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America’s best beach vacation destinations

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Whether you’re looking to relax with your toes in the sand, ride the big waves, or dance the night away on the boardwalk, America has a destination for a perfect beach vacation. Here are some favorites.

Thanks to thousands of miles of shoreline, America boasts many of the world’s best beach vacation destinations. Places that offer just the right mix of beautiful beachfront, great restaurants, reasonable accommodations, and with plenty to do on rainy days too. Whether you’re looking to relax with your toes in the sand, ride the big waves, or dance the night away on the boardwalk, America has a destination for a perfect beach vacation. Here are some favorites.

The Emerald Coast, Florida
Sugar-white sand, teal-green waters and abundant sunshine make Florida’s Emerald Coast one of the country’s most engaging beach vacation destinations. This pristine stretch of paradise runs from Panama City Beach on the eastern end to Fort Walton Beach in the west, connected by Florida’s scenic Highway 30a. Popular stops along the route include Sunnyside, Rosemary Beach, Seaside, Grayton Beach, and Miramar Beach. Located adjacent to Fort Walton Beach, the city of Destin draws almost seventy-percent of Emerald Coast Visitors. Record-sized catches in numerous species of fish earned Destin the title of “America’s luckiest fishing village". 

Not quite as built-up as Destin, Panama City Beach also has lots of attractions and things to do for all age groups, as well as typical beach fun. Located about halfway between Destin and Panama City Beach, the charming little town of Seaside offers a more laid back experience. Check into one of the unique Seaside vacation rentals, park the car (you won't need it until you leave) and put on your flip-flops, because this walking town offers everything from beach to bistro just a short walk away. Every town along the Emerald Coast offers a slightly different experience, so make time to see them all. 

Virginia Beach, Virginia
Along with a long, wide and palm tree-lined beach, Virginia Beach, Virginia, has some of our nation’s most popular attractions within an hour’s drive from its downtown. A mix of surf shops, reasonably priced high-rise hotels, and kiddie parks line the beach’s three-mile-long boardwalk. There’s plenty to do for twenty-somethings thanks to a wide variety of clubs, pubs, and music venues. The town also holds free concerts throughout the summer, as well as the annual multi-day music festival, “Something in the Water”. Separate bike trails that run along the boardwalk and throughout the city, along with many bike rental shops, make getting around without the car a breeze. Nearby attractions such as Colonial Williamsburg, Yorktown Battlefield, Busch Gardens Williamsburg, and Water Country U.S.A. make Virginia Beach a popular destination with families as well. 

Coronado Beach, California
The gorgeous beaches of the resort city of Coronado draw sunbathers, swimmers, and surfers year-round. Located on a peninsula in San Diego Bay, Coronado Beach actually includes four separate beaches - Tidelands Park, Coronado Central Beach, Centennial Park, and Glorietta Bay Park. The presence of mica in the sand gives area beaches a unique silver glitter. Gentle waves make it perfect for swimming, body surfing, and skimboarding. The Glorietta Bay and Tidelands Park sections of Coronado Beach have playgrounds, picnic tables, and volleyball courts free to the public. If you are traveling with your significant other, the famous Hotel del Coronado ("the Del") offers romantic Victorian-themed luxury accommodations with stunning ocean views. Not far from the beach, other area attractions include Seaworld, the San Diego Zoo, and the USS Midway Museum.

Islamorada, Florida
About halfway between Key West and Miami Beach, the Florida Key known as Islamorada (pronounced eye-la-morada), offers a touch of tropical paradise right here in the United States. The largest island of the Keys features year-round warm weather, tropical breezes, and palm tree-lined beaches on both the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico waterfronts. Islamorada has many resort-style accommodations with rooms overlooking the beach. 

One of the island’s most popular attractions - the family-owned aquatic park, Theater of the Sea - features daily shows, lush, tropical gardens, and various local marine creatures. There are several programs where you can swim with sea lions, dolphins, and even sharks. Your kids will love this (yet another life-expanding reason that kids should take swimming lessons from an early age), but if they want to stay dry, check out the Meet the Parrots program as well. Dining options in Islamorada include over a hundred different restaurants (many with water views) that serve everything from burgers to Conch Fritters, and, of course, the world’s best Key Lime pie.

Nags Head Beach, North Carolina
Located on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, the premier resort spot of Nags Head offers 11 miles of beach sand, with a laid-back vibe and plenty of room to enjoy typical beach fun like surfing, swimming, and sunbathing. Several area shipwrecks also provide some unique diving opportunities. The beach has two piers where you can fish, or enjoy a picnic lunch, or simply watch the sunrise. Several area charter boats also offer deep-sea fishing and dolphin-watching cruises. For a break from the sand and surf, the nearby Kitty Hawk Woods Coastal Reserve boasts over 1800 acres of forests and marshes that are perfect for hiking, birding, fishing, and even hunting. Outer Banks eateries specialize in fresh seafood, but there are plenty of places to grab a quick sandwich too. With the majority of area lodgings consisting of two-story homes and small motels, Nags Head Beach rarely gets too crowded.

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