Beaches: United States
Ocracoke Lifeguarded Beach, Outer Banks, N.C.
Big surf and coarse-grained beaches, some of the finest wild beaches in the country, are the rule here. The water quality is at the top of the charts, as there is literally nothing out here to pollute it. This island can be reached by a state ferry from Cape Hatteras. Don't come here expecting to play golf or stay at a resort hotel, however. The main pursuits are swimming (best at the Airport Beach area), shelling (especially on the north end) and general beachcombing along the 16-mile long shore. It's also fun to ride bicycles through the historic village of Ocracoke on the southern end of the island.
Caladesi Island State Park, Dunedin/Clearwater, FL
It is north of Clearwater Beach, three miles off shore from Dunedin, and is one of the few undeveloped barrier islands left in Florida. Your imagination can get a vigorous workout here. While walking the three miles of beaches, it's easy to imagine yourself as a 16th-century Spanish explorer looking at the New World for the first time. Or, enjoy the Robinson Crusoe fantasy of having a tropical island to yourself. The Gulf Coast barrier island's unspoiled beauty offers a glimpse of Florida the way it looked centuries ago. Caladesi offers excellent opportunities for swimming, fishing, shelling, boating and nature study.
Fleming Beach Park, Maui, Hawaii
This popular beach is great for swimming when the ocean is calm, but riptides may develop when the surf rises. The beach is long, wide and sandy and is surrounded by ironwood trees that provide wonderful shade. Take caution when swimming, however, due to the steep slope of the beach that causes a backwash even during calm seas.
Fort De Soto Park, North Beach, St. Petersburg, FL
It consists of seven miles of beaches and two fishing piers along with picnic and camping areas within its 900 unspoiled acres. The island is easily accessible by a causeway from St. Petersburg and St. Pete Beach. A historic fort built during the Spanish-American War can be found on Mullet Key, the largest of the five islands that make up this unique area. The park also features a 235-site family camping area directly on the Gulf of Mexico, with luxury facilities that include picnic tables, grills, water, electricity, washers, dryers, sanitary disposal stations, modern restrooms, showers, play areas and a camp store.