For some, a great beach vacation means big waves, exciting nightlife, and plenty of nearby attractions. Others, however, look at a trip to the beach as a way to relax, reconnect and enjoy some good old-fashioned peace and quiet. Whether you’re in the first category, the second or somewhere in between, America has a destination for a perfect beach vacation.
The Emerald Coast, Florida
Florida’s Emerald Coast covers all the bases when it comes to beach fun. Its gorgeous beaches, teal green waters (hence, the name Emerald Coast), and reasonably priced accommodations make it one of our country’s favorite beach vacation destinations. Made up of several towns along Florida’s scenic route 30a, the Emerald Coast offers something for every beachgoer. The cities of Destin and Panama City Beach have gained popularity with the spring-break crowd in recent years. Located between Panama City Beach and Destin, the small, laid-back town of Seaside features a charming downtown area, a boardwalk, and a pristine beach, all within walking distance of each other. Colorful Seaside vacation rentals attract families and couples and add to the area’s charm, as well.
Santa Cruz Beach, California
A beach vacation probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the name, Santa Cruz. Southern California beaches offer excellent swimming, surfing, and sunning, but the northern section of the state, not so much. While Santa Cruz does boast a decent size white sandy beach and clean, clear (but cold) water, most visitors come for the adjacent Beach Boardwalk amusement park. You might recognize the park’s classic wooden roller coaster from the films “Sudden Impact” and “The Lost Boys,” or “Dangerous Minds.” Overall, the park has an ample mix of thrill, family, and kiddie rides. Less than an hour south by car, the famous "17-Mile Drive" along the Monterey Peninsula and the Pacific Coast Highway offer some of the world’s most stunning vistas. Head up to San Francisco and treat the kids to a sundae at Ghirardelli's Chocolate Factory.
Coronado Beach, San Diego, California
The beautiful beaches of the resort city of Coronado draw swimmers, surfers, and sunbathers year-round to this peninsula in San Diego Bay. Four separate beaches actually makeup Coronado Beach: Coronado City Beach, Tidelands Park, Glorietta Bay Park, and Centennial Park. Thanks to the presence of mica, the sand at Coronado Beach features a unique silver glitter. Perfect for couples, the Hotel del Coronado offers gorgeous ocean views in Victorian themed luxury accommodations. Gentle waves make Coronado Beach ideal for body surfing, swimming, and skimboarding. The Tidelands Park and Glorietta Bay Park sections of the beach also have volleyball courts, playgrounds, and picnic tables. Notable area attractions include the San Diego Zoo, Seaworld, and the USS Midway Museum.
Virginia Beach, Virginia
Virginia Beach consistently ranks among America’s best family vacation destinations thanks to lots of area attractions, reasonably priced high-rise hotels located right along its boardwalk, and a long, wide and palm tree-lined beach. Shops along Virginia Beach’s main strip, Atlantic Avenue, carry everything from t-shirts to scuba gear. Free summer concerts, as well as the annual multi-day music festival, "Something in the Water", make Virginia Beach popular with the young crowd as well. Nearby attractions such as Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Water Country USA, Yorktown Battlefield, and Colonial Williamsburg offer a nice break if you need a day away from the sand and surf.
South Beach, Miami Beach, Florida
A vibrant nightlife, tropical feel, and colorful Art Deco architecture make South Beach one of our country's most popular beach destinations. The many nightclubs, bars and restaurants along Ocean Drive (a stretch that you have probably seen in movies or on television) and Lincoln Road attract singles and couples to South Beach year-round. The South Beach Historic District consists of over 800 buildings from the 1930s and early 1940s. Stop in at the Art Deco District Welcome Center for self-guided tour maps. At South Pointe Park you can watch the sunrise come and go, as well as cruise ships. South Beach also has a wide range of lodgings, most of them located right on the beach.
Kauna'oa Bay, Hawaii
Also known as Mauna Kea Beach, the palm tree-fringed, half-mile long Kauna'oa Bay Beach features some of the whitest sand in Hawaii. Its gentle slope makes it ideal for sunbathing, building sandcastles, or relaxing with a good book. Two coral reefs and mostly calm waters make Kauna'oa Bay perfect for swimming, body surfing and snorkeling. Located right on the beach, the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel uses floodlights every night to attract hungry manta rays - they won't eat you though, and you can safely swim or dive with the manta rays or enjoy the show from the beach.
Nags Head Beach, North Carolina
Located on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, the 11-mile long Nags Head Beach offers typical beach fun like swimming, sunbathing, and surfing, with a laid-back vibe. If you enjoy snorkeling, several area shipwrecks provide some unique diving fun. The beach also has two piers and several charter boats for fishing or dolphin watching. The nearby Kitty Hawk Coastal Reserve encompasses over 1800-acres of forests and marshes where you can enjoy a day of bird watching and critter spotting. Best known for seafood, Outer Banks restaurants also serve up everything from smoothies to beach barbeque. Lined with single-family homes and vacation rental properties, the quiet beach at Nags Head takes vacation relaxation to the next level.
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