Top 10 Beaches in America

Whether you’re going down the shore or riding the waves in Hawaii, the beach is always a popular destination. Visit the best beaches the US has to offer.

Photos

Biarritz, France

Biarritz, France

With friendly locals, groovy cafes and far more enthusiasm about wave reports than Parisian fashion, Biarritz has been called “the California of France” more than once. And now, in a special program funded by the regional Olympic committee, Biarritz doctors are prescribing surfing and other ocean sports as remedies for health problems. The 12-week surfing program is luring more and more people to the waves to heal what ails them.  960 1280

John Harper  

Biarritz, France

Biarritz, France

With this healthy respect for the surfing life, Biarritz is a great choice for newbie surfers. Try Surf Training school; the ultra-experienced surf coach Philippe Beudin will have you catching waves right in to the soft sands of the Cote des Basques beach in no time. 960 1280

Guillaume CHANSON  

Nosara, Costa Rica

Nosara, Costa Rica

Thanks to its warm and consistent waves, the dusty surfing outpost of Nosara is a dreamy locale for beginners to first feel the thrill of riding a wave. With a friendly scene, top-rated surf instructors and rental shops aplenty, Nosara sets you up to succeed. Check out the Safari Surf School; with both day lessons and longer camps, it is a favorite in town. After hours in the water, work out your paddle-weary muscles at one of the many yoga schools in town and sip a smoothie at the boho Harmony Hotel. Wind down your day with a cold Imperial beer on Playa Pelada, the perfect place to watch the sun sink into the ocean. 960 1280

Matteo Colombo  

San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

Nicaragua’s beaches, generally less populated than Costa Rica’s, are the latest surf hangouts of Central America. San Juan del Sur, a village on the Pacific coast, is surrounded by remote beaches with waves workable for all levels; Remansa, which means “extra calm” in Spanish, is the perfect spot for beginners. Just ask Javier Baldovinos, former coach of the Nicaragua Surf Team, veteran instructor and one of the most respected coaches in town; he’ll hook you up with a board and teach you the basics in one day. Or opt for an awesome all-inclusive surf camp, like Nicaragua Surf Report; here you sleep, eat, and surf with your surf gang for days. The women-only Chica Brava surf camp offers yoga, healthy food and an epic surf adventure. 960 1280

Matthew Micah Wright  

Encinitas, California

Encinitas, California

Encinitas is the dream So-Cal surf town, brah; it’s mellow and friendly, with a lot less of the “locals only” attitude you might find up or down the coast. While you can marvel at the pros out carving on the hardcore beaches like Swamis or Seaside Reef, there are quieter spots further afield for beginners, like the north end of Moonlight Beach. 960 1280

Gabe LHeureux  

Encinitas, California

Encinitas, California

For a thoroughly uplifting first surf experience, check in with Jason Weber at Encinitas Surf Lessons. Weber is a believer in the healing power of the surf, and his Surfing for Empowerment classes are designed to help everyone get in touch with their inner flow. 960 1280

Ashok Sinha  

Maui, Hawaii

Maui, Hawaii

Just because Hawaii is home to killer big waves like the Pipeline doesn’t mean beginners should shy away from the Aloha state. With its warm electric blue waters (no wetsuit needed!), Maui has waves enough for every level. 960 1280

tropicalpix  

Maui, Hawaii

Maui, Hawaii

Although some beaches may have a locals-first rap, that’s no deterrent – you just need an in-the-know resident surfer to lead the way. Zack Howard, a 25-year-veteran of the sport, runs one of the most respected surf schools in Maui and is also a guide to the secret spots that most visitors would miss. 960 1280

Vacclav  

Maui, Hawaii

Maui, Hawaii

The long established Maui Surf Girls, with both daily lessons and camps, is not just for girls; they empower everyone – men, children, grandparents and even dogs included – to get up and feel the power of the wave. 960 1280

Ron Dahlquist  

South Padre, Texas

South Padre, Texas

Texas doesn’t have a reputation for great surf, but there is one place where almost everyone can catch a wave. Down in South Padre, just on the tip of the Texas Coast near Mexico, husband and wife team Rachel and Gene Gore run the South Padre Surf Company where the motto is: “It’s not about how good you are; it’s about how much fun you have.” In a jetty-side beach protected from unpredictable Gulf winds, they teach first timers on foam-topped boards that make everyone feel steady and safe. Standing beside you in the water, they push you out into the wave at just the right moment, and, voila, next thing you know you are floating on water. Exhilarating.  960 1280

