Trips to the beach are standard fare for most summer travelers, but crowded stretches of sand can make vacations more of a pain than a pleasure. Some beaches offer a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle, and allow visitors to escape the crowds at more popular destinations. From an isolated nature retreat nestled along Virgina's Outer Banks, to a picturesque coastal village with towering seawalls in Washington, these beaches prove that bigger doesn't necessarily mean better--and that getting away doesn't need to be a headache. Here are our picks for America's Best Under-the-Radar beaches.--Emily Wasserman
Only accessible by boat or plane, Dry Tortugas offers a peaceful getaway away from the mainland's hustle and bustle. The park is located 70 miles off the shores of Key West, and consists of seven small islands and a sprawling coral reef. History buffs can explore Fort Jefferson, a 19th-century building that once held political prisoners. For epic snorkeling and diving, head to offshore coral heads. The colorful reefs are home to brain coral, swaying sea fans and tropical fish, and include sandy spots to rest and take in the sun.
Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor's Florida Keys Guide
Most beachgoers have heard of Virginia Beach, but few are familiar with its tiny neighbor to the south. Located 15 miles away from the resort area, Sandbridge features pristine dunes and secluded beaches away from the Virginia Beach crowds. Visitors can explore the marshes and open waters of Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, or kayak and hike through False Cape State Park.
Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor's Virginia Guide
Where: South Carolina
Also known as Lowcountry's summer playground, Folly Beach offers a variety of water sports and attractions. Swimmers and surfers can hang ten at Folly's Washout, and visitors can take in ocean views from the beach's popular pier. The beach town is also home to delicious seafood, and beachgoers can enjoy the day's catch at restaurants overlooking the water.
Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor's Charleston Guide
Dramatic bluffs and emerald green headlands are just a few of the things you'll find at Washington's Second Beach. Second is one of a triumvirate of Olympic Coast gems, with First and Third Beaches nearby. Visitors can only access the beach by walking along a hiking trail, but the journey is worth the effort; beachgoers can catch a glimpse of offshore sea stacks through towering spruce trees, and hear the waves crashing against the shore.
Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor's Olympic National Park Guide
Few beaches top Hawaii's Awahua in terms of sheer natural beauty and rich natural history. The isolated stretch of sand was originally a colony for lepers, and is still less developed than the state's other islands. Visitors can reach the picturesque coastline through a hiking trail, or take in breathtaking views of the cliffs and water from a public lookout next to the trailhead.
Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor's Hawaii Travel Guide
Georgia's Cumberland Island has it all: The 18-mile beach features unspoiled marshes, dunes, and forests that are largely untouched by civilization or time. Beachgoers can stroll under dense canopies of live oaks, or watch wild horses roam across pristine beaches. The public can only access the island via ferry, making it one of the state's most secluded getaways.
Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor's Coastal Isles and the Okefenokee Guide