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East Coast vs West Coast: Who has the Best Beaches?

Posted by Harry Stewart on
Best Beaches in the USA

Summer is still here, and you know what that means?

It’s time to hit the beach while the sun continues to bless us with its piercingly warm rays.

Yet one question remains; east or west?

Much like the age-old debate over who spits the illest rhymes (West Coast 4 Lyfe!), arguments about which coast boasts the most impressive beaches continues to rage.

So let’s settle the dispute once and for all by taking a gander at the finest sandy stretches on both the Atlantic and Pacific seaboards.

Some of these spots are pretty remote, so be sure to grab a groovy tent before you head out. For maximum relaxation, best pick up an uber-stylish pool float as well.  

The Best West Coast Beaches

On average, west coast beaches are considerably more secluded, which is hardly a surprise considering only a handful of major cities line its shores. The surf is also superior due to larger Pacific swells and a distinct lack of shelter from bays and coves.

Laguna Beach, California

Beaches don’t get much more quintessentially Californian than Laguna Beach, an iconic strand in the heart of the upscale O.C.

Moro Canyon to the north is the place to go for seclusion, not to mention a backdrop of hiking trails at the Crystal Cove State Park. Down south, Thousand Steps beach is more about chillin’ out in the rock pools and caves. Between the two is Main Beach, a people watching paradise where the fine looking folk go to strut their stuff.

Regardless of your preferred stretch of sand, plenty of debaucherous action awaits after your swim. Start with some Tex-Mex and Tequila at the cool clifftop restaurant known as Las Brisas.

laguna beach, California west coast

Laguna Beach in Orange Country, CA | © 12019 / pixabay

Huntington Beach, California

Another Orange County institution, the long and smooth sands of nearby Huntington are popular with beachgoers after a buzzing vibe.

Surfers head to the pier to hang ten on the best waves, while swimming and body boarding are popular just about everywhere else.  

Amenities abound, including street stalls, fire pits, volleyball courts, a windy bike path, and public restrooms galore. There’s even a dedicated dog beach to hang with your canine buddy.

Despite its popularity, there’s plenty of space on Huntington to pull up a towel, even in the busier months.

And after a long day in the sun, a happening restaurant and entertainment district lies just a few blocks uphill on Main Street.

Pfeiffer Beach, California

Big Sur is undeniably badass, and the best spot of the lot is the redwood-lined Pfeiffer Beach.

Be sure to take a peek at its stunning sea stacks; towering rock formations which have been shaped by eons of wind and waves. Key Hole Arch is the most striking; particularly photogenic as the sun begins to set.

Adding to the intrigue is a weird layer of purple sand, which comes from deposits of manganese garnet that gets washed down from the hills above.

After you’ve had your fun, make your way south to Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and camp above the picturesque McWays Falls


Mcway Waterfall, Pfeiffer Beach, CA, West Coast, USA

The Mcway Waterfall at Pfeiffer Beach, CA | © Dawn Ellner / Flickr

Cannon Beach, Oregon

For a more moody affair, head to Oregon’s Cannon Beach which is home to the frequently photographed outcropping known as Haystack Rock.

While you’re wandering around, keep an eye out for puffins at the rock pools and elk who meander through the coastal meadows.

Artsy folk will feel at home here, as the quaint seaside village is home to the region’s most vibrant artisanal scene. Glassblowing, pottery, and jewelry are just some of the crafts that attract Portland hipsters in droves.

Resort style accommodation lines the shorefront, while outdoorsy types can pitch a tent a few miles inland at the 420-friendly Cannabis Camp. B.Y.O. or buy your supply on site.

Long Beach, Washington

Stretching over 28 miles, it’s pretty obvious how Long Beach got its name.

The water may not be as inviting as equivalent spots in the south, but there are plenty of wholesome activities to enjoy while taking in the stunning views. A few examples include salmon fishing, cycling, oyster picking or galloping down the beach on the back of a trusty steed.

In August, an annual kite festival takes advantage of the relentless winds.  

Hikers and history buffs won’t wanna miss the Discovery Trail, the 9-mile route where Lewis and Clarke finished up their epic overland expedition.

Camping is available just off the main beach by the spooky lighthouse at Cape Disappointment.

Long Beach, WA, Washington, West Coast, USA

A misty morning at Longbeach, WA | © Arnaud DG / Flickr

Olympic National Park, Washington

Wedged right up on the border with Canada, the beaches of Olympic National Park are less about fun in the sun and more about road tripping and nature trails which traverse endless tide pools.

Give the Twilight fans at La Push a miss (the movies were set here) and check out the doleful ambiance of the rocky Rialto Beach instead. The aptly named Hole-in-the-Wall Arch makes for an ideal photo op.

Another tremendous Olympic vista is the selection of misty sea stacks at Ruby Beach.

