Some of the most diverse beaches in the world can be found in the United States. A beach vacation can sweep you away to the sandy shores ofHawaii, the picturesque California coast or sunny Florida.
Located in the Pacific Ocean, Hawaii is a tropical paradise. The best times to visit Hawaii's beaches are spring (mid-April to Mid-June) and autumn (mid-September to mid-December) when the weather is reliable, the rates are lower and vacation packages are available.
Maui's beaches are loaded with activities for vacationers. In addition to spectacular geography, beaches such as Kapalua offer smooth, calm waters, which are ideal for water activities such as snorkeling and kayaking. Surf lovers will enjoy the beaches along Maui's North Shore where tidal waters offer premium surf conditions. However, Maui surf areas tend to be crowded as surfing is a popular past time for locals. Numerous surf schools in the area are available for lessons. Be sure to check the Maui Visitor's Guide for information on surf conditions and surfing schools.
In addition to spending time on the beach, be sure to:
- Attend Old Lahaina Luau where you can dine on poi and lomilomi salmon.
- Visit Haleakala National Park where you can charter a biking or hiking expedition.
- Tour the Road to Hana where Hawaii's natural beauty is showcased.
The Big Island
Top beaches to visit on The Big Island include Hapuna, Kaunaoa and Kua Bay. The picturesque beaches range in color from powder white to midnight black. However, not all of the Big Island's beaches are ideal for swimming. Punalu'u Beach, for example, offers some of the best picture taking and picnicking opportunities overlooking the onyx colored sand, tinted by volcanic activity, but it is not safe for swimming.
Beyond the beaches, The Big Island offers a wide variety of sites you shouldn't miss, including:
- Hilo Farmer's Market : Features over 100 vendors selling local delicacies, arts and crafts.
- Akaka Falls State Park: Home to magnificent waterfalls and easy hikes.
- Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park : Home to Kilauea, an active volcano that has been spewing lava since 1983.
Immortalized in song and film, California beaches are popular destinations for vacationers who want to mix urban entertainment with their beach fun.
The southern California destination offers a plethora of opportunities for vacationers, from excellent beaches and water sports to excursions and urban entertainment. Mission Beach, located in northwestern San Diego, is a two-mile stretch of idyllic white sand. A popular local beach, it also boasts a boardwalk for skaters and bicyclists, as well as incredible restaurants. You can also catch sight of seals on the beach. The best time to visit is September through October, if you're looking for a great beach experience without big crowds.
While in San Diego, don't miss out on some great local attractions such as:
- Belmont Park: Offers popular amusement park rides for a small fee.
- Gaslamp Quarter: Home to multiple fine dining and club opportunities.
- Whale watching cruises, which run from December to March.
Los Angeles may not be your first thought for a beach vacation, but beyond Hollywood and Beverly Hills are three fantastic beach destinations. Drive along the coast to Malibu, stroll the boardwalk at Santa Monica or offbeat Venice Beach. Visitors can enjoy dining at popular eateries along the beaches, surfing in the Venice breakwaters or playing on the Santa Monica Pier. Celebrity spotting is also popular as many A-list entertainers make their home in Venice, Malibu and Santa Monica. The peak beach season runs from June to September, while March, April, September and October offer smaller crowds and more temperate conditions.
Beyond the boardwalks, don't miss out on these popular Los Angeles attractions.
- Griffith Observatory: Overlooks Los Angeles and boasts a giant telescope which is open at night for celestial star watching.
- Paramount Picture Studios: Offers studio tours and access to behind the scenes views of Hollywood movie magic.
- La Brea Tar Pits and Page Museum: Where the tar has bubbled for 40,000 years and more than 100 tons of ice age fossils have been found.
Sunny Florida boasts more than 700 miles of beaches. Beyond the theme park attractions in Orlando, Florida's beaches provide visitors with sun, sand and surf.
Miami's beaches provide plenty of entertainment for partiers and sun worshippers alike. Listed among the top beach destinations in the country by Frommer's Travel Guide, Miami is a busy year-round. Other beaches in the area include the clothing-optional Haulover Beach Park. Vacationers seeking a relentless nightlife and party atmosphere should head down to South Beach. Summer is off-season for Miami visitors with hot, temperamental weather and hurricane threats. The best time to visit is December through April when the weather is hot during the day and cooler at night.
If partying doesn't appeal to you, consider visiting:
- Jungle Island: A small zoo located between Miami and South Beach where visitors have a chance to bottle-feed some of the animals.
- Miami Children's Museum: Home to a dozen galleries filled with kid-friendly interactive exhibits.
- Miami Seaquarium: Located on the Rickenbacker Causeway and features access to a year-round outdoor marine shows and opportunities to swim with dolphins.
Despite a bawdy Spring Break reputation, Ft. Lauderdale is a quieter alternative to Miami's beach life. Twenty-three miles of beaches provide vacationers with ample opportunity to enjoy sugary white sand and clear water. Local stands along the beach offer chair and umbrella rentals as well as numerous showers and restrooms. Edging the beaches is a promenade populated by shops and eateries which serves as a respite from fun in the sun. The best time to visit Ft. Lauderdale is December through March when daytime temperatures are in the 80s and evenings cool down to the 60s
Ft. Lauderdale also offers a variety of non-beach related activities including:
- Sawgrass Recreation Park: Where you can take an airboat tour of the Florida Everglades.
- Jungle Queen: Enjoy a leisurely riverboat ride during the day or a dinner cruise at night.
- Ft. Lauderdale Sun Trolley: Makes stops downtown and at select beaches.
Nestled along the East Coast, North and South Carolina offer attractive vacation escapes for families. Peak season in the Carolinas is April through August. Visitors not concerned about sunbathing or swimming can enjoy deep discounts and high availability in the offseason from November to February.
The Outer Banks
North Carolina's Outer Banks offer miles of gentle swells for swimmers of all ages. Most of the beaches do not feature lifeguards, so families are advised to stick together with a swim buddy and to check weather and tidal conditions before heading into the water. Visitors can also enjoy fishing, nature watching, ATV driving and windsurfing.
While vacationing in The Outer Banks, don't miss:
- Kitty Hawk and the Wright Memorial: The site of the Wright Brothers first flight.
- The lighthouses at Currituck Beach, Bodie Island, Cape Hatteras, Ocracoke or Roanoke Marshes.
- Jockey's Ridge State Park: Where nature watching, kite flying and magnificent scenery await.
South Carolina's Myrtle Beach offers boating and water sport opportunities, plus more than 120 golf courses. Summer is a popular time for visitors to swarm to the brown, sandy beaches. Many are located right on the beach with a handful of shops and restaurants stretching up Ocean Boulevard. Don't miss:
- Pirates Voyage: Where visitors can enjoy pirate battle reenactments and dig into southern cooking.
- Alabama Theatre: Owned by the band Alabama, it offers daily variety performances in comedy, music and more.
- Family Kingdom Amusement Park: Features theme park rides specifically for young children, as well as a few water rides and a magnificent Ferris wheel.
Your Beach Vacation, Your Way
U.S. beaches offer vacationers a wide variety of options from culturally diverse Hawaii to the historical coasts of the Carolinas. By doing some research before making your travel plans, you won't miss out on the opportunities every area has to offer on your next beach vacation.