Waikiki to Westhampton, Baja to the Boardwalk, when the surf's up and the sun's warm, hot-weather fans know it's time to hit the beach. As every self-respecting sun-worshiper knows, America's sandy shores display more than golden bodies; every great one also boasts a distinctive personality. So before you pull on that new bikini and head for the shore with your significant oiler, know where the beachcombing's best:
BEAUTIFUL-BOD BEACH: DEWEY BEACH, DE. A magnet for the 18-24 group, Dewey draws beach-goers with perfect pecs and parts of steel. (Shop for cover-ups at nearby Rehoboth Outlets.) Sunsets over the bay inspire romance, and since restaurants, clubs, and lodgings are clustered together, visitors can safely enjoy a few drinks and walk home.
CLASSIC BEACH: SPRING LAKE, NJ. Turn-of-the-century mansions, two miles of near-secluded beach, and a lovely boardwalk represent this jewel of the Jersey Shore.
DROP-YOUR-TOP BEACH: MUIR BEACH, CA. Play peekaboo along the north end of this beach, where the water stays warm through Labor Day.
GLITTER BEACH: MALIBU, CA. Here the stars come out day and night since they happen to live in the multi-million-dollar beach chateaux lining this golden stretch of Pacific coast. Rub shoulders with (and if you're lucky, suntan oil on) hunky stars of stage and screen.
LUCKY BEACH: ATLANTIC CITY, NJ. Jackpot!
Even if you don't strike it rich in one of the towering casinos along the Boardwalk, there's no charge to enjoy the salt-water air, brisk ocean waves, and strong rays. Atlantic City Photo Tour
MODEL BEACH: SOUTH BEACH, FL. Models, celebrities, photographers, and other trendsetters stoke the buzz 24/7 in this historic Art Deco community.
After working the runway or Collins Avenue, the long-limbed and pouty unwind in the restored Albion, the stylish Hotel Astor, and Todd Oldham's Tiffany Hotel.
RICH BEACH: THE HAMPTONS, NY. This series of coastal towns stretching from Westhampton to Montauk is where New York City's wealthy gather each summer to relax, shop, gallery-hop, and vie for restaurant reservations. Pristine beaches and quaint villages draw day-trippers and permanent residents (including Alec Baldwin, Billy Joel, and Steven Spielberg) alike.
SECLUDED BEACH: MADAKET, NANTUCKET, MA. You can only get here by ferry or small plane, but it's worth it. Ride your bike past cranberry bogs to reach this pristine beach.
SURFERS' BEACH: SANTA CRUZ, CA. The view's best from the mile-long boardwalk. Waves are big but safe, inspiring some dramatic surfing styles. Others ride the boardwalk's 1911 carousel and 1924 roller coaster.
ARTISTS' BEACH: PROVINCETOWN, MA. America's oldest art colony, Provincetown is home to emerging as well as established talents. Welcoming to same-sex couples, P-town's main drag is historic Commercial Street, where unusual boutiques, clubs, and galleries attract crowds in the sultry season. Provincetown Photo Tour
COLLEGE-CROWD BEACH: SOUTH PADRE ISLAND, TX. Spring breakers congregate at this breezy Gulf Coast spot. Year-round, wind surfing, birding, a new golf course, and an active club scene make for good times.
WINDY BEACH: LONG BEACH, WA. A steady breeze and low humidity are expected to attract 100,000+ spectators to August's annual International Kite Festival. The 28-mile-long beach is also known for its hard-packed sand, the perfect medium for building a dream sand castle.
SHELL-OF-A-BEACH: SANIBEL ISLAND, FL. Treasures of the sea wash up daily around Bowman’s Beach and others along Sanibel Island shores. Located west of Fort Myers, Sanibel is reachable via causeway. Grab a couple of buckets or nets and see who can collect the most beautiful and diverse shells daily, then display them at home in a place of honor.
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