Kapalua Bay in Maui was named the best US beach for 2019. Image by Robert James DeCamp

America’s best beach unveiled by coastal expert “Dr. Beach”

Since 1991, Coastal scientist Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman (better known as Dr. Beach) has evaluated beaches and shorelines across the United States of America, each year releasing a ranking of the top ten.

Dr. Leatherman and his team evaluate beaches based on fifty different criteria, including water and sand quality, as well as safety and management, with bonus points even being awarded for beaches that prohibit smoking. The list has become well known by travellers seeking beautiful getaways, and now the top ten for 2019 has just been named.

1. Kapalua Bay Beach, Hawaii

Kapalua Bay on a beautiful sunny day in Maui
Kapalua Bay in Maui was named the best US beach for 2019. Image by Robert James DeCamp

This crescent-shaped beach took the top spot in the 28th annual Top 10 Beach List due to its unspoilt beauty and secluded location. Lined by palm trees, this small beach is protected from the oceanic waves by the “arms” of lava flows, making it a great place for snorkelling. There are showers and restrooms nearby and lunch and drinks can be purchased from the nearby Ritz Carlton.

2. Ocracoke Lifeguarded Beach, Outer Banks of North Carolina

Ocracoke Lifeguarded Beach at sunrise.
CC BY 2.0cbkoontz / Ocracoke Lifeguarded Beach at sunrise. Image by

Particularly popular with swimmers and surfers, this beach has been described as one of the wildest in the United States. Once the home of Blackbeard the pirate, it boasts big surfing waves in late summer, and is more popular with families with children earlier in the year. While it lacks the polished appeal of other destinations, the rugged, natural charm secured it’s position as America’s second best beach this year.

3. Grayton Beach State Park, Florida Panhandle

Grayton Beach State Park in Florida
The rugged expanse of Grayton Beach State Park. Image by mcandrus / CC BY 2.0

As well as snow-white sand and emerald green water, Grayton Beach also boasts big, dominating sand dunes due to the fact that development has been restrained in the area. Despite this, the area includes amenities, restaurants and accommodations that are close by in the old town of Grayton Beach and Seaside. Many people choose to camp in the state park that also features tidal lakes and freshwater ponds.

4. Coopers Beach in Southampton, New York

Two children and a man look out at the ocean and a life guard's hut
Shinya SuzukiCC BY 2.0Coopers Beach took the third spot in the ranking. Image by  /

Located on the south shore of Long Island, Coopers Beach enjoys respite from the cold Labrador currents. It is hundreds of yards wide, and made from white quartz sand. Umbrella rental and snack bars serving food and refreshments can be found there, as it includes some of the best beach access in the Hamptons.

5. Duke Kahanamoku Beach in Oahu, Hawaii

Rainbow tower Waikiki
The famous Rainbow Tower in Waikiki. Image by Edmund Garman

According to Dr. Beach, the iconic Diamond Head Volcano in the distance makes Kahanamoku one of the most picturesque beaches in the USA. As well as enjoying the view, visitors can bathe and swim in the nearby Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon. Located on the west end of Waikiki Beach (and away from the crowds), it is protected by an offshore coral reef.

6. Coast Guard Beach in Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Two people sit in Coast Guard Beach Cape Cod
/ CC BY 2.0Two people sit and enjoy the views on Coast Guard Beach. Image by KrisNM

Accessible by bicycle or shuttle bus from Salt Pond Visitor’s Center, Coast Guard Beach has coarse sand and a steep slope into the water. The picturesque old Coast Guard station still sits atop the glacial bluffs, allowing for a nice view down to the Nauset Spit barrier system and bay. Despite the fact that water temperatures only reach about 60 – 70 degrees, during the summer visitors can be seen taking a quick refreshing dip.

7. Caladesi Island State Park Dunedin-Clearwater, Florida

Caladesi Island State Park from above
Caladesi Island State Park is accessible by boat. Image by Robert Bender / EyeEm

Caladesi is an inlet reachable by private boat, pedestrian ferry boat. It can also be reached by walking from Clearwater Beach, although it takes a long time. According to Dr. Beach, the white beach is composed of crystalline quartz sand which is soft at the water’s edge, inviting visitors to take a dip in the clear waters. Visitors can kayak and canoe through mangroves and spot blue herons and other birds.

8. Hapuna Beach State Park, the island of Hawaii

Hapuna Beach State Park, Big Island, Hawaii
Dr. Beach’s studies have shown that Hawaii has some of the best beaches in the world. Image by Anna Abramskaya/Shutterstock

A popular location for swimming, snorkelling and scuba diving, this white coral sand beach is particularly beautiful. It is half-a-mile long, lined with trees and only gets ten inches of rain annually. There is also a professional life guard on duty year round.

9. Coronado Beach in San Diego, California

Hotel del Coronado is a historic beachfront hotel in the city of Coronado, just across the San Diego Bay from San Diego
The study looked at a number of factors to determine America’s best beaches. Image by GagliardiImages/Shutterstock

Coronado Central Beach runs along Ocean Boulevard, with a backdrop backdrop of stately homes and the Hotel del Coronado at the southern end. The long sandy beaches here literally sparkle, thanks to the mineral mica in its golden sand.

10. Beachwalker Park on Kiawah Island, South Carolina

Kiawah Island at sunset.
Kiawah Island at sunset. Image by Larry Glick / EyeEm

Beachwalker Park is a public beach located south of Charleston on the southern end of Kiawah Island. Heralded as a nature-lovers retreat, visitors bring canoes and kayaks and paddle through the tidal inlets.

See the Lonely Planet article . . .