Thinking about a beach vacation to the Sunshine State? Find the perfect mix of sun and fun at some of the best beaches in South Florida. Renowned for its pristine beaches, South Florida also offers visitors adventure and nightlife in spades.
With the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Gulf of Mexico on the other, you’ll enjoy a mix of soft sand, surf, and warm waters. Beyond the beach, discover unspoiled landscapes, laid-back beachside towns, and nightlife running into the early hours of the morning.
Ready to plan the perfect Sunshine State beach vacation? Find exactly what you’re looking for on one of these favorite South Florida beaches.
Top-rated South Florida beaches
On the barrier island of Miami Beach, you’ll find one of the most talked-about public beaches in the United States. South Beach is everything you think of when Miami comes to mind. Scantily clad men and women laze on the soft white sand under the Florida sun, flanked by old-school lookout towers. Behind them is a stream of colorful joggers and rollerbladers backed by the vibrant Art Deco buildings.
Of all the South Florida beaches on this list, South Beach belongs at the top. Beyond the local atmosphere, it’s a beautiful Miami beach with the calm Atlantic Ocean softly touching down on the shore. The amenities on offer here are first class, too. With a sprawling urban park behind you and rows of restaurants and bars to keep you entertained all day long, you’ll never get bored in South Beach.
Fort Lauderdale Beach
Boasting four miles of shoreline, Fort Lauderdale Beach shares a lot of similarities with the more famous South Beach. With the sprawling white sand beach laid out in front of a smattering of inviting bars and casual dining, once again you’ll have everything you need for a memorable day by the ocean.
Fort Lauderdale Beach separates itself from its iconic sibling by providing more variety to beachgoers. The expanse of white sand and turquoise waters means it’s easy to escape the sizeable crowds flocking to the main sections of the beach.
On this top-rated Fort Lauderdale beach, families can even find a relaxing spot to hang out, with the calm waters making it easy for the young ones to get in on the fun.
More an island than a specific beach, Palm Beach brings almost 15 miles of exquisite coastline to your doorstep—on an island that’s only a half-mile wide. Once the winter home for the famous and well-to-do, Palm Beach is known for its collection of stunning palatial homes and upscale hotels. But beachgoers will find the gentle breeze and electric blue water no less inviting.
Palm Beach is a wonderful spot to try some of the water sports that you’ve promised you’d get into. You’ll find a collection of great on-shore saltwater fishing spots to go along with the ample paddleboarding and kayaking opportunities. Thanks also to the crystal clear waters, there are some splendid snorkel spots along the coast.
To add a little culture to your beach vacation, you can also head to West Palm Beach. Located on the Florida mainland, West Palm Beach teems with boutiques, art galleries, and performing arts venues.
Siesta Key Beach
Sitting along the Gulf of Mexico, Siesta Key Beach features an abundance of quartz, creating powder-white sand where you can lie down your beach towel. From your comfy spot, you’ll immediately admire the blue waters that run all the way to the western horizon.
Like a lot of popular beaches on Florida’s Gulf Coast, Siesta Beach offers visitors welcoming and shallow waters to enjoy. With lifeguards on duty, it creates a safe and family-friendly environment.
However, the major attraction of Siesta Key is the Crystal Classic Master Sand Sculpting Competition. With both local and international talent on display, you’ll get to see some of the finest sand-sculpting in the US.
Tigertail Beach Park
On the northern end of Marco Island is one of the best beaches in South Florida. Tigertail Beach Park is a unique beach experience that separates it from many on this list.
Tigertail Beach essentially has two personalities, one that’s well developed and one that’s more rugged. Within the 32-acre park, you’ll have the chance to experience both. You’ll first arrive at a manicured space, with change rooms, snack bars, playgrounds, and a spot to hire SUPs and kayaks; on the other side, you’ll find a remote sand spit, stretching three miles north, that’s one of Marco Island’s finest beaches.
Walk the rugged section along soft white sand with dolphins rising and falling in the distance. As a part of the Great Florida Birding Trail, you’ll also spot a range of shorebirds.
Lovers Key State Park
South of the renowned Fort Myers Beach, Lovers Key State Park wasn’t always so easy to reach. The remote beach was once a difficult excursion, so much so that it was said that only lovers would go to the trouble. Now, although it’s one of the more spectacular beaches in the state, it remains uncrowded. (Not that we’re complaining.)
The beach at Lovers Key State Park runs for almost 3 miles along the barrier island. With dense coastal vegetation providing a lush backdrop, it’s easy to feel a world away from the rest of Fort Myers. Beyond basking in the sun with barely another soul in sight, the park’s waterways are a common stomping ground for manatees and explorers on kayaks.
Once rated as the “Most Fun Small Town in the United States,” Delray Beach is an underrated gem found in Palm Beach County. Among the rows of palms and coastal shrubbery, Delray Beach offers everything you’d ever need on a beach day.
As the ocean breeze floats in off the coast, watch the subtle waves crash down on the sugar-sand beach. The inviting water will have you reaching for a stand-up paddleboard where you can paddle over water so clear that you can see fish skirting around beneath your feet.
When golden hour approaches, find one of the many seaside bars for an ice-cold daiquiri before venturing into the Pineapple Grove Arts District.
For a slice of heaven, add this Blue Wave award-winning beach to your itinerary. Deerfield Beach collected its award thanks to its focus on conserving nature and high water quality. Among the top-rated beaches in South Florida, it’s one of the better ones to enjoy a swim. If your smile wasn’t already big, then watch it grow as you learn the tranquility isn’t disturbed thanks to its vast open space.
