From Megan Michelson at Outside
The 10 Best Beach Towns in the U.S., Ranked
Forget waking up at dawn to save your spot or navigating through crowds on Main Street. These coastal destinations are all about empty stretches of sand, activities for everyone, and oceanview rooms that don’t break the bank.
In the United States, a beach vacation often means squeezing your towel onto a packed, noisy stretch of sand. But if you know where to look, you can find solitude without having to travel to the Caribbean. Our picks here aren’t the coastal hubs you already know about. They’re charming, under-theradar spots with sprawling, empty stretches of shoreline, low-key lodging, and an I-wanna-be-here-now vibe. If you’d rather stay in a rustic bungalow with ocean views than a flashy megaresort on the water, these are the seaside destinations for you.
The charming central California coastal town of Cambria, four hours south of San Francisco, makes for a great weekend getaway or stopover during a Highway 1 road trip. Nearby Hearst Castle has been closed due to the pandemic and road repairs but is finally slated to reopen this spring. Explore the tide pools on Moonstone Beach, which are filled with brightly colored sea anemone and sea stars. Stay at White Water (from $259), a lodge that opened just steps from the ocean in 2020, or pitch a tent at the ocean-view campsites at Hearst San Simeon State Park (from $35), a few minutes to the north. Grab a brunch of waffles and smoothies in a tucked-away alley at the Hidden Kitchen, then head to the beginner-friendly surf break in Cayucos, a low-key town 20 minutes south.
Read the full list of top beaches on Outside.