Best Beaches Across the United States

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Summer is the best time to travel to the beach, something we’re pretty void of out here in landlocked Colorado. The beach is an amazing experience that is wildly different from the mountains, which is why ParkDIA is here today to discuss some of the unique beaches you can visit, each with their own different experiences.

Gulf Of Mexico

When you think of a beach vacation, the Gulf of Mexico is likely one of the first places to come to mind. White sand beaches, clear blue waters, and great beach cities like Panama. If that’s the experience you’re looking for, then the Gulf Of Mexico is your best bet. Home to the classic beach experience, the Gulf of Mexico has soft sands, clear waters, and plenty of public beaches. Stretching from the inside of Florida’s panhandle to Texas, there are so many destination vacations waiting on this coast.


  • Plenty of options, private and public
  • Classic beach experience
  • Prime fishing location
  • Always have nearby amenities on the beach
  • Great for boating
  • Great for enjoying the beach


  • Jellyfish & sharks
  • Popular beaches can get overcrowded quickly
  • During beach season, prices will go up because of popularity
  • Not a surfing beach

East Coast

From the tip of Florida to Delaware, the East Coast has a different experience to the protected shores of the Gulf of Mexico. Windblown and growing craggy, the Atlantic is a different force of nature altogether. The east coast is more likely to have flora growing all the way down to the water, with beach grass protecting turtles and crabs. This different biome makes the beaches come in layers, often having to build bridges from solid ground to the coast because of almost quicksand-like sections between or because of large protected areas of the beach for the wildlife.


  • Less crowded
  • Unique wildlife
  • Long walkways that allow you to see the view
  • Comfortable beaches
  • Most beaches don’t have jellyfish & sharks (Myrtle Beach is one to avoid if you’re worried about sharks)
  • Quiant beach towns instead of party cities
  • Great for fishing


  • Much shorter beach season
  • Beach towns rarely come to the coast directly
  • More expensive
  • Not a surfing beach

South California

If the Gulf of Mexico wasn’t the first place that came to mind when you thought of the beach, then you likely thought of the surfer dudes in California. With golden beaches and prime waves for surfing, it’s hard not to think of the sunny sands along California’s coast, primarily the southern half. These coastal havens are one of the go-to’s for traditional beach experiences.


  • Classic beach experience
  • Great for surfing
  • Plenty of amenities right by the water
  • Amazing beach cities to stay at with plenty of options
  • Unique coastal cliffs make for plenty of pocket private beaches
  • Beautiful wildlife while on the beach


  • Expensive
  • Sharks & jellyfish
  • Will get busy quickly during the beach season

Pacific Northwest

If you’re interested in combining the mountains with the beach, you’ll want to plan to travel to the Pacific Northwest. These rocky coasts are filled with coarse sand and pebble beaches not meant for sunbathing, but they are great for kayaking and hiking along the coast. Travel to see the returning salmon traveling back up to their breeding grounds, or get lucky and spot a pod of whales out in one of the bays.


  • Great for kayaking and hiking
  • Not really a beach destination, so won’t be crowded
  • Plenty of waterfront locations
  • Unique and interesting wildlife to see
  • Great for fishing
  • Unique pebble beaches


  • Cold, not great for swimming
  • Not really designed for beachgoers, more for adventurers
  • Not comfy for sunbathing without a chair

New England

Take the East Coast beach and add the possibility of snow with more rocky coasts, and you’d find yourself on a New England beach. Don’t let Jaws dissuade you, New England beaches are a combination of the protected coves of the Gulf with the feel of the rest of the East Coast. Their larger city populates mean you’ll always have somewhere to stay on shore once you’re done with your day at the beach, and even have a trail or two to take if it’s too cold to swim.


