East Coast vs West Coast Beaches - Which Are Better?

Discoveries

We're loathe to take a stance on the "West Coast vs. East Coast" debate. Whether you're a "West Coast Best Coast" person or prefer the Atlantic seaboard, there are beaches on both sides of the nation that offer plenty to keep beachgoers of all kinds happy. We're looking at a few comparable beaches on both coasts and giving insight on where you can find your perfect beach vacation.

Fun for All Ages

Myrtle Beach vs Santa Monica

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Myrtle Beach is your quintessential American seaside resort. If round-the-clock entertainment accompanied by hordes of excitable beachgoers is your thing then you’ll be in the right place. Calm waters lap at the shores of the sandy beach, which lends itself to boating, kayaking, parasailing, swimming and more. Amusement centers, curios shops, eclectic restaurants and nightlife options line up on the boardwalk promenade and downtown streets. Situated at the heart of the 60-mile-long Grand Strand, there’s dozens of other beaches to discover within a short drive.

At the western end of Route 66 is Santa Monica, a coastal treasure where celebrities and surfers delight in the balmy year-round climate. Alike Myrtle, there’s bags of culinary, entertainment and nightlife attractions to discover downtown and at the historic Santa Monica Pier. Despite an upmarket tag, Santa Monica is accessible to all. There’s almost always a quiet patch of sand to rest upon on the 3.5-mile-long beach. And exploring the Marvin Braude Bike Trail (aka The Srand) will bring you to everywhere from quirky Venice Beach to quiet enclaves.

Hang Ten

Cocoa Beach vs Huntington Beach

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Kelly Slater grew up and learned to surf at Florida’s Cocoa Beach, therefore it's legendary among the surf community. Waves here are consistent and ideal for beginners, although you’ll find riders of all levels in the crystal-clear waters. Mild year-round temperatures make the beach ever popular but most come to kick back on the golden sands, meaning surfers aren’t necessarily overcrowded when catching waves. Ron Jon Surf Shop and its Florida Surf Museum is a celebration of everything vintage and modern in the surfing world.

Over on the Pacific, California’s Huntington Beach is Surf City USA and the host of the annual World Surf League US Open of Surfing. It lures seasoned surfers and wannabes in search of the sun-kissed SoCal dream and a no worries lifestyle. Think reliable waves, dozens of surf shops, the International Surf Museum and bonfires on the beach after sunset. As an added bonus, there’s not one but five beaches to choose from along the city’s 10-mile-long shoreline.

Escape the Crowds

Sandbridge Beach vs Hobbit Beach

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Located on Virginia’s Currituck Banks Peninsula, Sandbridge Beach is the ultimate in east coast rest and relaxation. Wild dunes and sea oats frame the all-but-deserted expanse of pristine golden sand and you’ll often be wondering where everyone else is. Rent a beachfront house or condo to be a stone’s throw from the beach, back bays and framing marshland. Should you want to inject some adventure into your getaway then do so by bird-spotting at Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge and by joining a sea kayaking excursion.

To get away from it all on Oregon’s central coastline, simple pull over on the Oregon Coastal Highway and hike a short trail to Hobbit Beach. You’ll often encounter more crabs, driftwood and tidal pools than people here, which only adds to scheduled charm. The sunsets against a backdrop of sandstone cliffs creates an element of mysticism. Get active by continuing on the forested trail to the Hereto Head Lighthouse. A car is necessary to get here and the closest urban area is Florence, located 12.5 miles south.

Wildlife Encounters

Assateague Island vs Second Beach

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Those who read Marguerite Henry’s Misty of Chincoteague as a child will be familiar with wild horses of Assateague Island National Seashore. About 300 of them roam freely around this barrier-island’s pine forests, salt marshes and 37 miles of gorgeous beaches. Enjoy intimate encounters with them on guided boat and kayak tours. Gulls, ospreys, peregrine falcons and other bird species make this a true haven for nature lovers. If you want to stay overnight, then pitch a tent at the campground located toward the north of the island.

Reachable by foot only, Second Beach, in Washington’s Olympic National Park, is the kind of place that evokes images of an ethereal land. Sea stacks sit in the ocean like towers and when the tide is exceptionally low you can spot curios creatures, such as starfish and sponges, in tidal pools. Meanwhile, gulls and oystercatchers circle above looking for prey. The beach is part of the Whale Trail so time your visit well to see gray whales and the occasional orca and humpback.

Exciting Nightlife

Atlantic City vs Ocean Beach

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With casinos and 24-hour liquor licenses, Atlantic City is like a coastal Las Vegas. Simply stroll down the Atlantic City Boardwalk (the longest in the world) to meet like-minded revelers in search of hedonistic fun at beach bars, cocktail lounges, dance clubs, live music venues and themed pubs. Most venues embrace a five o’clock somewhere philosophy and offer happy hour drinks throughout the day. Nightlife takes on a family friendly vibe at the arcades and fairground rides on Steel Pier. Just be careful when chasing Lady Luck at the casinos.

Head to San Diego’s Ocean Beach if the idea of surfing all day followed by evenings mixing it up at bohemian SoCal nightlife spots sounds appealing. You’ll meet a healthy mix of San Diegites, backpackers and surfers at dive bars and swanky lounges. Fish tacos and craft beers feature high on the agenda and you can enjoy nightly live music at the Ocean Beach Farmers Market. Outside of summer, the Oktoberfest is all about raucous bratwurst-eating and beer-swilling fun. And when you exhaust the options here, Mission Bay, Pacific Beach and La Jolla are a short drive away.

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