Every year, travel media folks eagerly wait for the expert who goes by the moniker "Dr. Beach" to announce his picks for the top 10 beaches in America — and hooray! The picks are in.
Dr. Beach uses 50 criteria to decide which beaches make the list out of the 650 U.S. places he surveys. Criteria include water and sand quality, beach safety, environmental management, and smoking policies.
So who is this beach genius? Well, Dr. Beach is actually Dr. Stephen Leatherman, a professor at Florida International University who has been studying beach erosion for more than 40 years. He's surveyed the entire U.S. coast... twice. So he knows his way around the best sand and sea in the country.
Without further ado, his top 10 beaches of the year, saving the best one for last.
10. Beachwalker Park, Kiawah Island, South Carolina
Kiawah Island is just off the coast from Charleston, and is a golfer's paradise. The island is only 14 square miles, much of which is taken over by the Kiawah Golf Resort. This is the place for nature lovers, and the doc recommends bringing a kayak to explore the tidal inlets.
9. Coronado Beach, San Diego, California
Dr. Beach calls this place the "toast of California." He explains that the sea here is as "warm as it gets," and is as close to a Mediterranean beach as we have in the U.S. It is a great place for ship-watching and has a mild surf.
8. Hapuna Beach, Big Island, Hawaii
This beach is said to be a great place for body surfing during the shore breaks. On the west coast of the big island, more beaches aren't like this one, which has unusual white sand. This is the place to chill out, eat fish tacos, and watch the body surfers and boogie boarders.
7. Caladesi Island State Park, Dunedin/Clearwater, Florida
Just a short walk away from Clearwater beach, you'll find this place with super-soft crystalline quartz sand. Dr. Beach suggests take a kayak through the marshes and mangroves here to really explore nature and see the local animals, such as blue heron.
6. Coast Guard Beach, Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Henry David Thoreau once called this the "Great Beach," and it's been beloved by celebs and presidents. It's a perfect swimming beach — and also a great place to watch for seals.
5. Coopers Beach, Southampton, New York
Located on the south shore of Long Island, Cooper's Beach wins the title as the "Gold Coast" of the country. It has a backdrop of huge sand dunes, making it exceptionally beautiful. He calls this the best beach in the Hamptons.
4. Grayton Beach State Park, Florida
This 2,000-acre state park is all about nature, and it's one of the most pristine beaches in the country. It's great for swimming, and fishing, too.
3. Ocracoke Lifeguarded Beach, Outer Banks of North Carolina
This beach was once home to the notorious pirate Blackbeard, and Dr. Beach calls it his "favorite getaway beach." It's one of the "wildest beaches in the country," with some big surf in the summers.
2. Kapalua Bay Beach, Maui, Hawaii
Golden sand and palm trees... of course Maui comes close to the top of the list! The lava rock here protects the beach and keeps it serene. Grab a standup paddleboard and go look for sea turtles down below.
1. Siesta Beach, Sarasota, Florida
Did you expect a Hawaiian beach to come in at No. 1? Nope. Drumroll, please, for the winner: Siesta beach in Sarasota, Florida! Dr. Beach calls this Florida spot home to "some of the finest and whitest sand in the world." It has clear, warm waters perfect for swimming, and a huge amount of space for families to visit without feeling the crunch of overcrowding.
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