If you thought you needed a passport to have a tropical holiday, think again. Or if you are heading to the US on holiday and want the best of mountains, beaches, and everything in between, all is not lost! There are plenty of local warm water beaches that offer sunshine and warmth both in and out of the water.
Hawaii has the warmest water beaches in the USA but is not the only place in the country that has beaches you will not be frozen in without a wetsuit. There are a number of warm water beaches in the USA, particularly in the south of the country such as Florida and California.
To learn what these are, where the prettiest beaches are, and what to consider for your next beach vacation without leaving the borders, we’ve got you covered. The hardest part will be deciding which beach to go to.
Where in the US are the warmest water beaches?
You probably won’t be too surprised about where in the country these beaches are located – they are areas known for sunshine and good weather in general. If you’re looking for specific spots that will come as close to guaranteed warm water as possible in the US, then look no further.
- Oahu, Hawaii, has around 125 beaches on the island, and if you’re looking for a vibe, then Waikiki Beach is the place to be. For somewhere a little more peaceful, check out Waimanalo Beach Park.
- Big Island, Hawaii, has many beautiful beaches, including a few white sand areas on the Kohala Coast. With very little rainfall per year, days are filled with sunshine, and clear blue waters await.
- Maui, Hawaii, is a slightly quieter island option and still has plenty of gorgeous beaches. It is possible to spot whales around the island during winter, and there is generally less rain on the West of the island, making for better beach weather.
- Palm Beach, Florida, is kept warm thanks to the Gulf Stream and is great for beach lovers, swimmers, and divers alike. The upscale area has plenty of options for shopping and fine dining, too, for those looking for more than just a great beach in their holiday.
- Miami, Florida, is well-known for its fantastic beaches and warm waters year-round. South Beach provides stretches of white sand, beach parties, and warm water, perfect for those looking for some warmth. If you’re looking for somewhere quieter and cleaner in the area, try Bal Harbor.
- The Florida Keys, Florida, is the southernmost part of Florida and is a great option for those seeking more than just sunshine. Snorkeling, scuba diving, deep-sea fishing, and water sports are all popular in this part of the world, and while there aren’t many natural beaches, this is well worth a visit for the beautiful warm water.
- San Diego, California, is cooler, being on the Pacific Ocean, but does have beautiful turquoise waters that, as far south as San Diego is, has some warmer waters. With boardwalks, surfing, and other water activities, there is plenty to keep you occupied on the beach and in the water.
- Santa Barbara, California, boasts mountain and ocean views, and the beaches are sublime. Relaxed and laid-back, this is a great spot to come to relax and unwind if you’re looking for everything from warmer waters and mountain activities to wine tasting and exploring the Spanish-style downtown area.
- Santa Monica, California, has a relaxed atmosphere, a festive boardwalk, and more than three hundred days of sunshine per year.
- Jetty Beach in Carlsbad, California, has a power plant behind it from which warm water flows out into the ocean, heating the water unnaturally, but making for very pleasant swimming conditions.
Avila, Long, and Laguna beaches also deserve notable mentions for having some of the warmest water in California. South Florida, southern California, and Hawaii are generally speaking the best options you have for finding warmth, even in the dead of winter, December through to February. Sipping a cocktail and reading a book is possible without hassling with border control, and warm water awaits you.
Where is the warmest ocean water in the US?
The Pacific Ocean has much warmer water than the Atlantic Ocean because it has about four times the intensely heated surface area of water from the tropics than the Atlantic ocean, so in general, one would expect the water along the West coast of the USA to have warmer waters than the East coast.
However, because the ocean currents go in a clockwise direction, the West coast of the USA largely gets colder water from the Alaskan gulf coming down from the north, making Southern California the warmest waters along this coast, as it’s the furthest south. On the opposite East coast of the country, warm waters are being pushed upwards from the gulf.
In addition, the further south you go on both sides of the country, the closer to the equator you get, which has warm water all year round, so this is where the warmest water in the country will be. Parts of Florida are also exposed to the Gulf Stream, a warm body of water that moves upward from the Gulf of Mexico and then out into the Pacific in a northeasterly direction.
Which beaches in the US have the white sand tropical look?
For many people, what makes a beach nice is the clarity of the water and the whiteness of the sand. Add to this some shade or warmer water, and not much beats that if you’re looking for a natural beach. Perhaps you don’t mind if you’re not on the warmest beaches in the country but want to feel that tropical holiday vibe that makes you think you’re on an island somewhere.
If white sand, palm trees, and sunshine are what you’re looking for, with not necessarily the warmest ocean, you don’t have to leave the US to feel like you’re on an island paradise trip. The following beaches are very instagrammable, and with or without the cocktail in a coconut, you’ll be sipping on, will definitely leave you feeling relaxed as can be.
- Lanikai Beach, Oahu, Hawaii is a local gem, except you actually are on a tropical island, but one that doesn’t require going through passport control to get there. The bonus of being on this glorious beach? The water is as tropical in temperature as it looks.
- Orange Beach, Alabama, is one that surprises many. With white sand tucked into the Gulf of Mexico, the miles of white beach has turquoise waters and southern hospitality to make your trip just that much sweeter.
- Clearwater Beach, Florida, has topped the country’s list of best beaches and has white sand in abundance. With shallow blue water, this is a beautiful spot with warm water that is a firm favorite of many.
