Escape the summer crowds at these secret beaches across the United States.
As summer temperatures rise, travelers desire to spend time closer to the sand and surf. But for those who seek a less crowded, more secluded beach experience, here are 13 spots to soak up sunshine without the crowds.
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WHERE: Santa Barbara, California
Haskell’s Beach is a hidden gem of the Santa Barbara area. This secluded spot has its own parking lot and features a long sandy shoreline and a grassy park, picnic tables, bathrooms, and showers. It can be a great spot for kayaking, sunbathing, or beach walking. Here, visitors can also explore the local scenic hiking trails of Tecolote Canyon. Haskell’s Beach is nestled at the base of The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara, making this luxe hotel the perfect place to grab a bite to eat at one of the six on-site restaurants, and relax in a tranquil space after an exciting day of watersports and seaside exploration.
WHERE: Honolulu, Hawaii
Traditionally, Waikiki is thought of as a bustling destination, but those who want to find a tranquil spot to relax on the beach should check out Gray’s Beach—a secluded stretch of sand perfect for wading through calm waves, picnicking, and lounging the afternoon away. Spend the night just steps from these sands at Oahu’s newest luxury boutique hotel, Halepuna Waikiki by Halekulani, which offers 284 guest rooms and four suites with breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean. The hotel is the perfect home base for an adventurous or relaxing island escape.
Amsterdam Beach Preserve
WHERE: Montauk, New York
Montauk beaches are regarded as some of the best beaches in the U.S. The town’s classic East Coast splendor, rolling dunes, and majestic bluffs (which can reach higher than 70 feet) offer a respite from the summer heat. Although the well-known Ditch Plains Beach serves as a popular spot for visitors of all ages and interests, the nearby Amsterdam Beach Preserve is a lesser crowded gem in Montauk, offering a perfectly secluded spot to explore. Amsterdam Beach Preserve features stunning vistas of clear coastline on Montauk’s East End. Retire after a day of play to the beloved 96-room Marram resort, which is known for its barefoot luxury experience and is centrally located just five minutes from the heart of Montauk.
WHERE: Cape Charles, Virginia
Those searching for a more laid-back coastal Virginia escape should look no further than Cape Charles Beach, in the town of Cape Charles. This free public beach is located on the bayside of the Eastern Shore of Virginia in the downtown historic district and is a perfect spot for visitors of all ages because of its calmer and more shallow waters. The town of Cape Charles itself is one of the Commonwealth’s best-kept beach secrets. The town is quaint and inviting, with a range of boutique shops and hotels lining the idyllic streets. Those seeking a coastal adventure can visit one of the local outdoor outfitters to plan a kayaking and watersports excursion. Stay at Hotel Cape Charles, just steps from the beach, offering chic, private glass balconies, and water views.
Shell Key Preserve
WHERE: St. Petersburg, Florida
Shell Key Preserve in Florida’s St. Petersburg is located on the Gulf of Mexico, boasting 35 miles of uninterrupted coastline with a secluded, 828-acre preserve right at the mouth of Tampa Bay. Visitors can explore this 195-acre barrier island and its white sandy beaches, known as Shell Key. Here, beach-goers will discover an uncrowded spot filled with sand dollars and bird-watching and fishing opportunities. Adventures can get to the island by either kayaking or utilizing the Shell Key Shuttle. Spend the night in St. Petersburg or on St. Pete Beach, which is known for its booming arts and culture scene, and stay at the legendary hotel, The Don CeSar—which is affectionately referred to as the “Pink Palace.” This luxury hotel is known for its iconic pink exterior and glamorous history—but is outfitted with the most modern amenities, as it just completed a full-property renovation in January 2021.
San Jose Island
WHERE: Port Aransas, Texas
San Jose Island, which was historically a ranch, today serves the purpose of protecting wildlife. This uninhabited island is located just a short boat ride away from the Texan town of Port Aransas, which boasts 18 miles of continuous shoreline and wide, sandy beaches. On the island, visitors can only access the public lands–which means they must stay on the beach below the vegetation line. Luckily, this is exactly where to find a wealth of birding, shelling, fishing, and beachcombing. Port Aransas itself is known as the “Fishing Capital of Texas,” so it’s no surprise there are a variety of free fishing piers, guided charters, and competitive tournaments throughout the summer to enjoy nearby. There are a variety of places to spend the night in town, from cute cottages to luxe condos and cozy campgrounds.
Oxnard’s Hollywood Beach
WHERE: Oxnard, California
Coastal Greater Los Angeles is typically known for its famed Malibu beaches—but what people don’t necessarily think of is the nearby seaside city of Oxnard, which also boasts gorgeous, uncrowded beaches. Hollywood Beach in Oxnard is a dog-friendly spot that features the sunny weather of nearby Santa Barbara or Malibu but in a much more relaxed setting. It’s named for the 1920s-era films made on these sands, the film stars who used to visit to escape the bigger city, and why the area was called “Hollywood by the Sea.” Spend the night on the beach at the Embassy Suites property, which is currently under a reimagination to transform into the luxurious Zachari Dunes on Mandalay Beach, Curio Collection by Hilton, with reservations starting October 1, 2022.
