haveseen / Getty Images
haveseen / Getty Images

Fun in the Sun on Sandy Shores

Imagine sugar-white sands and shimmering turquoise waves lapping at your toes. Sound divine? Whether you choose to frolic in the brilliant green sea along Florida's Emerald Coast or prefer to unwind in an exotic island locale such as Thailand or the Philippines, read on for beach vacation inspiration.

Get Inspired

2011 North American Sandsculpting Championship is the signature event of the Virginia Beach Neptune Festival. In 2011, a huge tent almost as large as a football field housed 22 sculptures. 960 1280

Virginia Beach Neptune Festival  

At the Concours de Chateaux de Sable participants can register for Family, Adult-Competition, Free Style or Business Challenge, but the rules are the same: Castles must be built solely of sand and water. 960 1280

The Concours de Chateaux de Sable  

At the East Hampton SandCastle Contest not only can you see stunning sculptures but you also can support a good cause, the Clamshell Foundation. 960 1280

The Clamshell Foundation  

Spectators of the Master Sand Sculpting Competition in Hampton Beach are limited to day-time visits, the 300 tons of imported sand is lit up for night viewing each year. 960 1280

John Kane  

Professional sand sculptures vie for the Master's title at the U.S. Open Sandcastle Competition, but amateurs can get in on the fun with street festival and other weekend activities. 960 1280

Brett Alan Photography  

It's written in the sand ' but the AIA Sandcastle competition is actually in Houston, not Venice Beach. 960 1280

AIA Houston  

Nebraska Children's Home Society 960 1280

Nebraska Children's Home Society   

A detailed shot of some of the corporate sponsors at the Canada Open Sand Sculpting Competition. 960 1280

Phil Whitehouse through Flickr Creative Commons  

Each year the Canadian Open Sand Sculpting Competition is held in Parksville, BC. 960 1280

Craig Carmichael  

Sand Castle Days is one of South Padre Island's signature events now in its 24th year. 960 1280

Convention and Visitors Bureau of South Padre  

Waikiki Beach, Oahu

Waikiki Beach, Oahu

Honolulu’s most popular beach, Waikiki, was once a playground for Hawaiian royalty. Relax on the white sands or take a surfing lesson with the majestic Diamond Head Crater in the backdrop. 960 1280

Hawaii Tourism Authority/ Tor Johnson  

Kauna ‘oa Beach, The Big Island

Kauna ‘oa Beach, The Big Island

The very private crescent-shaped Kauna ‘oa Beach is a serene tropical paradise perfect for escaping from the crowds. But with a limit to 25 people at any time, it’s best to arrive before 9 a.m.! 960 1280

French Peter/ Perspectives/ Getty Images  

North Shore, Oahu

North Shore, Oahu

If you’re looking for some gnarly waves, look no further than North Shore. The 7 mile beach hosts the Super Bowl of wave competitions and is also home to Pu’u O Mahuka Heiau, O’ahu’s oldest ancient religious site. The destination is also popular for spotting whales. 960 1280

Hawaii Tourism Authority/ Tor Johnson  

Punalu’u Beach, The Big Island

Punalu’u Beach, The Big Island

The picturesque beach is not only famous for its jet black sand but also its endangered green sea turtles. The beach is one of the few areas the turtles choose to lay their eggs. Camp, picnic, relax, snorkel and take in all of the remarkable nature. 960 1280

Hawaii Tourism Authority/ Tor Johnson  

Lanikai, Oahu

Lanikai, Oahu

Lanikai is heaven on earth with pristine sands, turquoise water, calm waves and lush tropical plants -- no wonder it is ranked one of the best beaches in the world! 960 1280

Loco Moco Photos/ Moment/Getty Images  

Lahaina Beach, Maui

Lahaina Beach, Maui

This tranquil and tropical getaway is perfect for romance and a favorite for marriage ceremonies. Also don’t miss the Old Lahaina Luau with a traditional feast and hula dancing. 960 1280

Hawaii Tourism Authority/ Tor Johnson  

Kaanapali Beach, Maui

Kaanapali Beach, Maui

Luxury seekers should look no further than Kaanapali beach for the best selection of posh hotels, spas, and exclusive resorts. Try a lomi lomi massage to unwind or rent out a beach cabana. 960 1280

