America's Top 10 Beaches - My Family Travels

From Hawaii to the Hamptons, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, find out which beaches make the list of this scientific study of sand and surf.

Presenting the “10 Best Beaches in America” as selected by Dr. Beach, a.k.a Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman of Florida International University’s Laboratory for Coastal Research. Each year, Dr. Beach examines America’s beaches using 50 criteria that include water temperature, quality of water and sand, beach management, litter control and available facilities.

According to his website, he then confers with beach managers, park rangers and expert colleagues before making his selection.

Over many years, Dr. Leatherman has visited all 650 major U.S. beaches and many smaller, out-of-the-way shores and has authored or edited 18 books. So, we think his picks for 2008 are well worth noting.

Top 10 Beaches of 2008

1. Caladesi Island State Park, Dunedin/Clearwater, Florida- National Winner

2. Hanalei Bay, Kauai, Hawaii

3. Siesta Beach, Sarasota, Florida

4. Coopers Beach, Southampton, New York

5. Coronado Beach, San Diego, California

6. Main Beach, East Hampton, New York

7. Hamoa Beach, Maui, Hawaii

8. Cape Hatteras, Outer Banks, North Carolina

9. Cape Florida State Park, Key Biscayne, Florida

10. Beachwalker Park, Kiawah Island, South Carolina

Other Beach Favorites

It’s also noteworthy that once a beach reaches first place, it can never return to the list again, so beaches like Fort De Soto Park’s North Beach warrant a closer look. According to Dr. Beach, this beach is kind of like the girl next door –“beautiful, but unpretentious.” He notes there’s great shelling and natural dunes, plus a dog park and plenty of places to park your car. This classic beach is a fine place for all the standard activities — swimming, fishing, kayaking, bird-watching, biking, and camping.

And if you’re touring around Florida or other beach combing spots, consider a stop at some of these past (also gorgeous) first place winners:

2007 – Ocracoke Lifeguarded Beach, Outer Banks, North Carolina; 2006 – Fleming Beach Park, Maui, Hawaii; 2005 – Fort De Soto Park’s North Beach, Florida; 2004 – Hanauma Bay, Hawaii; 2003 – Kaanapali Beach, Hawai’i; 2002 – St Joseph Peninsula State Park, Florida; 2001 – Poipu Beach Park, Hawai’i; 2000 – Mauna Kea Beach, Hawai’i; 1999 – Wailea Beach, Hawai’i; 1998 – Kailua Beach Park, Hawai’i; 1997 – Hulopoe, Hawai’i; 1996 – Lanikai Beach, Hawai’i; 1995 – St Andrews SRA, Florida; 1994 – Grayton Beach SRA, Florida; 1993 – Hapuna, Hawai’i; 1992 – Bahia Honda SRA, Florida; 1991 – Kapalua Bay Beach, Hawai’i.

Of course, any website such as this one devoted to family travel also reviews hundreds of beaches. If you’re going to be traveling with a toddler or weak swimmer, and you’re looking for the perfect beach, be sure to search the Family Travel Forum sites for phrases such as “calm and shallow,” “gentle surf” or “perfect for waders.” These keywords describe the surf qualities that will make a big difference in the enjoyment of your youngest one’s first days at the beach.

For more ideas on beach areas to visit, you can check out, a database of beachfront vacation properties around the world.

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