California may finally land ‘best beach'
Coronado likely to win top beach title
Later this week, in one of the traditions of summer's eve, an oceanography professor in Florida will announce the "best beach in the United States."
Compiling reams of data on 50 factors ranging from water quality to amount of sun to water temperature to public access, "Dr. Beach" will unveil his choice in a list that will be embargoed for media release on May 25. So we'll just have to wait for the surprise winner.
Nah, I'll tell you now.
It's going to be Coronado Beach in San Diego.
Or if you want to go for a long shot, Kahanamoku Beach in Hawaii.
See, one of the quirks of this annual announcement is that once a beach wins, it is retired from competition. After two decades, the list of off-the-table sand strands is pretty long. It covers just about every great beach in Hawaii and Florida (Dr. Beach is partial to his home state's beaches), along with a smattering from New York and North Carolina. The following year, No. 2 or maybe No. 3 moves up to the top spot. Since Coronado was No. 2 last year and Kahanamoku No. 3, it's their time.
So when the local tourism folks in Coronado or Waikiki go all out about how they have the best beach in America, realize that in reality it's about No. 20 or so. The likelihood of hyperventilating marketing is especially high this year since two resorts with high-powered public relations teams sit on the two top beach candidates. The Hotel del Coronado has anchored the wide sands south of San Diego for over a century. Meanwhile, the massive and massively popular Hilton Hawaiian Village sits on the lip of Kahanamoku Beach. Having the best beach in the country for guests to stick their toes into right outside the back door is no small thing.
Now, two quick points:
First, I think Coronado and Kahanamoku are long overdue. If Coronado wins, it will be the first California beach to get to the top of the list. Dr. Beach has said California's beaches are too cold and often too polluted to make his cut. He's run through the best of the Hawaii beaches – Kapalua on Maui was the first No. 1. But some of the other choices have been iffy. I'd take Coronado or Kahanamoku over Long Island or the Outer Banks. I'd wager most travelers would agree.
Plus, though I love poking fun at Dr. Beach's list, it's mostly for a good cause. Dr. Beach is actually Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman, director of the Laboratory for Coastal Research at Florida International University. He's started the National Healthy Beaches Campaign, which seeks to keep pollution, litter and overdevelopment away from fragile coastal areas. The campaign doesn't endorse Leatherman's list, but the cause is largely the same – to get people to look at beaches as a natural place. If the Dr. Beach list helps the cause, more power to it.
I once criticized the list by pointing out that it left off beaches in California like Malibu and Laguna while giving the nod to obscure state parks in the muggy, buggy Florida panhandle. But a friend said after reading my column that maybe that was the point. All those Beach Boys songs and "Beach Blanket Bingo"-type movies led California beaches to be loved to death. Orange County's Doheny State Beach, mentioned in "Surfin' Safari," has been rated the state's most polluted beach several times by the environmental group Heal the Bay in years past.
So California, if Coronado wins this year, celebrate. Because in Dr. Beach's conga line of annual best beaches, we have no more Golden State candidates on the horizon.
2011 Siesta Beach, Sarasota, Fla.
2010 Coopers Beach, Long Island (Southampton, N.Y.)
2009 Hanalei Bay, Kauai, Hawaii
2008 Caladesi Island State Park, Dunedin/Clearwater, Fla.
2007 Ocracoke Lifeguarded Beach, Outer Banks, N.C.
2006 Fleming Beach Park, Maui, Hawaii
2005 Fort DeSoto Park – North Beach, St Petersburg, Fla.
2004 Hanauma Bay, Oahu,Hawaii
2003 Kaanapali, Maui, Hawaii
2002 St. Joseph Peninsula State Park, Fla.
2001 Poipu Beach, Maui,Hawaii
2000 Kaunaoa Beach,Big Island, Hawaii
1999 Wailea Beach, Maui,Hawaii
1998 Kailua Beach Park, Oahu, Hawaii
1997 Hulopoe, Maui, Hawaii
1996 Lanikai Beach, Oahu,Hawaii
1995 St. Andrews SRA, Fla.
1994 Grayton Beach SRA, Fla.
1993 Hapuna, Big Island,Hawaii
1992 Bahia Honda SRA, Fla.
1991 Kapalua Bay Beach, Maui, Hawaii