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Head to one of the most underrated beaches in the U.S. this summer

You can visit many of the best beaches in the world right here in America — no passport required!

People on a beautiful beach with blue water
Nikos Zacharoulis / Unsplash

To find the perfect beach to have fun in the sun, it’s easy to assume that you need to head to some brand-name (and expensive) international tourist destinations, like Fiji, Bora Bora, and the Maldives. Sure, you can’t go wrong with any of these, but some of the best beaches in the world are right here in the U.S.

One of the best parts about visiting beaches in the U.S. is that no passport is required to enjoy these spectacular beaches. Pack up your favorite beach gear and head to one of these underrated beaches while practicing the necessary safety measures this summer.

Montaña de Oro State Park

San Luis Obispo, California

Surf crashing on the shore at Montaña de Oro State Park in San Luis Obispo, California.
California Department of Parks and Recreation

California’s Central Coast offers some of the most pristine coastlines in the entire state. For tourists, it’s an often overlooked area. which for those in the know, is a very, very good thing. Head to Montaña de Oro State Park in San Luis Obispo — seven miles of breathtaking Pacific coastline dotted with dramatic coves, panoramic bluff views, and a never-ending surf. Don’t miss the opportunity to head to the southern edge of the park, where a lesser-known path leads to beautiful Coon Creek Beach.

Sandbridge Beach

Virginia

Sandbridge Beach
Commons / Wikimedia

Virginia Beach is no doubt the most preeminent beach destination for visitors to the state, but there’s nothing secluded or “off the beaten path” about it — it’s a straight-up tourist town. Luckily, travelers will find the antidote just 15 miles south at Sandbridge Beach.

The sand and surf here are pristine and, surprisingly, most of the crowds know nothing of it. The adjacent Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge is a lovely place to explore, and nearby False Cape State Park is perfect for hiking or kayaking.

Orval Hansen Point Beach

Sawtooth National Forest, Idaho

Drone shot of Idaho's Redfish Lake with the Sawtooth Mountains in the background.
HalcyonToast / Wikipedia

An underrated beach in Idaho? Yes, really. Tucked into Sawtooth National Forest on Redfish Lake is Orval Hansen Point Beach. This “gem” of a beach in the Gem State (get it?) sees plenty of visitors by Idaho standards, with weekenders coming to paddle, party, and relax on the sand. But there’s always plenty of room to spread out here.

Plan a visit during the week, especially during the spring or fall, and you’ll be surprised to find just how much shoreline you might have all to yourself. Oogling the Sawtooth Mountains from the crystal blue shoreline makes this beach unique among the others on this list.

Sombrero Beach

Marathon, Florida

Sombrero Beach in Florida
cdwheatley / Getty Images

When most travelers think of the Florida Keys, they think of a picturesque island paradise where the daiquiris never stop flowing, and every hotel alarm clock is preprogrammed to wake you up to “Margaritaville.” That’s all (mostly) true. But, it surprises first-timers to learn that the Florida Keys are, let’s say, “lacking” in amazing beaches.

Because of the currents and general geography around the archipelago, most beaches here tend to be rocky and bland. Sombrero Beach is the rare exception. Among the Keys, it’s the closest thing you’ll find to a traditional Caribbean beach — soft white sand, mangroves, swaying palm trees, and the brilliant turquoise waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

Mohegan Bluffs

Block Island, Rhode Island

Mohegan Bluffs towering over the beaches Block Island in Rhode Island.
Commons / Wikimedia

They don’t call Rhode Island “The Ocean State” for nothing. Don’t let its diminutive size fool you. It boasts a staggering amount of coastline. But some of its best beaches are actually offshore. Head to Block Island (Little Rhody’s answer to Martha’s Vineyard), where much of the island is officially preserved, guaranteeing a pristine feeling to it all. Take the steep 141 wooden steps down to Mohegan Bluffs — arguably the most beautiful beach in New England and one of the best beaches in the U.S. It’s ideal for everything from sunbathing to hiking to surfing.

Ocracoke Island

Outer Banks, North Carolina

Cape Hatteras ational seashore boardwalk-to the beach with sand dunes
Jeff Greenberg / Getty Images

Virtually everything south of Kill Devil Hills in the Outer Banks is situated along a stunning beach. But Ocracoke Island — Cape Hatteras National Seashore, in particular — tops them all. The best part about this area is that it’s difficult to get to. In fact, no matter which way you’re coming from, it requires a long car ride or a ferry ride plus a long car ride. That’s a very good thing because it’s easy to find a large swath of sand all to yourself.

Bahia Sucia

Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico

Bahia Sucio Puerto Rico beach
David Shankbone / Flickr

Puerto Rico boasts no shortage of stunning beaches, but Bahia Sucia tops them all. The inaccurately named “Dirty Bay” (so named for the mountains of seaweed that occasionally wash ashore during severe storms) is anything but. In just about any season and any weather, you’ll find locals here enjoying the picturesque horseshoe bay.

Situated at the end of coastal Highway 301, the landscape quickly opens up to reveal soft, beige sands and clear blue water. It’s among the most perfect postcard-worthy beaches you’ll find in the Caribbean without traveling internationally.

Windansea Beach

San Diego, California

Sunset at San Diego's Windansea Beach in La Jolla.
Tom Grubbe / Getty Images

There’s hardly a “bad” stretch of coastline in California, and that’s even truer in and around San Diego. Among the city’s 70 miles of beaches, La Jolla’s Windansea Beach is arguably the most underrated. It’s not that it’s the most picturesque, although it does have its charms.

