Every year, Dr. Beach ranks the best beaches in the United States, from sea to shining sea. He judges factors like sand quality and softness, ratio of rainy to sunny days, water conditions, dangerous marine life, pollution and noise. After much consideration and research, here is his 2018 list for the best beaches in the U.S. Did your favorite beach make the cut?
10. Beachwalker Park – Kiawah Island, South Carolina
Located south of Charleston, Beachwalker Park is the only public access beach on Kiawah Island. The park is between the Bohicket River and the Atlantic, and features a boardwalk that weaves through Spanish-moss-covered oak trees, pines and palmettos. Kayak through tidal inlets, or bike to Captain Sam's Inlet to spot a variety of birds.
9. Coronado Beach – San Diego, California
No, you're not seeing things: this beach is actually sparkling in the sunlight. The reason? The sand contains flecks of the mineral mica, hence the nickname "Silver Stand." The most recognizable icon on the beach, located just a short ferry trip or car ride across San Diego Bay, is the Hotel Coronado, featured in the Marilyn Monroe film Some Like it Hot.
8. Hapuna Beach State Park – Big Island, Hawaii
Most Hawaii beaches are beautiful, but the conditions are not suitable for swimming. Hapuna Beach, on the Kohala Coast, is the largest white-sand beach in the state and offers ideal swimming conditions. (Plus, there are well-trained lifeguards on duty.) Ample parking, food vendors, picnic areas, restrooms and showers make the spot ideal for families.
7. Caladesi Island State Park – Dunedin/Clearwater, Florida
One of the best beaches in the U.S., Caladesi is an uninhabited barrier island off the coast of Clearwater. The protected state park offers visions of how Florida's west coast may have looked before rapid development. There are pine and palmetto forests and 3 miles of pristine Gulf of Mexico shoreline. Catch the ferry here from Honeymoon Island.
6. Lighthouse Beach – Outer Banks, North Carolina
As the name suggests, this beach was once the spot of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. Built in 1868, the beacon was relocated to a safer location inshore in 1999 due to beach erosion. Now, thanks to the draw of visitors to the lighthouse throughout the years, this beach offers an ample parking area. It's also one of the best surfing beaches on the East Coast, and has been the spot of the ESA regional championship competition.
5. Coast Guard Beach – Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Part of the Cape Cod National Seashore in Eastham, Massachusetts, this beach is only accessible via bicycle or shuttle bus from the Salt Pond Visitor's Center. (The small main parking lot is reserved for staff and disabled guests.) Bring your wetsuit: the water rarely rises above 70 degrees, even in the summer.
Although there's a $40 parking fee for non-residents (this is The Hamptons, after all), visiting this beach is worth the dough. The wide stretch of white-quartz sand was dubbed the first "Gold Coast" in the country, and just over the dunes you can spot the extravagant mansions that front the shore.
3. Grayton Beach State Park – Florida panhandle
Along Florida's northwest Gulf Coast, this state-park beach boasts sugar-white sand and emerald-green water. The nearly 2,000-acre park features 4 miles of hiking and biking trails through pine flatwoods, and a nature trail through a coastal forest. Kayak or paddleboard through tidal lakes to spy the wildlife that frequents the marshes.
2. Ocracoke Lifeguarded Beach – Outer Banks, North Carolina
You won't find mini-golf courses, ice cream shops, waterslides or other typical touristy beach offerings here. Instead, you'll find a well-preserved beach, perfect for long walks, scouting for shells or building a sandcastle. Fun fact: Ocracoke was once home to Blackbeard the pirate.
It's no surprise that 2018's best beach in the United States is located on Maui. The resort area of Kapalua (meaning "arms embracing the sea") is located at the base of the West Maui Mountains — the waters are protected by two headlands formed by lava flow into the ocean. Grab a snorkel and some fish food from the concession hut on the north end and explore the coral just offshore.