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Photo by Santa Catalina Island Company

Descanso Beach Club

Catalina Island, California

One of the last private beaches in California with public access, Descanso Beach beckons guests with its pristine waters and beautiful coves. Spend the day lounging in your private cabana, or up the ante by embarking on the Zip Line Eco Tour, composed of 5 heart pounding lines over Descanso Canyon. After margaritas on the shoreline, head to the iconic Catalina Casino to get your heart pounding in a different way.


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Little St. Simons Island
Little St. Simons Island

Little St. Simons Island

Of Georgia’s 4 barrier islands, the Golden Isles comes closest to an unspoiled paradise. The island has been privately owned longer than the United States has been a country! Today, the descendants of the most recent owner oversee the maintenance of the island’s 100,000 acres.

Island attractions: Overnight accommodations for up to 32 guests.
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Little St. Simons Island  

Sanibel Island

Sanibel Island

A young visitor does the “Sanibel Stoop.” Sanibel Island on Florida’s Gulf Coast attracts travelers with its large number of seashells that wash up on the beach. The island is also home to more than 6,000 residents, but don’t expect any stoplights here. Locals are fiercely protective of the island; more than half the island is composed of wildlife refuges.

Island attractions: Shell collecting (peak season May to September).
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Kiawah Island

Kiawah Island

Welcome to the “happiest seaside town in America.” That’s the motto of South Carolina’s Kiawah Island -- its world-class golf courses are a big reason why. Kiawah is home to 5 award-winning golf courses, including Ocean Course designed by Pete Dye. The course, located on Kiawah’s easternmost end, hosted the 2012 PGA Championship.

Island attractions: In addition to golf, Beachwalker County Park.
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Galveston Island

Galveston Island

Look, Forrest, it’s Bubba Gump Shrimp! Load up the kids and head an hour’s drive from Houston to Galveston Island. The island is just 27 miles long and 3 miles wide, but big on family entertainment. At Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier, enjoy rollercoaster rides, carnival games and Bubba Gump Shrimp’s first-ever Texas location.

Island attractions: Also, Moody Gardens, Seawolf Park, Stewart Park, Schlitterbahn.
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Bald Head Island

Bald Head Island

Take a 20-minute ferry ride from the town of Southport to reach Bald Head Island. Located at the tip of North Carolina’s Cape Fear, the island unfolds at an easy pace: No cars are allowed here, just golf carts -- and your 2 feet -- to get around. Kick back in a vacation rental, enjoy wine and music festivals, and take part in an annual fishing rodeo.

Island attractions: Bald Head Island Marina, Bald Head Island Golf Course, Island Retreat Spa and Salon.
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St. George Island

St. George Island

Love oysters? Head to Apalachicola Bay on St. George Island. The estuary is one of several outdoor pleasures on St. George, located off the Florida Panhandle. Along with oysters, the island offers great fishing spots for grouper, scallops, flounder, redfish, snapper, mullet and trout.

Island attractions: Also bird-watching, St. George Island State Park.
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Cedar Keys

Cedar Keys

The cluster of islands known as Cedar Keys near Florida’s mainland offer a laidback experience, and the city of Cedar Key is among the star attractions. The tranquil fishing village comes with a small-town Florida feel and wood-frame homes like this. Come lunchtime, swing by Tony’s Famous Cedar Key Clam Chowder, known for its signature dish.

Island attractions: Nature sites such as Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge.
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Hatteras Island

Hatteras Island

Enjoy kiteboarding on Hatteras Island, part of North Carolina’s Outer Banks. The barrier island off the state’s coast is known for windsurfing and sport fishing -- earning it the nickname, “the blue marlin capital of the world.”

Island attractions: Also Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge.
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Ship Island

Ship Island

Walk through the shimmering quartz sand of Ship Island, one of 2 barrier islands located off the coast of Mississippi; you’ll find Fort Massachusetts on the island’s western end. The fort was built following the War of 1812, and has stood the test of time and nature's fury; it faced Hurricane Katrina with minimal impact.

Island attractions: Fishing, swimming and tours of Fort Massachusetts.
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Historic Ft Massachusetts - NPS photographer  

Grand Isle

Grand Isle

Louisiana’s only inhabited barrier island is home to 1,500 residents who make their living from the seafood and oil industries. While the effects of the BP oil spill will be studied for years to come, the dolphins have returned, the waters washing up on the shore are clear, and the annual Grand Isle Tarpon Rodeo (one of America’s largest saltwater fishing events) continues.

Island attractions: Fishing -- more than 280 species in surrounding waters.
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Marco Island

Marco Island

What do Shania Twain, Leighton Meester and Alan Jackson all have in common? They all have homes on Marco Island. Located on southwest Florida’s Gulf coast, Marco Island entices visitors with white-sugar sand beaches and amazing marine life like this bottlenose dolphin.

Island attractions: The largest of Florida’s 10,000 Islands, Marco offers miles of beautiful beach.
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Georgia's Cumberland Island

Georgia's Cumberland Island

Before you dismiss this as a boring woodshed shot -- look closer: JFK Jr.’s nuptials took place inside this structure, known as the First African-Baptist Church, in September 1996. The small, 1-room church was established in 1893, rebuilt in 1937, and is located on Cumberland Island’s northern end.

