Best Beaches for 2021 – Top Ten Sunny Destinations for Post-Pandemic Travelers

A pretty nice beach with a pier over pristine waters

As summer arrives this year, most of us cannot wait to escape what’s been a rather isolating year. With millions vaccinated, and COVID numbers declining, many are ready for a much-needed vacation. Naturally, some of the most attractive options for summer include sunny destinations outdoors. After a year of quarantines and social distancing, exploring some of the nation’s best beaches for 2021 makes sense. Fortunately, there are many to choose from if you’re looking for a beach escape. And we know just the guy to help guide you in your vacation decisions.

Every year, Dr. Stephen Leatherman, a geoscience and coastal ecologist professor at Florida International University, lists the top U.S. beaches. (Read more about top US beaches in this Forbes story.) Known as Dr. Beach, Leatherman has been sharing his favorite sunny destinations for several years. Based on 50 different criteria that he scores according to a 5-point scale, he highlights top beach getaways. These criteria include safety, sand quality, water temperature, activities, and ecological practices. Though he was limited in actually visiting these sunny destinations this year, he was still able to collect data through colleagues. As a result, the following are Dr. Beach’s best beaches for 2021 that you might want to consider.

  1. Hapuna Beach State Park, Island of Hawai’i – Beach ranked this as one of the best sunny destinations for the year. In addition to its white coral sands and black lava flows, this beach has other high-ranking qualities. This includes 200-feet wide beaches, highly trained lifeguards, and ample snorkeling and diving opportunities. Plus, it ranks top of the best beaches for 2021 due to its no-smoking policies and restrictions on chemical sunscreens.
  1. Cooper’s Beach, Southampton, New York – Located on Long Island, this is noted to be one of the best beaches for 2021 because of its white quartz sand. In addition, this particular beach is shielded from the cold Atlantic currents that often affect eastern beach towns. Large sands dunes covered with beach grass complete the landscape. For these reasons, it’s one of the more popular sunny destinations every year. 
  1. Ocracoke Lifeguarded Beach – Outer Banks of North Carolina – If you’re looking for sunny destinations that are more serene, this beach might be ideal. Ocracoke Lifeguarded beach is perfect for those wanting to comb the beach, swim and surf. One can really enjoy the benefits of a vacation in this setting. (How vital is vacation for personal health? Check out this Project Bold Life story and find out!) Home to Blackbeard the Pirate, Ocracoke is a great getaway beach, making it one of Leatherman’s best beaches for 2021.
  1. George’s Island State Park, Franklin County, Florida – One of the well-kept secrets in Florida, St. George’s Island State Park offers a great beach escape. The water is crystal clear and the sand a white, silky powder. It always ranks as one of the best sunny destination in the state. There is also excellent fishing and bird watching, which is why it was ranked among the best beaches for 2021.
  1. Lighthouse Beach, Buxton, North Carolina Outer Banks – This is one of the best sunny destinations for those who love to surf. Plus, a walk along Cape Point allows one to feel waves crashing on either side of their stroll. As one of the best beaches for 2021, Leatherman notes the unique, large offshore sand banks. And as a lifeguarded beach, it also ranks high in safety.
  1. Duke Kahanamoku Beach, Oahu, Hawaii – From this beach, you’re able to see the iconic Diamond Head Volcano. But its beaches aren’t too shabby either. In fact, it is one of the most picturesque landscapes around. That’s why it is ranked as one of the best beaches for 2021. As one of the widest beaches, it is rarely crowded, making it great for families. And its offshore coral reefs make for great snorkeling.
  1. Caladesi Island State Park, Dunedin, Florida – This is one of the best sunny destinations in Florida for many reasons. First, its white, crystalline sands are tough to resist as is it’s deep blue waters. But likewise, it also offers numerous boardwalk trails and kayak excursions through the mangroves. It’s therefore not surprising it has been regarded as one of the best beaches for 2021.
  1. Coronado Beach, San Diego, California – Adjacent to the famous Hotel del Coronado, this vacation escape is worth considering. Dr. Leatherman notes the area’s unique Mediterranean climate invites its subtropical vegetation. It also boasts fine, white sandy beaches with a mild surf. It’s also a great place for ship watching and for simply relaxing. Depending on your travel personality, this may be one of the top sunny destinations for you.
  1. Beachwalker Park, Kiawah Island, South Carolina – For vacationers who love nature, Beachwalker Park is an excellent choice for a beach escape. The area provides a number of tidal inlets for those who like to explore via kayak and canoe. It also has fine, hard-packed sand in some areas great for walking and beach biking. And of course, it is routinely one of the most sunny destinations you could consider. These features allowed it to make the list for the best beaches for 2021.
  1. Coast Guard Beach, Cape Cod, Massachusetts – This interesting beach off of Cape Cod is composed of glacier bluffs that sink into the ocean. The water is cool, making for a refreshing dip in the heat of the summer. And for those who enjoy checking our aquatic life, white sharks and seals are not uncommon in the summer months. This beach is therefore considered by Leatherman as one of the best beaches for 2021.

Many Sunny Destinations from Which to Choose

As you can see, you have a number of choices for a beach escape this summer. Dr. Beach offers quite a variety of sunny destinations in his best beaches for 2021 list. Depending on the type of escape you crave, you can pick and choose the perfect summer getaway for you and your family. Beaches are once again open, and just in time for summer. If you’re looking for a post-pandemic travel escape, it might just be the perfect answer to an incredibly challenging year.


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