Note: All travel is subject to frequently changing governmental restrictions—please check federal, state and local advisories before scheduling trips.This article was updated on July 30 2020.
You know what to expect when you go to a beach that everyone raves about. After all, the good times have been well-documented on Instagram, the Travel Channel and elsewhere. But isn’t it nice, in times likes these, to plop down on a beach sans all the blanket-to-blanket crowds? On your next vacation, find a piece of paradise that offers peace and quiet. There’s something to be said for swimming against the tide. Here are some worthy alternatives to America’s most popular beaches.
Nantucket, Mass vs. Bristol, Rhode Island
Nantucket may be known as an East Coast playground for A-list celebs, as well as corporate titans, but if you want to fly under the radar, there’s a special slice of small-town Americana less than four hours away in Bristol. The beach at Colt State Park is beautiful and the bonus here are the beach volleyball courts, massive grassy areas with picnic tables, bike paths, trails and sports complex that includes skate park, basketball, tennis and bocce courts, baseball and softball fields, concession stand and more. Colt State Park is more than 460 acres of fun. When you leave the beach, there are eclectic eateries like The Beehive, Lobster Pot, The DeWolf Tavern and Le Central. And if you decided to stay awhile, there are historic B&Bs, like the Bristol House Bed & Breakfast Inn in Bristol, featuring free breakfast, a fireplace and garden.
Waikiki Beach, Hawaii vs. Ala Moana Beach Park
About a mile down the road from Waikiki Beach is Ala Moana Beach Park, a gem beloved by locals. There are no crowds, and in addition to a beautiful beach, you’ll find picnic areas, tennis courts, concession stands and a child-friendly lagoon called the Magic Island. As an added bonus, this white sand beach is located across the street from two shopping and restaurants centers—the Ward Entertainment Center and the open-air Ala Moana Shopping Center. With Ala Moana’s views of the iconic Diamond Head crater and a sprawling Honolulu skyline, you’ll wonder why you ever considered anywhere else.
Huntington Beach, California vs. Portuguese Bend Beach
Huntington Beach is more than eight miles of beach and is nicknamed Surf City, but the surf’s up, too, at Portuguese Bend Beach in Rancho Palos Verdes. As soon as the sun is up, surfers are riding the waves. Many get their fix and then go to work. Diehards who slept in hit the shore in the evening. Pretty much everybody surfs. You don’t have to be a pro though: The waves at times can be gentle enough for rookies to try and bust a move. Don’t be surprised if you decide you want to hang around. If you do, treat yourself to the luxurious Terranea Resort for excellent cuisine, golf and spa.
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina vs. Kiawah Island
For sure, there’s plenty of raucous fun to be had at Myrtle Beach, but Kiawah Island, a couple of hours away is home to a beachfront, lush landscape, 15 different habitats and hundreds of bird and reptile species. The beach’s hard-packed sand is great for biking along the coastline. Another bonus: It’s about an hour from Charleston, so get a city fix with your beach vacation.
Venice Beach, California vs. Torrance Beach
Torrance Beach is under the radar, much like the city of Torrance. You won’t get the hordes like you will at Venice. And there’s plenty to go along with that trek to the beach. For one thing, Torrance Beach is the starting point of The Strand, a 22-mile bike path that runs all the way up to Malibu. When you’re ready to come out of the water, the fun doesn’t end. Foodies will be pleased to hear that the city is getting props for its 400-plus eateries and beer like Smog City West.
Coney Island Beach, Brooklyn vs. Jacob Riis Beach, Queens
Coney Island has a storied history with its groundbreaking amusements and rides, but Jacob Riis Beach in Queens is off the beaten track. Known as “the people’s beach,” Jacob Riis has evolved over the last few years and now has new concessions. You can treat yourself to artisanal ice cream, beer and alcohol in certain areas, as well as gourmet sandwiches, barbecue, seafood, Bolivian food and more.
Gulf Shores, Alabama vs. Gulf Coast, Mississippi
While the Gulf Shores of Alabama is lauded for its beaches, trails, pier and more, the Mississippi Gulf Coast has bragging rights, too. It is a year-round destination for water activities, be it swimming, kayaking, paddle boarding, fishing or boating. If you’re more comfortable on the water than in it, go Schooner sailing, shrimping and explore the barrier islands that sit just miles off the coast. With white-sand beaches and beautiful Gulf waters, the islands are perfect for a day trip.
Cannon Beach, Oregon vs. Lincoln City Beach
National Geographic listed Cannon Beach as one of the 100 most beautiful places in the world in 2013. While the masses flock here for its craggy rock formations, about 90 miles south you’ll find Lincoln City Beach. It has more than seven miles of pristine shoreline to enjoy and no crowds. Another plus: The beach has a promotion called Finders Keepers, where volunteers hide colorful glass floats on the beach for visitors to find.
Ocean City, Maryland vs. Point Lookout State Park
Ocean City is ever popular, with its lively boardwalk and seafront dining, but mid-summer the crowds can be thick. Point Lookout State Park, though, offers a different vibe. Swim, canoe, hike trails, picnic, fish and camp. History buffs will enjoy the Civil War Museum/Marshland Nature Center and pavilion.
Which secret beach will you be exploring next?
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