Beach vacations capture something special when it comes to the pleasure of travel. The calming whoosh of ocean tides, the warm glow of sunbathing, and the joy of experiencing a slower pace of life, away from the daily grind. We love a good beach vacation, and as summer winds downs, we’re looking for the best places to watch the sun set on our favorite season.
In order to find all the right places, we analyzed tens of thousands of social media conversations to pull out trends in beach-goers posts and the Expedia 2017 Flip Flop Report. This annual survey reveals beach-goers’ preferences, pet peeves, attitudes, and desires when it comes to the best and the worst of a stint on the sand. This year’s results show the U.S. leading the pack when it comes to favorite beaches, with Florida, California, and Hawaii yielding the highest numbers.
When assessing the most important factors to beach vacationers, we found people talking the most across the web about these beaches and what they had to offer, from clean and safe to affordable and relaxing. People are loving these American beaches, so we rounded up some things to do in and around the most popular. Here’s our list of not-to-miss beaches this year.
Conversations across social media determined these are the most important beach-going factors, and the places to find them:
Clearwater ticks all the boxes in terms of what people seek in a beach. Bring your pets to this clean and safe beach town, where good weather and a relaxed atmosphere greet each guest. People also consider it one of the most affordable beach vacations.
Families love this beach for adventures such as Captain Memo’s Pirate Cruise, where parents can squeeze in dolphin watching while the kids get their faces painted and hunt for treasure with the pirate crew. This ride alone could make this one of the best beach vacations for families, but its charms don’t stop at the end of the plank.
Foodies love Frenchy’s South Beach Café, where classic coastal fare like lobster tacos and fried calamari leave diners full and relaxed. If by chance you feel the need to further unwind, Clearwater Wine Bar and Bistro will do the job with a relaxed atmosphere and a glass of vino.
It’s not just a show on MTV, it’s one of America’s most popular beaches. When you’ve had your fill of chilling on your beach towel, rent a boat from CB’s Saltwater Outfitters for a laidback day on the water, or let them take you on a parasailing adventure.
One of the most fun restaurants in the area is Captain Curt’s Crab & Oyster Bar, where regular live music accompanies fresh oysters, crab, and famous clam chowder. Thirsty travelers will find fun and fruity drinks at the outdoor bar, Sniki Tiki. For a delightful breakfast, Sun Garden Café is your surest bet.
Let your hair down at an Atlantic Beach must: Ragtime Tavern. Here you’ll be met with a cold, handcrafted beer; friendly locals; and innovative cuisine.
Downtown Naples is just the right place to end a day soaking up the sun and strolling down the historical Naples Pier. Or, for a must-try Naples staple head to the south of town for Pelican Bend Restaurant & Marina.
Miami’s beach scene is famous, and these two stretches of sand are on the A-list. Miami offers so many great things to do, we’re surprised to narrow it down to two.
Miami made our list of most stylish cities, and trendy South Beach is the place to see and be seen.
- Photo ops abound on this attractive beach, where the color-saturated retro lifeguard stands contrast vividly against a white sand canvas.
- Continue the retro vibes at the bar at the Clevelander, housed in a 1938 building that proves true style is timeless.
- Dine at iconic and dapper Joe’s Stone Crab.
Key BiscayneAdventures will find you in Key Biscayne, if you’re not the sort to stay still long.
- Take to the land or sea with Miami EcoAdventures. Archery, snorkeling, kayaking, and hiking make up only a portion of potential activity.
- Climb aboard a fully crewed boat from Florida Keys Catamaran Charters, with snorkel gear and floats provided.
- On your return to land, take in the awesome views and delicious seafood at Boater’s Grill. Don’t forget to cap the meal with a caramelly Cuban flan.
Hop on the Laguna Beach Trolley and take a tour of the town, or get your own set of wheels from Laguna Beach Electric Bike Rental. Just make sure to stop at the delightful Las Brisas, where you’ll never regret a fresh meal and a seasonal cocktail.
The world-famous pier in Santa Monica is an iconic must-stop. Love to learn? Take the free historical walking tour, and visit the Annenberg Community Beach House. There, you can discover part of the area’s glamorous past at the Marion Davies Guest House, and there is something for everyone—from playgrounds to beach volleyball and tennis courts to a long lap pool.
Mealtime should bring you to Cha Cha Chicken, where beachy vibes prevail and Caribbean meets Latin in the cuisine. Pair aguas frescas with a plate of smothered jerk chicken for the perfect afternoon refresh.
San Diego has a wide variety of diverse beach experiences, but these two rose to the top of conversation surrounding the best of the best.
La JollaAbout 15 miles north of downtown San Diego, the upscale neighborhood of La Jolla is home to beautiful beaches, tide pools, and many fun things to do.
- Active travelers should explore La Jolla Cove by kayak, hike the stairs into Sunny Jim Sea Cave, and snorkel with leopard sharks at the underwater park.
- Visit the Birch Aquarium where you can immerse yourself in the bioluminescent Infinity Cube and the Hall of Fishes.
- Dine with a view at The Marine Room or the Shores.
South of San Diego is the charming community of Coronado. Accessible by bridge and ferry, this pseudo island has a small town feel adjacent to urban downtown San Diego.
- The best way to get around the island is by bike. Rent one from Holland’s Bicycles, and the streets are yours.
- Explore the bay by boat with San Diego Bike and Kayak Tours, or take a surfing lesson with Coronado Surfing Academy.
- Pair a fine Mexican meal with bay views at Candelas to end the day at one of California’s most relaxing beach vacation destinations.
In Santa Cruz, individuality is a way of life, and travelers who enjoy a place with a quirky spirit will love the vibes this city gives off.
Spend a day on the sand at Santa Cruz Harbor Beach, and if you’re antsy for action, head to the charming and entertaining Beach Boardwalk. Take to the sky in the Sea Swings for a dizzying view of the sand and water. If spinning is not for you, the views from the calmer Sky Glider are equally impressive. For even more amazing vantage points, the patio at the Crow’s Nest offers plenty.
See more of the area from a seat on the Santa Cruz Beach Train, which will take you from the beach to the forest to the town of Roaring Camp. This recreated 1880s logging camp feels worlds away from the bustling beach, but the ride is merely 6 miles!
Along calmer waters, the shops in Whalers Village can set you up nicely for a day spent stretched out on the sand, and Leilani’s on the Beach hosts Aloha Hour, and what epitomizes top beach vacations better than a good meal with a sunset backdrop?
If you prefer to while away the day on dry land, take to the seas as night approaches and hunger beckons instead, on Captain’s Sunset Dinner Sail. An evening spent at Fleetwood’s on Front St. is also a treat, with a daily happy hour, rooftop sunset ceremony, and live music in the lounge.
If you’re feeling sun soaked, take cover at Poipu Shopping Village, where beachwear boutiques and art galleries comingle. For dinner, Brennecke’s Beach Broiler is right on the beach, and fresh fish dishes, light dinner fare, and heartier meat plates complement killer views.
Explore the main strip, Kalakaua Avenue with its many shops and restaurants, or learn to surf the calm waters of Waikiki Beach with a beachboy through Waikiki Beach Services. When you’ve worked up a true appetite, eat like a legend at Duke’s, named for famed swimmer and surfer, Duke Paoa Kahanamoku.
What are your favorite U.S. beaches?