Looking for the best beach? These are the top 10 in the US, annual report says

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA/Nexstar) — Last year, it was a 9-mile stretch of sugar-white sand along the Gulf of Mexico that ranked as the nation’s best beach for 2023. This year, the university professor known as “Dr. Beach” has determined a beach thousands of miles away is the beach of 2024.

Dr. Beach, better known as Stephen Leatherman, professor in the Department of Earth & Environment at Florida International University, recently released the 34th ranking of the best of America’s 650 public beaches around Memorial Day, the traditional start of summer.

Topping out the list was Duke Kahanamoku Beach in Oahu, Hawaii. Named for the Olympic swimmer, the beach is a popular swimming area for families with a manmade lagoon. Dr. Beach describes it as “one of the most picturesque beaches in the USA” thanks to the nearby Diamondhead volcano.

Overall, Hawaii had three beaches on this year’s list: Wailea Beach in Maui ranked No. 3 while Poipu Beach in Kauai landed at No. 7.

Florida and New York each had two beaches on the list, including the former’s Caladesi Island State Park, which ranked as No. 4 overall.

According to the Florida State Parks website, the island is accessible by boat and open from 8 a.m. to sundown. Visitors can hike on the island’s nature trails including Beach Loop and Hammock Loop or collect shells along the sands in the low tide, although live shelling is forbidden.

The island is also popular for paddle boating, fishing, and other water activities.

“The white beach is composed of crystalline quartz sand which is soft and cushy at the water’s edge, inviting one to take a dip in the sparkling clear waters,” Dr. Beach said. “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.”

Dr. Beach’s complete list for 2024 is:

  1. Duke Kahanamoku Beach, Oahu, Hawaii
  2. Coopers Beach, Southampton, New York
  3. Wailea Beach, Maui, Hawaii
  4. Caladesi Island State Park, Dunedin Clearwater, Florida
  5. Beachwalker Park, Kiawah Island, South Carolina
  6. Main Beach, East Hampton, New York
  7. Poipu Beach, Kauai, Hawaii
  8. Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park, Naples, Florida
  9. Coast Guard Beach, Cape Cod, Massachusetts
  10. Coronado Beach, San Diego, California

Last year’s top spot, St. George Island State Park in Florida’s Panhandle, didn’t make the list at all.

Leatherman uses 50 criteria to evaluate beaches including sand type, wave action, whether lifeguards are present, presence of wildlife, the level of development and crowding, and many other factors. Extra credit is given to beaches that forbid cigarette smoking, mainly because of the need to prevent discarded butts.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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