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Hawaii beach takes top spot while NC beach dropped from Dr. Beach’s Top 10
Lighthouse Beach, North Carolina

Hawaii beach takes top spot while NC beach dropped from Dr. Beach’s Top 10

Professor releases annual Top 10 Beaches list ahead of Memorial Day weekend

May 21, 2024 at 12:17pm

A Hawaii oasis is at the top of Dr. Beach’s Top 10 Beaches while one of America’s most picturesque beaches has been struck from the 2024 list following a coastal disaster that has left it off-limits to beachgoers.

North Carolina’s Lighthouse Beach in Cape Hatteras National Seashore, which has been a Top 10 Beach for the past decade, is notably absent from this year’s list that is celebrating Hawaii’s Duke Kahanamoku Beach as the top beach of 2024. Lighthouse Beach suffered severe erosion from coastal storms in the past year, revealing the remains of an old U.S. Navy submarine spy station that, along with its concrete remains, is now leaking an oily substance, according to swimmers and surfers. The environmental mess has shut down the beach to the public and left FIU Professor Stephen Leatherman with no choice but to remove the beach from his annual Top 10 Beaches list, where it most recently came in at No. 5 in 2023.

“Lighthouse Beach is an erosion hotspot having eroded 1,500 feet in the past 100 years,” Leatherman said. “It’s a truly wonderful beach, but it’s currently caught up in an environmental and bureaucratic mess.”

Leatherman’s highly anticipated list is released annually ahead of the Memorial Day weekend. Duke Kahanamoku claimed the top spot because of its white coral sand and clear water. It also doesn’t hurt that an ancient volcano crater sits in the backdrop, he said. Located at the west end of Hawaii’s Waikiki Beach, the beach is far from the large crowds elsewhere and the widest beach on this stretch of world-famous sands. It is also protected by an offshore coral reef, which Leatherman says makes it a good beach for families with children. The nearby Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon is also a favorite bathing and swimming spot. Smoking is prohibited on all beaches in Hawaii. Leatherman awards bonus points for any beaches with smoking bans.

Known to many simply as Dr. Beach, Leatherman has selected the annual Top 10 Beaches since 1991. Previous national winners are retired and listed on his web site. Fifty criteria are used to evaluate beaches, which include water and sand quality as well as safety and management. Dr. Leatherman is an internationally known coastal scientist who has published 20 books and hundreds of scientific articles and reports about storm impacts, coastal erosion and ways to improve beach health and safety.

Leatherman is also a scientific advocate for America’s beaches, focusing on conserving the environmental integrity of the United States’ coastal areas. Even though it is no longer on his list, Lighthouse Beach remains on the North Carolina-native’s radar. He was there in 1999 when the beach’s iconic lighthouse was moved landward to save it from erosion and points out that it is the Atlantic Coast’s top surfing spot. He hopes it will return someday to his Top 10.


Dr. Beach's Top 10 Beaches for 2024

  1. Duke Kahanamoku Beach — Oahu, Hawaii
  2. Coopers Beach — Southhampton, NY
  3. Wailea Beach — Maui, Hawaii
  4. Caladesi Island State Park — Dunedin/Clearwater, Fla.
  5. Beachwalker Park — Kiawah Island, S.C.
  6. Main Beach — East Hampton, N.Y.
  7. Poipu Beach — Kauai, Hawaii
  8. Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park — Naples, Fla.
  9. Coast Guard Beach — Cape Cod, Mass.
  10. Coronado Beach — San Diego, Calif.