Dream beach destination? For most Americans, the answer is simple: Hawaii. For the quintessential sandy escape, spend a day at Makena Beach – also called Big Beach – on Maui, where screensaver-worthy golden sands unfold along bright blue waters. Take a dip, snorkel the offshore reefs, or go body surfing. The sloping beach has a strong shore break, which makes for ideal surf conditions.
Hawaii is not a state of mind, but a state of grace – Paul Theroux, Travel writer
Many of California’s beaches are famous for their human elements – the surfers of Huntington Beach or the sunbathers in their string bikinis at Santa Monica Beach. But Big Sur is all about the stunning natural elements, which are revealed around every bend, from the rugged rock arch that rises mightily out of the sea to the gently curving sands that sparkle under the sun.
Every time I come, I'm still amazed at the breadth California has. Big Sur, Yosemite, the desert... I love it - Theo James, Actor
This is Miami in all its sun-soaked, celebrity-thronged, Art Deco glory. By day, bronzed beachgoers pose and play on the silky sands, and by night, they do the same in the thumping dance clubs.
Miami is one of these great places that is a really sensual, physically beautiful place - Michael Mann, Film director
Small-town coastal charm, wild Atlantic beaches, lighthouses – and even some wild horses: the Outer Banks is North Carolina’s version of the Riviera.
Families flock to this string of barrier islands, which is filled with kid-friendly fun.
Little and big kids will love playing in the sand and surf, as well as exploring aquariums and lighthouses.
Cape May may be right down the coast from the Jersey Shore – the land of big hair and spray tans – but it feels worlds apart. And history has a lot to do with it.
Elegant Cape May, at the southernmost end of the Jersey Shore, where the Delaware Bay meets the Atlantic, is one of the oldest coastal resorts in the country.
Wind your way through stately Victorian homes, visit the 1859 Cape May Lighthouse, take in the fading light of day with your toes curled in the sand, and then hit the seafood shacks where you can dunk fresh lobster in bowls of melted butter.
In the Florida Keys, the allure is as much what’s below the water’s surface as above it. Bring the snorkel equipment and a sense of adventure: the underwater corals are populated by brilliantly coloured tropical fish, swaying sea plants, and crustaceans.
Among the top spots are Bahia Honda State Park, Key Largo, and Biscayne Bay. Toast your adventures with a beachside margarita (or three) – and stop by Key West where the nightlife rivals its sea life.
Nantucket is a shining example of what enthusiastic preservationists can achieve. This tiny island off Cape Cod is a bastion of beautifully maintained New England charm, with cobblestone streets, artisan shops, warmly weathered seafood joints, a handsome harbour bobbing with gleaming yachts – and most importantly, 110 miles of sandy coastline, which is entirely free and open to the public.
Sure, you’ll probably need to throw on a light sweater to stave off the infamous San Francisco chill, but the reward is hunkering down in the soft sand, while gazing up at the famously orange bridge arching against the bright blue sky.
One day if i go to heaven... I'll look around and say, it ain't bad, but it ain't San Francisco - Herb Caen, Journalist
Haystack Rock, rising out of the Pacific, has become the symbol of Cannon Beach on the Oregon coast. The relaxed, stylish town of Cannon Beach is crammed with cute boutiques, wine bars, and cafés, while the offshore rocks and cliffs are home to all manner of sea birds, including the beloved tufted puffins. Cannon Beach also hosts one of the country’s oldest sandcastle festivals in June.
Not all the best beaches are on the sea. Lake Michigan is lined with splendid beaches, including the sandy strips in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. This lush park stretches for 35 miles on Michigan’s eastern coast, and also in the North and South Manitou islands.
Sunbathe on the beach, and then explore the rest of the park, which is filled with hiking trails, sand dunes, and bike paths.
There is a gentleness in Michigan that you just can't replicate – Jennifer Granholm, Politician