Each year, Dr. Stephen Leatherman -- better known as Dr. Beach -- evaluates all major recreational beaches in the U.S. When it comes to ranking beaches, Dr. Beach is considered an authority and his Top 10 List serves as a reputable point of reference for media outlets nationwide. Earning a spot on his coveted list instantly puts what may have once been a remote beach hideaway on the map.
1. Hanalei Bay, Kauai, Hawaii
Famous for its spectacular beauty, Hanalei Bay is a long half-moon of sandy beach carved into the base of a sheer cliff on one side and narrowing into a rocky point on the other. The beach is a great spot for walking or throwing a Frisbee around. At the westernmost curve of the bay, you'll find a calm shoreline where the water is relatively quiet even when most of the north shore is too rough for safe swimming.
2. Siesta Beach, Sarasota, Florida
Known as Florida's "Cultural Coast," Sarasota and Her Islands offer visitors an atmosphere of cultural indulgence, creative abundance and casual elegance, where they can unwind in style in this authentic beach town.
Many travelers come to Sarasota for the sugar-white sands of Siesta Key and colorful Gulf sunsets, visitors also find a whole other world to enjoy, beyond the beaches. From the exploring the history of the circus at the Ringling Campus, to the acoustic acclaims of the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, or kayaking with alligators at Myakka River State Park, visitors to Sarasota can enjoy the relaxing atmosphere of a beach side bungalow just minutes from cultural amenities that rival major metropolitan centers.
3. Coopers Beach, Southampton, New York
Set against a backdrop of multi-million dollar mansions, Cooper's Beach in Southampton stretches 550 feet along the Atlantic shoreline.
4. Coronado Beach, San Diego, California
The two-mile main beach has four sections. At the foot of the Coronado Shores condominium towers is South Beach where the hull of the sunken gambling ship, the Monte Carlo , can be seen at low tide. The section starting at the Hotel Del Coronado to the life guard tower is Central Beach overlooked by the mansions along Ocean Boulevard . North Beach attracts surfers in the morning and fire rings are available for bonfires. At the far north is Dog Beach where canines can play leash-free. Lifeguards are on duty; volleyball nets, restrooms and showers are available.
5. Hamoa Beach, Maui, Hawaii
Located just outside of Hana, this beautiful public beach shares some facilities with the Hotel Hana Maui. Sea cliffs surround the bay and the vegetation is lush. This beach has been voted one of Hawaii's favorite beaches. Offshore is the little coconut-topped island of Alau.
This beach is not protected by any fringing reefs, so big surf is extremely dangerous. Strong currents are also present outside of the bay. The safest time to swim is during the summer and early fall.
6. Main Beach, East Hampton, New York
Main Beach in East Hampton is ranked sixth among the Top Ten Beaches in America, according to Dr. Beach. Long Island, NY has two of the top ten beaches in the country. With its stunning, pristine shoreline, Main Beach, East Hampton offers parking for $20 a day weekdays only. There are lifeguards on duty and an ocean awareness program offered several times during the summer, along with a scheduled fireworks show. Wildlife, such as piping plover, can be seen making their home on the beach.
7. Cape Hatteras, Outer Banks, North Carolina
Hatteras Island is the centerpiece for the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, a 72 mile stretch of perhaps the most undeveloped expanse of natural beaches in the country, that encompasses Bodie Island to the north, and Ocracoke Island at its southern boundary. Hatteras Island and its villages have grown to become one of the number one places in the world for wind and watersports, world class fishing, and amazing surf. This is the place where people go to get far away from the cares of the world, and yet is close enough for a weekend getaway drive. Averaging less than a mile wide, and in most places much less, Hatteras Island is the most remote and undeveloped link in the chain of sandy barrier islands that make up The Outer Banks of North Carolina.
The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, "America's Lighthouse," is the tallest in the nation at 208 feet. The familiar black and white striped brick sentinel is the second of three beacons that were built at Buxton. Climb its 268 steps to the top for a spectacular view for miles around.
8. Cape Florida State Park, Key Biscayne, Florida
Cape Florida is the home of a historic lighthouse built in 1825 and reconstructed in 1846, the oldest standing structure in Miami-Dade County. Visitors come to the park to sunbathe, swim, and picnic on over a mile of sandy Atlantic beachfront. Biking and kayaking are also popular activities. Anglers can throw in their lines from the seawall along Biscayne Bay for some of the best shoreline fishing in the region. Guided tours of the lighthouse and lighthouse keeper┤s cottage are given twice daily, Thursdays through Mondays. The Boater┤s Grill offers casual waterfront dining, or picnickers can reserve a pavilion and grill their own dinner. Bicycles, beach chairs, and umbrellas are available for rental. Overnight boat camping is allowed in No Name Harbor, and a primitive campsite is available for organized youth groups. Located at the southern end of Key Biscayne off the Rickenbacker Causeway, south of downtown Miami.
9. Coast Guard Beach, Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Coast Guard Beach is a prime swimming beach during the summer season. From mid-June to Labor Day, the parking area at this location is closed to all but park staff and visitors who are disabled, and access is provided by shuttle bus from the Little Creek parking area (across from the Doane Area). Although the parking lot at Coast Guard Beach is open the remainder of the year, parking is limited. There are seasonal restrooms and a wheelchair-accessible ramp way to the beach.
10. Beachwalker Park, Kiawah Island, South Carolina
Beachwalker County Park is a public beach access located on Kiawah Island. The park offers a wide sandy front beach with a large designated swimming area, dressing areas, outdoor showers, restrooms, picnic area with grills, Snack bar (seasonal), beach chair & umbrella rentals. Lifeguards are on duty seasonally.