With a shoreline roughly four times as long as the equator, America has more than its fair share of beautiful beaches. There are so many excellent seaside strands that standing out from the sandy crowd requires a degree of specialization. That's why our list of the best beaches in the U.S. is not all about towel lounging. These beauty queens offer adventure, wildlife, and great food – because it's not enough to be beautiful if you don't nail the talent portion.
Best for Shell Hunting
Sanibel Island, Florida
Linked by a causeway to Fort Myers, this sedate, scimitar-shaped barrier island is anchored on the east by Lighthouse Beach, a long stretch of creamy sand backed by a park and its historic 1884 beacon. The water here is warm, calm, and shallow, making it ideal for kids; the beach is perfect for sandcastles and is loaded with shells, especially when low tide exposes its offshore sandbars. A national wildlife refuge protects a substantial share of Sanibel, guaranteeing a constant air show by squadrons of brown pelicans; the daily aquacade by pods of bottlenose dolphins is an unexpected bonus.
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