Here are the ten best U.S. beaches of 2011 as chosen by Stephen Leatherman, a coastal scientist at Florida International University who is better known as "Dr. Beach." We've included a story from our archives for each destination.
1. Siesta Beach (Florida)
Siesta's crescent-shaped beach boasts some of the finest, whitest sand in the world and has clear, warm waters that are perfect for swimming.
2. Coronado Beach (California)
It's a couple hundred yards wide, flat as a pancake, and the sand has mica, so it shines.
3. Kahanamoku Beach (Hawaii)
Hotels line the shores of number-three Kahanamoku Beach on Hawaii's island of Oahu.
4. Main Beach, East Hampton (New York)
With its clear blue water and towering sand dunes, Main Beach provides the perfect blend of nature and built environment.
5. Cape Hatteras (North Carolina)
Fifth on the Dr. Beach list, this beach is very clean and provides some of the best board surfing along the East Coast
6. St. George Island State Park (Florida)
Famous for its white sands and clear waters, this beach was taken out of the running for best beaches last year because of concerns about pollution from the Gulf oil spill. But it was reinstated this year and comes in as sixth on the list.
7. Beachwalker Park (South Carolina)
Beachwalker Park is a bird lover's paradise, and it's not unusual to see thousands of various shorebirds here simultaneously.
8. Coast Guard Beach, Cape Cod (Massachusetts)
The sand here is fairly coarse and slopes steeply into the water. In recent years, seals have been making a comeback to Coast Guard Beach after decades of absence due to ruthless seal hunting in the 19th century.
9. Waimanalo Beach (Hawaii)
While not as stunning as some other Hawaiian beaches, it is relatively safe because big waves and dangerous currents are rare and lifeguards are present.
10. Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park (Florida)
The beaches here have emerald-colored waters and clean white sands, but the scenery can occasionally be marred by piles of rotting seaweed that have washed ashore.
Source: National Geographic