During the summer, almost every beach in the U.S. is ground zero for the ultimate blend of sand and surf (or freshwater bodies for more landlocked holiday types). But when the mercury drops to the point where a cool dip becomes far too extreme for a getaway, America's choices are far more limited.

As for what's left out there, we've narrowed the choices down to three awesome beaches based on such amenities as scenery, temperature, environmental quality and of course, the level of fun expected. Some of you will have to travel further than others, but chances are all these are worth the trip.


Kailua Beach Park, Hawaii

Waikiki Beach, given the massive hotels that dot the shoreline of Honolulu, might be the most popular beach in Hawaii, but serious vacationers often prefer another spot on the island of Oahu. Kailua Beach Park boasts a picturesque getaway of bleached powdery sand and crystal turquoise blue waters that's a draw for surfers. A natural rock wall offshore interrupts the Pacific flow creating enough waves for hang-ten enjoyment.

Its lengthy shoreline, which has steadily grown to more than two and a half miles, is due to the number of private developments in nearby Lanikai who created their own artificial sea walls to cut down on erosion, which caused natural forces to shift more sand towards Kailua. Naturally, the big winners of this displacement are the fun-loving occupants bathing in the sun and waves of this area, that includes ample parking, accessible washrooms and plenty of picnic tables.

St. Petersburg/Clearwater, Florida

With the realization that the supply of U.S. beaches are going to be less than what's available in the summer, chances are some folks might worry about vacationer congestion at some of these spots. Not so with St. Petersburg/Clearwater, with 35 miles of shoreline, you'll find more than enough real estate to lay down your towel. Pick a date and chances are you'll experience plenty of rays, given that Florida annually enjoys more than 360 days of sunshine.

If your seeking something to do in the shade, the beach is also home to some 30 restaurants including FarmTable Cucina, owned by renowned chef Michael Mina who has another San Francisco eatery that earned a star from the Michelin guide. More surreal-minded visitors can check out the Dali Museum, to examine the largest assembly of Salvador Dali's works outside Spain.

St. Simons Island, Georgia

If you're looking for some additional southern charm as part of your winter beach vacation, St. Simons Island, just off the Georgian mainland might be the ticket. There are plenty of beaches on the island, but the most popular are East Beach and St. Simon Public Beach, which offers miles of seaside scenery, and plenty of sunbathing and swimming space.

Just a stone's throw further inland on St. Simons is an assortment of boutiques, hotels, restaurants and museums, with plenty of golf courses a short distance away. Outdoor adventurers tired of lazing about on the sand can take in several activities from kayaking and fishing to biking and tourist hikes.