With thousands of miles of coastline, America is not lacking in beaches. And where there are beaches, cocktails can’t be far behind. Even though combining booze and the sun can be risky, there are few pleasures as symbolic of summertime as a cold drink in your hand and your feet in the sand.
We’ve taken on the fortunate task of seeking out the most unique, memorable beach bars in America, from the highbrow to the quirky. Our search led us not only to the obvious warm weather locations of California, Hawaii, and Florida, but also to beaches bordering slightly chillier waters. We’ve rounded up a list with something for everyone: Whether you enjoy your cocktails with palm trees and reggae, or bald eagles and seagulls, we’ve got you covered. We invite you to sink your toes deep in the sand and pop open a cold one, as we take a tour of some of America’s best watering holes near the water.
This iconic hotspot is named in honor of Duke Kahanamoku, an Olympic champion and the “Ambassador of Aloha,” who was born in Waikiki in 1890 and is credited with introducing surfing to the world. Try the Tropical Itch, a delicious concoction of rum, vodka, and passion fruit juice, and which is served, sensibly, with a backscratcher.
With “the best view in Asbury Park overlooking the south beach,” the Beach Bar doesn’t disappoint. This Jersey shore fixture does its part to contribute to the local music scene by offering live music nearly every evening of the week, including Sinatra nights and Uke & Drum events. Their Rum Buckets would make The Boss proud as well.
Beachcomber of Wellfleet/Yelp
At the Beachcomber, your drinks come with a spectacular view of the Atlantic Ocean. Lying within the Cape Cod National Seashore, the “Comah” was originally built as a Life Saving Service Station in 1897, before being converted into an inn in 1953. It’s been ranked No. 10 on the Travel Channel’s “Twenty-One Sexiest Beach Bars in the World” list. The more than 3 million Goombay Smashes (a blend of rum and mixed juices with a Myers float) that they’ve sold might have something to do with the ranking. Can’t get to Cape Cod? Making frozen cocktails at home is a breeze with these 5 frozen cocktail recipes.
Beach bars aren’t always about sand in your toes, and neither are they necessarily synonymous with buckets of beer. Watch the sun go down over the ocean in “barefoot elegance” at this breathtaking bar situated in the Four Seasons Hualalai on the exclusive Kona-Kohala Coast. Sip a tropical margarita and try to imagine if this were really your life. Fancy people need beach bars too, after all. And there’s a right and a wrong way to make a margarita at home. Find out how to make them the right way.
Soak up the rays and the languid vibe at the Blue Lounge bar on the patio of the famed Moonshadows restaurant. Built on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, it’s rated one of Thrillist’s 11 Best Beach Bars in America. Relax in cabanas during the day and chill to DJs and blue mood lighting at night. It’s hard to imagine it gets any better than taking in the stunning California coastline with a cool glass of rosé in your hand.
Coast Guard House/Yelp
It’s difficult to decide which is better at the Coast Guard House: the food, the drinks, or view. Originally built as a Life Saving Service Station, the restaurant has been in operation since 1940, with the dining room and lounge recently receiving an update, thanks to Super Storm Sandy. Out on the deck, sample the extensive raw bar or one of the many cocktails made with New England spirits. Pull up a chair on the patio and enjoy a cold beer while taking in panoramic views of Narragansett Bay.
A laidback bar with a dedicated local following and friendly staff, Connolly’s is a great place to hit up after a day surfing Rockaway Beach. Any bar you can walk into wearing a salt-crusted bikini and take a strong, frozen drink to go is truly a gem. Don’t leave without trying a frozen piña colada (or three) — they definitely don’t scrimp on the liquor. If you’re nowhere near the Rockaways, try these 10 frozen drinks to sip before summer ends.
Named such because it straddles the Florida-Alabama state line, this honky-tonk roadhouse is a Gulf coast landmark, famous for its epic parties. Stop in for a concert, bikini contest, bull-riding on the beach, or mullet toss while you chug a Bushwacker for the best time you’ll never remember. For those who like a little religion with their rum, experience “Church in a Bar” by attending one of the weekly services. You can even take home the T-shirt: “My Church Is at the Flora-Bama.”
Half MoonBay Brewing Company/Yelp
Ranked by Travel + Leisure magazine as one of America’s Best Beach Bars, this green-certified brewery is the perfect place to combine a love of beer with a love of the outdoors. Sit out on the dog-friendly patio and enjoy a Full Swing IPA while drinking in the stunning San Mateo coastline.
How can a ranking of the best beach bars not include something named Margaritaville? This seasonal beachside bar has a fin-shaped fire pit, hammocks, and live music most weekends, not to mention a cocktail list as long as your sunburned arm, full of classics like the Painkiller, Bahama Mama, and Rum Runner.
