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.
Lahaina Beach House, San Diego
The sprawling wooden deck facing the ocean and the famous – locally anyway – house margaritas make this Pacific Beach bar a go-to for the San Diego set. Snag a high-top table or post up by the railing to watch a parade of skateboarders and candy-colored beach cruisers roll past or scope the peeling breakers. "The porch out front is awesome for day drinking and people watching," says John Yohe, who was stationed in San Diego with the Marines. On sunny days and especially on Saturdays and Sundays count on standing room only outside. The fish tacos are a local favorite.
Feet from the water: 60 feet
The regulars: College kids, European backpackers staying at the nearby hostel, and crew-cut service men getting loose
What to order: Michelada