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There’s not much better than a few miles along the ocean—sand under your feet, a breeze at your back, calming sounds of waves crashing. But which are the best beaches for running?
We searched the options because there is also this: A 2017 study published in the European Journal of Sport Science found that well-trained female athletes had less post-exercise muscle damage when running on soft sand versus grass; while another study in the Journal of Sport Sciences found female athletes also experienced improved aerobic fitness due to increased exercise intensity.
Finding an ideal running beach requires getting just the right mix conditions, ideally a relatively flat, uninterrupted stretch of firm sand, moderate climates, and gorgeous scenery to motivate you to keep moving. These eight check all those boxes, and more.
Santa Monica Beach, Santa Monica, California: Los Angeles’ many beaches provide long stretches of interrupted sand and sun that are great for both short and long runs. For the quintessential route, start under Santa Monica Pier and head the three miles south to Venice, where you’ll get views of the Pacific Ocean on one side, and a taste of Southern California beach life on the other—skateboard parks, funky boardwalk shops, Venice’s historic Muscle Beach, and more. Test your endurance on The Marvin Braude Bike Trail (also known as The Strand), a 22-mile paved trail for both bikers and pedestrians that stays on the beach almost the entire length.
Carmel Beach in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California: Tucked away along California’s central coast, Carmel Beach is about a one-mile crescent-shaped white-sand beach idyllically located between two scenic points—Point Lobos and Pebble Beach—and flanked by wind-swept Cypress trees. The coastal climate provides cool temperatures year-round, though the winter months can be heavy with fog and wind. Early mornings you’ll find low tide, packed sand that shimmers at the surfline, and the beach to yourself—save for a few locals walking their dogs.
Miami Beach, Florida: The bustling Miami scene extends out to the ocean, where nine miles of beach await. The sand is packed in most areas and there is a nearby running path. Colorful lifeguard towers and the glitzy Miami skyline will greet you all up and down the wide shore, and in South Beach, you’ll pass the pastel Art Deco buildings from the ‘20s and ‘30s. Temperatures are hot and humid all year, which make beach running an option even when it’s winter in the rest of the country.
Hilton Head Island Beach, South Carolina: Hilton Head Island has 12 miles of gorgeous, flat, continuous beachfront along the Atlantic Ocean—a string of several beaches with slightly different personalities. The water is warm all year, and the hard-packed sand is popular with runners, walkers, and bikers alike. Hide tide can eliminate most of the beach’s accessible dry area, so aim to head out in the early morning when the tide is low, and be prepared for some wind to add a little extra challenge.
Ala Moana Regional Park, Honolulu, Hawaii: A couple miles west of Oahu’s Waikiki, you’ll find a wide beach and grassy area called Ala Moana Regional Park. The sand is packed near the calm water, and there is also a paved trail overlooking the beach and ocean, right across from the Ala Moana Shopping Center. Continue past the beach to the adjacent man-made peninsula and park, Magic Island, which has a path that cruises past seawalls and a shallow lagoon.
Chicago Lakefront Trail, Chicago: Follow 18 miles of the Lake Michigan shoreline on the Chicago Lakefront Trail, which has markers every half mile and connects the city’s various parks, marinas, and beaches. Start at the northern section around Foster Beach and run along the sand or trail, with the lake’s blue waters and the Chicago skyline in full view.
Coney Island, New York: Mornings are the best for a quiet seaside morning run along the three miles of sandy beaches or boardwalk. In the afternoon, you can get the full (and crowded) Coney Island experience, where your jog will be accompanied by great people watching and all the sights, sounds, and smells of a carnival.
Rehoboth Beach, Delaware: Rehoboth Beach is known as a family-friendly vacation spot, but it also has about a mile and a half of fairly flat, packed sand for runners, who can also extend their path north to the peaceful Cape Henlopin State Park or south to the hopping Dewey Beach. The nearby Rehoboth Boardwalk is another fun yet busy extension of a beach run; it’s a mile long and filled with restaurants, shops, and galleries.
Narragansett Town Beach, Rhode Island: Even though it’s just a mile long, this Rhode Island beach is big on small town charm, great surfing waves, and relaxing vibes. It’s located in the center of town, easy to access for both visitors and residents, and the beach is flat, clean, and scenic. To avoid the crowds, aim for an early morning or late afternoon run. Also note the beach charges admission.