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The 10 Best Beaches in Florida (and Where to Stay)

With over 2,100 miles of warm-water coastline that traces its way from the Atlantic to the Gulf of Mexico, Florida is a beach lover’s dream. Follow our lead and check out the Sunshine State's 10 best beaches to spread out a towel and settle in.

See recent posts by Terry Ward

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Fort Lauderdale

Miamians (and Miami-lovers) might take issue, but when you want a taste of both a sizable city with manageable beach traffic and an ocean in that same blue hue as in South Beach, Fort Lauderdale checks all the boxes. The city’s four oceanfront miles are lined with sidewalk cafés, shops, and upscale restaurants, while the pedestrian-only promenade is perfect for jogging or strolling while taking in the views (of the water and people, naturally). At the W Fort Lauderdale, you can hit the celebrated Bliss Spa and have your pick of infinity pools—one overlooks the Intracoastal Waterway while the other gazes down on the ocean. Also fronting A1A and the water, the Atlantic Hotel & Spa has roomy digs with marble bathrooms and spacious, private balconies that look out to the Atlantic.

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Miami Beach

Whether you’re the type who likes to sun with South Beach's beautiful people or kick back on the less-crowded sands of nearby Key Biscayne, Miami Beach has an experience for everyone. Art Deco buildings and colorful vintage lifeguard stands spell Insta moments at every turn, and the food scene—from Brickell to Wynwood to the Design District—is as sophisticated as any major American metropolis (no other Florida beach town can claim the same). The sexiest stay in town is the Baz Luhrmann-designed Faena Hotel Miami Beach—home to a cabaret show and art by Damien Hirst. For something more intimate, try The Raleigh, an Art Deco classic right on Collins Avenue.

RELATED: 10 Best Hotels in Miami

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Vero Beach

Set mid-way along Florida's Atlantic coast, Vero Beach has a small-town feel and great snorkeling and diving that you can enjoy right offshore. Eco-tourism is big here, so kayaking and seaplane flights are among the better, non-intrusive ways to enjoy the water and spot marine life. Although the area's beaches aren’t the widest, the water is almost always clear. For a traditional stay, the Kimpton Vero Beach Hotel & Spa features fire pits and a pool just steps from the sand. If you're more into sleek and stylish, Gloria and Emilio Estefan’s Costa d’Este Beach Resort is known for its excellent Cuban restaurant.

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For Gulf Coast beach culture in a sophisticated small-city setting, nothing beats the upscale ambiance of Sarasota—home to great golfing, the celebrated Ringling Museum of Art, and some of Florida’s finest sands. Check in at the Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota, on downtown's waterfront, then take the shuttle to the hotel’s private beach club on Lido Key, just a short ride over the bridge. Siesta Key and Longboat Key’s white-sand beaches are also within a short drive. And let's not forget the best part about staying on Florida’s west coast: the nightly sunsets that set the Gulf of Mexico ablaze.

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St. Petersburg Beach

If you haven’t checked out this seaside burg just south of Tampa, it’s time to give St. Pete a look. The beaches are beautiful, and the town itself now has lots to love, too, thanks to a wave of cool new boutiques, markets, and restaurants like Hawkers, which churns out plates of southeast Asian street food. For a base at the beach, the super stylish Kimpton Hotel Zamora is just a short walk from the sand and has an outdoor pool and excellent spa. A more classic St. Pete stay is downtown at the iconic Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club, a 20-minute drive from the sand, which edges a pretty marina and is within strolling distance to all manner of restaurants.

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Gulf of Mexico sunsets, powder-fine sands, and high chances of spotting dolphins in the same waters where you’re swimming are just the start of what makes Naples a must-see destination. This is tropical Florida at it best, with the warm sea water and lush greenery to prove it. Naples Grande Beach Resort fronts an undeveloped beach at Clam Pass Park, which you can reach via a boardwalk that winds its way through tangles of mangroves (there are free golf cart shuttles if you don’t feel like walking). The Ritz-Carlton, Naples is another tried-and-true favorite right on the Gulf, with a top-notch spa and seven on-site restaurants. For an in-town stay within walking distance of tony Fifth Avenue's best shopping and dining, book a room at The Inn on Fifth, beloved for its rooftop pool and urban vibe.

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The stretch of Florida’s Panhandle where Destin is located is called the Emerald Coast for a reason: the water here is such a translucent hue of green-blue that you’ll swear you’re in the Caribbean. And the sand? Like walking on powdered sugar. Much of Destin is now lined with hotels and multi-million-dollar beach houses, but you can get a glimpse of the beach's early days at Henderson Beach State Park, a 6,000-foot-long pristine stretch of sand dominated by nature trails and shifting dunes. Just east of the park, The Henderson, a Salamander Beach & Spa Resort is the most stylish address in town, with rooms overlooking the Gulf, private beach access, and use of kayaks, paddle boards, and bikes all included in the rate.

RELATED: 7 Under-the-Radar Florida Beach Towns

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Key Largo

As long as you don’t mind your beaches small and (often) on private hotel property, there’s lots to love about Key Largo. Everything on this island revolves around the surrounding turquoise water, where fishing, paddle boarding, snorkeling, and diving are a way of life. The modern Playa Largo Resort & Spa, sprawled over 14 beachfront acres, mixes a luxe feel with the Keys’ great outdoors in the best way possible. In addition to standard rooms and suites, there are private bungalows surrounded by leafy gardens and even a beach house for extended stays. Diving, snorkeling, fishing and all manner of eco-tours can be arranged by the concierge, as can sea-inspired treatments at the hotel’s world-class spa.

RELATED: 9 Hotels in the Florida Keys We Absolutely Love

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Jupiter Beach

On the northern edge of Palm Beach County on Florida’s Atlantic Coast (90 miles north of Miami), Jupiter is known for its historic lighthouse that dates back to 1860 and its uncrowded beaches ridging clear blue water. Mansions line Jupiter Island, home to the rich and famous, but the town also has an abundance of oceanfront parks and an unusual, rocky stretch of shoreline that’s favored by snorkelers. The oceanfront Jupiter Beach Resort & Spa, close to two pretty parks, is tucked among sea grapes and has waterfront rooms and outdoor hammocks that beg you to check in and stay awhile.

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Palm Beach

Long a playground for wealthy northerners in search of Vitamin D, Palm Beach continues to define the good life in the Sunshine State with its pristine beaches, couture shopping, and fabulous restaurant scene. There are hundreds of great places to stay here, but we're partial to The Breakers, an architectural marvel and one of Florida’s most historic hotels. The grounds encompass 140 impeccably manicured oceanfront acres, where you can spend your days lazing in the quiet pools while listening to the crashing surf or enjoying a round of tennis or golf. For a more urban vibe closer to Worth Avenue (and two blocks from the beach), the Brazilian Court Hotel is another historic property with a restaurant owned by French master chef Daniel Boulud and a Frédéric Fekkai spa.

RELATED: 10 Best Beach Resorts in Florida

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