October 3, 2022

California, Florida or Hawaii – Which State Has the Best Beaches?

When you think of picturesque beaches complemented by inviting salty seas and endless sunshine, odds are you probably think of three states—California, Florida and Hawaii.

But which is the best for beach lovers?

All three destinations boast a plethora of worthwhile shorelines, several of which have been recognized by Dr. Stephen Leatherman, better known as Dr. Beach, in his annual top 10 rankings. This year, Hawaii landed a pair of beaches in the top 10, including Maui’s Wailea Beach and Duke Kahanamoku Beach on the island of Oahu. While no Hawaii beach ranks higher than fifth this year, by looking at past years’ winners, it’s clear that the Aloha State is the nation’s best for beach bums.

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After all, Hawaiian beaches have conquered Dr. Beach’s rankings in four of the past seven years. Recent national winners include Hapuna Beach State Park in 2021, Kailua Beach Park in 2019, Kapalua Bay Beach in 2018 and Hanauma Bay in 2016.

This year, the shoreline expert called Honolulu’s Kahanamoku Beach “one of the most picturesque beaches in the USA” and praised Wailea Beach for its “beautiful-landscaped park, adorned with tropical vegetation and flowering bushes and trees.”

Dr. Beach’s rankings consider 50 criteria for hundreds of public beaches across the U.S. and take into account things like beach width, sand softness, water temperature and wildlife, among other factors. What sets Hawaii’s beaches apart from any other state is the diversity as visitors will encounter all sorts of sand colors and textures, crowd levels, swells and landscapes. Here, travelers can go from white-sand beach parks with all of the amenities to off-the-beaten-path black- or even red-sand beaches.

Duke Kahanamoku Beach, Oahu, Hawaii
Duke Kahanamoku Beach, Oahu, Hawaii (Photo via mizoula/iStock Editorial/Getty Images Plus)

There’s certainly a case to be made for Florida and California as well as the relatively overlooked North Carolina, which won Dr. Beach’s rankings in 2022 with Ocracoke Lifeguarded Beach in the Outer Banks topping the list. The Sunshine State features two of the top four beaches this year in Caladesi Island State Park in Dunedin and St. George Island State Park along the Florida Panhandle. Florida has also produced two winning beaches twice since 2017, with Siesta Beach and Grayton Beach State Park receiving top honors in recent years.

In California, San Diego’s Coronado Beach routinely ranks inside the top 10, including seventh in 2022.

Nonetheless, the title of Best Beach State has to belong to America’s only island state in Hawaii. The good news for travelers is that Hawaii is more accessible than ever with the emergence of low-cost flight options from Southwest Airlines and others and eased COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Back on the mainland, the U.S. is loaded with exceptional shorelines worth exploring and rediscovering this summer. From the Atlantic to the Pacific and the Great Lakes and the Gulf of Mexico in between, travelers have no shortage of stellar choices.

Whether seeking a quintessential summer getaway in places like Myrtle Beach, Cape Cod or Santa Monica or a closer connection with nature in spots like Cannon Beach or the Outer Banks, the U.S. is the ideal place to enjoy your dream beach vacation.

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