1. Coronado Beach, Coronado, Calif.Set against the iconic red-roofed Hotel del Coronado, this 1.5-mile beach took top honors for its luxurious amenities, Mediterranean climate, and gentle grade. The beach literally shines thanks to the mineral mica sparkling in its sand.
2. Kahanamoku Beach, Oahu, HawaiiThough it’s named after Duke Paoa Kahanamoku, the man who popularized surfing outside of Hawaii, surfers may want to look elsewhere. Thanks to a shallow offshore reef, this protected beach rarely sees big waves, making it ideal for families with small children.
3. Main Beach, East Hampton, N.Y.If you can afford the $25 parking fee at this summertime playground of the New York elite, you may find yourself frolicking in the quartz sand and dunes of Main Beach with a coterie of stars. Away from the sand and surf, the small village boasts enough big city amenities to keep any diva comfortable.
4. St. George Island State Park, St. George Island, Fla.The BP oil spill no longer casts a dark shadow over this Florida panhandle beach. Not only are the squeaky clean sands and sparkling waters of St. George Island teeming with fish, but birders and other nature-lovers will have a field day on a late afternoon stroll through this protected retreat.
5. Hamoa Beach, Maui, HawaiiErnest Hemingway once called this classic Hawaiian beach the most beautiful in the world. Sitting inside a breached volcanic crater, this mixed coral and lava sand beach is the most famous and most loved of Maui’s Hana beaches.
6. Coast Guard Beach, Eastham, Mass.Coast Guard Beach is part of the Cape Cod National Seashore and is sandwiched between dunes of undulating grasses and the expansive Atlantic Ocean. On the glacial bluff above, the picturesque old Coast Guard station and lighthouse remind you of the area’s classic New England charms.
7. Waimanolo Bay Beach Park, Oahu, HawaiiSpectacular, safe, and secure from Hawaii’s famed waves, this wide beach has ample parking, watchful lifeguards, restrooms, outdoor showers, and other amenities. It’s also a popular spot for Oahu locals.
8. Cape Florida State Park, Key Biscayne, Fla.The white coral sand and emerald green water of Cape Florida State Park, the southernmost of the keys accessible by causeway from Miami, is an ideal escape from the South Florida metropolis. Come for sunrise over the Atlantic and stay for sunset over Biscayne Bay. Neither will disappoint.
When can you find the cheapest domestic airfare for summertime?When can you find the cheapest domestic airfare for summertime? Summer is never cheap, but a trip in August cost a bit less than one in June or July last year.
10. Cape Hatteras, Outer Banks, N.C.America’s first national seashore juts out some 30 miles from the mainland at its farthest point, giving it a tantalizingly remote aura. With idyllic fishing villages, famed lighthouses, and excellent beachcombing, Cape Hatteras deserves its reputation as one of America’s best summer destinations.
With 12,383 miles of coastline, the United States has a plethora of beaches -- but only one can be the best. Just in time for summer, Stephen P. Leatherman, a.k.a. Dr. Beach, has released his hotly anticipated list of the best beaches in the U.S. for 2012.
The coastal expert, who has produced the annual list since 1991, is the director of the Laboratory for Coastal Research at Florida International University and has authored over a dozen books on coastal issues.
Leatherman ranks America's beaches on 50 criteria, including water quality, the look and feel of the sand, facilities, weather conditions and crowds. He claims to visit top 10 candidates each year to assess and collect sand and water samples for study.
Hawaii and Florida are perennial favorites on the list, and this year is no exception; however, for the first time in the list's 22-year history, a California beach took the top slot.
Coronado Beach, on a peninsula across the bay from San Diego, ranked No. 1 for its ideal climate and picturesque backdrop. The only blemish on its near-perfect score was the water temperature. Hovering in the mid-60s, bathers rarely enter the water for more than a quick dip.
Coronado Beach has crept up the list over the past three years, coming in second last year to Florida's Siesta Beach, which did not make this year's list.
After a destination tops the Dr. Beach list, Leatherman retires it from consideration for future rankings. He does this to spread the wealth: A No. 1 ranking on his annual list typically brings a 15- to 20-percent rise in visitors.
Capitalizing on the media coverage last year, Siesta Beach launched a full-on media blitz that included securing the domain name NumberOneBeach.com. Representatives at the Sarasota Convention and Visitors Bureau claim an 18.2 percent increase in revenue per available hotel room and a nine-month increase in visitor spending of 17.5 percent over the previous year.
Coronado Beach can only hope for the same results.
Press Start for a look at the top 10 destinations on Dr. Beach's annual list.