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Discover The 10 Best American Beaches

Written by  Thursday, 24 July 2014 13:57

Beach at sunsetImage by Floyd Manzano

For the 23rd straight year, Dr. Beach – or Dr. Stephen Leatherman as he's known to his friends and family – has released his list of the top 10 beaches in America. Leatherman, a professor and director of the Laboratory for Coastal Research at Florida International University, constructs his list by evaluating each beach by 50 criteria, which includes sand softness and water temperature. Not sure where to go on vacation this year? Well, you can do a lot worse than looking to Dr. Beach's top 10 beaches of 2014 for inspiration.

#1 Duke Kahanamoku Beach, Waikiki, Oahu, Hawaii

The first of three Hawaiian beaches on the list, Duke Kahanamoku Beach is a man-made retreat, created more than fifty years ago by importing sand and dredging through the shallow reef. The beach is named after Duke Paoa Kahanamoku, an Olympic gold medalist swimmer who first made surfing popular to the outside world. Aside from boasting astounding waters, fine sands and fantastic facilities for surfing, you can expect to see vistas punctuated by some of best sunsets known to man.

 

#2 Barefoot Beach Preserve, Bonita Springs, Florida

Barefoot Beach Preserve boasts 342 acres of natural habitat residing within the underdeveloped barrier islands on the southwest coast. The lush surroundings include a natural sandy beach, as well as trails into the nearby vegetation and canoe tours- for those who get bored with sunbathing after a few hours. The environment has encouraged a host of animal species to make Barefoot Beach Preserve their home, including the protected gopher tortoise.

 

#3 St. George Island State Park, Florida Panhandle

Miles upon miles of underdeveloped sands provide the idyllic background for this beach. The beach’s powdery white sand, meanwhile, is some of the purest in the whole of America. Florida's panhandle is sometimes called the Forgotten Coast in light of the snowbirds that flock there to avoid the cold of winter. As a result, the pathways that stretch across the park presents a fantastic viewing point for bird lovers, whilst stingrays are often found in the shallow waters.

 

#4 Waimanalo Bay Beach Park, Oahu, Hawaii

Waimanalo Bay Beach is just over half an hour's drive from the number one beach on this list, Duke Kahanamoku. Stretching for just over four miles, the sandy beach of Waimanalo Bay is the longest on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. According to the seaside oracle, Dr. Beach, Waimanalo Bay Beach Park is not as spectacular as some Hawaiian beaches. However, it earns its spot this far up the list for boasting brilliant facilities and lifeguards. So if you're looking for a safe beach to visit with your young family, Waimanalo Bay Beach Park may be the one for you.

 

#5 Hamoa Beach, Maui, Hawaii

From the safest beach on the list, we hope straight over to the most dangerous. The beach is difficult to get to, with a steep path that includes massive drops off and few guard rails, the only access. But once conquered, the path grants entrance to a staggeringly beautiful beach. If you conjure in your mind's eye an image of Hawaii, Hamoa Beach on the island of Maui is what you will see. Resplendent with palms, flowering plants and a crescent beach with a mixture of coral and lava sands, the beach represent an ode to the region's spectacular geological heritage.

 

#6 Cape Hatteras, Outer Banks of North Carolina

A barrier island that runs next to the mainland, Cape Hatteras is the location that inspired the conception of the National Seashore in 1953. Cape Hatteras is close to 72 miles long and is home to some of the most spectacular surfing in the country. In the past, the strong currents that create such alluring surf have shipwrecked hundreds of vessels. Aside from the beach and surf, attractions include the most famous lighthouse in America, quaint fishing villages and the endangered loggerhead sea turtle.

 

#7 Cape Florida State Park, Key Biscayne, Florida

Located on the southern tip of Key Biscayne, Cape Florida State Park offers a relaxing environment that is in stark contrast to some of the more vibrant beaches found in the state of Miami. Home to clear waters, gentle waves and fine, white sand, the beach is the ideal spot to chill. However, there are also activities such as bike and walking trails, for those of you who like to break up spells of relaxation with bouts of activity. Day trippers will also find Cape Florida State Park's many facilities, including two beachside restaurants, restrooms and nearby showering facilities, appealing.

 

#8 Coast Guard Beach, Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Cape Cod is another National Seashore, and the Coast Guard Beach section is one of its most beautiful stretches. The beach's name derives from the charming former Coast Guard station that still overlooks the area. From the station you can enjoy spectacular views of the surrounding landscape. Of all the beaches on the list, Coast Guard Beach offers the coolest swimming conditions as even in the summer, water temperature reaches a maximum of just 70 degrees Fahrenheit. For this reason, swimmers are restricted to brief yet refreshing dips into the water.

 

#9 Beachwalker Park, Kiawah Island, South Carolina

Located on the southern point of Kiawah Island, Beachwalker Park is the only public access beach in the area. Beachwalker Park is an ideal spot for those that relish sports and outdoor pursuits, with tennis, golf and tours of the island's fauna and flora all available nearby. Beachwalker's spot in the top ten might be short lived, though, as there is a proposal in place to build 50 houses and a steel revetment that could spoil the area's natural beauty.

 

#10 Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park, Naples, Florida

The last entry on the list is a newcomer for 2014. A 166-acre park, Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park contains not only the amazing sandy white beaches and expansive dunes that earned the beach its spot on this list, but a range of other natural wonders too. These include nearby woodlands, sea oats, fauna and flora as well as an array of fascinating wildlife. Furthermore, an observation tower from within the park presents the ideal vantage point from which to experience the park's natural splendor. A word of warning though: due to the park's popularity, it is advisable to arrive early during peak season to beat the crowds and lay claim to a good spot.

 

Car rental considerations

Some of the beaches on this list are in remote locations, where bus networks are limited and travel by taxi may be expensive. As such, renting a car for your beach-based vacation is a cost effective alternative, offering you flexibility to travel at your leisure and set your own itinerary.

 

Type of car - renting a jeep or convertible vehicle for a beach vacation is a popular choice for obvious reasons. However, if you are considering renting this type of vehicle you should be aware of the potential pitfalls.

In convertibles, for example, the luggage space is often limited. This is because the soft top on most convertibles retracts into the trunk, so if you want to transport a considerable amount of beach-related equipment with you, it may be sensible to consider renting a different type of vehicle. Meanwhile jeeps, although considered all-terrain vehicles, aren't allowed to be driven off-road under the terms of most rental agreements.

 

Insurance – Before stepping into a rental car, you should check that you are fully covered insurance-wise. This will involve checking your personal auto insurance provider to see if your policy covers you whilst in a rental car, as well as your credit card to see if its provides any level of insurance cover.

In many cases, your rental car provider will also try and sell you a Collision & Damage Loss Waiver (CDW & LDW) when you pick up your vehicle. A CDW/LDW eases the financial burden caused by suffering damage or loss to your rental car, by covering the cost of damage minus a deductible. Without sufficient coverage on your personal auto insurance or credit card and without a CDW/LDW in place, you will be liable for the full cost of the damage.

Buying this type of insurance direct from your car rental company is often more expensive than it needs to be, though. Insuremyrentalcar.com offer LDW policies from $5 a day, potentially saving you up to 70% on over the counter prices. What’s more, Insuremyrentalcar.com policies also protect you against any deducible you may be liable to pay even if you have an alternative CDW/LDW policy in place. Click here for more information on LDW and to get a quote from insuremyrentalcar.com that suits your need.

 

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