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The 10 Best Beaches in America, According to Dr. Beach

Ellen Gutoskey
Wailea Beach in Maui, Hawaii.
Wailea Beach in Maui, Hawaii. / YinYang/iStock via Getty Images Plus
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If you could jet off to any beach in the world, you might choose Grace Bay in Turks and Caicos or Cuba’s Varadero Beach—the two best beaches anywhere, according to Tripadvisor.

But the U.S. has its fair share of stellar sand-and-sea locales, too. And for more than 30 years, Stephen P. Leatherman, director of Florida International University’s Laboratory for Coastal Research, has released an annual list of what he deems the best ones. 

Leatherman, a.k.a. “Dr. Beach,” bases his rankings on a staggering 50 factors. There are all the customary ones you can think of: number of sunny days, water and air temperatures, amenities (such as showers and bars), frequency of rip currents, water color, views, level of crowding, and so on. 

There are also a number of metrics you might not have considered in your own search—or, even if you did consider them, simply not had the time or know-how to investigate. Is there noise from nearby highways or trains? Does the beach frequently stink due to seaweed or rotting fish? Will you be sharing the space with lots of fishers and boaters?

Dr. Beach has answered those and many other questions so you don’t have to. And according to his research, Ocracoke Lifeguarded Beach in North Carolina’s Outer Banks is your best bet for a beach getaway in 2022. It’s not the only Outer Banks offering on the list: Old Lighthouse Beach in Buxton ranked sixth. 

Two other states boast two beaches in the top 10, too: Florida, whose Caladesi Island State Park and St. George Island State Park finished second and fourth, respectively; and Hawaii, whose Duke Kahanamoku Beach in Oahu and Wailea Beach in Maui are must-visits for beach lovers.

Did your favorite American beach make the list? Find out below, and learn more about each beach here.

  1. Ocracoke Lifeguarded Beach // Ocracoke Island, Outer Banks, North Carolina
  2. Caladesi Island State Park // Caladesi Island, Florida
  3. Coopers Beach // Southampton, New York
  4. Dr. Julian G. Bruce St. George Island State Park // St. George Island, Florida
  5. Duke Kahanamoku Beach // Oahu, Hawaii
  6. Old Lighthouse Beach // Buxton, Outer Banks, North Carolina
  7. Coronado Beach // Coronado, California
  8. Wailea Beach // Maui, Hawaii
  9. Kiawah Beachwalker Park // Kiawah Island, South Carolina
  10. Coast Guard Beach // Eastham, Cape Cod, Massachusetts
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