Wade Dunkin  

Bakio, Spain

Bakio, Spain

If you want to surf in Spain, set your compass north to the Bay of Biscay in the Basque Country. Mundaka, 23 miles northeast of Bilbao, may be regarded as a surf capital of Spain, but beginners may want try their luck at the lesser known nearby town of Bakio. With few tourists and only a handful of laid-back hotels and restaurants, Bakio has the low-key vibe and regular waves that make the beginner feel welcome. You will want to check out Lokal Surf School, where the fun-loving instructors can teach in Spanish, English or Basque. When you are out in the cool blue water catching your first wave, you’ll be happy beyond words, no matter which language you speak.  960 1280

Mimadeo  

Sydney

Sydney

Sydney has 6 gay-friendly beaches that have become popular LGBT destinations, including North Bondi Beach, Bronte Beach and Tamarama Beach. Obelisk Beach and Lady Jane Beach are popular, secluded spots for nude sunbathers. Water taxis are provided as transportation to Obelisk Beach, and during the summer, expect frequent visits from one of the famous Sydney Harbor Ice Cream Boats to help keep things cool. 960 1280

Andrew Watson/Lonely Planet Images/Getty Images  

Cancun

Cancun

Cancun is a hot beach destination for spring breakers, but it’s also the location of a popular gay beach, Playa Delfines. The water is generally treacherous to swim in, but the white sand is perfect for sunning, and the view is incredible. This beach is also popular for surfing and a great place to take surfing lessons. Gay couples and singles enjoy Playa Delfines, and it has become known unofficially as the gay beach in Cancun. 960 1280

Veronica Garbutt/Lonely Planet Images/Getty Images  

Maui

Maui

We’d be remiss if we didn’t have at least one Hawaiian beach on our list. Gay and lesbians converge on “Little Beach” in Makena State Park, located about 1 mile past the Maui Prince Hotel. This beach is so secluded that you have to hike up and over a lava-flow trail to get to it, but it won’t be hard to miss.  960 1280

Thinkstock  

Fire Island, New York

Fire Island, New York

Head to Fire Island’s Pines Beach if you’re looking for a fun party beach with gay-friendly shopping, hotels, vacation rentals and a vibrant nightlife. Nudity is allowed on the shore. The island plays host to several LGBT events, including the multicultural Fire Island Black Out in Cherry Grove. 960 1280

Thinkstock  

Tel Aviv, Israel

Tel Aviv, Israel

Tel Aviv is famous for its never-ending beach line. Nearly 9 miles of blue sea, open horizon, sun and lots of people make it the perfect beach destination. The city has a few gay-friendly beaches, including Ga’ash nude beach, a popular gay beach outside Tel Aviv. Visit Hilton Beach if nude sunbathing isn’t your thing. It’s a little strip beach located near the Hilton Hotel. 960 1280

Niv Singer, Flickr   

Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Known as the “Venice of America,” Fort Lauderdale is where the boys are. Sebastian Street Gay Beach, located near most of the gay resorts, is one of the most popular beach destinations for gay tourists. Along with dozens of gay-friendly shops along the beach, the city also thrives with fun gay bars and restaurants, such as Hamburger Mary’s, a great place to start or end the night. 960 1280

Thinkstock  

Vancouver, British Columbia

Vancouver, British Columbia

Vancouver has a couple beaches that attract a LGBT crowd. English Bay Beach (pictured) is located on the city’s West End, close to the Davie Street Gay Village. Sunset Beach and Wreck Beach are 2 alternate beach options. However, a little hike is required to reach secluded Wreck Beach, where nudity is permitted. Take the path marked Trail No. 7 to get there. Gay and lesbian couples and singles converge on the area south of the North Arm Breakwater. 960 1280

Kenny Louie, Flickr   

Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

Eco-friendly Costa Rica has long been a vacation spot for outdoor enthusiasts, but it also has a popular gay beach, Manuel Antonio’s Playita Beach. La Playita, aka Playa Dulce Vida, is a semiprivate beach, accessible by climbing over large rocks north of Playa Espadilla. Just don’t get trapped during high tide. And just so you know, there’s no nude sunbathing in Costa Rica. After having some fun in the sun, grab a drink at Bar Tutu or the Liquid Lounge. By the way, there are gay-friendly vacation rentals and hotels available in the area. 960 1280

Guiziou Franck/hemis.fr/Getty Images  

Miami Beach

Miami Beach

South Beach, or SoBe, conjures up images of sunny days at the beach, a continuous flow of sexy men and women, high-end shopping on Lincoln Road, fine dining on Ocean Drive and nonstop nights of partying at popular gay bars and clubs, including Twist, Score, Palace and Mova. Every year, SoBe plays host to the world-renowned White Party in November and, in March, the Winter Party, the biggest gay beach party in North America. Check out Miami’s Haulover Beach if you’re looking for a nude beach. 960 1280

