Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start of summer. And for those who prefer the salt life, it also means heading over to the best U.S. beaches: because “beach hair, don’t care.”
Not sure which beach you should hit up? No worries, we’ve got you covered! Here’s our completely scientific and unbiased guide to the beaches that’ll fit your sandy, sunny vacay-style.
Huntington Beach, CA
The town known as “Surf City USA” attracts them all: newbies, surf pros, longboarders… Sooner or later, they’ll make their way to Huntington Beach to catch a wave or two.
Early mornings are great if you want to vibe with the salty local legends. But be aware: Dawn Patrol is usually packed, and the competition for a swell can get fierce. Luckily, the beach is nine miles wide, so you can usually find a semi-private spot.
If you’ve never surfed before, the beach is dotted with surf shops offering lessons and renting boards. Or better yet, head down to the pier and strike a deal with one of the locals for 1-on-1 lessons.
Voted Best U.S. Beach for Surfers (and Almost-Surfers)
The Hamptons, NY
Sure, sometimes you’re looking forward to some solo beach time. Just you, your earbuds, and a good book. But when you want to beach it with the crew, the Hamptons is the place to go!
The Hamptons (East Hampton, Southampton, and everything in between) are known for the celebs that spend their summers on its shores. But if you and your pals pool your resources, renting a swanky house for the week is surprisingly affordable. Plus, you’ll have so much more fun hanging out together, post-beach, than going off to separate hotel rooms at the end of the day.
So which towns get our vote? Montauk for the surfing, Sag Harbor for the food, and Southampton for the shopping.
Best U.S. Beach for Hanging with Your Besties
Miami Beach, FL
How could we leave the 305 off our list? Um, we can’t! Although Miami has much more to offer than just its beaches (think music, art, and delish Cuban pastelitos) it’s palm-tree lined Ocean Ave that beckons.
Miami Beach is one of the best U.S. beaches for Memorial Day weekend – day or night. During the day, coconut-scented sunscreen reigns supreme. Layer on the SPF and rent jet skis or splash around in the Atlantic.
Then wait… because no one heads out in Miami until late. We’re talking dinner at 9ish, and the vibrant nightlife even later. From lively salsa music to throbbing deep house, the 305 has something for everyone after hours.
Best U.S. Beach Even After the Sun Sets
Padre Island National Seashore, TX
Everything’s bigger in Texas – and that includes its most famous barrier island beach, the 70-mile wide Padre Island. Undeveloped Padre is a nature lover’s paradise: rugged, wild, and beautiful.
But despite its relative isolation, Padre doesn’t slack when it comes to keeping you busy. Windsurfing, kayaking, and snorkeling in the warm waters will take up most of your day.
And then forget about having to drive to a hotel. Padre offers on-site campsites. Build a campfire and cap off your beach day with s’more and ghost stories.
Best U.S. Beach for Sleeping Under the Stars
Sanibel Island, FL
“She sells seashells by the seashore” might have been written on Sanibel Island. And the sunny isle isn’t just one of the best U.S. beaches for seashells. It’s one of the best in the world. In fact, so many people go shell-seeking here that the bent-over beach walk even has its own name: the Sanibel Stoop.
Check the local tide reports for low tide, when you’ll find the prettiest specimens. But hands-off sand dollars, sea urchins, and starfish. They’re “live shells” and protected by law.
But whatever you do, stay away from the town’s tourist traps. You really don’t need a lamp base encrusted in seashells, we promise.
Best U.S. Beach for the Shell-Obsessed
Whether you’re surfing, swimming, or just sunning, you want to make the most of your Memorial Day beach getaway. And that means not having to wait around for your room to be ready just so you can stash your suitcases. Instead, throw your swimsuit into your carry-on and ship the rest of your beach gear to your Airbnb or hotel with LugLess. You can pick up your bags on your schedule and maximize your fun in the sun!