Covering over 2,500 feet of turquoise coast, Deerfield Beach is a prime location for families and couples looking to get away from it all. The beach is backed by a beautiful mile-long boardwalk that meanders through the coastal grass and palm trees.
Along the way, you’ll pass the International Fishing Pier. Make your way to the end for storybook views back to civilization.
Within the heart of the Gold Coast, you can find Pompano Beach halfway between Palm Beach and Miami. The laid-back aura on Pompano Beach makes it the perfect spot to grab some beach gear and your favorite book before getting comfortable and letting the world go by.
Located along Florida’s East Coast, the beach town has a lot going on if you ever tire of relaxing under the sun. The 1,000-foot pier is free and is open 24 hours a day.
Grab some bait, tackle, and your rod, and try to land a prize catch for dinner. If you’re unsuccessful (or don’t want to cook), check out the array of beachfront restaurants.
If you want to experience some annual events, time your arrival for the annual Fishing Rodeo and the Pompano Seafood Festival.
With some of the best shelling in the United States, Captiva Island has a pristine beach just waiting to be explored. Just like Sanibel Island to the south, Captiva Island receives an abundance of shell deposits on its shoreline; pack your bags and get collecting!
Aside from finding unique shells, there’s something magical about Captiva Island. Close to Fort Myers, the barrier island still feels miles away. Walk along the beach with the white sands dancing between your toes with nothing to see but blue skies, bluer water, and swaying palm trees.
Other popular activities include bird watching along the hiking trails or learning how to sail at the nearby South Seas Island Resort.
Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge
On Jupiter Island, the Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge features an unspoiled coastline. As you make your way to the refuge, you may wonder if there’s even a beach at all. With no signs and directions, it’s hard to accidentally stumble upon this exclusive paradise.
That’s great news for you as it’s likely you’ll have a sprawling patch of sandy beach all to yourself. The beautiful beach extends for two miles before eventually connecting to the equally stunning beach in the St. Lucie Preserve. Like a lot of protected beaches, you won’t find an array of amenities, but it promises to be your own peaceful hideaway.
On the southern shores of Key West, Smathers Beach is one of the top spots to get your beach on while exploring the southernmost point of the contiguous United States. Surprisingly, Key West isn’t renowned for its beaches, but you’ll have everything you need and more here thanks to the shady palms and off-shore snorkeling.
Leave your surfboard at home and make use of the small swell to go exploring on a paddleboard or kayak. There’s even a beautiful reef off-shore waiting to be discovered while you can load up at the vending trucks found along the beachfront.
Just like Deerfield Beach, Dania Beach is another recipient of the Blue Wave award. Close to Fort Lauderdale, Dania Beach offers a serene coastal experience surrounded by calming nature. Split your time between the sand, the ocean, and the nature trails to receive the full local experience.
After walking down the Dania Beach Pier, head north to explore the Dr. Von D. Mizell-Eula Johnson State Park. Covering 250 acres, including a gorgeous coastline, the Barrier Island Nature Trail is the perfect place to walk to see both the beachfront and the extensive waterways. Keep your eye out for the turtle nesting grounds; it’s one of the most important nesting sites in the US.
Conveniently placed between Miami and Fort Lauderdale, Hallandale Beach is the perfect option if you want to avoid the many famous local beaches. In many ways, the beach is overshadowed by its siblings. But still features everything you love about southern Florida beaches.
With the wooden lifeguard towers placed along the white sands, the calm ocean lapping the shore, and plenty of room to get some vitamin D, Hallandale Beach is quintessential Florida. Beyond the shores, you’ll also find all the comforts of a beachside town with the chance to play some golf or go deep-sea fishing.
Just north of Hallandale Beach, Hollywood Beach gets all the region’s plaudits. Known for its delightful oceanside boardwalk, rated as one of the best in America, Hollywood Beach mixes activities and the beach as well as any in Florida.
Begin your day by strolling down the 2.5-mile Hollywood Beach Broadwalk, home to a series of inviting bars and delicious dining. Between them, you’ll find a collection of boutique shops and street music. Now with your bearings, step onto the exquisite sand and begin your perfect beach day in Hollywood, FL.
For those with kids in tow, spend some time beyond the sand at Charnow Park, where the kids can roam the water playground.
Located on Key Biscayne, Crandon Park is an enormous 800-acre green space that was once the largest coconut plantation in the country. Crandon Park is a great option for families thanks to its quiet personality, a number of beach activities, and the shallow sea.
Along Crandon Park Beach, you’ll have your choice of several picnic areas, space to play games or grill up a feast. If lazing on the sand all day isn’t your thing, make the most of the eco-adventure outfits that depart from the island. Another option is to take the family to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Biscayne Nature Center to explore the surrounding nature and even see turtles.
Barefoot Beach Preserve County Park
If a beach vacation is your way to de-stress, the cure for your worries can be found at Barefoot Beach Preserve County Park. The white sands, as soft as marshmallows, welcome you as you enter the 324-acre park. A natural wonder, North Naples is left in the rear-view mirror with nothing to enjoy but the world itself.
You could spend all day by the beach, reading a page-turner and letting the weight lift off your shoulders. But if you’re up for an adventure, the park is packed with acres of nature trails that lead to estuaries and hidden picnic spots.