- Marco Island, Florida, is on the Gulf of Mexico and is the largest of the Ten Thousand Islands, filled with beautiful beaches and quaint fishing villages that will make for a memorable holiday (with lovely warm water, to boot).
- Carmel Beach, California, is an iconic white sand beach, with mountains and greenery framing this bay. In addition, given its position on the West Coast of the country, this beach offers magical sunset views and is a must-visit for anyone traveling along this stretch of coastline.
Whether you travel to these destinations specifically to make a holiday out of the trip or just find yourself in the area on another road trip, they are definitely worth stopping at and will relax you and give you a feeling of being a thousand miles away in a dreamy paradise.
Warm winter beach holidays on local islands
Even when it’s snowing in the dead of winter, there are places in the US where you can enjoy a beach holiday under sunny skies that will have you thinking you’re in another country without crossing the border. And not just any places, but islands, no less. These local islands have beautiful beaches that are warm year-round and offer great getaways.
- Amelia Island, FL – Thirteen miles of beach that is largely deserted over winter, this is a tropical paradise that has an old fort and a historic district that will give you something besides beaches to explore.
- Avery Island, LA – Home to the Tabasco Factory, this largely undeveloped island has plenty of local wildlife on it and plenty of restored Bed and Breakfasts to stay in.
- Caladesi Island, FL – Unless you’re sleeping in the marina, there is no accommodation or cars on the island, so a day trip is the best way to explore the three miles of pristine beach on this gem off the Gulf of Mexico. It’s a place to explore mangroves and sand dunes alike and have a picnic lunch before heading back to the mainland.
- Catalina Island, CA – Getting around on golf cart rentals, bikes, or your own two feet is the order of the day on this island located twenty-two miles off the coast. A ferry can drop you off, and you can sleep on the island, so come prepared for a little getaway, but know that you won’t be alone in doing so.
- Daufuskie Island, SC – With plenty of open space, this largely undeveloped island is a car-free zone that can be explored by golf cart or foot. With island cottages and a limited number of restaurants, this is more of a rustic experience than a glam getaway.
- Molokai, HI – Without traffic lights or large hotels, this is one of the least visited islands in Hawaii and has some of the world’s highest cliffs, with accessible beaches mostly on the southern side of the island. The limited accommodation can be expensive, but the scenery is beautiful and worth the visit.
- South Padre Island, TX – With a reputation for its impressive sandcastle building, this is a sleepy town to visit when college students aren’t taking it over. Go out of season to explore rustic bars and crafts, much of it originating from Mexico, in case the island name didn’t give away the Spanish influence.
- Tybee Island, GA – This charming island doesn’t try to impress but rather has a beach kitsch nostalgic feeling that is laid back and offers five miles of white sand beaches to explore lazily.
When is the best time to swim?
If you’re looking for the warmest water, you might want to think not only about beaches to swim in and where is best but also about your timing. When you visit these beaches, and even what time of day you swim has an impact on how warm the water you experience is. If you want to maximize your chances of getting the warmest water, we’ve got some tips for you.
August and September are usually the best months to swim if you’re looking for the highest sea temperatures. The sun has made the air temperature warmer for a couple of months already, and the accumulation of heat is stored in the water, which retains heat more than the air does.
The consequence of this is that towards the end of summer, this buildup of heat in the water makes it the warmest time of the year before it starts dropping off in the fall. Planning your trip over this period also usually helps to avoid the school and college break rush, so you’ll be in for a more peaceful break too.
In terms of the time of day you choose, water retains heat much better than the air does.
his means that even during the evening, when the land and air temperatures drop, the water on the surface that cools mixes with the warmer water below in the sea to maintain a stable temperature overnight.
Depending on how much the air cools in the evenings, it could be that the temperature of the sea feels warmer at night if the air temperature drops enough because the difference between them is smaller.
Are warm water beaches best?
There is a growing body of research showing the benefits of swimming in cold water. It can help to flush your veins, capillaries, and arteries by bringing your blood to the surface and improving your circulation.
A number of benefits arise from cold water swimming. It boosts your immune system, releases endorphins, thereby making you feel happier and giving you a natural high. It can help to improve your libido, reduce your stress levels and even burn calories as your body works harder to retain heat and fight against the cold.
There are safe ways in which to do this, though, and diving headfirst into icy water is not one of them! If you’re just thinking about going for a swim at the beach in colder water on your holiday, make sure that you know your body’s limits and don’t stay in longer than you feel comfortable doing.
Warm up slowly in the sun afterward. Do this every day, even multiple times a day, and you will feel the benefit to your body. This is a great way to refresh yourself naturally before going back to your book and cocktail on your beach holiday.
Needless to say, for those who want to sip cocktails out of coconuts in the sunshine and get in and out of the water all day, having warm water is fabulous and adds to that relaxed feeling. But for those who still want the warmth on their skin, beautiful beaches, and a tropical feeling out of the water, but who are prepared to take a cold dip, you have many more options locally, and it’s actually good for your body. Why not give it a try if you can get out of the water into the sunshine and warm up again in a couple of minutes?!
If you can’t find what you’re looking for from a beach in the USA, then you’re probably doomed! There is so much variety in beaches in the country, from local fishing village beaches to natural beaches, to upscale restaurants and shopping-lined beaches to boardwalks and water-sport-filled beaches. Whatever it is you’re looking for, warm water included, you’ll be able to find locally. So book that holiday and get exploring what’s right on your doorstep!