iStockphoto.com/Anna Bryukhanova  

Brighton, East Sussex, England

Brighton, East Sussex, England

Brighton is the UK’s gay capital. The town’s seafront has bars, restaurants, nightclubs and amusement arcades between the piers. Brighton Beach has a nudist area, south of the easterly part of Kemptown, aka the “gay village.” West Beach, Telscombe Cliffs, Duke’s Mound and Shoreham are a few hot beach spots. Visit Brighton and find out why the bohemian atmosphere of this beach town has led to the largest LGBT crowds in the UK. 960 1280

iStockphoto.com/DagDurrichPhotography  

Ibiza, Spain

Ibiza, Spain

Straight or gay, everyone knows about the small island of Ibiza’s reputation as a party haven, but it’s also known for its beaches, each with its own distinctive beauty. Figueretes, the town beach, is for sunbathers who enjoy a low-key crowd and calm sea. Es Cavallet, located on the southern side of the island, is the main gay beach, where nudity is welcomed. Visit Cala Conta for stunning sunset views. Port Des Torrent is perfect for gay couples, and Ses Salinas is known for its diverse crowd and great beach bars. 960 1280

Getty  

Provincetown, MA

Provincetown, MA

Provincetown, a gay and lesbian resort community at the tip of Cape Cod, ranks among the world’s great seaside vacation destinations. Along with hosting its annual Gay Pride celebration, P’town continues to improve with more upscale inns, fine art galleries and superb restaurants. Peak season for the New England town is usually July through August. Stay in the town’s West End, go for a fun bike ride and go sunbathing on Herring Cove Beach or Race Point Beach. 960 1280

Harvey Barrison, Flickr  

Sitges, Spain

Sitges, Spain

Sitges’ Playa de la Bassa Rodona is increasingly becoming a straight beach, but it is packed with gay men during the peak season. This beach is located below the Picnic Restaurant and across from Hotel Calipolis. Nude sunbathers looking for more privacy should head to Playa del Muerto or Playa de las Balmins. Visit Barcelona's Barcelonetta Beach if you're looking for a quick day trip. Barcelona is only a 45-minute train ride away from Sitges. 960 1280

iStockphoto.com/MarcPo  

Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town, South Africa

Most people know about Cape Town's turbulent history, but few people know about Clifton, the small, affluent suburb located outside the city. There are 4 beaches, but the Clifton Third Beach has become the popular spot for gay sunbathers, primarily men. This paradise is a great spot to watch the sun set in the summer, but be mindful of the no-public-drinking policy. It's strictly monitored, so don't say you weren't warned. 960 1280

Doberman Collection/Universal Images Group/Getty Images  

San Diego

San Diego

San Diego is a beach city, and Black’s Beach is the popular beach hangout for gay travelers. This is one of the oldest nude beaches in the US. The expansive beach has room for everyone, and even the dolphins and seals make an appearance offshore. Just a word of caution: The climb from the beach back up the cliffs is a tough hike. 960 1280

Thinkstock  

Mykonos, Greece

Mykonos, Greece

Mykonos has become a well-known spot for beach lovers and partygoers. The Greek island’s Elia Beach is probably one of the most gay-friendly stretches of sand in the Mediterranean. It’s a United Nations of gays from all over the world, basking in lounge chairs while sipping cocktails and gazing at the electric-blue waters. Just a word of caution: It may be wise to plan ahead. Taxis may be hard to come by, and buses and ferries stop at relatively early hours. 960 1280

Ingolf Pompe/LOOK/Getty Images  

Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro

We know all about the popularity of Copacabana Beach, but Ipanema Beach (pictured) is what’s really hot! Ipanema’s gay spot, Farme Gay Beach, is a little to the east of Rua Farme de Amoedo. It’s the best place to make friends with the locals outside of the bar and club scene. Party promoters often distribute fliers with discounts to gay parties and clubs. After the beach, head to the popular hangout Cafeína e Tô nem Aí for a beer or a snack. 960 1280

Mike Vondran, Flickr  

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Puerto Vallarta is already a hot spot for thousands of sunbathers, but the hot spot for the LGBT crowd is on the south end of Playa Los Muertos Beach. 960 1280

Thinkstock  

Nice, France

Nice, France

This is not the typical gay destination in Europe, but it is slowly becoming a popular spot. Nice is now the second-most-visited city in France for gay tourists, after Paris, and with more than 35 gay outlets, we're sure there’s something for everyone. In addition the vibrant gay and lesbian club scene, this beach town has several museums, high-end shops and a famous flower market, and it plays host to the annual Pink Parade. Nice has a gay and gay-friendly beach, Coco Beach and Castel Plage, respectively. For adventurous sunbathers, there are 2 more gay beaches located outside the small French town. 960 1280

