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The 15 Most Incredible Beaches In The U.S.

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    If you don't get to hit up at least one beach, did summer really happen? For us, the answer is no. Some of the best memories of the season usually take place by the water, whether you prefer extreme water sports or sipping daiquiris under a hula umbrella.

    While we wouldn't mind soaking up some sun on an exotic faraway island, our wallets (and vacation days) aren't as flexible as our bikini straps. Luckily, you don't need to rush a renewal on your passport or suffer a five-hour layover just to have a tropical escape. Beaches right here in the U.S. have plenty to offer, from exotic sands (think olive-colored) to clear waters to towering cliffs. We've put together 15 of the best domestic locales to hit up this July 4. Basic beaches, these are not.

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    Dry Tortugas Beaches, Florida
    It's easy to mistake this island in the Florida Keys for a tropical paradise in the Maldives. The pristine white sand, which forms an arresting gradient with the cerulean water, looks almost too ethereal to exist in the U.S. Teeming with marine life, this beach is made for underwater adventures: The kaleidoscopic coral reefs and fleets of sea turtles will capture the heart of any snorkeler.

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    Kiawah Island Beachwalker Park, South Carolina
    Most people default to Myrtle Beach when they look for a seaside escape in the Palmetto State, but this little-known public beach on Kiawah Island offers an equally gorgeous vista without all the crowds. Just 25 minutes outside of Charleston, it's a hidden gem with an array of activities, from golfing to tennis to cycling.

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    Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Empire, Michigan
    Dubbed "the Hidden Riviera of America," the cluster of beaches along Lake Michigan's shoreline offer golden sands and sapphire waters, minus the costly international airfare. Stunning panoramas make climbing the sky-high dunes — shaped like a sleeping bear — totally worthwhile. The varying water temperatures of the beaches cater to every type of visitor, from laid-back soakers to hardcore swimmers.

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    Papakolea Beach, South Kau Big Island, Hawaii
    There's no shortage of picturesque beaches on the islands of Aloha, but Papakolea stands out among the crystalline waters and coconut tree-lined locales. The olive-hued sand got its pigment from millions of semiprecious lava stones, and stands in breathtaking contrast to the deep blue waves. The strong winds along the coast are ideal for surfers.

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    Pfeiffer Beach, Big Sur, California
    With postcard-perfect landscapes, this Central California beach is a little piece of heaven on Earth. The sands are mainly composed of garnet rocks that shimmer in a violet hue under sunlight — just imagine, purple sand castles! The unique rock arch allows light beams to shine through the middle opening, creating spectacular sunrises and sunsets that are the stuff of Instagram dreams.