Make the most of the summer and plan a summer beach vacation close to home. These nine gorgeous vacation destinations throughout North America guarantee a ton of fun in the sun and stunning beach views along the way.
To help you choose the right place for your next adventure, we’ve rounded up some of the best beach destinations for you to explore for an unforgettable summer trip. From the coastal rainforests of British Columbia, down the California coast, and to the red sand in the Maritimes–here are the best spots for your summer beach vacation in North America.
Best summer beach destinations in North America
1. Tofino, British Columbia
Best beach destination for: island hikes and rugged wilderness
What to do in Tofino
Plan a West Coast summer beach vacation on Vancouver Island in Tofino. This small village is known for its natural beauty and wilderness areas. Catch a surf break on a hot summer day or explore the eclectic shopping in the quaint downtown. Walk down Campbell Street and Main Street to enjoy the locally owned shops and galleries in town that makes Tofino truly one-of-a-kind.
If you’re looking for some outdoor adventures, there are a number of surfing schools for all levels based in Tofino or hikes through nature that vary in difficulty. For a coastal drive, fly into Victoria, British Columbia and then travel to the eastern coast of Vancouver Island to enjoy a few days in Tofino.
Where to stay in Tofino
For the perfect couple’s getaway, book your stay at the famed Wickaninnish Inn nestled in the rugged nature of the Pacific Coast. The Pacific Sands Beach Resort is another a popular option to be able to stay right along the water. As soon as you book your flight, make a reservation to dine at the Wolf in the Fog which can book up months in advance for dinner.
How to get to Tofino
There are daily scheduled flights from Vancouver to Tofino-Long Beach Airport (YAZ) with Pacific Coastal Airlines or into the Tofino Harbour with Harbour Air. For a coastal drive, fly into Victoria, British Columbia and then travel to the eastern coast of Vancouver Island to enjoy a few days in Tofino.
2. The California Coastline
Best beach destination for: romantic getaways and outdoor activities
Plan your summer beach vacation at Muir beach near San Francisco, California. Enjoy your days lounging on the sand or take a hike past wetlands and ponds and enjoy some bird-watching.
Where to stay in San Francisco
If you’re looking to stay close to Muir Beach, choose a hotel closer to the north end of San Francisco like the Fairmont Heritage Place near Ghirardelli Square or one of the many properties in Fisherman’s Wharf.
The best beaches in Los Angeles
Head south to Los Angeles a spend your summer with the locals in Santa Monica, trying to snag a celebrity sighting in Malibu or skateboarding along Venice Beach. If you’re looking to explore one of the best beaches in L.A., travel north of Malibu to El Matador to explore the secluded pocket beach has rocky shores, robust waves and some of the clearest water in the area.
Where to stay in Los Angeles and Malibu
In Los Angeles, there are a number of beachfront hotels in Santa Monica including the 4-star JW Marriott Santa Monica Le Merigot or the Art Deco property The Georgian Hotel. Along Venice Beach, local favourites include Hotel Erwin and The Kinney Venice Beach. In Malibu, indulge and stay at The Surfrider Malibu or Shutters on the Beach.
If you’re travelling with a family, Cabrillo Beach near San Pedro is popular because you can take a break from a day out in the sun at the nearby Cabrillo Marine Aquarium.
Explore California’s lesser known beaches
California is also home to some lesser-known beaches where you can escape the crowds and hang with the locals. Set in the San Bernardino Mountains east of Los Angeles, Big Bear Lake is a popular spot for summer activities on the water including paddleboarding, kayaking, boating, or fishing.
Travel to Point Arena-Stornetta Public Lands to see the rugged coastline and dramatic seascapes in Mendocino County. This area is also home to the tallest lighthouse on the Pacific Coast soaring up to 115-feet alone Point Arena where, depending on the time of year, you can see whales migrating between Alaska and Mexico.
How to get to California
The easiest way to get to California from Canada is by plane. There are direct flights into San Francisco (SFO) and Los Angeles (LAX) from most major cities and these two airports are your gateway to exploring the rest of the country. California State Route 1 runs north-south along the coastline making this the easiest, and most scenic way to explore the state by car. The Amtrak Coast Starlight travels from Los Angeles’ Union Station to Oakland’s Jack London Square just outside of San Francisco.
3. Prince Edward Island
Best beach destination for: historical towns and family getaways
What to do on Prince Edward Island
Prince Edward Island is home to eleven hundred kilometres of shoreline for you to discover. This Maritime province is ideal for your summer beach vacation because the island is small enough that you can either rent a beach house as your home base and plan day trips or explore a new spot every day without driving for too long.
