Who says you need a passport in search of turquoise waters and pristine shores? The US lays claim to some of the best beaches in the world.
Blessed with tranquil Gulf breezes and true-to-its-namesake-crystal-clear waters, Clearwater’s status as one of America's best beaches has lured vacationers to the year-round beach town for over a century. Families and couples tend to avoid the heavily-developed and at-times-raucous neighbor St. Pete’s beach (if not the traffic) by crossing the soaring bridge to the slim-barrier island of <a href="http://www.travelchannel.com/interests/travels-best/photos/travels-best-beach-awards-2014?page=3">Clearwater Beach.</a>
The American Riviera, SoBe, or the Art Deco District -- whatever you call it, Miami, Florida's <a href="http://www.travelchannel.com/interests/beaches/photos/tour-south-beach-miami">South Beach</a> is hot year-round. After all, these time-tested nicknames were rightfully earned by its notorious party scene (drinks flowing, celebrity filled -- when not aboard their superyachts, of course), its part-American, part-Cuban cultural heritage and its eccentric, candy-colored architecture along palm-lined streets.
Visitors on the East Coast and beyond looking for a peaceful escape will find 16 miles of enchanting, untouched beaches and a charming, close-knit village (about 1 square mile) on <a href="http://www.travelchannel.com/interests/beaches/articles/ocracoke-island-north-carolina">Ocracoke Island.</a> In place of high-rise hotels or a business district, you’ll find quaint rental cottages, elaborate gardens tucked behind picket fences and commercial fishermen’s yards – marked by their nets and crab pots.
Every year the sunny shores of <a href="http://www.travelchannel.com/interests/beaches/photos/spring-break-hot-spots?page=7">South Padre Island</a> beckon to rowdy spring breakers to cross over the 2.5-mile Queen Isabella Causeway from the Texas mainland mid-to-late March. The rest of the year, however, it appeals to budget-conscious families and honeymooners looking for access to water sports, restaurants, bars and shops – without a big price tag.
Nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the Coast Mountain Range, <a href="http://www.travelchannel.com/interests/beaches/articles/cannon-beach-oregon">Cannon Beach</a> is named for a cannon that washed ashore in 1846. Its forested headlands, towering monoliths, charming art town and 3.5 miles of serene beaches make it one of the most beautiful places in the US.
<a href="http://www.travelchannel.com/interests/beaches/articles/honaunau-bay-hawaii">Honaunau Bay</a> is one of a series of tranquil, turquoise bays tucked into the Big Island's South Kona coast. The adjacent Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Park is nicknamed “City of Refuge,” with 238 acres of land and plenty of seaside picnic tables and BBQs. For snorkeling head to nearby 2-Step Beach (named for it’s easy-in, easy-out, 2-step entry into the water), which is also known for dolphin encounters.
Just 45 minutes from Savannah and Beaufort, this boat-shaped island – one of the largest on the East Coast -- is perfect for both families and individuals who are looking for a large resort area with more to do than just relax by the shore (although, this isn’t a bad place to do that, too). <a href="http://www.travelchannel.com/video/hilton-head-guidebook">Hilton Head</a> is home to countless trails for biking and running, more than 30 golf courses and 300 tennis courts.
The resort at <a href="http://www.travelchannel.com/video/little-palm-island-resort">Little Palm Island</a>, FL, is one of the best in the country, with one of the best beaches in the entire stretch of the Keys. Just a 30-minute, scenic drive from Key West, you’ll find a marina, exquisite accommodations (with ocean views from each suite), gourmet meals and a full-service spa.
As the largest beach along South Carolina's 60-mile Grand Strand, <a href="http://www.travelchannel.com/destinations/myrtle-beach/photos/things-to-do-in-myrtle-beach">Myrtle Beach</a> is the East Coast's ultimate vacation hub. While vacationers come first and foremost for the extensive white-sand beach, Myrtle Beach also boasts amusement and water parks, restaurants (1,700!), live entertainment, nature preserves, outlet shopping and over 100 golf courses (most open to visitors).
<a href="http://www.travelchannel.com/interests/beaches/photos/top-10-hawaiian-beaches?page=8">Poipu Beach</a> is a series of 3 white crescents curving beside turquoise waters along Kauai's south coast. Poipu Beach is a near-perfect destination for multigenerational vacations where older kids and active adults can head closer to the rockier coastline to catch some surf, while younger waders can stick to the crescents’ middle reaches, where the water tends to be calmer. Or make a day of it at Poipu Beach Park, where you’ll find picnic tables, restrooms, showers and a lifeguard on duty for your convenience.