Our Secret Guide to the Best Small Beaches in the U.S.

best small beaches

Splash, snorkel, and surf at these hidden gems

Beach vacations feel amazing. Relaxing in the sun, swimming in the ocean, catching up on summertime reads with a piña colada… And if you’re searching for less crowds, more calm, during your beach vacay, we’ve got great news: at the best small beaches in America, you can do all that plus have plenty of space to spread out your towel.

If you’re looking to catch rays—or waves—here are our top picks for sandy serenity.

  • Avila Beach, CA

    Ready to restore your mind and body? Avila Beach is more than one of the best small beaches on the West Coast; it’s one of the best small towns, too!

    Unlike some of Cali’s more popular summer destinations, Avila Beach remains refreshingly relaxed. Your vacay will feel like a “blast from the past” with its historic pier, delish seafood cafes, and a charming beachfront promenade.

    And remember that restoration we mentioned earlier? That’s because Avila Beach is known for its natural thermal springs. Whether or not they have healing properties might be up for debate, but a visit to the Avila Hot Springs will definitely recharge, rejuvenate, and refresh your mind and muscles.

  • Caladesi Island, FL

    Crystal clear waters. Powdery white sands. There’s a reason why “Dr. Beach” consistently chooses spots on the Gulf Coast of Florida to top his lists.

    But if you want to avoid the crowds that come with fame, Caladesi Island is an excellent alternative to the busier tourist spots. This gorgeous island is only accessible by ferry, keeping it unspoiled and natural.

    Most visitors hang out on the beach by the marina, where you can rent chairs or buy lunch. But if you’re willing to walk a little further, past the crowds, you’ll find your own private beach for the day.

  • Shi Shi Beach, WA

    An outdoor adventure in the national parks or the serenity of the best small beaches? Why choose just one? Instead of limiting yourself, head over to rugged, remote Shi Shi Beach, which combines the best of both worlds in a truly spectacular fashion.

    Getting to Shi Shi Beach is part of the fun, requiring a hike through the lush rainforest of Olympic National Park. But once you get there, you’ll quickly realize it was worth the trek!

    Shi Shi Beach’s coastline is particularly stunning, with dramatic sea stacks (isolated rock formations) rising out of the water. The beach is also known for its tidal pools, filled with anemones, starfish, crabs, and other coastal creatures.

  • Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, MI

    Surprise! One of the best small beaches in the U.S. isn’t near an ocean—it’s on a lake!

    On the shores of beautiful Lake Michigan, this lakefront beach is an unexpected pleasure featuring clear waters and pristine sand. Just be prepared for an invigorating swim, even on the warmest of days!

    But cool waters aside, the most unique feature of Sleeping Bear Dunes is, of course, its towering sand dunes. Far from the sea level seen at most beaches, these dunes rise up to 450 feet above Lake Michigan. You can climb up the dunes, then walk, run, or roll down the soft sand until you’re ready for a refreshing dip in the cool lake.

  • Tybee Island, GA

    A small barrier island just off the coast of Georgia, Tybee Island is the perfect place to go for a relaxed coastal getaway.

    One of the best small beaches in the South, it’s just 18 miles from downtown Savannah. But there’s no “city feel” here in Tybee! This cheerful beach town stays laid back and chill—despite the summer heat!

    If you enjoy learning a bit of history while you’re on vacay, there’s a Civil War-era fort and a historic lighthouse just waiting to be explored. If you’d rather take it easy, you can spend your days splashing in the Atlantic Ocean, eating local-favorite “spuds” in quaint waterfront restaurants, and enjoying live music on the pier.

Small beaches; big fun! These small beaches offer all of the amenities of more popular destinations while keeping your vacay low-key and laid-back.

And to make your beach vacay even more relaxing, ship your stuff to your final destination with LugLess. Skip the hassles of lugging suitcases and dealing with checked bags, and go straight from the terminal to the sand. Just remember to send us a postcard!