Stephen P. Leatherman, professor and director of the Laboratory for Coastal Research at Florida International University, earned his nickname. Since developing no less than 50 criteria for evaluating beach quality 20 years ago, "Dr. Beach" has been rating shorelines all over the world. What factors does he consider when determining a beach's worthiness? Water temperature, safety, and weather are all incredibly important, but he maintains that the most important single factor is water quality. "That’s the first thing people really ask for," he says, adding that Americans are fortunate because "most of our beaches in the United States are in very good shape."
We asked Leatherman were to go to get wet and he picked out the best beaches for swimmers in the country. Just remember to bring your floaties with you.
Lanikai Beach, HI
This mile-long beach in the small town of Kailua, on Oahu, is "the most picturesque beach in the country," Leatherman says. The nearby Mokulua Islands and coral reefs with tropical fish are part of the appeal. So, what makes Lanikai a great swimming spot? The water is five feet deep for half a mile offshore. That means that there are essentially no waves.
"It's a very small beach, but it's a beautiful beach," Leatherman says. "I love going there."
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