Chatham Lighthouse Beach
WHERE: Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Cape Cod, Massachusetts, is known as an idyllic summer playground for many East Coasters. Its quaint seaside villages and seemingly endless shoreline offer visitors of all ages and interests to enjoy time by the ocean. One of the most iconic beaches on The Cape is Marconi Beach—but for those seeking a more low-key escape, a trip to nearby Chatham is the opportunity to experience some of the most idyllic and secret beaches on the East Coast. Check out Chatham Lighthouse Beach, which offers a tranquil shoreline with daily sandbars, kite sailors, incredible seal watching, and its best-kept secret: a beautiful sunrise view. Spend the night at Chatham Inn, Relais & Châteax—a hidden gem of the coast offering 18-rooms meant for an adults-only getaway in the heart of the Cape and just steps away from the waves.
Padre Island National Seashore
WHERE: Corpus Christi, Texas
Corpus Christi is the Gulf Coast Capital of coastal and outdoor recreational experiences. It’s home to nine beaches and more than 100 miles of undeveloped barrier islands, but located deep in the heart of Corpus Christi’s Padre Island is a particularly special stretch of sand–the Padre Island National Seashore. Here, visitors can explore more than 130,000 acres of dunes, grasslands, and beaches. are camping spots inside the National Park, but for those who prefer a bed to a beach tent, the Omni Corpus Christi Hotel is more centrally located in the town of Corpus Christi.
WHERE: Sarasota, Florida
Crescent Beach is one of just three beaches on the already intimate barrier island of Siesta Key, spanning just 3.5 square miles. While the key’s most famous spot, Siesta Beach, is regularly named one of the best beaches in the U.S. as it’s covered in 99% sparkling white quartz sand—nearby, Crescent Beach offers this same soft white quartz sand in a more intimate setting since it has just two public access points. Here, visitors can encounter sandbars and calm turquoise and emerald waters, making for the perfect setting to enjoy a low-key day of relaxation. Those who seek a more adventurous activity can check out a superb snorkeling and diving area at the southern tip, rich with coral rock formations and an abundance of colorful marine life. Spend the night at the luxurious Hyatt Residence Club Sarasota, Siesta Key Beach, which offers spacious condo-style accommodations and sits just steps from the sand and sea.
WHERE: Mobile, Alabama
When most people think of Alabama beaches, they think of the soft sands of Orange Beach or Gulf Shores–but adjacent to these beach spots and 45 minutes outside Mobile, there’s also the more secluded Dauphin Island, which is actually known as the “Sunset Capital of Alabama.” As there are only 1,300-something permanent residents on this island, there are significantly fewer crowds any time of year compared to many of the other beaches along the Gulf Coast. Outside of its sugar white-sandy (dog-friendly) public beaches, During the day, visitors can enjoy the picturesque blue water and white sand beach views—and as the sun goes down, they’ll be treated to spectacularly colorful sights when the sun dips below the horizon. Spend the night at The Battle House Renaissance Mobile Hotel & Spa in the heart of downtown Mobile, which hosts guests with a gracious sense of southern charm.
WHERE: Hilton Head, South Carolina
The first place that comes to mind as an island beach destination in South Carolina is usually Hilton Head Island. But directly adjacent to Hilton Head is Daufuskie Island, which is actually only accessible via boat or passenger ferry from Hilton Head and Bluffton. This idyllic, Spanish moss-covered tiny island is just three by five miles and located on the southernmost tip of the Carolinas and feels like a step back into simpler times. There are no large food stores on the island–no gas stations and no cars—just a few hundred people living a blissfully laid-back lifestyle. Those who want to spend the night on the island can stay at Haig Point, the island’s only private, residential community in historic accommodations—or spend the night at Hilton Head at Marriott Hilton Head Resort & Spa, which is located about five minutes away from where the ferry to Daufuskie docks.
WHERE: Ocracoke, North Carolina
North Carolina’s Ocracoke Island has long since been known for its incredible beaches, untamed, secluded beauty, and fascinating pirate history. This island is part of North Carolina’s coastal Outer Banks region—and it’s only accessible via water or air. There are three ferry routes to the island (with both car and passenger ferry options), and those who want to boat in can drop an anchor at one of the island’s marinas. Those who own a small private plane (one or two engines) can land at Ocracoke’s airstrip, located just outside the village. Once on the island, explore the hiking and walking trails, visit the historic lighthouse, and check out the shop-lined harbor. After a day outside, spend a night at one of the adorable cottages, romantic B&Bs, or hotel, motel, and inn accommodations.