7 Best Winter Beaches in America
Join the snowbirds and head south to escape the cold. Read on for the seven best winter beaches in America.
Chelsea is Brooklyn-based travel writer, editor, and photographer. When not home eating her way through NYC, she's gallivanting across the globe, sailing the coast of Croatia or hiking the peaks of Peru. Her superpowers include booking flight deals and sleeping in small plane seats.
At the southern end of Santa Monica Bay, the upscale-meets-surfer Manhattan Beach nabe is the perfect basecamp. Stay at the Shade Hotel, and rent one of the cruisers for a morning bike ride down The Strand (a 22-mile path along the Pacific). Stop at the more laid-back sister neighborhood of Hermosa Beach, for Parisian-style pastries at the cute French Café Bonaparte, ultra-organic dishes at Cali-cool spot Greenbelt, or Mexican and American favorites at Good Stuff. If you want to stay all day, play a round of sand volleyball with the tanned and toned set before grabbing happy hour cocktails at Hennessey’s Tavern (locals love the open-air upstairs bar for oceanfront sunset views) and sharing a late-night laugh with Jay Leno at The Comedy & Magic Club. Or, you could loop back to Manhattan Beach, browse the trendy shops along the main drag (Washed Ashore and Gum Tree sell everything nautical), then tuck into soulful Southern-inspired fare at M.B. Post—the bacon cheddar buttermilk biscuits, roasted hazelnut Brussels sprouts, and black truffle buttered ribeye are sure to make you hungry for more.
It’s no secret that South Beach, one of the best winter beaches in America, doubles as a year-round runway for bronzed babes and ripped guys. Which is why it’s one of our favorite winter beaches. Make heads turn on this famous stretch of sand by strutting your stuff in a sexy, barely-there suit. For a break from the sun, go to the Fontainebleau’s 40,000-square-foot Lapis spa to bliss out in the mineral-infused pools and the 35-foot rain tunnel. Come evening, SoBe's nightlife is just heating up: join an all-night dance sesh at hot spots like LIV nightclub or Hyde Beach at the SLS.
San Diego’s got the best of both worlds. Families should make a beeline for Hotel del Coronado, a sprawling seafront estate that sits on 28 acres of coastline across the bay from San Diego. The kid-friendly strip of sand has calm waters and less crowds, plus there’s beachfront fire pits at the hotel to roast s’mores. On the other hand, if you’re part of the young and fun club, TOWER23 is one of the city’s hippest scenes. This Neo-Modernist party pad is three stories of glass right on Pacific Beach, just minutes from La Jolla. When it comes to nightlife, the TOWER Deck is a go-to; the guests-only cocktail lounge spreads out on the second floor under a sea of string lights.
Key Largo, FL
Set halfway between Key West and Miami, Key Largo is a secluded stretch perfect for a serene getaway. Check into the Playa Largo Resort, where you’ll split your time lounging by the tranquil pool, tucking into the day’s fresh catch in Sol by the Sea’s boathouse, and sipping sundowners on the resort’s sailboat. But the best place to hit the sand is Cannon Beach (named for the 17th-century cannons that adorn it). As part of John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, this strip is a favorite among snorkelers and scuba divers as the clear water teems with colorful tropical fish. Just offshore is the Spanish shipwreck that’s home to marine life such as parrotfish, damselfish, barracuda, brain coral, sea fans, and more.
Hawaii’s eight islands are covered in jaw-dropping palm-lined beaches, so it’s not hard to find your perfect retreat. Yes, the bevy of luxe resorts that stretch across Maui’s Kāʻanapali and Wailea beaches are obvious go-to’s, but if it were up to us, we’d rather have the sand to ourselves. On the northern side of Kauai, the off-the-beaten-path Ha'ena State Park is well worth the trip. Make a pit stop at Tropical Taco in Hanalei for fresh fish tacos caught by North Shore fishermen, then make your way to the St. Regis Princeville to watch the sun cast a rosy glow over the dramatic Na Pali Coast.
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Myrtle Beach, SC
It may not be the warmest winter beach (temps average in the 60s), but if you’re desperate to ditch the snow for sand, Myrtle Beach is an easy escape. This South Carolina stretch goes on for 60 miles, dotted by celeb-designed golf courses and boardwalks by the Atlantic. Take a break from the action at the family-friendly North Beach Plantation—the 7.5-acre oceanfront complex has five pools, a swim-up bar, a lazy river and a 17,000-square-foot spa, where you can bliss out with a Thai herbal massage.
South Padre Island, TX
A popular spring break destination, South Padre Island is cleared out come winter. But the 70-degree weather is ideal, and with no crowds you’ll have the place to yourself. Cheesy beach bars Clayton’s and Wanna-Wanna serve overpriced turbo piña coladas, if that’s your thing, but we’d prefer to ditch the tourist traps for more low-key haunts. Snag a table on the patio at The Cafe on the Beach to tuck into fresh shrimp tacos, crab cakes, grilled snapper and tortilla soup, or opt for a grab-and-go meal at Ceviche Ceviche (the mahi mahi with fresh mango and avocado is killer). When you want to venture outdoors, there’s the boardwalk along the Laguna Madre Nature Trail, the beachfront Isla Blanca Park (a popular picnic spot), and the 70-mile Padre Island National Seashore, the world’s longest undeveloped barrier island, just three hours away.
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