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America's Top 10 Beaches, According to an Expert


Every beach has its advantages and disadvantages, but some rank highly in all of the important categories. Which ones? Ask "Dr. Beach."

Dr. Beach (courtesy photo)

There’s something alluring about a beach. This year’s number one US beach is Hanauma Bay, Oahu, according to “Dr. Beach,” a.k.a. Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman, a professor and director of the Laboratory for Coastal Research at Florida International University. Leatherman analyzes contenders using 50 criteria, including water temperature, wave size, sand softness, the amount of rain, water clarity, and the amount of glass and rubble littering the beach. Since 1991 Dr. Leatherman has released a top beach list every Memorial Day. If you’re considering a sand and sun vacation this season, here are 10 top choices.

Dr. Beach’s Top 10 US Beaches

Hanauma Bay Beach (courtesy photo)

1. Hanauma Bay Beach Park, Oahu, HI

Great for snorkeling because of the abundance of rainbow-colored fish, Hanauma Bay Beach Park closes on Tuesdays to provide the fish a respite from people.

2. Siesta Beach, Sarasota, FL

Siesta’s clear warm waters make for ideal swimming conditions and the wide, white sands are great for beach volleyball.

3. Kapalua Bay Beach, Maui, HI

A crescent-shaped beach with clear waters, Kapalua’s sands slope gently into a deeper bottom with coral that attracts fish.

4. Ocracoke Lifeguarded Beach, Outer Banks, NC

“Ocracoke…. os my favorite getaway beach,” says Dr. Leatherman. Come to this beach, reached by a ferry, for swimming, shelling, and walking.

5. Coast Guard Beach, Cape Cod, MA

Enjoy a scenic view of this beach from the old Coast Guard Station atop the bluff. The sand is coarse and the water is a “refreshing” 60-70-degrees Fahrenheit.

6. Grayton Beach State Park, Florida Panhandle

Adjacent to WaterColor Inn & Resort’s beach. Dr. Leatherman likes Grayton Beach State Park’s combination of emerald green waters, sand dunes, and proximity to nearby restaurants and lodging.

7. Coronado Beach, San Diego, CA

In summer, the surf’s mild and the water is warm. “Beach-goers flock to this beach for great ship-watching,” says Dr. Leatherman. The Hotel del Coronado, a local landmark, offers upmarket lodging.

8. Coopers Beach, Southampton Beach, NY

This wide sand beach has dunes and beyond them, large, imposing homes. Dr. Leatherman calls Coopers Beach the first US “Gold Coast.”

9. Caladesi Island State Park, Dunedin/Clearwater, FL

Dr. Leatherman likes Caladesi’s soft sands and boardwalk trails and also the kayak and canoe trails that wind through mangroves where paddlers are likely to spot blue herons and other birds.

10. Beachwalker Park, Kiawah Island, SC

At Beachwalker Park, a public facility on Kiawah Island’s southern end, Dr. Leatherman suggests going canoeing and kayaking through the tidal inlets. The murky water, notes Leatherman, is clean.

Have you been to any of the Top 10 beaches? What were your impressions? Share your thoughts with me on Twitter, @familyitrips.

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