The Best Beach in America Will Surprise You (And 3 Reasons to Go Right Now)

Think: white sands, luxe lodgings, and celebs galore.

We're all about jet setting to far-flung locales, but sometimes it's easy to forget that Americans don't need a passport to dip their toes in some of the world's most attractive sand.

TripAdvisor recently released its annual list of the top 25 beaches in the United States, based on the votes of members of the world's largest online travel community, and guess which destination came out on top?

Well, it's Clearwater, Florida. The beach beat out fab places like Lanikai and Wai'anapapa State Park in Hawaii, which placed second and fifth, and Siesta Beach and Saint Pete Beach in Florida, which placed third and fourth.

Here's what makes this Gulf Coast beach great (and why to go).

1.  That White Sand Beach

Stretching two-and-a-half-miles along the Gulf of Mexico, Clearwater Beach beckons with its dazzling soft white quartz sand. With a texture of something between sugar and powder, the pillowy sand just invites your toes to dip in. When not lying out in your chic cabana, you can head over to Pier 60 for its festive sunset celebration or to take a dolphin watching or parasailing boat trip.

2.  Luxury Offerings are on the Up

Historically a rustic, family-friendly destination, Clearwater is nowadays attracting more singles, couples without children, and luxury travelers. To keep pace with this demographic change, luxury accommodations are opening up. Opened in February, all rooms at the waterfront contemporary beach-chic Opal Sands Resort feature floor-to-ceiling windows and balconies with panoramic Gulf of Mexico views, while the resort's zero-entry swimming pool and beachside tiki bar are sweet spots to toast the sunset. Next up, the Wyndham Grand Resort will open in early 2017 and local rumor has it a JW Marriott will soon follow. 

3.  It's a Burgeoning Celeb Hot-Spot

Clearwater has been buzzing with recent rumors that Tom Cruise is scouting a home in the area. If he does decide to put down roots here, he'll hopefully patch things up with alleged frenemy John Travolta who also has a home in Clearwater, along with Hulk Hogan and former Formula One and IndyCar driver Nigel Mansell. The biggest name in town is far cuter than any actor or sports star, however. Winter the bottlenose dolphin was rescued in 2005 after becoming entangled with a rope attached to a crab trap. After being taken to Clearwater Marine Aquarium, her tail was removed and replaced with a prosthetic. Her story inspired the movie Dolphin Tale and, unable to be returned to the wild, she still resides at the aquarium where you can visit her.

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