The Outer Banks, NC, is a playground for families, with parasailing, waterskiing, canoeing, kayaking, and more. Stay at Ramada Plaza Nags Head Oceanfront, from $119/night.
Siesta Key, FL, about 20 minutes from Sarasota, rolls out the whitest and coolest sand you've ever seen. Stay a short drive away at the Best Western Plus Siesta Key, from $99/night.
Courtesy Visit Sarasota County
Siesta Key is not just popular with families who want to wade and play in the sand—it's also a great place for snorkeling.
The powdery sand at Siesta Key stays cool thanks to its quartz makeup.
Oahu's North Shore, HI, has incredible waves in a perfect climate. If you're feeling brave, take a surfing lesson! Stay at nearby Punaluu Beach Cottage, from $125/night.
If you can ever tear yourself away from the beautiful waves, the North Shore is a bit of a low-key foodie mecca too: Grab fresh shrimp from a food truck, or a traditional Hawaiian shave ice in a rainbow of flavors.
The only downside of exploring Oahu's beaches is getting back in the car!
Laguna Beach, CA, an iconic seven-mile stretch of perfect sand in Orange County, is the place to soak up good vibrations and the warmth of the sun. The Laguna Beach Inn is a bargain at $115/night.
Laguna Beach offers the chance to swim, surf, or just sit and stare at the gorgeousness.
When you towel off and put your shoes back on, Laguna Beach is a short walk from Laguna Village, with quality art galleries and other shops.
Courtesy Pacific Edge Hotel
Hilton Head, SC, has miles of pristine lowcountry beaches and the unique Gullah culture. Stay at Hampton Inn Hilton Head, from $108/night.
After a day at one of Hilton Head's beaches, consider reserving some time for the Coastal Discovery Museum.
Kids will love Hilton Head's beaches, and also the Priates of Hilton Head Island experience, which includes a ride on the Black Dagger ship.
Bodie Island Lighthouse, in the Outer Banks, is one of only 12 lighthouses in the U.S. that are more than 150 feet tall. It became open to the public last year after a $5 million renovation.
Nantucket, MA, is a charmingly whale-shaped island off the coast of Cape Cod, with perfect beaches and temperatures in the 70s all summer long. The island is super pricey, but the Vanessa Noel Hotel, right in historic downtown, has stylish rooms from $170/night.
After beachgoing and exploring Nantucket's historic lighthouses and cobblestone streets, grab a to-die-for lobster roll at The Jetties beachfront restaurant (and tell them Budget Travel sent you).
Assateague Island, which includes portion of Maryland and Virginia, is one of the East Coast's most beautiful beach destinations, with day cruises, kayak tours, fishing, and cycling on tap. Stay just up the road at the Atlantic Hotel in Berlin, MD-America's Coolest Small Town 2014-with rooms from $95/night.
Assateauge boasts more than 37 miles of white-sand beaches, and is a short drive from the bustle of Ocean City, MD.
National Park Service
Gulf Shores, AL, is a shining example of the knockout beaches on America's Gulf Coast. Stay at the Country Hearth Inn, from $109/night.
Courtesy Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism
Gulf Shores welcomes visitors all year long for the beaches and the food. You can eat dockside at joints like Lulu's at Homeport Marina.
Gulf Shores' balmy breezes and friendly locals make its beach the place to be on warm summer days.
Pfeiffer Beach, in Big Sur, CA, is the kind of place that's so beautiful it can change people's lives, often inspiring them to pull up roots and move to Cali for good. Big Sur lodgings are either pricey or minimalist, so we recommend making your base nearby Monterey's Casa Munras, from $147/night.
Pfeiffer Beach is known for its distinctive purple sand thanks to quartz and manganese garnet from the nearby hills.
Beaches in the heart of the Midwest? Of course! Lake Michigan offers amazing miles of shoreline for exploring. Stay at the Lakeside Inn, in Lakeside, MI, from $90/night.
What’s your favorite American beach? We’ve obsessed over that topic for weeks to deliver the tastiest waves, loveliest sand, and balmiest breezes from New England to Hawaii. But of course we couldn’t stop there: Each of these 10 must-see beaches comes with a great hotel pick that won’t break the bank! Happy summer!