Eva Browning/ Getty Images  

Poipu Beach, Kauai

Poipu Beach, Kauai

Located on the southern tip of Kauai, this serene beach offers uniquely calm waters and shallow shores perfect for families and beginner swimmers. 960 1280

Hawaii Tourism Authority/ Tor Johnson  

Ho’okipa Beach, Maui

Ho’okipa Beach, Maui

A mecca for ocean sports, Ho’okipa attracts windsurfers of all ages boasting some of the best windsurfing waves along the Maui coast. If you’re not as adventurous, there’s plenty of space to lay out your towel and lounge on the pristine sand. 960 1280

Hawaii Tourism Authority/ Tor Johnson  

Honaunau Beach, The Big Island

Honaunau Beach, The Big Island

Honauna Beach is home to the famed City of Refuge, an underwater paradise favorite among divers. Years ago volcano eruptions poured lava into the ocean, eventually hardening into smooth formations that are now home to an expansive reef. Divers can swim with over 40% of Hawaii’s native fish, colorful coral and even the endangered green sea turtle. 960 1280

Mains Ray/ Perspectives/ Getty Images  

Miami Beach, Miami

Miami Beach, Miami

Unlike many cities, where urban beaches tend to be an afterthought, Miami Beach is one of the city’s top draws. The long, sandy stretch is comprised of South, Mid- and North Beach, and literally offers something for everyone. Scenesters still descend upon South Beach, but you can’t beat its location, hotel selection and spate of new restaurants. However, Mid-Beach, which resides between 23rd and 63rd streets, has become increasingly popular among trendsetters thanks to an influx of hip hotels and eateries. The Faena district, anchored by the Faena Hotel, is the latest buzzy attraction. Alternatively, escape the crowds altogether in North Beach, which extends to about 88th, without sacrificing the famed white sands and clear warm water.  960 1280

Jane Sweeney  

Waikiki Beach, Honolulu

Waikiki Beach, Honolulu

Waikiki Beach has become synonymous with Honolulu, and its popularity attracts tourists the world over. It’s perfect for those who want the convenience of city offerings, but less perfect when it comes to staking out a patch of sand. Luckily, Waikiki actually consists of numerous sections. Duke Kahanamoku Beach, named after the famed surfer, tends to be one of the most crowded parts, while the Fort DeRussy and San Souci beaches are less packed and more family friendly. If you care more about watersports, then Royal Hawaiian Beach is your best bet, where you can while away your days surfing, stand-up paddleboarding, or riding in an outrigger canoe. 960 1280

ImagineGolf  

Santa Monica State Beach, Los Angeles

Santa Monica State Beach, Los Angeles

Thanks to the Santa Monica Pier, odds are that you’ve seen this iconic beach on TV and film many times. It’s also on the map as the official end of the road for Route 66. But the beach is equally famous for being one of the most beautiful in the country, and with 3.5 miles of wide soft sand, there’s usually a good chance of securing a prime spot. Take advantage of the café and amenities at the Annenberg Community Beach House, from yoga classes to stand-up paddleboard rentals. Biking (or roller skating) along the boardwalk to Venice Beach is also de rigueur. Of course, make time to visit the Pier, complete with shops, dining, rides and the famous Ferris wheel.  960 1280

Zarnell  

Revere Beach, Boston

Revere Beach, Boston

Unless you’re from the Boston area, you probably didn’t know that Revere Beach is the country’s oldest public beach. This National Historic Landmark was founded in 1896, and while technically not within city limits, it’s just five miles north. In fact, you can even catch the blue line train there. The long crescent-shaped beach has maintained its popularity throughout the years, but without the madding crowds. Come for the low-key vibe, stay for the promenade and food options. Don’t miss the annual sandcastle competition, which takes places at the end of July.