Pascal Blachier, Flickr  

Rehoboth Beach, Delaware

Rehoboth Beach, Delaware

Rehoboth is the quintessential beach town, with dozens of small shops, restaurants that serve up fresh seafood from the Chesapeake Bay, and a boardwalk with a few amusement thrills and arcades. Poodle Beach is the gay section on Rehoboth Beach. It can get crowded here during the peak season, but there is an energetic social scene. Lesbians prefer North Shores Beach. And after the beach, most gay men grab a few beers or cocktails at the Aqua Grill or Blue Moon, 2 of the town’s popular gay hangouts. 960 1280

Linda D. Epstein/McClatchy-Tribune/Getty Images  

Wingaersheek Beach - Massachusetts

Wingaersheek Beach - Massachusetts

Wingaersheek (pronounced Wing-er-sheek) Beach near Gloucester, Massachusetts, is great for families because the sea here is like one giant bathtub. The ocean at Wingaersheek is largely protected by the Ipswitch peninsula, so it's usually calm and warm, creating perfect swimming conditions for the little ones. At low tide, sand flats seem to stretch forever (or at least to the Annisquam River). 960 1280

Garry Black / Getty Images  

Wingaersheek Beach - Massachusetts

Wingaersheek Beach - Massachusetts

Another benefit: glorious tide pools, which are perfect places for inquisitive tykes to get up-close-and-personal with snails, hermit crabs, sea stars and other critters. Perhaps the only downside to this natural treasure is parking; since beach access is smack in the middle of a residential area, daily fees can be steep. 960 1280

Garry Black / Getty Images  

Bean Hollow State Beach - California

Bean Hollow State Beach - California

Pocket beaches are plentiful along the San Mateo County Coast south of San Francisco, but Bean Hollow offers something different: privacy. Bookended by wind- and water-carved bluffs, the beach has a number of natural nooks and crannies that are perfect for family picnics--and Frisbee, book-reading or some serious sunbathing. 960 1280

A K Potts Photography / Getty Images  

Bean Hollow State Beach - California

Bean Hollow State Beach - California

There's also a self-guided nature trail that winds atop the bluffs, offering a great vantage point from which to see passing grey whales (in the winter and spring). Three miles up the road, in the sleepy town of Pescadero, be sure to bring the family on a tour of Harley Farms Goat Dairy, where kids can feed, pet and even milk a bunch of alpine goats. 960 1280

Mark Miller Photos / Getty Images  

Robert Moses State Park - New York

Robert Moses State Park - New York

When most New Yorkers seek ocean waves, they flock to Jones Beach, one of the oldest and most famous stretches of shore on the Eastern Seaboard. Farther east along the Fire Island National Seashore, however, is another beach that sees far less tourist traffic: Robert Moses State Park. Kids will love wake-boarding and wave-jumping in the lively surf; parents will appreciate that the beach isn't crawling with humans. 960 1280

Stephen O'Byrne / Getty Images  

Robert Moses State Park - New York

Robert Moses State Park - New York

Toward the eastern end of the beach, past Field 5, the circa-1891, black-and-white ringed Fire Island Lighthouse, is a living window into the past, offering tours and historical photos of yesteryear. Be warned: just beyond the lighthouse is a nude beach. 960 1280

rickberk / Getty Images  

Kure Beach - North Carolina

Kure Beach - North Carolina

This tiny seaside community sits at the southern tip of North Carolina's Pleasure Island--a strip of barrier beaches that front the Atlantic--and while some of its northern neighbors are teeming with tourists in the summer, Kure remains fairly empty. That's good news for vacationing families, who usually have most of the town's attractions to themselves. 960 1280

Gary Tognoni / Getty Images  

Kure Beach - North Carolina

Kure Beach - North Carolina

On the list of must-sees: the fishing pier, which is the oldest on the Atlantic Coast; and the North Carolina Underwater Archaeology Center, which spotlights shipwrecks and dive sites nearby. The ocean beaches are breathtaking; for a more off-beat experience, hike the trail at sound-side Fort Fisher State Recreation Area and look for native plants and animals along the way. 960 1280

Gary Tognoni / Getty Images  

Ebey's Landing - Washington

Ebey's Landing - Washington

Technically speaking, Ebey's Landing National Historical Reserve contains 17,500 acres, 18 farms, 400 historical structures, two state parks and the second-oldest town in the state of Washington (Coupeville). We, however, love its beach best. On a clear day, the rocky, driftwood-strewn shoreline serves up too-amazing-to-believe views of the Olympic Mountains and Mount Rainier off in the distance. 960 1280

Randall J Hodges / Getty Images  

Ebey's Landing - Washington

Ebey's Landing - Washington

A three-mile bluff trail provides even more perspective on these sites, and some good (read: protected from the elements) picnic spots for the family to spend an hour. For children who appreciate wildlife, nearby saltwater lagoons and wetland marshes are teeming with birds; with the right pair of binoculars, it's like going to the zoo, only free. 960 1280

nik wheeler / Getty Images  

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