With nearly 100,000 miles of coastline in the U.S. according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, find lots of stretches of beach to explore. In addtion to the vast miles of beach in the U.S., also find different types of beaches. Some offer colored sand, like pristine white, black and even pink. The U.S. also others are tops for wildlife viewing and shelling. And not all beaches offer sunset views. Here’s a compiled list of the top beaches in the U.S.
Best Beaches for Colored Sand
Not all sand is white. Find straw-colored, black, pink, white and and occasionally green. . And of course Hawaii is a family travel bucket list destination offering beaches of many colors.
Punalu’u Black Sand Beach, Big Island Hawaii
Made of eroded lava, the black sand is a stunning contrast. This beach is a few miles south of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Panalu’u Beach features coconut palms along with a food trailer.
Located south of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park off Highway 11 at the end of Ninole Loop Road. Find street parking nearby.
White Sand Beaches
Waimānalo Beach Park, Oahu, Hawaii
On the windward side of the island, this park is far from the crowds of Waikiki. Find a three-mile stretch of sand, popular with photographers.
Located 41-741 Kaleniana’ole Highway. Features off-highway parking.
Sunset Beach, Oahu, Hawaii
On the North Shore, this area is known for its big waves during the winter. Though the summer offers calmer water and an uncrowded long stretch of straw-colored sand.
Located north of Pūpūkea-Paumalū Forest Reserve. Parking along the Highway 83.
Hapuna Beach, Big Island of Hawaii
One of the most scenic beaches near Kona. Popular spot with tourists and locals alike.
Located north of Kona along Highway 19. Find restrooms and rinse off showers.
Grayton Beach State Park, Florida
From Pensacola to Panama City on Florida’s panhandle, families can find miles of sugar white sand beaches on Scenic Highway 30-A. A family favorite for years, the beaches remain uncrowded except around the larger towns.
Located 375 Main Park Rd. Parking is $5 and find rinse-off showers.
Gulf State Park, Gulf Shores, Alabama
Orange Beach and Gulf Shores, Alabama, offers families 32 miles of white sand beaches. Try Gulf State Park for a pavilion, restrooms with showers for a family day at the beach.
Located at 20115 State Park Rd.
Best Beaches for Animal Watching
Kids love beaches as much as kids love animals. So find beaches that combine both.
Padre Island National Seashore, Corpus Christi, Texas
Kids are crazy for sea turtles. Padre Island National Seashore offers five different varieties of the Gulf of Mexico sea turtles, including the Kemp’s ridley. Hatchling releases happen in the spring and offer families the opportunity to see the tiny turtles make their way to the water, unaided.
Located at 20301 Park Road 22. Admission is $10 for one day pass.
Cabrillo National Monument, San Diego, California
Kids love to discover tiny eco-systems so don’t miss this unique West Coast experience when visiting San Diego. Cabrillo National Monument offers one of the top places to tide pool in California.
Cabrillo features one of the best protected and easily accessible areas to explore with kids. With several different tide pool zones, families can see more animals.
Located at 1800 Cabrillo Memorial Dr. Admission is $20 per vehicle.
Hearst San Simeon State Park, San Simeon, California
Elephant Sea lions nap along the beach in a large rookery. The Hearst San Simeon State Park offers a boardwalk to safely watch the massive seals. During our visit in June, the males fought each other for mating rights with bellows and battles.
Located at 500 San Simeon-Monterey Creek Rd. Find off-highway parking.
Lime Kiln Point State Park, San Juan Island, Washington
Whale watching usually requires a boat except on San Juan Island, a short ferry ride from the Seattle area. Lime Kiln State Park offers seasonal orca whale watching from their shore. San Juan National Historical Park-American Camp offers another spot to catch the resident pod of orcas.
Located at 1567 West Side Rd.
Kalaloch Beach 4, Olympic National Park, Washington
My kids scampered over rocks and waded through shallow water to explore the tide pools. We found ribbed limpets, acorn barnacles, and giant green anemones. My kids loved this experience and talked about it for days.
Located at 167422 U.S.-101.
Best Beaches for Shelling
Sitting in the beach chair reading bubblegum fiction pretty much equals a perfect day for me. Though take a moment and dig deeper by collecting some shells. Or consider visiting a beach known for shelling.
Sanibel Island, Florida
A barrier island near Ft. Myers, Florida. Sanibel Island offers some of the best shelling because of the east-to-west orientation of the beach.
Silver Strand State Beach, Coronado Island, California
During a recent visit, I delighted in finding several whole sand dollars during my walk. Though protected by state law, I found lots of shells along the beach.
Located at 5000 California Highway 75.
Moonstone Beach, Hearst San Simeon State Park, California
Beaches offer more than shells. At Moonstone Beach, I found tiny tumbled moonstone, jade and bloodstone along the waterline. Dig a little deeper for larger stones.
Located off Highway 1 in Cambria.
Best Beaches for Catching a Sunset
West Coast beaches can’t be beat for sunsets. Catch the fiery sun as it drips below the horizon and watch the sky fade from aubergine to indigo.
Coronado Beach, Coronado Island, California
With the Victorian Hotel del Coronado as a backdrop, it’s San Diego’s most picturesque beach. On the largest stretch of sand, families can rent chairs, fly a kite or make a sand castle. The Hotel del Coronado offers rentals along with restaurants for day visitors.
Will Rogers State Beach, Pacific Palisades, California
A popular beach close to Santa Monica for families to watch the sun fall below the horizon in a kaleidoscope of color. It offers more parking than nearby beaches.
Know Before You Go
- Pack a cooler full of snacks if spending the whole day, like fresh fruit and lots of water.
- Parking is always an issue at the beach on summer weekends.
- Arrive early and bring cash for parking.