Skip to main content

BEACON Senior News - Western Colorado

Best beaches: Your ultimate beach vacation guide

Feb 20, 2024 11:16AM ● By Victor Block

A stretch of golden sand lies against a backdrop of vibrant Art Deco architecture on the east coast. Further north, people stroll, jog and pedal bicycles along a boardwalk that runs parallel to an oceanfront beach and passes amusement parks, fast-food eateries and gambling casinos. 

On the opposite coast, sun worshipers alternate between working on their tan with checking out their surroundings for sightings of seals and sea lions, elk, deer and migrating whales.  

When people think of a beach vacation, they often picture relaxing on soft sand, soaking up the sun and cooling off in salty surf. As inviting as these scenes are, they only scratch the surface of what awaits those who would like to exchange the coming winter cold for the welcome warmth of a beach destination.

Consider, for instance, the Art Deco charm of Miami Beach, boasting more than seven miles of palm tree-shaded sand. Alternatively, Atlantic City may offer a somewhat narrower shoreline, but it more than makes up for it with a plethora of entertainment options.

When visitors to the northwestern peninsula of Washington State aren’t relaxing on an Olympic National Park beach, they’re often keeping their eyes peeled for the abundant wildlife that frequents the area.

Despite their differences, these places share something in common: they are among strands of sand that have been recognized and lauded by the leading expert in beach lore.

Dr. Stephen Leatherman, director of the Laboratory for Coastal Research at Florida International University, has conducted several decades of research, which includes creation of a “50 criteria evaluation list.” His expertise has earned him the unofficial but fitting nicknames of “Dr. Beach” and “Doctor of Beachology.”     

If you’re considering a break from Mother Nature’s winter white snow in favor of the milky froth of waves crashing on a sun-drenched beach, be aware that the choice of inviting alternatives is long, varied and, in some cases, surprising.


Surprises abound around the country, ready to welcome visitors seeking unique beach experiences. It’s no wonder that half of Dr. Beach’s top choices are located in Florida and Hawaii.


St. George Island State Park, Florida

Topping the list is St. George Island Park in the Sunshine State, which boasts “some of the whitest, finest sand in the world” and water that is “crystal clear and clean.” The park’s appeal is further enhanced by nature trails, birding opportunities, fishing and boating, along with limited nighttime light pollution that makes it an excellent spot for stargazing.


Oahu, Hawaii

In second place is the tongue-twisting Duke Kahanamoku Beach on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, named for a swimmer who popularized the sport of surfing. Despite its namesake’s fame, an offshore coral reef keeps the water calm, and the majestic Diamond Head Volcano rises in the distance, adding to the magnificent setting.


Southampton, New York

Third on the list is, to some, an unexpected choice. Coopers Beach in Southampton, Long Island, offers shores with white quartz sand backed by large dunes. Overlooking this picturesque setting are imposing mansions that serve as summer retreats for wealthy Manhattanites.


Acadia National Park, Maine

Despite its name, about half of the surface of Sand Beach consists of crushed bits of mussel and crab shells, along with parts of other sea creatures. This natural pocket coastline, tucked into a cove in Acadia National Park in Maine and backed by a pristine setting of evergreen trees, has been aptly described as a “saltwater gem.”


Santa Barbara County, California

Located 12 miles south of Santa Barbara, this beach offers gradually sloping sand and gentle swells, making it one of the safest beaches on the West Coast. Tide pools often teem with starfish, crabs and other sea life, while seals, sea lions and an occasional gray whale may be spotted during winter and early spring.


For many people, the word “beach” conjures up images of islands in the Caribbean Sea. Palm-fringed bays, clear water and year-round summer temperatures combine to make this region a sun and sand magnet. While the challenge of choosing where to plop down a blanket can be daunting, it’s almost hard to go wrong.


Barbuda, Caribbean

The 17-Mile Beach on Barbuda is famous for its exceptional, pink-hued sand, which sets off the blue-to-grey-to-green color of the water offshore. This epic stretch of silky-smooth beach separates the ocean from the Condrington Lagoon.


Aruba, Caribbean

In Aruba, the white dunes of Boca Prins Beach contrast with the rocky shoreline of Arikok National Park, which is home to ancient Arawak paintings and plant and animal species that live nowhere else. This compact beach overlooks a bay known for strong currents and high waves, named for a former plantation.


For those who want more action than just lounging in the sun, there is hope. Alongside the best beaches for swimming, walking and sunbathing, sandy enclaves can offer a surprising variety of activities. 


Dr. Beach can help direct you to your sand and sun utopia. For more information, visit

Related articles: 

Explore Scotlands cities castles and charm

Explore Scotland's cities, castles and charm

Craggy mountains, rolling farmlands, still lakes, magnificent castles and charming towns—Scotland has it all. Read More » 

Must-Know Travel Trends of 2024

Must-Know Travel Trends of 2024

Domestic leisure travel is likely to return to pre-pandemic levels next year. Stay informed about emerging travel trends, including microcations and volunteer tourism. Read More » 

4 reasons to fall in love with  Provence France

4 reasons to fall in love with Provence, France

Some places are more than a destination and topping that list is Provence, France. Read More »