Florida does a lot of things wrong. We’re terrible at voting. We beat people with lizards. We have alligators in our swimming pools, politicians in our public bathrooms, and an entire Twitter account devoted to stupid things our male citizens do. Also, women dressed as turkeys might just try and rob you. And yet, we’re the third most populated state in the US (behind Texas and California). Why?
Look out the window… if it’s anything other than sunny and 80 degrees, you probably wish you were in Florida right now. Alligators and all. But what is there to do in Florida when you’re not being beaten with reptiles? Go to the beach, of course. And in planning your next Florida fling, here are the 20 best beaches in the Sunshine State.
P.S. We also have a separate handy guide to Florida’s nude beaches right here. Happy tanning.
No hecks left to give? Daytona is the beach for you. Yes, it’s cleaned itself up a bit from its biker-and-breaker heyday, but if you want a wide stretch of sand with absolutely zero pretension, Daytona’s it. Here you can drive right up on the shoreline near Ormond and cruise the big beach up to the spot where the famous 500 started racing cars on the sand. You’ll pass by plenty of T-shirt shops full of stuff that’ll make you say, “You can still say that?” and not find a soul who objects.
Where you’re staying: The Delta Hotels Marriott, a newly renovated hotel right on the water configured so every room has some sort of view of the ocean. And it’s actually quiet… if you go to Daytona Beach for that sort of thing.
You ever read those hilarious Florida Man stories and wonder, “Just where the HELL do these people come from?” The answer is Hollywood Beach. All of them. If you’re jonesing to see a baby alligator get pedaled up the boardwalk in a bicycle basket, post up at Taco Spot and just wait. Wanna see two geriatric men the color of footballs get in a fight over a spot under a palm tree? It’ll happen in Hollywood. It isn’t just as close to a SoCal beach town as exists in the Sunshine State, it’s also the best people-watching of any beach in Florida. Which considering the stuff our state gets into, is pretty impressive.
Where you’re staying: Diplomat Resort and Spa. Hollywood’s king of luxury high rises just completely redid itself, adding a solid burger joint and wine spot across the street at Diplomat Landing, and one of 2017’s best new restaurants in South Florida at Monkitail.
Since it banned drinking on the beach and effectively killed Spring Break faster than an ’80s movie villain, Panama City is now probably best known as the home to Ironman Florida, which involves a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile marathon. If you’re into doing things other than inhuman endurance sports on vacation, the beach itself is beautiful, with pristine white sand leading out to lake-like turquoise water. And the town is full of kitschy cultural beach staples like the Ripley’s Believe It or Not museum and the epic Shipwreck Island Waterpark.
Where you’re staying: Legacy by the Sea. It’s a little removed from the “main drag” in PCB, but this beach-adjacent spot has upscale rooms — by Panama City standards anyway — and vastly cheaper rates.
If you were rating beaches solely on spring break, and it was 1987, Lauderdale Beach might be the best in the land. But you’d also be reading this on a Commodore 64. As the city ushered out SB, it also ushered out most of the fun that came along with it, and now what’s left is a narrow strand of beach backed by bars full of people who came here for spring break 1987 and still can’t figure out where the rest of their group went. Need proof? That bar where Richie Incognito went all Richie Incognito on a pool table is one of them. Another is owned by an infamous male pornstar who has a proclivity to hunt.
Where you’re staying: The Atlantic Hotel and Spa. No shortage of first-rate mega-resorts along Lauderdale Beach, but this one still feels like a charming boutique and offers the best new restaurant in the city at Coastal. If you’re into fresh seafood and Italian food, there’s not a better place to be in South Florida.
Not long ago we named South Beach the sexiest neighborhood in America, and for good reason. While the natural scenery is nothing to sneer at, with coarse grain sand and light turquoise waters fronting miles of art deco hotels, the human scenery is really what makes this one of the most popular beaches in the world. Do most of those bodies occur in nature? Of course not, but neither do beaches on marsh barrier islands. Don’t think too much, you’re in Florida.
Where you’re staying: Stanton South Beach. Located right on the water in the much-quieter South of Fifth section of South Beach, this is one of the few beachfront hotels that’s a quiet escape from the insanity of South Beach. The first floor is also home to the new Miami outpost of the Michelin-starred sushi joint Azabu.