Surf’s up: Hit the top 10 beaches this summer


It’s summer. That means it’s time to hit to the beach.

Whether you grew up near a beach, vacation at a beach or married on a beach, chances are you have fond memories of surf somewhere at some time.

The nation’s No. 1 beach this year is Kapalua Bay Beach, Maui, Hawaii, according to coastal ecologist Dr. Beach, aka Stephen P. Leatherman. (See my photo of Kapalua Bay Beach at top.) He’s a professor and director of the Laboratory for Coastal Research at Florida International University. The rest of his top 10 list is at the end of this post.

Sea turtle
This was one of two sea turtles that swam very close to the shore of Kapalua Bay Beach in April. (Photo by Sheryl Jean)

When I visited the crescent-shaped, white-sand Kapalua Beach along Maui’s west coast in April, I could stand right next to sea turtles frolicking in the shallows.

Kapalua is one of the island’s safest swimming areas and its clear azure water and sheltered location (the bay is protected by two headlands formed by lava flows ages ago) make it a good snorkeling spot. It’s also near a few restaurants, bars and a water sports rental hut.

Great beaches

So, just what makes a beach great?

For me, it either has to be large enough for long walks or have a great surf for swimming and boogie boarding.

For Abbey Burns, who lives in the San Francisco Bay area, a great beach must be swimmable, have little to no wind and provide “an insurance plan in case you forget something,” such as a snack shack or shop, according to Abbey Burns.

Her favorite beach is Mayflower Beach in Dennis (Cape Cod), Mass. During college, she went there every year to stay at a friend’s family home.

“I really love it because at low tide the beach is huge and you don’t even notice other people are there,” Burns said. Beaches in the Bay Area are too windy, she said.

Feet in the sand
Criteria for Dr. Beach’s top 10 list include the type of vistas and the color and softness of the sand. (Photo by Sheryl Jean)

Click here to continue reading and see the rest of the Top 10 list:

Rating beaches

Here are the rest of his top 10 U.S. beaches for 2018:

2. Ocracoke Lifeguarded Beach, Outer Banks, N.C.

3. Grayton Beach State Park, Santa Rosa Beach, Fla.

4. Coopers Beach, Southampton, N.Y.

5. Coast Guard Beach, Eastham (Cape Cod), Mass.

6. Lighthouse Beach, Buxton, Outerbanks of N.C.

7. Caladesi Island State Park, Dunedin/Clearwater, Fla.

8. Hapuna Beach State Park, Big Island, Hawaii

9. Coronado Beach, San Diego, Calif.

10. Beachwalker Park, Kiawah Island, S.C.

Some friends are shocked that no beaches in Northern California (It may be because they’re too cold to swim in without a wetsuit.) or Nantucket, Mass., ( I don’t know why.) made the list.

Who is Dr. Beach?

Leatherman grew up in North Carolina and travels the world studying beach erosion and storm impacts. He didn’t plan to rate beaches, but a travel magazine writer asked him to do just that in 1989. The list was such a hit, that Leatherman developed 50 criteria to rate hundreds of major public beaches across the country. His criteria range from the softness of sand and water temperature to the amount of trash and type of vistas.

Leatherman’s first official top 10 list debuted in 1991.

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