The 5 Best Beaches That Are Also US National Parks

The majesty of the national park system is as diverse as it is breathtaking. Virtually every type of climate and natural feature is covered, from the geysers and waterfalls of Yellowstone, to the granite cliffs and ancient forests of Yosemite, to the arid deserts of Death Valley, and even nature polar wilderness of the Arctic Gates. But, of course, this is also true for the sandy shores, with several federally protected sites hosting some of the most pristine beachfronts you can find. Read on to see which beaches are also among America’s most beloved national parks.

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Despite being one of the most remote and second least visited parks in the entire system, it’s no surprise that American Samoa National Park is home to spectacular stretches of coral sand beaches. Along with the stunning waterfronts spread across three islands, the park offers plenty of hikes that can provide even better views, as well as opportunities to learn more about local Samoan culture.

But if you plan on getting wet, you might want to pack some extra snorkel gear. According to the National Park Service (NPS), about 4,000 acres of the park are located underwater, where coral reefs are home to more than 900 species of fish.

An aerial view of Dry Tortugas National Park in Florida

Florida is known worldwide for its warm climate and famous beaches. Unsurprisingly, one of the state’s three national parks offers pristine stretches of sand just a short ferry or plane ride away.

“Dry Tortugas National Park is made up of seven islands located in the turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico, 70 miles offshore from Key West,” Erin Morelandtravel blogger at Super Simple Salty Life, says Better life. “With powdery white sand, shady palm trees, and miles of ocean as far as the eye can see, the Dry Tortugas offer some of the most beautiful unspoilt beaches in the United States. Whether you prefer snorkeling through coral reefs, sunbathing on the soft sands, or swim in the warm, crystal clear waters, this national park should be on your beach trip list!”

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Indiana Dunes National Park

Not all of the famous beaches in the national park system are in tropical or subtropical climates. In fact, even the Midwest can lay claim to some of the most coveted coastlines in the United States.

“Whether you’re hiking the scenic sand dunes, bird watching, or just enjoying a relaxing day on the beaches of Lake Michigan, Indiana Dunes National Park is the perfect park for a quick getaway.” Brooke Bergena travel blogger and founder of Brooke in Boots, previously said Better life. “It’s also located between Michigan City and Gary, Indiana, making it less than an hour’s drive from Chicago.”

View of a black sand beach near Ohe'o Pools in Haleakala National Park, Maui, Hawaii

No visit to Maui would be complete without admiring the island’s stunning natural beauty, and many outdoor enthusiasts travel to Haleakalā National Park to do just that. Although the park is known for its beautiful volcanic craters and challenging hikes, many of its trails can also pass the rugged coastline and some of the site’s hidden beaches.

But while the gorgeous black sand is truly a sight to behold and good for walking around, you might want to wait before diving into the waves: The NPS warns that “swimming is not recommended…due to ‘a number of security issues’.

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Virgin Islands National Park
David Samuel/Shutterstock

When it comes to white sand beaches, few people need remember that the US Virgin Islands is home to some of the most stunning coastline in the world. However, many may not realize that two-thirds of the island of St. John is designated as a national park, which makes its white-sand locales feel tucked away from the overdeveloped, heavily touristy beaches that l found elsewhere in the Caribbean.

Whether spotting sea turtles in Maho Bay, snorkeling among the reefs of Trunk Bay, or relaxing in the sands of Cinnamon Bay, the park offers a unique experience for visitors looking to learn more about the tropical and maritime ecosystem or just to bounce back.