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The Best Beach Vacations in the US (2024 Edition)

Do you spend the year dreaming of dipping your toes in the ocean, frolicking in the waves, and glowing with the beachy bliss that only the combination of salt water and abundant sunshine can achieve?

A collage of photos featuring the best beach vacations in the US.
A few of our favorite beach vacations in the US: Nags Head, Tybee Island, and Cannon Beach

If you’re a card-carrying lover of sun, sand, and surf, this one’s for you — a round-up of the best beach vacations in the US so you can plan the perfect getaway.

The Best of the Best: Our Top Picks for Beach Vacations in the USA

Want to skip to the good part? Here are our favorite beach vacations in the US for families, couples, budget travelers, and more:

Fabulous Beach Vacations in the United States

When it comes to incredible beaches, there is no shortage of white sand, oceanfront resorts, and adorable beach towns in the US. To help you plan the perfect beachy holiday, we’re narrowing down the choices to 8 gorgeous spots for a 2024 beach vacation.

Disclaimer: I should mention here that the majority of these beaches are for active adventures and quiet moments, as opposed to crowded beaches and all-inclusive resorts. It’s the way I roll.

Grab your sunscreen, your swimsuit, and your favorite beach read, and book a trip to one of these amazing destinations — the best beach vacations in the US.

Coronado Beach in San Diego, CA

Chairs and bright red umbrellas on Coronado Beach in California.
Plan your getaway to this gorgeous beach on Coronado Island in California.

Just a stone’s throw from downtown San Diego, Coronado Island is an utterly charming little resort town that is equally beloved by families, celebrities, and senior citizens.

It’s been debated as to whether this narrow strip of land is actually an island, but no matter what you believe, Coronado is one of the best spots on the West Coast to enjoy perfect weather, beautiful views, swaying palm trees, and fantastic food.

Cross the Coronado Bridge from San Diego, and you will feel yourself immediately relax into island life. With its endearing small-town vibe and renowned beaches, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more endearing location for your getaway in Southern California.

Spend your mornings kayaking in San Diego Bay, playing a round of golf at the Coronado Golf Course, or exploring the shops on Orange Avenue. When the sun creeps high in the sky, it’s time to don the lycra and head to the beach.

Coronado Central Beach is the most well-known of Coronado’s Beaches. It runs along Ocean Boulevard with the famous Hotel del Coronado at its southern end. While Central Beach certainly gets crowded on nice days, there is a wide swath of sand between the ocean and the boardwalk, so you’ve got plenty of room to spread out.

Best time to visit Coronado Island: September and October are fantastic for warm, sunny days without the crowds.

Where to stay: El Cordova Hotel is located in the historic downtown area within walking distance of Coronado Beach. Take advantage of the outdoor pool, bike rentals, and onsite luggage storage during your stay.

Where to eat: Peohe’s for island-inspired seafood with a gorgeous view, or Il Fornaio for elevated Italian.

Virginia Beach, VA

King Neptune Statue on the shores of Virginia Beach.
Statue of King Neptune in Virginia Beach

With 35 beautiful miles of coastline, a fantastic boardwalk and fishing pier, and numerous waterfront resorts, is it any wonder that millions of visitors head to Virginia Beach every year for a little fun in the sun?

There is so much more to this bustling beach town than meets the eye, from coastal hiking trails to world-class museums, making this one of the best beach vacations for families in the US.

Virginia Beach’s three-mile boardwalk promenade along the Atlantic Ocean is the ideal spot for an evening stroll. In the summer months, the area comes alive with music on open-air stages, alfresco dining, and plenty of family-friendly entertainment.

This pristine stretch of sand is perfect for claiming a towel-sized piece of real estate and soaking up some rays. Feeling adventurous? Take a surf lesson with Seth Broudy’s School of Surf (for ages 6+).

Head just outside of the Oceanfront District to check out the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art, the Military Aviation Museum, and the Virginia Aquarium. Grab your hiking boots and explore miles of coastal trails at First Landing State Park, the spot where English colonists first landed in 1607.

Best time to visit Virginia Beach: May through September is ideal, and we’ve had some awesome beach days in April too!

Where to stay: Coastal Hotel and Suites features 83 oceanfront rooms, an indoor pool, and a prime location near the boardwalk, fishing pier, and art district.

Where to eat: Chick’s Oyster Bar for raw oysters and live music or Pacifica for tapas and mixed drinks.

Cannon Beach, OR

Haystack Rock on the Oregon Coast.
Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach on the Oregon Coast

Cannon Beach is a small coastal city in northwest Oregon with chill beach vibes and a long, sandy shoreline. It’s a popular spot for tourists, who come mainly to view the impressive Haystack Rock and other sea stacks along this stretch of the Pacific Coast. Goonies fans will know it as the spot where One-Eyed Willie sets sail at the movie’s end.

