1. Coronado Beach, California
San Diego's Hotel del Coronado is the cornerstone of Coronado Beach, which tops a list of the top ten U.S. beaches for 2012, as chosen by coastal scientist Stephen Leatherman, aka Dr. Beach.
Leatherman's annual ranking rates 650 public beaches on 50 criteria that include the presence of native plants, water quality, and overcrowding. Most of the 2012 beaches were also listed in the best beaches of 2011.
A 1.5-mile (2.4-kilometer) stretch of flat, sandy shore, Coronado Beach is great for skim-boarding and walking-plus, the mineral mica lends the sand a silvery sheen, according to the Dr. Beach website.
2. Kahanamoku Beach, Hawaii
Kahanamoku Beach located on Oahu, Hawaii, Kahanamoku Beach (pictured) is named for Duke Paoa Kahanamoku, an Olympic-gold swimmer who is "credited with introducing surfing to the outside world," Leatherman said on his website.
Leatherman measures each of the 50 beach-quality criteria on a sliding scale from one to five. Though primarily designed for swimming beaches, the criteria also help determine the nicest beaches for walking, scenery, sports, and other activities.
3. Main Beach, New York
Lifeguards beach their rescue boat at Main Beach in East Hampton, New York, in 2007.
Providing "the perfect blend of nature and built environment," Main Beach is protected by a conservation easement that dates back more than 300 years, according to Leatherman.
Frequented by many celebrities, the quartz-sand beach boasts towering sand dunes and clear blue water, and is set alongside an "idyllic" village, he said.
"The best way to get around this beach is on bicycle in order to avoid parking and to take in the beautiful vista."