This Is THE Best Beach In America, According To Dr. Beach

Beach rankings are a dime a dozen, but if you’re looking for the authority on the matter, Dr. Beach is it.

Every year, Stephen P. Leatherman, a coastal scientist who teaches at Florida International University, evaluates the nation’s beaches based on 50 hand-selected criteria. He scores everything from sand softness, air temperature and wave size to creature comforts, safety features and even two types of noise (transportation and crowds).

His annual lists can be so powerful that when Hawaii’s Waimanalo Beach topped last year’s list, locals — and even Leatherman himselfworried the fame would ruin the quaint and quiet beach.

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Who dethroned Waimanalo Bay Beach Park from Dr. Beach’s No. 1 spot? Scroll for this year’s list.

Unsurprisingly, beaches in the Aloha State have dominated the top spot for the past few years, and 2016 is no exception. But the east coast also makes a strong showing in the top 10. Florida takes up at least three spots — proving that the west coast might not actually be the best coast. 

If Dr. Beach’s rankings reveal anything, it’s that America’s shores are looking mighty fine.

So, which sandy spots made the doctor’s short list this year? Scroll down to find out.

  • 10 Beachwalker Park Kiawah Island, South Carolina
    Robert Kirk via Getty Images

    “This is a nature-lovers coast so visitors should pack their canoes and kayaks to paddle through the tidal inlets,” says Dr. Beach. “It is also fun to walk or bicycle down to Captain Sams Inlet to see thousands of birds. The water is not clear here, but it is clean and provides fantastic seafood for low-country cooking. There is concern about the proposal to build 50 houses and a steel revetment on the sand spit in terms of its impact on animal life and visitor access.”
  • 9 Caladesi Island State Park, Florida

    “Caladesi is reached by pedestrian ferry boat, private boats or a long walk north from Clearwater Beach — the inlet is closed so Caladesi is no longer a true island, but still a great getaway,” Dr. Beach says. “The white beach composed of crystalline quartz sand which is soft and cushy at the waters edge, inviting one to take a dip in the sparkling clear waters. There are boardwalk trails, but my favorite is the kayak and canoe trails through the mangroves to see the large blue herons and other birds that frequent this wonderful natural area.”
  • 8 Coopers Beach, Southampton, New York

    Dr Beach says, “Coopers Beach is located on the south shore of Long Island, New York, shielded from the cold Labrador currents, in the beautiful village of Southampton. As the first ‘Gold Coast’ in the country, Coopers Beach is hundreds of yards wide, made of grainy white quartz sand. The beach is backed by large sand dunes covered by American beach grass interspersed with large and extravagant mansions. Some of the best beach access in the Hamptons exists on Coopers Beach, and a snack bar serving lunch and drinks can be found here as well.”
  • 7 Coronado Beach, San Diego, California
    byCharlesJiang via Getty Images

    “Coronado Beach is the toast of Southern California; it is a veritable oasis by the sea, measuring hundreds of yards wide,” says Dr. Beach. “With its lush subtropical vegetation, unique Mediterranean climate, and fine sparkling sand, beach-goers flock to this beach for great ship-watching and the summers warm and mild surf. The local landmark, Hotel del Coronado, was built over a hundred years ago, offering spectacular architecture and Old World elegance. Kings, sheiks, actors, and actresses have stayed at Hotel del Coronado, where food and drinks are served on the beach, and the hotel provides a great location for celebrities.”
  • 6 Grayton Beach State Park, Florida

    Dr. Beach says, “This beach boasts of its sugar-white sand and emerald green water where development has been restrained so big sand dunes still dominate the landscape. At the same time, all the amenities of great restaurants and accommodations are close by in the old town of Grayton Beach or Seaside. Many people choose to camp in this wonderful state park that also features tidal lakes and freshwater ponds. Former Governor Bob Graham told me that this was his favorite beach.”
  • 5 Coast Guard Beach, Cape Cod, Massachusetts
    Kim Grant via Getty Images

    “Coast Guard Beach, accessible by bicycle or shuttle bus from the Salt Pond Visitors Center, was formed where a sand spit attached to the glacial cliffs,” says Dr. Beach. “The sand is fairly coarse so the beach slopes steeply into the water. The picturesque old Coast Guard station still sits atop the glacial bluffs, allowing for a spectacular view down upon the Nauset Spit barrier system and bay. During the summer, beach-goers take quick, refreshing dips in the ocean as water temperatures only reach 60-70 degrees.”
  • 4 Ocracoke Lifeguard Beach, North Carolina
    alex grichenko via Getty Images

    “Ocracoke, once the home of Blackbeard the pirate, is still a special placeit is my favorite getaway beach,” Dr. Beach adds. “Here you will find some of the wildest beaches in the country. Big surf dominates in late summer so families with children may want to come earlier in the year. Dont come here expecting to play golf or stay at the Ritz; the main pursuits are swimming, shelling and enjoying a walk through the old cementery on a foggy night. This island can still be reached by a free state ferry.”
  • 3 Kapalua Bay, Hawaiian island of Maui
    Ann Cecil via Getty Images

    “Kapalua is a perfect beach for swimming and snorkeling in the clear, azure waters that are protected by two headlands formed long ago by lava flows into the sea,” says Dr. Beach. “This beautiful crescent-shaped, white sand beach is bounded by these rocky anchors where good restaurants can be found. The fine coral sand beach slopes gradually into the deeper water where the rocky bottom is punctuated with corals that attract vividly-colored tropical fish. You can buy fish food and rent snorkeling gear at the concession hut on the north end of the beach.”
  • 2 Siesta Beach, Saratosa, Florida
    Pola Damonte via Getty Images via Getty Images

    “With some of the finest, whitest sand in the world, this beach attracts sand collectors from all over,” adds Dr. Beach. “Siesta Beach has clear, warm waters ideal for swimming. The beach is hundreds of yards wide in the shape of a crescent, due to anchoring of onshore rocks to the south. This beach is great for volleyball and other types of recreational fitness.”
  • 1 Hanauma Bay, Hawaiian island of Oahu
    Basic Elements Photography via Getty Images

    Dr. Beach adds, “This idyllic, crescent-shaped coral sand beach that has formed in this ocean-breached volcano is stunning in every respect. Hanauma Bay provides the best snorkeling in Hawaii in safe, clam water. Thousands of tropical fish await your visit in shallow water and close to shore. Come early as the parking lot fills up quickly.”
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