This is not a lay-on-the-beach and swim-in-the-ocean kind of spot, but if you want a trip where you can hike along shore scanning the rocks for tufted puffins and the skies for bald eagles, look for critters in the numerous tide pools, and enjoy tiny restaurants and boutique shops, then Cannon Beach may be the perfect destination for you.

And, if you’re looking for romance, Cannon Beach is one of the best beach vacations in the US for couples.

Be sure to visit Ecola State Park at the north end of Cannon Beach, where you’ll find dramatic cliffs, spectacular views, and the chance to spot whales and Roosevelt Elk as you meander the trails. You’ll almost certainly spy Tillamook Lighthouse, which was built in 1881 and decommissioned in 1957.

Best time to visit Cannon Beach: Summer is peak season on the Oregon Coast, so expect to pay higher prices and deal with some crowds and traffic. It’s also the best time for outdoor adventures because the temperatures are warm and the days are long. Early fall is still lovely with fewer crowds and cooler temperatures.

Where to stay: The Inn at Haystack Rock is located one block from the beach. Rooms are spacious, and many include kitchens, fireplaces, and private patios. The beautiful garden courtyard is the perfect spot to unwind after a day of exploring.

Where to eat: We recommend Public Coast Brewing, and not just because we fancy ourselves beer connoisseurs. The root beer floats here actually rival the best alcoholic brews. The fish tacos and the onion rings will make you smile too.

Cape Cod National Seashore, MA

Race Point Beach on Cape Cod.
Cape Cod National Seashore

While you may not automatically think of the New England coast when you’re planning a beach vacation, Cape Cod is the perfect spot for families and nature lovers.

Head to Massachusetts for your next beach vacation and explore forty miles of pristine sandy beaches, marshes and ponds teeming with wildlife, and beautiful uplands crisscrossed with trails. Lighthouses, dune shacks, and wild cranberry bogs provide visitors with a window into Cape Cod’s past and continuing ways of life.

Cape Cod National Seashore is a wilderness area encompassing 43,600 acres on the tip of Cape Cod, from Provincetown to Chatham. If your idea of a perfect beach vacation is meandering through upland sand dunes while watching for birds, hiking through cedar swamps, and biking on quiet coastal paths, this is the vacation for you.

Head to Race Point Beach near Provincetown, where you can catch glimpses of humpback whales and other marine animals far out to sea (bring your binoculars). Explore Highland Light, Cape Cod’s oldest lighthouse in Truro. Cyclists will find a diverse collection of trails leading through the dunes and connecting various villages on the Cape.

Best time to visit Cape Cod: Early June or mid-September to avoid the summer crowds.

Where to stay: There are lots of options in Provincetown, but we prefer staying in nearby North Truro at the Dune Crest Hotel. This clean, no-frills hotel has an outdoor pool, outdoor tennis courts, views of the water, and it’s dog-friendly.

Where to eat/drink: Be sure to visit Truro Vineyards, one of only two vineyards on the Cape. For the freshest seafood around, head to Blackfish Bistro for an ever-changing menu of delightful fare.

Nags Head, Outer Banks, NC

Jennette's Pier in Nags Head, North Carolina.
Jennette’s Pier in Nags Head, North Carolina.

While the Outer Banks is no longer a hidden gem, it somehow manages to embrace everything we love about small coastal towns — jaw-dropping natural beauty, small seaside motels, tiny surf shops, and lots and lots of seafood.

Visitors have been coming to Nag’s Head for more than a century, and most of the folks we spoke with on our visit had been returning to the same spot for decades. Every town in the Outer Banks has a distinct character, and Nags Head is probably most well known for the enormous dunes in Jockey Ridge State Park and the fantastic fishing, food, and sunrises from Nags Head Pier.

Wildlife lovers have lots of options in the Outer Banks. Head south to Cape Hatteras National Seashore, the perfect place to catch glimpses of sea turtles, dolphins, seals, and lots of coastal birds. Head north to Corolla to see the beautiful wild horses that have called this area home for more than 400 years.

Best time to visit Nag’s Head: We love visiting this area between April and May. The days are warm, the crowds are minimal, and the lodging is affordable.

Where to stay: While not directly on the beach, the First Colony Inn’s rooms are incredibly comfy, the breakfast is amazing, and there’s a nice outdoor pool and garden area. There’s nothing cookie-cutter about it, and you can easily walk to the beach and several restaurants.

Where to eat: Sam & Omie’s is legendary for breakfast and lunch, and you can’t beat Tale of the Whale for gourmet seafood right on the water.