No, the big win here is the location. It’s far enough from the Mission Bay tourist hustle to feel plenty secluded but close enough to town for a quick day trip. The underwater reefs here are also well-known for creating consistently excellent surf breaks.

Lumahai Beach

Kauai, Hawaii

Lumahai Beach
Lee Scott / Getty Images

There’s no shortage of stunning, world-class beaches on every island in Hawaii, but finding a patch of sand away from the maddening crowds is a daunting task anywhere in The Aloha State. One answer can be found at the end of a secluded path along the North Shore of Kauai.

Just outside of Hanalei Bay, you’ll spot a bend in the road. Park here and take the brief, steep hike through the trees to the shoreline. The trail terminates at Lumahai Beach, a picture-perfect curve of sand and brilliant azure ocean bookended by dramatic volcanic rock outcroppings.

Second Beach

Olympic Coast, Washington

Sunset over Second Beach on Washington's Olympic Coast.
Kelsi Kalland / Getty Images

When most people think of “world-class beaches,” Washington State doesn’t often come to mind, but that’s precisely what makes it so easy to find a beach all to yourself here. Situated along the breathtaking Olympic Coast in between First and Third Beach is aptly named Second Beach. What makes this beach special is that visitors have to earn it. It’s only accessible via a winding, scenic, and relatively easy hiking trail.

The scenery here is unlike almost any other beach on this list: a mix of classic Pacific Northwest forest and rugged, rocky shoreline. Sea stacks are visible from the shore and seal and bald eagle sightings are almost guaranteed. In March/April and October, whales on their annual migrations, can often be seen from land.

Bound Brook Island

Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Beachgoer in a towel headed to the beach on Bound Brook Island in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
catherinecronin / Flickr

For New England beach lovers, it doesn’t get much better than Cape Cod National Seashore. Even today, the miles upon miles of dunes, soft, billowing scrub grass, and panoramic Atlantic Ocean views look much as they have for thousands of years. Most visitors head to Provincetown, Massachusetts’ “end of the line” destination, which is overrun with tourists for at least three months out of every year.

The beaches here are beautiful but can be crowded. Sidestep all that noise at Bound Brook Island. About a mile past the iconic Atwood-Higgins House is a small parking lot — blink, and you’ll miss it. Park here and follow the walkways to the shoreline. Time your visit right, and you’re likely to be the only one there.

Indian Beach

Ecola State Park, Oregon

Long shot of beachgoers relaxing on Indian Beach in Ecola State Park, Oregon.
Sergio Canobbio / Getty Images

Cannon Beach is among Oregon’s most popular, heavily trafficked coastal getaways, especially in summer. Those in the know drive straight past, through Ecola State Park, and continue through a stunning forest of Sitka spruce trees. Just around the corner is Indian Beach, a quiet crescent of sand where the crowds rarely venture, and the Pacific Ocean quietly laps the shoreline. It’s a relaxed spot for a sunset stroll, investigating the many tidal pools and beachcombing for shells and driftwood.

Folly Beach

South Carolina

Looking down the pier at South Carolina's Folly Beach.
Folly Beach

When it comes to coastal attractions, South Carolina has long sat in the shadow of North Carolina’s iconic Outer Banks. But the former boasts plenty of beautiful and underrated beaches. Just 10 miles from downtown Charleston, Folly Beach might feel a bit too touristy for some travelers, but it’s not without its charms. It’s a fantastic spot for all manner of watersports.

Thanks to Hurricane Hugo, the area known simply as The Washout is ground zero for surfers and foolhardy swimmers. Visitors in search of more relaxed pursuits can people- and wildlife-watch from the beach’s pier, while the town of Folly Beach is home to a string of excellent restaurants with ocean views and plenty of Lowcountry-inspired seafood fare.

St. Joseph Peninsula State Park

Florida Panhandle

The soft sand beach at St. Joseph Peninsula State Park in the Florida panhandle.
Purestock / Getty Images

Among beach aficionados, South Florida’s beaches get all the love. However, the state’s panhandle offers beautiful and — most importantly — secluded beaches that rival any of its southern siblings. To dodge the booze-fueled, hard-partying atmosphere of nearby Destin and Panama City, head to lesser-known Port St. Joe, situated on the Gulf of Mexico.

An hour southeast of Panama City, St. Joseph Peninsula State Park boasts soft, sugar-white dunes that feel a thousand miles from anywhere. By day, there are plenty of hiking trails, and the wildlife watching is spectacular. After dark, bed down in one of the rental cabins and listen to the waves lapping the shoreline just feet from your door.

Naples Beach

Naples, Florida

Pelican at Sunset off Naples Beach, Florida
Mike Higgins / The Manual

Located on Florida’s western Gulf coast, Naples Beach is not hard to find, as it’s just across the street from some of Naples’ swanky shopping and dining districts. The 10-mile beach is a picturesque stretch of sand right on the Gulf of Mexico, and it’s not hard to see dolphins swimming just offshore. The area also features the historic Naples Pier, which once stretched 1,000 feet into the Gulf. Sadly, 2022’s Hurricane Ian destroyed all but 100 feet of the pier, but plans are in place to rebuild.

What makes Naples Beach stand out is the fact that it faces west, which means every night, there is the potential for a spectacular sunset. As the day (hopefully) cools off, bring a chair down to the beach, pack some drinks and some cheese and crackers, and watch the sun go down — you won’t be alone, trust us. And, if you’re lucky, a pelican might decide to photobomb your sunset photo, making it all the more memorable.

Mike Richard
Mike Richard has traveled the world since 2008. He's kayaked in Antarctica, tracked endangered African wild dogs in South…
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