Just half an hour's drive north of San Diego, Encinitas's shores draw surfers and sunset beachcombers.
Tip: When visiting the beaches of Encinitas, make time to swing by Pannikin Coffee & Tea. Delicious coffee (and coffee-related beverages), oversize gluten-free muffins, a yummy breakfast burrito, and local art are just some of its perks. Started in 1968 at this location, it's a mainstay of San Diego coffee culture. Another delicious local joint is Swami's Cafe on Hwy 101. Enjoy a fresh juice and a hearty brunch surrounded by Encinitas residents in flip-flops and board shorts. --Carolyn Fox, Digital Director, National Geographic Travel
Nauset Beach, in Orleans, Massachusetts.
Tip: The Hole in One—serving a breakfast worth waking up for. This family-run, Orleans institution has served locals tasty omelets, hashes, benedicts, pancakes, and fritters at its cozy counter for over 20 years. Most noteworthy: the Cape-inspired cranberry walnut pancakes, and Fisherman's Favorite Omelet (with smoky, Portuguese linguica sausage). Or, hankering for something sweet? Get in line early (it opens at 5 a.m.—and yes, there are lines) and order a box of the delicious hand-cut doughnuts. Over 20 varieties to choose from. Definitely try the Honeycreme or Whoopeecreme, but don't leave without the classic New England cruller. --Jerry Sealy, Creative Director, National Geographic Traveler
Tip: Always bring a retractable steel shovel; it beats plastic anytime and saves a ton of time/effort when the kids insist you dig up the beach. Sliced fruit and ice water in an insulated cooler are also a must, as well as a small first-aid kit, trash bags, and of course, kites and Frisbees for entertainment. --Keith Bellows, Editor in Chief, National Geographic Traveler
Boca Grande, Florida
Tip: Be sure to visit Cayo Costa State Park, just south of Boca Grande. It is one of Florida's most beautiful parks with its crystal clear waters, diverse wildlife, and stunning views over the Gulf of Mexico. My family camped here almost every year and I have so many great memories of the place and the wildlife I encountered there.
Gulf Shores, Alabama
Tip: I'm originally from Louisiana and used to make a trip to Gulf Shores at least once a year with family or friends. The big "must-do" is a visit to Flora-Bama, a bar located just 20 minutes away in Pensacola, Florida. It's southern, divey, and was the inspiration for Jimmy Buffet's song "Bama Breeze." It's a hot spot for locals and tourists alike. Be sure to try the Bushwacker, which is a delicious but deadly frozen concoction of coconut, coffee liqueur, and cream. --Lindsay White, Program Manager, National Geographic Adventures