In Kailua, the sand is soft and white. The water is clear and calm.
Those are among the reasons that Kailua Beach Park appears at the top of a new list of best beaches in the United States. The park is on the Hawaiian island of Oahu.
Stephen Leatherman has been making a yearly list of the best beaches under the name "Dr. Beach" since 1991.
Leatherman is a coastal scientist and professor at Florida International University in Miami. He uses 50 criteria to rate beaches, with the most important issues being water cleanliness, safety and management of the beach environment and services for visitors.
Leatherman often rates Hawaiian beaches high on the list
"I love Waikiki Beach. No question about that – a world famous beach – but Kailua is a lot smaller and quieter," he told the Associated Press. "It's so much more peaceful... you don't have big high-rises and all that. Kailua is on the other side of the mountains. It's like a different world."
Vari Singh and her family, from California, spent a day at Kailua Beach.
"The color of the sea is something like we've never seen before. The sand is super soft and fun to play with, it makes good sand castles," she said.
Braden Marquez grew up in Kailua. The 18-year-old said he is worried about overcrowding, but also hopeful about the future of his hometown.
Other beaches on the new list are Ocracoke Lifeguarded Beach on North Carolina's Outer Banks, followed by Grayton Beach State Park in Florida. They were second and third on the list, respectively.
Leatherman says his goal in making the list each year is to recognize high-quality, safe beaches that balance nature with ease of access and amenities. He hopes beaches that have yet to appear on the list will make changes for a better experience and a healthier coastal ecosystem.
I'm John Russell.
Caleb Jones reported on this story for the Associated Press. John Russell adapted the story for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.