The self-proclaimed “Pulse of Islamorada,” Lorelei has got you covered, whether you’re seeking nightly live music, local seafood, deliciously strong cocktails, or all of the above. Perched on a deck directly over the water, Lorelei is an incredible place to catch one of Islamorada’s world-famous sunsets. Bonus points if you turn up for “Sunday School,” the happy hour from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. featuring $3 screwdrivers and mimosas.
Nikki Beach is a South Beach landmark, and one of its most elite luxury beach clubs. Relax in private cabanas if you need a break from the festivities during the daytime, and cool off with a frośe or adult milkshake. This sprawling, non-stop party is literally on the beach, with resident and guest DJs turning it up when the nighttime hits.
Overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and nestled among sand dunes, this casual, friendly bar is the perfect place to land after a day at the beach. A favorite among locals as well as visitors, the Tiki Bar is built on the ruins of the Center Pier, which was destroyed in 1996 by Hurricane Fran. Catch one of the summer tiki shows that feature live bands every Thursday night, and enjoy the sounds as the sun sets over the ocean. Have tiki fever? Try these 8 tiki cocktails to make for your next party...or for next Tuesday.
Lovingly referred to as “Old Tony’s,” this bar has been around since 1952 and is situated on the Redondo Beach pier, right on the Pacific Ocean. Head up to the bird’s nest bar, also called the “Top of Tony’s,” to catch the sunset and one of their famous mai tais, which they’ve been serving for over 50 years.
Since it first opened in 1996, Pelican Pub and Brewery remains “the only beachfront brewpub in the Pacific Northwest.” Relax on the beach patio and sample one of the rotating tap beers, such as Kiwanda Cream Ale or Berried at Sea American Stout. Go on a brewery tour, watch the surfers, catch the sunset, and then sample another.
This laid-back Cape May mainstay has been encouraging people to wear flip-flops all day long since the ‘70s. Try their signature drink, The Hammer, and in their words, “take the rest of the day off.” It’s a mix of Gosling’s and coconut rum, with passion fruit, pineapple, and lemon juices, and served in a take-home, hollowed-out coconut. At night, gather around the fire pit and enjoy live music, with both two- and four-legged friends.
A fixture on the Santa Monica pier — not on but right above the beach — for over 20 years, this beloved bar and grill is adorned with vintage surfboards and beach memorabilia, and is famous for their signature Big Kahuna burger. Catch live music all weekend long, or stop by during happy hour for a Blue Iguana margarita while you gaze out over the Pacific.
Seacrets calls itself “Destination Jamaica, U.S.A.,” and you will definitely feel like you’re on a spring break at this lively waterfront behemoth. Catch live music at any of the multiple stages, including the Tiki Stage and Pier Stage at ‘Da Bay, as you swill a Pain in de Ass, the house specialty made by layering frozen rum runner and piña colada.
In the realm of beach bars, this place is a national landmark, and not just because it’s where Jimmy Buffett and Alan Jackson’s “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere” music video was filmed. The curious term “square grouper”? It’s a nickname given to “bales of marijuana thrown overboard or out of planes,” according to Urban Dictionary. It’s always 5 o’clock in Jupiter, Florida.
The massive outdoor bar at this laid-back hotel is hopping all summer long, with live music and DJs, including a free summer concert series. A short hop from the beach and overlooking Fort Pond at the very tip of Long Island, the 2,600-square-foot deck and cocktail lounge is a giant, non-stop party.
A beach bar in Alaska? It makes sense when you consider that Alaska has the longest total coastline of any state. This bar is located above the main lodge of a luxury fishing resort located on a private island. Sit on the outdoor deck (at least in good weather) overlooking Sitka Sound, and enjoy a glass of crisp sauvignon blanc during one of their Visiting Winemaker Series events.
Thurston’s sits on a dock overlooking Bass Bay on scenic Mount Desert Island, which is home to Acadia National Park. This popular local spot has been a family business since 1946, and over the years has expanded to accommodate the growing business. Dig in to lobster, crab, clams, and chowder, and wash it all down with a local beer while watching the lobster boats bring in the daily catch. Nowhere near Maine? Here are the other states ranked the best for seafood in America.
There are many tales surrounding this wacky watering hole and art gallery, located near the shores of a wooded island in Lake Superior. The day after the original bar burned down, a beer delivery truck showed up, and owner Tom Nelson decided to re-open for business right then and there, in the charred remains of the former bar. Tables, chairs, and tarps were collected from local recycling centers, and the open-air bar was decorated with Tom’s “broken down tool collection.” Among the many homemade signs that grace Tom’s, indicative of the unique spirit of the place: “We don’t do windows or walls.”
This is true oceanfront drinking and dining. Sit in the glass-enclosed lounge or outside summer deck, and dive into fresh Pacific Northwest seafood as you marvel at Haystack Rock, a 235-foot monolithic rock just off of Cannon Beach.