The Best Beach Breaks and Island Getaways in the US - Full-Time Travel

The Best Beach Breaks and Island Getaways in the US

The Best Beach Breaks and Island Getaways in the US  

By Amber C. Snider

The U.S. is home to some of the most incredible coastlines and gorgeous islands in the world. And the good news is, you don’t have to travel abroad to find the ideal beach retreat; there could be one closer than you think. 

Browse our round-up of the top-rated velvety shores that offer visitors a well-earned tranquil escape. From pristine freshwater lakes and seductive black lava vistas to the white sandy shores of the southeastern coast, we promise you’ll find the beachy vacation you’ve been waiting for. 

Sanibel Island, FL

Sanibel Island | By Barth Bailey

Consistently ranked as one of the top beaches in the U.S., Sanibel Island is famous for its 15 miles of pristine sands and peaceful atmosphere. Located west of Fort Myers, this laidback little island has no traffic lights and offers a great getaway for families, couples or solo travelers alike. Take a swim in the Gulf of Mexico (which feels like a warm bathtub nearly all year) and explore the island by bike on the 25+ miles of bike paths. Since Sanibel has an east-west orientation, it acts as a “sift for the Gulf Tides,” raking in 250 kinds of seashells and welcoming 50 different types of fish. It’s great for bird watching too, so bring your binoculars if that’s your thing. 

Hapuna Beach State Park, Hawaii

Hapuna Beach State Park | By Steve Halama

Voted the number one beach in 2021 by Dr. Stephen Leatherman, director of the Laboratory for Coastal Research at Florida International University and expert beach reviewer, Hapuna Beach State Park beat out the contenders because of its “white coral sand a landscape dominated by black lava flows.” It’s also a great spot for scuba diving, snorkeling, bodyboarding, and swimming, but Dr. Leatherman (aka Dr. Beach) recommends watching out for the rip currents in the winter season. Set along the majestic Kohala Coast on the western side of the Island of Hawaii, the park opens daily from 7am to 8pm and parking is just $5. When you’re worn out from soaking up those sun-rays, stay close to the park and opt for luxurious body treatments at The Westin Hapuna Beach Resort

Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina

Wrightsville Beach, NC | By Colby Ray

Just 8.5 miles east of Wilmington, NC (shoutout to all the Dawson’s Creek fans out there), Wrightsville Beach is a great option for those who want an alternative to the Outer Banks. Wake to the sound of waves at or opt for this 4-bed with outdoor shower and back patio. The public beaches are rarely overcrowded, even in high season. They also offer up some of the best waves on the east coast, making this a prime spot for surfing. In the evening, head over to Oceanic, a seafood restaurant on the historic Crystal Pier, or South Beach Grill for locally-sourced, classic Southern fare. 

Flathead Lake, Montana

Flathead Lake, Montana | By Tyler Collins

Want to swim in the pristine blue-green remnants of an ancient glacier? Flathead Lake, a stunning freshwater lake in northwest Montana (and the largest lake in the West), offers 185 miles of shoreline to explore. It’s known for its excellent trout fishing (each catch typically weighs between 8-20 pounds), scenic camping, sailing, swimming, kayaking and water skiing. Be sure to check out Wild Horse Island State Park (home to wild horses) and the peaceful Flathead Lake State Park (which is also great for camping) while you’re there. 

Assateague Island, Maryland/Virginia

Assateague Island, Maryland | By Sara Cottle

No one really knows how they got there exactly (possibly by shipwreck), but Assateague Island is home to hundreds of wild horses, all of which wander freely along the 37-mile shoreline. This lesser-known gem straddles both Maryland and Virginia territory and offers pastoral reprieve from the rest of the nearby beaches. Since it’s a National Seashore, there are no resorts or hotels on the island, however camping is permitted for $30-$50 per night. If waking up to Atlantic sunrises on a barrier island sounds idyllic but camping just isn’t your thing, stay in nearby Ocean City. When visiting the island, be sure to keep a responsible distance from the horses, as feeding or petting them could intrude upon their natural, wild state. 

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve near Monterey, CA

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve | By Chris Lawton

While you won’t find velvety, white sand at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, you will get picturesque rocky coves, emerald green water, abundant wildlife and nature trails. Located on the Big Sur Coast near Monterey, Point Lobos is home to sunbathing sea lions, playful otters, and numerous bird species, making it a favorite for painters and photographers looking for some natural inspiration. It’s also very popular with scuba divers, due to its rich underwater life kept intact by kelp forests. Visitors can catch year-round sightings of whales right from the shoreline and it’s also a “wintering-over spot” for Monarch butterflies. Each of the eight beaches has its own distinct appeal, but China Cove is a must-see for its Instagram-worthy vistas shrouded by pine trees, and Sea Lion Cove is a favorite thanks to its famous residents. 

