Where: Cannon Beach, Oregon Why it made our list: In the heart of rugged Oregon, this unusual beach is flanked by forests, with the towering Haystack Rock and Needles only heightening the surreal surroundings. Which, pretty much any dolphin watching session classifies as epic.
Bonus: This beach is famous for its incredible tidal pools -- and a cameo in Check out Haystack Rock at low tide for a natural aquariums full of sea stars, hermit crabs, anemones, crabs, sculpins, mussels, urchins, sea cucumbers, and even puffins. Where: Clearwater, Florida Why it made our list: This beach, with white sands and bathtub-warm Gulf waters, will make you forget whatever the weather's like in wherever you came from. Where: Kiawah Island, South Carolina Why it made our list: Most of Kiawah Island's beautiful, 10mi stretch of Atlantic Beach is contained in a private community to keep the riff raff out. The cove's also teeming with colorful garibaldi, yellowtail, rays, and leopard sharks, and, as part of the La Jolla Underwater Park Ecological Reserve, it's a world-famous diving and snorkeling spot. Thomas, US Virgin Islands Why it made our list: Pretty much any beach in the Virgin Islands -- with water clearer than vodka and shallower than that cheerleader you dated in high school -- will raise the bar and spoil any other shore for you for years to come.
The surf, the sand, Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey showing how friendship can survive the test of time.
Grab a Bushwacker, a rum-heavy, chocolatey piña colada, and walk to the end of the beach to check out its famous graffitied tanks that use to be part of a Naval bombing practice site. Bonus: Freshwater caves, ancient burial grounds and temples to explore, as well as sea stacks, blowholes, anchialine pools, and other stuff you’ve never heard of mean you'll have a lot more to do than just soak up rays. Where: South Padre Island, Texas Why it made our list: “Padre or bust” is a common refrain in this Spring Break hotspot, a party animal paradise like Miami, but without the stacks of money and pretension.
Where: Waianapanapa State Park, Maui, Hawaii Why it made our list: Black. Even without barely clad co-eds and red solo cups, this 34.5mi beach along the Gulf of Mexico is a stunner.
Bonus: You can try pretty much every imaginable water sport, including deep-sea fishing, scuba diving, and dolphin watching.
For the less athletic and more alcohol-inclined, there's Clayton’s Beach Bar, the "Biggest Beach Bar in Texas", which has frozen Blow Pops and weekend fireworks.
Bonus: After a surf session, check out Ruschmeyer’s, an adult summer camp that boasts teepees, yoga lessons, ping-pong, live DJs, and movie nights.