Best Urban Beach (2016)


Trying to decide between an urban escape and a sun-kissed beach getaway? Why not both! These 10 winning urban beaches let you swim and sun with all cultural and culinary perks of a big city close at hand.

  • Isla Verde

    Isla Verde
    San Juan, Puerto Rico

    Clean and powdery soft, this beautiful stretch of San Juan sand is so unbelievably clean it’s hard to believe it’s urban at all. Beach umbrellas and chairs are available for sunbathing, lounging with a book or people-watching; the less staid visitors are welcome to rent a jet ski instead and patrol the cool, green swells. Frequented by both tourists and locals, Isla Verde can be lively but is seldom if ever crowded.
    Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

  • Rockaway Beach

    Rockaway Beach
    New York

    Welcome to a wide, pretty urban beach so quintessentially New York, the Ramones wrote a song about it. Rock-Rock-Rockaway Beach isn’t just catchy hook, though, it’s a seaside destination that’s been a part of Queens culture for ages and, in the wake of the Hurricane Sandy, a real symbol of its community’s ability to come together and bounce back. This is New York City’s only sanctioned surfing beach. Bring your board.
    Photo courtesy of NYC & Company / Marley White

  • Bradford Beach

    Bradford Beach

    Granted, “beach” is probably not the first word that comes to mind when you think “Wisconsin,” which is why Bradford Beach is a surprising oasis in the Badger State – the city’s most popular for swimming and catching rays. Sand volleyball courts host league play all summer long and concessions keep visitors sated with food and drink. In fact, some folks love Bradford so much, they show up in wintertime for its annual Polar Bear Plunge.
    Photo courtesy of Visit Milwaukee

  • Venice Beach

    Venice Beach
    Los Angeles

    The Venice Beach Boardwalk is rife with kitschy souvenirs and circus-sideshow like street performers to be sure, but walk west of the surf shops and t-shirt stands, the tattoo parlors and medical marijuana dispensaries and the reward comes in the form of the breathtaking Pacific Ocean and the manicured sands that buffer its waves, whether windblown or gentle. Bring cash for the fire eaters, jugglers and break dancers and come ready to gawk.
    Photo courtesy of Michele & Tom Grimm

  • Oak Street Beach

    Oak Street Beach

    Chicago loves its extreme weather. Jack Frost may be its unofficial mayor in wintertime, but with summer temps that can easily soar past 100 degrees, its various and sundry Lake Michigan oases provide residents with sorely needed relief. Oak Street Beach hosts pro and amateur volleyball tourneys in the warm season and offers visitors both bike and chair rentals and concessions – along with some of the most spectacular Chicago skyline views available.
    Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

  • North Avenue Beach

    North Avenue Beach

    Lincoln Park is among Chicago’s most iconic attractions and North Ave. Beach is its signature strand, as popular with locals as visitors. Its photogenic beach house, with an ocean liner-inspired design, makes for fun photo-ops, whether of the building itself or the phenomenal views its decks and portholes supply. Retail shops and beach-related rentals such as kayaks are in high supply and refreshments – adult and otherwise – are readily available, as is beach yoga.
    Photo courtesy of City of Chicago

  • Coney Island Beach

    Coney Island Beach
    New York

    Historic Coney Island’s three miles of deep Atlantic beach boast amusements near the water’s edge and away from it, as well, in the form of basketball, handball and volleyball (in fact the AVP pro-volleyball tournament is an annual summer event). Looking for something more thrilling? Try its Boardwalk amusements and immerse yourself in Brooklyn history. Don’t forget your camera. Few urban beaches are as rife for photo-ops as one replete with games, rides and the towering iconic Wonder Wheel.
    Photo courtesy of NYC & Company / JULIENNE SCHAER

  • Santa Monica Beach

    Santa Monica Beach
    Santa Monica, Calif.

    It’s only three miles long but what this L.A.-adjacent paradise lacks in size it makes up for with stature. The Santa Monica Pier and its myriad amusements have provided a backdrop for so many film and television vehicles it may be California’s most iconic locations. Beautiful rolling sands, sparkling waves and winding paths for cyclists and pedestrians beckon, world-class food and shopping abound. And at Muscle Beach, gym rats pump iron while tourists post pics and status updates.
    Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

  • Waikiki Beach

    Waikiki Beach

    The towering beach resorts along this signature stretch of Oahu can crowd the hotels’ little slices of beachfront but those willing to walk a bit, will find room to stretch out and enjoy the astonishing blue of the ocean, whether on a surfboard or from beneath the shade of on an umbrella with a cool beverage in hand. Even so, this pretty stretch of Pacific is tourist ground zero and therefore not a go-to for a sampling of secluded island life.
    Photo courtesy of Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Dana Edmunds

  • Ocean Beach (San Diego)

    Ocean Beach (San Diego)
    San Diego

    Got sunsets? This San Diego strand does them as good as any west coast beach; the sky meets the ocean nightly in a watercolor light show that leaves even jaded locals breathless and Instagrammers using the #nofiler hashtag with abandon. Of course, this is sunny SoCal, so daytime visits are a must, as well. The vintage surf town charm isn’t fabricated here; this is where that particular brand of beach vibe was born.
    Photo courtesy of kellinahandbasket / Flickr


The top 10 winners in the category Best Urban Beach are as follows:

  1. Isla Verde - San Juan, Puerto Rico
  2. Rockaway Beach - New York
  3. Bradford Beach - Milwaukee
  4. Venice Beach - Los Angeles
  5. Oak Street Beach - Chicago
  6. North Avenue Beach - Chicago
  7. Coney Island Beach - New York
  8. Santa Monica Beach - Santa Monica, Calif.
  9. Waikiki Beach - Honolulu
  10. Ocean Beach - San Diego

Additional nominees in this category included Baker Beach in San Francisco, Brighton Beach in New York, Kitsilano Beach in Vancouver, Lake Calhoun North Beach in Minneapolis, Madison Park Beach in SeattleManhattan Beach in Los Angeles, Mission Beach in San Diego, Ocean Beach in San Francisco, Revere Beach in Boston and South Beach in Miami.

Congratulations to all 10 winning beaches!


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