 

960 1280

Kirkikis  

Mission Beach, San Diego

Mission Beach, San Diego

As with other climes that enjoy year-round sunshine, San Diego boasts about a dozen beaches that could vie for the title of best. However, Mission Beach offers more than a mile of white sand, along with a boardwalk and plentiful shopping and dining options. When you need a beach break, Belmont Park beckons with a roller coaster and other amusement park rides, plus wave-riding attractions. Of course, you can always take surf lessons from Mission Beach Surfing School, or learn how to stand-up paddleboard like a pro. 960 1280

sandiegoa  

Jacob Riis Park, NYC

Jacob Riis Park, NYC

Though popular, “the people’s beach” is wide and long enough to accommodate the locals that throng here on the weekends. Part of the Rockaway Peninsula in Queens, getting here by ferry is half the fun. The rest of the fun happens thanks to the Riis Park Beach Bazaar, a recent addition to the scene that offers artisanal eats from the likes of Ample Hills Creamery and Bolivian Llama Party, boutique shopping and live music. This summer will bring new additions such as ping pong, meditation and yoga classes. The Beach Bazaar is also the place to fulfill any and all chair and umbrella rental needs. 960 1280

  

Baker Beach, San Francisco

Baker Beach, San Francisco

San Francisco’s temperatures rarely warm up to beach-going weather, but that doesn’t mean you should skip its picturesque beaches. In fact, iconic Baker Beach features not only a mile of smooth sand and picnic areas, but also spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge. In addition to sweeping views of Lands End and the Marin Headlands, keep your eyes trained on the water and you might spot porpoises or sea lions. If you have children in tow, just a heads up that the northern section of this beach is popular among nudists. Also be forewarned that Baker isn’t a swimming beach due to dangerous undertows and rip currents. 960 1280

DavidCallan  

Alki Beach, Seattle

Alki Beach, Seattle

Amazing views of Puget Sound and downtown Seattle, a seemingly endless length of sand and a 2.5-mile promenade elevate this urban beach in West Seattle. Plentiful tables and seating beg for a picnic, or take your pick of the many restaurants lining the road. Leave time to rent a bike, kayak, or skateboard, and keep an eye out for the small-scale version of the Statue of Liberty. Don’t feel compelled to leave Alki when night falls: Unlike many beaches around the country, not only can you enjoy an evening bonfire, but there are even designated fire pits. 960 1280

RyanJLane  

Coney Island Beach, NYC

Coney Island Beach, NYC

This legendary beach has been a fan favorite among city dwellers since the 1800s. Although it’s undergone numerous iterations, constants include the boardwalk, the original Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs, which celebrated its centennial anniversary in 2016, and amusement park holdovers (The Cyclone and The Wonder Wheel). The current Luna Park also offers more than two-dozen rides and games. Then there’s the beach itself, a three-mile long expanse ensuring less crowded pockets the further you get from the Coney Island end. (You’ll also find authentic Russian restaurants lining the boardwalk.) Don’t miss the annual Mermaid Parade, a popular Coney Island tradition. The best part to all of this is that the subway gets you within minutes of all the action. 960 1280

mizoula  

North Avenue Beach, Chicago

North Avenue Beach, Chicago

Bordering Lake Michigan, North Avenue Beach is beloved by locals and tourists alike, and offers exceptional skyline views. It also offers a full lineup of beach activities, including yoga, volleyball, kayaking and jet skiing. When you need a break from swimming and sunbathing but aren’t ready to leave the beach, grab a bite at Castaways Bar & Grill, a casual spot resembling a docked ship. Or rent a bike and explore Lake Shore Drive, a paved 30 mile-stretch with some of the best city and lake views around. 960 1280

iStockphoto.com/ferrantraite   

Bradford Beach, Milwaukee

Bradford Beach, Milwaukee

Sure, beaches aren’t the first thing associated with Milwaukee, but that’s what makes Bradford Beach a true find. While the water is chilly (it is Lake Michigan after all), the soft sandy beach is wide and clean. Concession stands sell traditional beach fare like burgers and hot dogs, a tiki hut bar supplies all your frozen drink needs, and volleyball courts are a plenty. 960 1280

  

The Hot List

Explore America’s most stunning scenery.
Join the conversation on Social Media!
Stay updated on the latest travel tips and trends.
Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss Travel Channel in your favorite social media feeds.