When planning your trip be sure to add Cavendish Beach, Greenwich National Park, and Basin Head Provincial Park to your summer bucket list. When planning your route, consider adding a few scenic heritage roads to the plan to travel down trails that remind you of Prince Edward Island’s lush countryside of yesteryear.
Where to stay on Prince Edward Island
Where to stay on Prince Edward Island: For families visiting Prince Edward Island, consider renting a small cottage instead of booking your stay at a hotel. Not only can these cottages accommodate a family or larger group, but they are also often located in natural areas with beautiful grounds and views to explore.
How to get to Prince Edward Island
Prince Edward Island is connected to the rest of Canada by car driving across the Confederation Bridge from New Brunswick. There is also a ferry during the warmer months that connects Nova Scotia to Prince Edward Island. From Charlottetown Airport, there are year-round flights to Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, and Toronto with additional routes during high-season from May to October.
4. Îles de la Madeleine,Quebec
Best beach destination in Canada for: natural beauty and small town vibes
What to do on the Îles de la Madeleine
Only a ferry ride from Prince Edward Island or a short flight from Montreal or Quebec City, the Iles de la Madeleine in Quebec are a beautiful archipelago in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence with 300 km of beach coastline.
Havre-Aubert Beach is often on the list of Canada’s most beautiful beaches boasting 12 km of sandy beach to explore. Havre-Aubert Island is also home to the rich Acadian culture and history which can be found in the fine restaurants, cultural activities, shops, and cafés.
Every August, there is also a sand castle building competition along the beach which just as fun to watch as it is to participate in.
Where to stay on the Îles de la Madeleine
While where you stay in Iles de la Madeleine depends on what you are looking to see or do in the region, the majority of tourists find themselves staying in Havre-aux-Maisons at properties like Domaine Du Vieux Couvent or Auberge Madeli.
How to get to the Îles de la Madeleine
There are many ways to get to the Iles de la Madeleine whether you are travelling by plane, ferry, cruise or by car. The Îles de la Madeleine Airport (YGR) is located on the Havre aux Maisons Island with flights from Montréal, Québec City, and Gaspé.
Departures from Quebec City to the Îles de la Madeleine by coach leave every Thursday evening, from mid-June to mid-September, with stops on request at Rivière-du-Loup, Edmundston, Fredericton, Moncton, and Charlottetown. Departures from Îles de la Madeleine are held every Wednesday morning with arrival in Quebec in the late evening.
If you’re looking to travel by boat, the CTMA Cruises sail from Montreal to the islands throughout the warmer months. From Prince Edward Island, there is a 5-hour ferry crossing between Prince Edward Island and the Madelinot archipelago during the warmer months.
5. Fort Myers & Sanibel lsland, Florida
Best beach getaway for: tranquil beaches and sunset strolls
What to do in Fort Myers and Sanibel Island
If you’re looking to escape and unwind, look no further than the beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel Island. Only a two-hour drive from Tampa or just under three hours from Miami, this beachfront community feels like a world away. Set along southwest Florida’s sunny Gulf Coast, this region has miles of undeveloped coastline to explore.
If you’re looking for romance, spend your dinners watching the sunset from a beachfront restaurant in Sanibel. Local favourites include Thistle Lodge, Sea Breeze Café, and Traditions on the Beach, but you’ll want to reserve a table early to get the best view.
Where to stay on Sanibel Island
Families flock to the beachfront cottages in Sanibel where the only thing you can hear is the crashing of the waves. For the adventurous, consider a vacation on the sea sleeping in a houseboat and exploring different areas of this region.
How to get to Fort Myers and Sanibel Island
For those flying to Fort Myers and Sanibel Island, the closest airport is the Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW). There are direct flights to RSW from Toronto and Montreal and connecting flight options from all other Canadian cities. If you are planning a road trip through Florida, Fort Myers and Sanibel Island are both only a two-hour drive from Tampa or just under three hours from Miami.
6. Maui, Hawaii
Best beach vacation destination for: whale watching and hiking experiences
What to do on Maui
All the shorelines in Hawaii are gorgeous, but few outrank Ka’anapali Beach on Maui. It sits on the west side of the island and has excellent places for surfing, snorkelling and even scuba diving. With 6- to 8-foot waves, this spot draws both new and experienced surfers. If you fly to Maui, you can also go on a whale watching expedition.
If boating is your passion, look no further than Ka’anapali Beach; you can go sailing, rent kayaks or board a catamaran. The north side of the beach has Black Rock, the perfect site for snorkelling. If you’re there at sunset, then you’ll see a cliff diver do a daring swan dive just as King Kahekili did in days gone by.
When you’re ready to retire from the beach for the day, you have plenty of restaurants and bars to visit in nearby Lahaina during your relaxing summer beach vacation.