Amelia Island, FL

Amelia Island, FL |

Florida has some of the best beaches in the United States, if not the world. Case in point: Amelia Island, which boasts 13 miles of Appalachian quartz beaches and abundant wildlife, winning it multiple accolades. Amelia Island is also surrounded by the Intracoastal Waterway, so if you’d like to take your boat for a cruise along the east coast, this is a prime spot to dock. When you’re done soaking in those Atlantic Ocean views, head downtown to the Victorian seaport village, where you’ll find boutique shops, local seafood fare, art galleries, and tasting tours. 

There's more to Greece than the white and blue buildings and the surrounding Mediterranean Sea. If you're planning a visit, check out these places below!

📍Kokkinopilos. Preveza
📍Verliga Dragon lake, Thessaly
📍Ithaca island, lonian Sea
📍Aoos springs lake, Epirus
📍Lake Prespes, Macedonia
📍Balda di Stringa waterfalls, Epirus
📍Meteora, Thessaly
📍Pelion, Thessaly
📍Lake Zorika, Epirus
📍Mt Lakmos
📍Crete island, Aegean Sea
📍Gistova Dragon lake, Macedonia

Reel: @farawayfarers

Swim or kayak through the limestone cliffs of the Twin Lagoon, a must-visit destination for those traveling to Coron, Palawan, Philippines. It is called "twin" lagoon because it consists of two lagoons separated by a limestone cliff, with one lagoon on top of the other. The water in the inner lagoon is warm and clear, with a stunning turquoise color that makes it popular for swimming and snorkeling.

Reel: @travelifejournal

Take a dip in a series of seven saltwater lagoons located in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile. The Lagoons of Baltinache are known for their beautiful turquoise waters and unique geological formations. The high concentration of minerals in the water gives it a unique buoyancy that makes swimming in the lagoons a unique experience.

Reel: @everchanginghorizon

Watching the sun rise above the clouds at Haleakalā National Park is one of the most memorable experiences you could have. Haleakalā is a Hawaiian name that means “House of the Sun” and is an awesome place to watch the clear night sky and stars fade away as the sun lights up the sky and the earth.

Reel: @girlchill_sunset

Just 1 hour from Shanghai by train, Cherry Blossom Valley is a popular tourist destination, particularly in the spring when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom. The valley is named after the thousands of cherry blossom trees that cover the area and create a stunning display of pink and white flowers. The trees were originally planted in the 1980s by a group of Japanese experts who were invited to China to help with reforestation efforts. The best time to visit is typically in late March or early April. Get there early to beat the crowds!

Reel: @cyncynti

New Zealand is unbelievable. See it for yourself:

1. Fiordland National Park
2. A classic backcountry hut trip
3. Blue Pools walk
4. Hooker Lake
5. Milford Sound
6. Lake Pukaki

Reel: @kylekotajarvi

Surrounded by lush greenery, towering karst mountains, and the river flowing through, the Detian Waterfall is a popular tourist attraction and a symbol of the close relationship between China and Vietnam. It is the largest waterfall in Asia and the fourth largest cross-border waterfall in the world.

Reel: @sophoebelous

Escape to a serene and peaceful oasis away from the bustling city of Marrakech at Le Jardin Secret—a beautiful and historic garden where visitors can escape the noise and chaos and enjoy the beauty of nature. The garden was originally built in the 16th century and is home to many different species of plants, including exotic flowers, citrus trees, and palm trees.

Reel: @hypermiggzz

For a magical moment and bucket list travel experience, visit the end point of the annual monarch butterfly migration. Starting in August, the monarchs travel 2,800 miles south from Canada, making a temporary home amid the towering trees of the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve in Mexico, where the two most popular sanctuaries to view them are el Rosario in the state of Michoacan and Piedra Herrada in Estado de México. Standing in silence while thousands of delicate wings beat in unison is something you'll never forget.

Reel: @juliiathompson

There's just something beautiful about snow covered landscapes like this popular attraction in southwestern Utah. Known for its unique geology, @brycecanyonnps_gov consists of a series of natural amphitheaters, called "hoodoos," formed by erosion of the rock layers.

Photo: @nathanleeallen

As we experience a couple more weeks of winter, we can't help but dream of tropical destinations like Hawaii. The warm water, sunny skies, and consistent waves make it an ideal destination for surfers. Hawaii has a vibrant surf culture and community and is also a beautiful place to explore outside of the water, with lush green mountains, stunning beaches, and unique cultural experiences.

Reel: @christopherballadarez

1. @sequoiakingsnps, California
2. @canyonlandsnps, Utah
3. @olympic_nps, Washington
4. @whitesandsnps, New Mexico
5. Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, Arizona
6. Knik Glacier, Alaska

Reel: @nathanleeallen

Imagine getting caught in the rain while kayaking at one of the most beautiful and popular destinations in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada. Known for its stunning turquoise-colored lake, surrounded by the majestic Rocky Mountains, Lake Louise is home to diverse wildlife, including grizzly bears, elk, and moose.

Reel: @reneeroaming