Padre Island National Seashore, Corpus Christi, TX

Pelicans resting on a sand bar on North Padre Island in Texas.
Set of large water birds strolling around the sandbar of the island

 Padre Island National Seashore is the longest undeveloped barrier island in the world, located on the outskirts of Corpus Christi, Texas.

This magical spot is well-known as a birding destination and is home to five sea turtle species, including the endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtles. It’s one of the most secluded beach vacations on this list and one of the best beaches for viewing wildlife.

While visiting, be sure to check out the Laguna Madre, one of only six hypersaline lagoons on Earth. This is a beautiful spot for kayaking, fishing, and watching wildlife, and it’s also a great spot for windsurfing.

Padre Island National Seashore is located southeast of Corpus Christi on North Padre Island. A seven-day entrance fee is $25. Visiting for the day is $10. Leashed pets are welcome all over the park, except in the buildings. 

Waterfront camping is available at Five different camping areas. Camping on North or South Beach and Yarborough Pass is free (with your entrance fee). The other camping areas vary between $8 and $14 per night.

Best time to visit Padre Island: September through November for warm temperatures with fewer crowds.

Where to stay: Camping on the beach is so much fun here, but if you don’t want to camp, there are a few hotels and vacation rentals at the northern tip of North Padre Island in Corpus Christi where condos villages are as common as beach sand. The average price for a vacation rental on North Padre Island is just $150 a night, making this an affordable home base for those who don’t want to pitch a tent.

Where to eat: Try the Peruvian-inspired seafood at Costa Sur in Corpus Christie.

Cape May, NJ

Cape May New Jersey
Beautiful Cape May, New Jersey

Grand Victorian homes, endless sandy beaches, and more shorebirds than you can count. Welcome to Cape May, New Jersey, one of the best beaches on the East Coast for active vacationers and history buffs.

While Cape May has many of the tourist attractions common in East Coast resort towns (arcades, mini golf, cheap snack bars), it’s a very small community with the feel of an upscale fishing village. You could spend a long weekend in Cape May without getting into your car, especially if you bring a bike (or rent one).

Start by strolling or riding the Cape May Promenade, which runs parallel to Beach Avenue for two miles. This paved walkway is your gateway to the beach, as well as the aforementioned arcades and snack bars.

You could certainly spend your days relaxing on the beach, but make time for upscale cocktails at the Congress House, meandering past the historic Victorian homes, including the Emlen Physick Estate, and touring the lighthouse in Cape May Point State Park.

National Geographic lists Cape May as one of the best destinations for birding. Get in on the action by heading to the Cape May Bird Observatory’s Northwood Center.

Best time to visit Cape May: For crowds of birds but not people, visit Cape May in April or September. Otherwise, get that quintessential beach vacation between June and August.

Where to stay: Le Mer Beachfront Resort manages to be both affordable and luxurious, with beachfront balconies, a full restaurant, an outdoor pool and fire pit, and a fitness center.

Where to eat: The Lobster House for fresh seafood and outdoor dining, Peter Shields for fine dining, and Peace Pie for ice cream.

Tybee Island, GA

Tybee Island at sunset
Tybee Island at sunset

Looking for a southeastern beach vacation with the beauty of Hilton Head, South Carolina, but not the overpriced resorts, amusement parks, and throngs of people? Head just south of Hilton Head to beautiful Tybee Island, Georgia.

Just a short drive from beautiful Savannah, Tybee Island is home to gorgeous white sand beaches, an artsy downtown, and laid-back beach vibes. Outdoor lovers will enjoy kayaking the salt marshes at sunset and biking the miles of quiet streets and trails.

The Tybee Island Light Station and Museum, Georgia’s oldest and tallest lighthouse, offers self-guided tours. Be sure to see what’s going on at the Tybee Island Marine Science Center during your visit, especially if you enjoy learning about the marine life of the East Coast.

Best time to visit Tybee Island: April and May for temperatures in the 70s and fewer crowds.

Where to stay: While on the pricey side, you can’t beat the location, comfort, and amenities of Tybee Island Inn. The inn is within walking distance of the beach and Tybee Island Lighthouse and a free breakfast is included in your state.

Where to eat: Casual outdoor dining at the Crab Shack and Pier 16 to enjoy corn hole and jenga with your gorgeous view.

What are your favorite beach vacations in the US? Leave us a comment below!

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Two east coast beaches with text overlay: The most enchanting beach vacations in the USA.
Tara Schatz sits with her two dogs, Gatsby and Flynn.

Tara is a freelance writer and travel blogger with a passion for outdoor adventures. She is the co-author of AMC’s Best Day Hikes in Vermont and currently blogs at Back Road Ramblers and Vermont Explored, where she shares travel tips, adventure destinations, and vacation ideas for the wanderer in everyone.