Whether you’re looking for a scenic spot with rocky sea caves, an off-road adventure to crystal blue water, or a sunny stretch with family-friendly sand bars, here are the best secret beaches in America.
Dry Tortugas National Park: Key West, Florida: If you’re going to head to Florida for its beaches, do it right in the Keys. Dry Tortugas National Park is a remote coral reef island 70 miles west of Key West—about half way between the Everglades and Havana, Cuba.An old 19th-century fort gives this small piece of land an air of mystery, and visitors in boats and biplanes can be seen landing on the remote shore to explore its lighthouses and pristine white sand beaches on a day trip.
Singing Beach: Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts: New England has plenty of popular beaches lining the coast from Rhode Island through Cape Cod and into Maine, but one small town beach just north of Boston that’s accessible by public transit is a favorite of locals and out-of-towners alike. Singing Beach boasts warm, shallow waters that make this spot perfect for families looking to explore tide pools and safely wade past the breakers.
Sunset Beach: Bird Island, North Carolina: For those in search of a waterfront sunset on the east coast, a town called Sunset Beach on North Carolina’s Bird Island is home to a network of wide salt water rivers where you can face west for a sunset over the scenic waterways. Facing east, the town’s nearby namesake beach is a true gem undiscovered by the hordes of tourists that pack nearby Myrtle Beach, which is just south of the state border about two miles from here.
Pata Prieta Beach: Vieques, Puerto Rico: Nicknamed Secret Beach by locals, Pata Prieta Beach inside Vieques National Wildlife Refuge isn’t reachable by paved roads, which means a four-wheel-drive vehicle is your best bet for accessing this snorkeling haven. Vieques, a small island off of Puerto Rico’s mainland, is already a less-trafficked beach getaway than anything near San Juan—but Pata Prieta on the isolated south side is worth escaping the tourists that frequent this island.
Heart’s Desire Beach: Inverness, California: If locally-loved spots on the west coast are more your style, Point Reyes National Seashore has warm waves, boating, and picnic areas that keep visitors coming to the small beachfront. Heart’s Desire Beach at Tomales Bay State Park isn’t expansive by any means, but the sheltered cove is largely out of the reach of San Francisco tourists, and its location on an inner bay makes for warm, calm waters.
El Matador State Beach: Malibu, California: Past Santa Barbara and 30 miles from the hustle of LA, Malibu is a popular escape for locals and tourists alike. But Malibu’s best-kept secret beach is El Matador, with spectacular rock formations and sparkling sunsets that won’t disappoint.
North Beach and Gunnison Beach: Sandy Hook, New Jersey: Just outside of New York are some of Jersey’s best beaches and, surprisingly, a nude beach. Sandy Hook Gateway National Recreation Area includes sprawling stretches of soft sand and seagulls that have areas marked as “clothing optional” like Gunnison Beach, and scenic North Beach at the northern tip of Sandy Hook if you’d rather keep your suit on.
Davenport Landing Beach: Davenport, California: The rocky shoreline and cavernous sea caves at Davenport Landing Beachoutside busy Santa Cruz make it an insanely Instagramable spot even without considering the dazzling sunsets you can watch here. Explore the upper cliffs to find the swing-set hidden among wildflowers—it will afford you a glimpse of the water from high above.
Kikaua Point Beach: The Big Island, Hawaii: It’s nearly impossible to find a Big Island beach that isn’t teeming with tourists, but one private beach in a gated community at Kikaua Point is gracious enough to give out spare beach passes to the public when they’re available, allowing early birds and those in town during the low season to catch some calm waves and go snorkeling with the area basically to themselves.