Hapuna makes Top 10 list of best beaches in US

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KAILUA-KONA — Just one Big Island site made Dr. Beach’s Top 10 Beaches list for 2017.

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KAILUA-KONA — Just one Big Island site made Dr. Beach’s Top 10 Beaches list for 2017.

Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area on the South Kohala Coast was ranked eighth among the best beaches in America by Stephen Leatherman, aka Dr. Beach, a professor at Miami’s Florida International University. He’s produced the list since 1991 using 50 criteria to evaluate beaches, including water and sand quality as well as safety and management.

“This white coral sand beach resides in a landscape dominated by black lava flows. During the summer months, Hapuna is a perfect place to swim, snorkel or scuba dive in the crystal clean waters, but big waves during the winter can generate powerful rip currents. Fortunately, there are well-trained lifeguards at this state park,” Beach wrote.

Open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily, this 62-acre state park off Queen Kaahumanu Highway also features camping, which requires an online reservation. It’s also along the Ala Kahakai National Historical Trail.

Topping the list was Siesta Beach on Florida’s Gulf Coast, which features, according to the doctor, sand as white powdered sugar, a pure, sparkling white and soft as a kitten’s fur — all because it’s comprised of 99 percent pure crushed quartz.

“The sand is outstanding,” said Leatherman. “Every time I go there, I’ve got to take a bag home with me. It’s almost sacrilegious to walk on it with shoes on.”

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Other beaches that made the list this year, in order of ranking, are: Kapalua Bay Beach in Maui; Ocracoke Lifeguarded Beach on the Outer Banks of North Carolina; Grayton Beach State Park on the Florida Panhandle; Coopers Beach in Southampton, New York; Coast Guard Beach on Cape Cod in Massachusetts; Caladesi Island State Park in Dunedin/Clearwater, Florida; Hapuna Beach State Park on the Big Island; Coronado Beach in San Diego, California; and Beachwalker Park on Kiawah Island, South Carolina.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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