  • Wide, white sand beaches
  • Safe inlets for swimming
  • Great for fishing
  • Great for boating
  • Local hiking option if the water is too cold
  • Plenty of amenities right on the coast


  • Jellyfish & sharks have gotten stuck in coves, but not common
  • Expensive New England costs
  • Short beach season


And that’s all of the major beach types for the mainland United States. If you want to go just a little further on your trip, ParkDIA also has some recommendations for some other options within the United States with slightly further travel times.


If the Pacific Northwest was combining the Rockies with the ocean, then Alaska is like traveling into a fantasy land. Experience pure wildness on the Alaskan coast. In the summer, beaches are exposed to the sunlight for almost the full 24 hours of the day, so you will not be chilled to the bone as quickly as you think in the Alaskan ocean. But if the ocean is a bit too much, try a nearby hot spring along the coast and enjoy both.


  • Amazing black pebble beaches
  • Unique experience in the summer and winter (depending on your interests)
  • Great local hiking options
  • Great for boating and kayaking
  • Not a prime beach location, will be fairly empty besides locals
  • Amazing wildlife in and out of the ocean
  • Almost no dangerous wildlife in ocean


  • In the Arctic (might be a beach deal breaker)
  • Alaska has a low population, so limited options
  • Very short window for beach days
  • Heavy fishing regulations


A proverbial paradise, Hawaii is the dream vacation for any beach going. With the longest travel time of all of the beaches list out of DIA, it certainly makes up for the distance in spaces with its tropical island, unique culture, and oceans practically everywhere you turn. Even without staying in a resort, most beaches will back right up to a local city, giving you plenty of access to the beach from your hotel. If you want no bar hold beach vacation, then plan your vacation for Hawaii.


  • Most public beaches are designed for tourists, with plenty of amenities
  • Great for scuba
  • Great for surfing
  • Plenty of protected coves
  • Amazing local culture
  • Beautiful local flora and fauna to see
  • Postcard picture vistas everywhere


  • Popular destination, will be crowded
  • Besides sharks and jellyfish, there are also lots of bugs
  • A lot of the coast is reserved for parks, which may limit where you can go

United States Territories In the Gulf

 Looking for a proverbial paradise closer than Hawaii? Plan a trip Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands. As key islands in the Gulf, experience the tropical Caribbean without needing a passport. Often stops in cruises, these islands, as territories of the United States, don’t count as traveling out of the country, but are still very much different from their mainland counterparts. Travel aboard without traveling aboard.


  • Caribbean destination beach
  • Great for swimming
  • Great for surfing
  • Tropic paradise
  • Local tropical rainforests to explore
  • Plenty of amenities on or near the beach
  • For the older travelers, an active casino scene


  • Not many options outside of resorts
  • Highly populated beach destination
  • Might not be great for kids

United States Territories In Pacific

Want to travel further in the Pacific than Hawaii? Looking for a true islander experience? Then set course for American Samoa, Northern Mariana Islands, or Guam. These tropical paradises are practically in Asia, giving you the chance to not only experience beautiful beaches, but also a unique and rich culture almost halfway around the globe. Pick up your passport and plan your trip for the Pacific.


  • Unique cultures on all the different islands
  • Beautiful national parks and beaches alike
  • Great for sailing
  • Great for surfing
  • Beautiful open beaches
  • Unique coves and grottos to visit
  • Unique wildlife


  • Needs a passport
  • Very long trip
  • Destination vacation, a lot of people
  • Sharks & jellyfish


Wherever you choose to travel, ParkDIA wants to remind you of two important things. One, always plan in advance and find beaches you want to visit. While we covered the general rule of most of these beaches geologically, there are always exceptions to the rule that may be perfect for your beach vacation.

Two, worry less about where you’ll leave your car. Take the time you need to relax on your trip and park your car at ParkDIA. We’re a 24-hour fully light surveillance security offsite parking garage only five short minutes from DIA. Spend more time traveling and enjoying the coast and less time worrying about the cost from long term parking at DIA. Reserve your parking spot today and travel safely!