Island attractions: Also Greyfield Inn, Plum Orchard mansion.
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Florida Keys

Florida Keys

The expansive Seven Mile Bridge is your gateway to the Florida Keys. As you cross the bridge, linking the Middle and Lower Keys, get ready for a breathtaking sight: the Gulf of Mexico on one side, the Atlantic Ocean on the other. Keep going and you’ll reach the “southernmost city in the continental USA,” Key West.

Keys attractions: A lot. Including Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center, Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Museum.
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Dauphin Island

Dauphin Island

We can’t forget Alabama. Of the dozens of islands off Alabama’s coast, Dauphin Island is among the star attractions. The barrier island, located 3 miles south of the mouth of Mobile Bay, is home to the Dauphin Island Sea Lab and 164-acre Audubon Bird Sanctuary, making it a great getaway for the whole family.

Island attractions: Also Shell Mound Park, Fort Gaines.
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South Bay, CA
South Bay, CA

South Bay, CA

Look out, here come the South Bay surfers! Head to the South Bay area, southwest of Los Angeles, for cool waves and plenty of sun. For top surfing action, check out the annual International Surf Festival -- one of South Bay’s biggest events of the year, held in late July. 960 1280

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Waimea Bay, HI

Waimea Bay, HI

If everybody had an ocean, across the USA … they might wish it looked like Hawaii’s Waimea Bay. Top gun surfers -- called 'rhino chasers' in the Beach Boys’ day -- love the area’s tall waves. 960 1280

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Redondo Beach, CA

Redondo Beach, CA

Everybody’s gone surfin’ at Redondo, too. While in the South Bay area stop by Redondo Beach, one of 3 prized beaches in the region. The South Bay waves here turn into killer kahunas -- as high as 20 feet! 960 1280

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Sandals Cay, Jamaica

Sandals Cay, Jamaica

Bodies in the sand, tropical drink melting in your hand … welcome to Sandals Cay. Once known as Kokomo Island, Sandals Cay is just 2.5 acres but big on tropical relaxation: a Thai restaurant, Jacuzzi and secluded beach can be found here. 960 1280

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Auto Club Speedway, Fontana, CA

Auto Club Speedway, Fontana, CA

Tach it up, tach it up, buddy gonna shut you down! The Beach Boys’ Dennis Wilson used to rev it up in a Shelby Cobra car around the now-gone San Fernando Raceway. These days, head to places like Auto Club Speedway, which has hosted NASCAR racing every year since 1997. 960 1280

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Big Sur, CA

Big Sur, CA

Under Big Sur sky, that’s where you belong. This stretch of California’s Central Coast inspired the Beach Boys with its 'cashmere hills filled with evergreens, flowin’ from the clouds down to meet the sea.' 960 1280

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San Miguel, Mexico

San Miguel, Mexico

The Beach Boys sang they could be in San Miguel forever. However long your visit, take time for a stroll through this central Mexican city’s quaint cobblestone streets, lined with colorful homes and churches. 960 1280

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Trestles Beach

Trestles Beach

And who can forget Trestles Beach? The Beach Boys didn’t in ‘Surfin’ USA.’ Trestles Beach remains one of California’s best surfing spots, with some of the last undeveloped coastal areas in Southern California. 960 1280

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Disneyland

Disneyland

Disneyland is worth a trip to LA. The theme park made the list in the Beach Boys’ hit ‘Amusement Parks USA.’ In true Beach Boys-style, get behind the wheel of a specially-designed car and zoom around the track at Disneyland’s own roadway, Autopia. 960 1280

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Narrabeen Beach, Australia

Narrabeen Beach, Australia

It may not be surfin’ in the USA, but Australia’s Narrabeen Beach got a nod from the Beach Boys in their famous hit. The beachside suburb, northeast of Sydney, has 4 beach areas – and plenty of water activities, including rowing. 960 1280

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Islamorada, Florida Keys

Islamorada, Florida Keys

The Beach Boys called Islamorada the real inspiration for their hit ‘Kokomo.’ Four islands in this upper Florida Keys attraction offer tranquil spots to stretch out on the sand. And don’t forget your fishing pole -- locals call this the ‘sport fishing capital of the world.’ 960 1280

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Swami’s Beach, CA

Swami’s Beach, CA

Surf’s up on Swami’s Beach. This stretch of sand near San Diego was made famous in the Beach Boys’ ‘Surfin’ USA.’ To this day, Swami’s remains a major surfing destination -- its large number of right-hand point breaks is a big reason why. 960 1280

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Kona Coast

Kona Coast

Welcome to an “island mecca.” Yep, that’s what the Beach Boys called Kona’s coast. Part of the Big Island of Hawaii, the coastline includes Kealakekua Bay -- a popular spot for snorkeling, scuba diving and kayaking. 960 1280

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Pasadena, CA

Pasadena, CA

Make like the ‘little old lady from Pasadena,’ and take a drive around this LA County city. One of the most scenic driving spots is Orange Grove Boulevard, a street lined with so many mansions it’s called ‘Millionaire’s Row.’ 960 1280

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