Best Beaches on the East Coast

Head north to Nantucket, Mass., or south to Kiawah Island, SC, but get thee to one of the best beaches along the Atlantic this summer.

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Clearwater, FL
Clearwater, FL

Clearwater, FL

Blessed with tranquil Gulf breezes and true-to-its-name crystal-clear waters, Clearwater's status as one of America's best shorelines 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 Clearwater Beach. 960 1280

  

South Beach, Miami

South Beach, Miami

The American Riviera, SoBe or the Art Deco District — whatever you call it, Miami's South Beach is hot year-round. After all, these time-tested nicknames were rightfully earned by its notorious party scene (drinks flowing, filled with celebrities — when they're not aboard their super-yachts, of course), its part-American, part-Cuban cultural heritage, and its eccentric, candy-colored architecture along palm-lined streets. 960 1280

  

Ocracoke, NC

Ocracoke, NC

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 Ocracoke Island. 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. 960 1280

  

South Padre Island, TX

South Padre Island, TX

Every year the sunny shores of South Padre Island beckon to rowdy spring breakers to cross over the 2.5-mile Queen Isabella Causeway from the Texas mainland in 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. 960 1280

South Padre Island Convention and Visitors Bureau  

Cannon Beach, OR

Cannon Beach, OR

Nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the Coast Mountain Range, Cannon Beach 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.  960 1280

  

Honaunau Bay, HI

Honaunau Bay, HI

Honaunau Bay 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 barbecues. 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. 960 1280

  

Hilton Head, SC

Hilton Head, SC

Just 45 minutes from Savannah and Beaufort, SC, 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). Hilton Head is home to countless trails for biking and running, more than 30 golf courses and 300 tennis courts.  960 1280

  

Little Palm Island, FL

Little Palm Island, FL

The resort at Little Palm Island, FL, is one of the best in the country, with one of the best beaches in the entire stretch of the Keys. Just a scenic 30-minute drive from Key West, you'll find a marina, exquisite accommodations (with ocean views from each suite), gourmet meals and a full-service spa. 960 1280

  

Myrtle Beach

Myrtle Beach

As the largest beach along South Carolina's 60-mile Grand Strand, Myrtle Beach is the East Coast's ultimate vacation hub. While travelers come first and foremost for the extensive white-sand beach, Myrtle Beach also boasts amusement and water parks, restaurants (1,700 of them!), live entertainment, nature preserves, outlet shopping and more than 100 golf courses (most open to the public). 960 1280

  

Poipu Beach, HI

Poipu Beach, HI

Poipu Beach 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 beaches, 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. 960 1280

  

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

Thinkstock  

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

Neil Kremer, flickr   

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

Thinkstock  

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

Massimo Mazzocca, flickr  

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

Getty Images  

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

Rian Castillo, flickr  

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

Larry Johnson, flickr  

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

Getty Images  

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

Phil Price, flickr  

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

Travis Thurston, Wikimedia Commons  

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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