Where to stay on Maui
Maui offers a large range of accommodation options for travellers hoping to explore the island. From the budget to the lavish, many of the resorts in Maui are located on the west coast near Kaanapali. For a luxurious option, the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua and the Fairmont Kea Lani are popular choices on the island. For a more affordable option consider staying at a vacation rental property or smaller inn on the island.
How to get to Maui
From the west coast of Canada, major air carriers like WestJet and Air Canada offer direct flights from Vancouver, Calgary, and Edmonton. From other major cities in Canada like Toronto, Montreal or further east like Halifax, to fly to Maui you will have to connect to your flight to Maui in cities like Calgary, Dallas-Fort Worth, Los Angeles, or San Francisco to fly to Hawaii.
7. Prince Edward County, Ontario
Best beach destination for: camping, wine tourism, and calm beaches
What to do in Prince Edward County
While Prince Edward County in Ontario sounds awfully similar to the province of Prince Edward Island in name, your experience in the country will be quite different. Located by the shores of Lake Ontario a few hours drive from Toronto, Prince Edward County is comprised of a number of small towns that Canadians and international tourists alike just love to explore, especially during the summer months.
This destination has become a getaway for couples wanting to stay at one at a small inn and explore this booming wine region. Some of the best southern Ontario wines can be found at Hinterland Wine Company, Rosehall Run, or Closson Chase Winery in Prince Edward County.
No trip to Prince Edward County is complete without a stop to Sandbanks Provincial Park. This stunning beach is ideal for families with kids, because the water is quite shallow. It’s also home to the world’s largest baymouth barrier dune, which fills the beach with soft sand.
Where to stay in Prince Edward County
Prince Edward County has a number of beautiful inns and B&B’s for travellers, if you’re looking to stay a few days in The County. The June Motel and the Drake Devonshire infuse a youthful sense of art and culture into the county known for their colourful, design-forward spaces.
How to get to Prince Edward County
Travellers coming from Toronto, Montreal, or Ottawa can access Prince Edward County from the 401 taking the Loyalist Parkway towards to the island on the north shore of Lake Ontario. Prince Edward County is also accessible by train stopping at the Via Rail station in Belleville.
8. Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Best beach destination for: pristine beaches and outdoor family fun
What to do on Hilton Head Island
Best known for the lavish golf courses, Hilton Head Island is also home to some of the most pristine beaches in the U.S. All of the beaches on Hilton Head Island are public but some of the most popular spots you’ll find for summer beach vacations are along Coligny, Driessen, Folly Field, and Islander Beaches.
Hilton Head Island is also a popular sports destination with more than 24 public and private world-class golf courses.
Where to stay on Hilton Head Island
Hilton Head Island is best known for its golf courses and luxurious resorts. On the island, pick from a number of sprawling resorts including the Omni Hilton Head Oceanfront Resort, The Westin Hilton Head Resort & Spa, or Sonesta Resort Hilton Head Island for an upscale experience.
How to get to Hilton Head Island
Even though Hilton Head Island is in South Carolina, the easiest way to get there is to fly to Savannah, Georgia. From the airport, follow the I-95 North towards Hilton Head Island to arrive at your hotel.
9. St. Maarten
Best beach vacation destination for: snorkelling and beautiful beaches
What to do in St. Maarten
You can find plenty of islands to visit in the Caribbean, but flying to St. Maarten should be near the top of your list for your summer beach vacation. In addition to turquoise ocean water, white sandy shores, and limestone hills, this island has two distinct cultures thriving side-by-side. You can party on the French side beaches and then head to the Dutch side for tranquility.
For outdoor activities, spend a day on a mountain at Pic du Paradis. The beach at Friar’s Bay is a favourite for families, and you can find Happy Bay nearby which is great for snorkelling. Several clothing-optional beaches can be found on the island as well, with the most popular one being Orient Bay on the eastern coast.
Where to stay in St. Maarten
You’ll have no problem finding accommodation and places to eat on the island of St. Maarten. On the French side, try the Grand Case area for some excellent food options. If you’re looking for a luxurious beach getaway, the Sonesta Maho Beach Resort, Casino & Spa is a beautiful all-inclusive experience that suits couples as well as families. For a great deal by the beach, Baker’s Suites in Simpson Bay gets rave reviews.
How to get to St. Maarten
Air Transat offers direct weekly flights from Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary and Halifax and land at Princess Juliana Airport on the Dutch side. Air Canada offers direct flights from Toronto during the high season to Princess Juliana Airport and weekly flights year-round to Pointe-à-Pitre. Sunwing Airlines offers seasonal flights from destinations in Canada to Princess Juliana Airport.
What are you waiting for? Start searching for the best deals on your summer beach vacation to relax with a bit of sun, surf and sand.