Hammock-strung, rum-stocked, and only a lime's throw from the water, beach bars are to summer what roaring fires are to winter – the best places to have an unhurried drink. Unfortunately, finding a good one can be tough. For every authentic outpost, there are a dozen dives decked out in flotation devices, tiki torches, and pun-filled, wall-mounted menus. Avoid all that spring break nonsense. From an island in Lake Superior to the wilds of the Eastern Caribbean, we've unearthed North America's hidden gems, the 25 most memorable establishments around.
La Buena Vida, Akumal
Escape Cancun and the Senor Frogs crowd for this bolt hole about an hour south along the Riviera Maya in North Akumal. With sand for a floor and the crystal clear Gulf of Mexico always in eye- or ear-shot, the bar's good life mantra gets distilled in the form of margaritas with the perfect bite of fresh lime and Don Julio that goes down as smoothly as the sun sinking into Half Moon Bay. Day of the Dead décor and swings at the bar are the backdrop for day drinking. "There's even a tree house table built about 15 feet up in a palm tree where you can have your drinks and look out over the bay," says Jason Couvillion, who owns a local travel agency and recommends the bar to clients.
Feet from the water: 20
Credit: Paul Johnson / Getty Images
The regulars: Americans expats and European backpackers
What to order: The classic Margarita is a staple, but try La Buena Vida, made with Bailey's, Kahlua, coconut cream and Grand Marnier.