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Dr. Beach Prescribes the Perfect Sand and Sun Getaway


Beach aficionados wait each year for Dr. Stephen Leatherman, aka Dr. Beach, to release his list of the US's best sands. This year Florida has three beaches in the top 10 and Hawaii has two. You can find the best of the rest in North Carolina, New York, Massachusetts, California and South Carolina.

Scenic beach with a wooden pier

Using a few dozen criteria, Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman ranks the best beaches for travel in the U.S.

Siesta Key Beach in Sarasota, Florida, rates as America’s top beach, according to Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman, better known as Dr. Beach, a professor and director of the Laboratory for Coastal Research at Florida International University. Leatherman likes Siesta Beach for its fine white sands that many compare to baby powder. He ranks Kapalua Bay Beach in Maui, Hawaii, in second place for its clear waters, which make it prime real estate for snorkeling.

Each year, Leatherman analyzes contenders using 50 criteria, including width at low tide, water temperature, wave size, beach slope, smell, pests, sand softness, water clarity as well as the amount of trash and litter. Leatherman has released a top beach list every Memorial Day since 1991. If you are considering a domestic sand and sun vacation this season, here are 10 top choices.

Dr. Beach’s Top 10 U.S. Beaches

1. Siesta Beach, Sarasota, Florida Hundreds of yards wide, this white sand beach is a great place for volleyball and other beach games plus the water is clear and warm!

2. Kapalua Bay Beach, Maui, Hawaii Two headlands formed eons ago by lava flows protect the beach, which Leatherman praises as “perfect for swimming and snorkeling.”

3. Ocracoke Lifeguarded Beach, Outer Banks, North Carolina Leatherman’s personal favorite, Ocracoke offers wild dune-bordered sands and big surf in summer. Its waves are not suitable for families.

4. Grayton Beach State Park, Florida Panhandle between Panama City Beach and Destin Sand dunes protect the 2,000-acre state park known for its emerald green water and fine sand. Camping is allowed and lodging and restaurants are available in nearby Grayton Beach and Seaside.

5. Coopers Beach, Southampton, New York

Backed by large sand dunes covered with beach grass, Coopers Beach is hundreds of yards wide.

6. Coast Guard Beach, Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Although Leatherman acknowledges the sand is coarse, he likes the picturesque setting of glacial bluffs topped by an old Coast Guard station. For most, “swimming” means racing in and then out of the ocean since the water temperature hovers between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

7. Caladesi Island State Park, Dunedin-Clearwater, Florida

Situated one mile west of Dunedin, Caladesi Island is accessible by boat or ferry. The sand is soft crystalline quartz, the water is clear and the park offers kayak and nature trails.

8. Hapuna Beach State Park, Big Island, Hawaii

A standout on an island where black lava flows predominate, Hapuna features white, coral sand and clear waters. However, Leatherman warns ocean-lovers that in winter, big waves that can produce rip currents make swimming risky.

9. Coronado Beach, San Diego, California

Wide Coronado Beach, a SoCal favorite, offers great ship-watching and in summer, a warm, mild surf. Celebrities have stayed at Hotel del Coronado.

10. Beachwalker Park, Kiawah Island, South Carolina

Leatherman praises Beachwalker Park, the public beach on Kiawah Island’s southern end, for its bird life and tidal inlets for canoeing and kayaking. The water, notes Leatherman, is not clear, but it is clean.

Follow Candyce H. Stapen on Twitter: @FamilyiTrips

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