Rainforest lovers might prefer to head inland to hike and camp at the outrageously lush Hoh Reservation.

Best East Coast Beaches

Water temps are marginally higher on the east when compared with western beaches of the same latitude. Climate boffins reckon this is because ocean currents swirl in a clockwise direction in the northern hemisphere, pulling warm water in from the Equator.

Clearwater Beach, Florida

The Sunshine State is famous for happening beach destinations, and Clearwater Beach is certainly no exception.

This broad, 3-mile stretch due west of Tampa fills up with holidaymakers year round, so don’t come expecting much serenity. Instead, a myriad of activities entertain the crowds such as speedboat fishing excursions, parasailing, dolphins spotting cruises, and beach volleyball.

Of course, chillin’ on the beach and frolicking in the waves are popular pastimes as well.

For a more secluded spot, head north to the Caladesi and Honeymoon Islands.

Better yet, towards the Louisiana border lies the remote Grayton Beach, considered by many to be Florida’s most picturesque stretch of sand.

Clearwater Beach Florida East Coast USA America

A quiet day at Clearwater Beach, FL | © Mariamichelle / pixabay

The Hamptons, New York

The upper echelons of New York’s high society have fallen in love with the Hamptons, an upmarket seaside resort famous for an array of ostentatious oceanfront estates.

Exclusive member’s only golf clubs, upmarket boutiques, and ritzy spas line the white sandy shores, a testament to the brazen purchasing power of those who can afford to holiday here.

But this isn’t exclusively a billionaires playground. Hither Hills State Park on the northern tip offers the economically challenged a fully serviced camping ground in a scenic locale.  

Despite perceived pretentions, the Hamptons are a stunning section of America which provide a jealousy-inducing glimpse into how the other half lives.

Cape May, New Jersey

For a taste of days gone by, head to the quaint town of Cape May on the southern tip of Jersey Shore.

The town proclaims to be America’s oldest seaside resort, which is somewhat evident from the 600 or so Victorian-era houses on display. An excellent example is the Emlen Physick Estate. Open to the public; it faithfully showcases the everyday life of the late 19th-century bourgeoisie.

Naturally, Cape May Beach is top rate. Its crystal clear waters which lap against fine white sand are home to an abundance of easy-to-spot marine life.

Boozehounds will definitely want to check out the Nauti Spirits Distillery, the Cape May Winery, and the Cape May Brewery Co., preferably all in the one session.

Cape May Beach, NJ, East Coast, USA

Sunset at Cape May Beach, NJ | © RAVDesigns / Flickr

Myrtle Beach, Southern Carolina

Smack bang in the middle of Southern Carolina’s 60-mile Grand Strand, Myrtle Beach may well be eastern America’s most popular seaside resort.

If large crowds and plenty of excitement are your cup of tea, this is the stretch of sand for you. Expect to come across a boatload of restaurants, pubs, clubs, and theme parks; each packed to the brim during the sweltering summer months.

It’s all for good reason, however, as the silky sand and calm waves of Myrtle Beach make it an ideal spot for swimming, sunbathing, and sailing.

Those looking to escape the throngs of excitable holidaymakers could set up shop at the outlying Myrtle Beach Camping ground.

South Beach, Florida

If crazy parties fuelled by copious amounts of illicit drugs and alcohol are more your thing, then Miami’s party hardy South Beach is the East Coast destination for you.

Dubbed “America’s sexiest beach,” the scantily clad bodies of the country’s plastic surgery capital make it easy to see why.

Pumping pool parties, boisterous watering holes, and luxe nightclubs line this pristine stretch of white sand, while debaucherous booze cruises ply the turquoise waters out at sea.  

If possible, rock up during the annual Ultra electronic music festival to best experience the prime unadulterated hedonism of this outrageous locale.

Of course, you won’t find any tranquillity here. But we’d be willing to bet that isn’t why you came.

A lifeguard lookout on Miami's famous South Beach, FL | © Mariamichelle / pixabay

A lifeguard lookout on Miami's famous South Beach, FL | © Mariamichelle / pixabay

Sandbridge Beach, Virginia

The east coast isn’t known for its secluded beaches, although those who make the effort can find tranquil spots from time to time.  

Case in point: just 15 miles south of the crowded Virginia Beach lies Sandbridge, a virtually empty expanse full of sequestered sand dunes which welcome a handful of visitors each day.

Backed by a colossal bay and numerous wildlife reserves, it’s a great place on the east coast to indulge in some serious ocean side R&R.

So which is better? East or west?

Well, just like Jay Z and Dr. Dre, neither is candidly better.

It’s entirely subjective. A matter of personal choice, if you will.

But whichever coastline you decide to visit on your next summer vacay, you’ll be sure to have a kick ass time.

Chillbo guarantees it.

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