 great beaches that TripAdvisor ranks as the best in America.
The 10 Best Beaches in the U.S.
The U.S. has some incredible beaches, but reviewers on TripAdvisor especially love the ones in Hawaii. Seaside treasures from that island paradise make up half of the top 10 list, and Florida takes second place with two.
#1. St. Pete Beach, Fla.
Address: 4700 Gulf Blvd., St. Pete Beach, FL 33706
About St. Pete Beach: Pete is short for Petersburg, but millions of sun-worshippers are on a more familiar basis with it. TripAdvisor’s rating system gives it 4.5 circles, which is its equivalent of stars. It sits on the Gulf of Mexico on a barrier island called Long Key, across the bay from Tampa.
What Makes It the Best: Many of Florida’s beach areas are overcrowded and congested, but St. Pete Beach retains a lazier feel. The surrounding community, just to the west of the more bustling St. Petersburg, has a friendlier, more welcoming vibe. The landmark Don CeSar Hotel offers an old-world ambiance, and seabirds and turtles nest on Shell Key.
Traveler’s Tip: If you prefer to avoid crowds and have a laidback vacation, visit these 9 best small towns in Florida.
#2. Ka’anapali Beach, Hawaii
Address: 2605 Ka’anapali Parkway, Lahaina, HI 96761
About Ka’anapali Beach: This resort area on the western end of Maui is a former retreat for the royal family. It consistently shows up at or near the top of these kinds of lists, and some even say it’s the best beach in the world.
What Makes It the Best: Ka’anapali has three miles of light-colored sand that’s soft to the touch. Offshore, the clear blue-green waters are great for swimming, snorkeling, and paddleboarding. A complex nearby called Whalers Village has shops, restaurants, and a whaling museum. A ceremonial cliff dive happens every day at sunset.
#3. Moonstone Beach, Calif.
Address: Moonstone Beach, Cambria, CA 93428
About Moonstone Beach: Located in Cambria on California’s Central Coast, Moonstone Beach has long been a popular getaway for day-trippers from Los Angeles. Many of its visitors are enchanted with the idea of finding actual gemstones emerging from the surf.
What Makes It the Best: Moonstones, jade, jasper, and other stones and sea glass do indeed land on the beach here. Most of the shore is rocky, but the water is great for kayaking, and there’s a boardwalk for strolling or pedaling. It’s also a stop on the Whale Trail, so keep your eyes on the horizon for marine mammals.
#4. Wailea Beach, Hawaii
Address: Wailea Alanui Drive, Wailea, Maui, HI 96753
About Wailea Beach: This luxurious resort area is in south Maui and covers about 1,500 acres. It has five different beaches with fine-grained white sand and is also known for its golf courses.
What Makes It the Best: Wailea is known for its breathtaking, panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean. The waters are great for swimming, and snorkelers love exploring the natural deposits of lava rock. The hotels are close, but it’s more secluded than other popular Maui beaches.
#5. Cannon Beach, Ore.
Address: Cannon Beach, OR 97145
About Cannon Beach: This “breathtaking and vast” stretch of sand is about 80 miles west of Portland in northwest Oregon. National Geographic magazine has called Cannon Beach one of the 100 most beautiful places in the world.
What Makes It the Best: Sometimes, what helps make a beach terrific is what’s around it. In this case, it’s the towering Haystack Rock, a habitat for puffins, as well as Hug Point with its waterfalls and sea caves. Trails in nearby Ecola State Park offer commanding views of the ocean, and the quaint downtown area has numerous shops, galleries, and eateries.
#6. Napili Beach, Hawaii
Address: Napili-Honokowai, HI 96761
About Napili Beach: This busy but low-key beach area straddles the bay on Maui’s northwest coast, a few miles from Kapalua. It’s popular with families and is more compact than the beaches of Wailea and Ka’anapali.
What Makes It the Best: The snorkeling at Napili Beach is tops, according to many reviewers, because of the soft sand underfoot and the coral reefs offshore. They also rave about the stunning turquoise waters, the sloping white sand, and the basking sea turtles. There are two different public beach areas, both with roadside parking.
#7. Ogunquit Beach, Maine
Address: Ogunquit, ME 03907
About Ogunquit Beach: It’s a favorite on Maine’s southern coast because it’s easy to access and has more than three miles of white sand. The beach is 37 miles south of Portland and 18 miles up the coast from Portsmouth, N.H.
What Makes It the Best: Ogunquit sits on a peninsula, with water on three sides. That huge stretch of sand is what keeps visitors coming back. “At low tide, the beach is probably the widest beach ever,” says a reviewer. “At high tide, you can walk out hundreds of feet and still be only waist-high.”
#8. Wai’anapanapa State Park, Hawaii
Address: Wai’anapanapa, Hana, HI 96713
About Wai’anapanapa State Park Beach: Not all beaches on this list are blindingly white. Wai’anapanapa in eastern Maui is known for its black sand and other natural wonders.
What Makes It the Best: Those black particles in the soil are actually tiny lava fragments. You might also see tidal pools with a strange red hue from shrimp. Snorkel in the shallower depths and enjoy a panoramic view of the open waters beyond. You can also hike along an ancient trail that leads to the isolated town of Hana.
#9. Madeira Beach, Fla.
Address: 14400 Gulf Blvd., Madeira Beach, FL 33708
About Madeira Beach: This highly desirable spot on the Gulf of Mexico calls itself a combination between a classic fishing village and a lively beach town. It’s basically a next-door neighbor to St. Pete Beach, which is just five miles away.
What Makes It the Best: Known as “Mad Beach” by the locals, it’s a 2.5-mile strip of sand on Florida’s Emerald Coast. Spectacular sunsets are a big draw, and it’s near another popular attraction called St. John’s Pass and Boardwalk. This area also has excellent grouper fishing and hosts an annual seafood festival.
#10. Kailua Beach Park, Hawaii
Address: 526 Kawailoa Rd., Kailua, HI 96734
About Kailua Beach Park: This magnificent beach on the island of Oahu feels more like a neighborhood park than an exclusive resort. It’s in a beloved public park that’s a popular recreation spot.
What Makes It the Best: Kailua Beach is less fashionable than the resort areas, so it attracts more locals and those with a more active lifestyle. It faces east, so the sunrises beckon lots of early risers. Soon, throngs of swimmers, kayakers, paddle boarders, windsurfers, and more join them. There are three separate beaches and plenty of green, shaded areas on 35 acres along the bay.
Visit These Fantastic Beaches
It makes sense to take advantage of other peoples’ experiences when planning a beach vacation. You can follow their leads toward dream destinations and learn from their travel nightmares. Thanks to previous visitors who took the time to post their impressions, photos, and ratings, TripAdvisor is a helpful online resource.
Plus, if you’re looking for more possibilities, TripAdvisors beach rankings don’t stop at 10. Look it up online, and you’ll find another 15 fantastic beaches that round out the best 25. Did your favorite beach make the list? If not, where is it, and what’s so great about it