Along with a list of some of the most polluted beaches in the U.S., a recent Natural Resources Defense Council report also ranks America's best, "5-star" beaches.
In "Testing the Waters: A Guide to Water Quality at Vacation Beaches," the NRDC explains that U.S. beaches had "the third-highest number of closing and advisory days in more than two decades" in 2011. Despite these findings, a dozen beaches maintained quality levels high enough to receive the NRDC's 5-star rating.
These award winners, selected from "200 of the nation’s popular beaches," received the designation for having low contamination levels and "strong testing and safety practices," according to a press release. Criteria for the 5-star rating included: "testing more than once a week, notifying the public promptly when tests reveal bacteria levels violating health standards, and posting closings and advisories both online and at the beach."
Along with the report, the NRDC has also created a searchable database of water quality tests and swimming advisories at beaches across the country and a series of videos on beach testing.
While the beaches in the list below may be some of the cleanest in the country, some of them could see significant changes in coming decades. A recent NRDC report suggests that the West Coast "will see an ocean several inches higher in coming decades, with most of California expected to get sea levels a half foot higher by 2030," according to the Associated Press.
Below, find America's 12 5-star beaches, as named by the NRDC report available here. According to a press release, these beaches, with the best "indicators of beachwater quality, monitoring frequency, and public notification of contamination," were selected from 200 of America's most popular waterfront areas.
Newport Beach, Orange County, CA
(2 of 3 monitored sections): Newport Beach - 38th Street Newport Beach - 52nd/53rd Street
Bolsa Chica Beach, Orange County, CA
A surfer walks along water's edge at sunset, at Bolsa Chica State Beach in Orange County California. Bolsa Chica was awarded "5 star" status by NRDC's Testing the Waters beach report.
Huntington State Beach, Orange County, CA
Gulf Shores Public Beach, Baldwin County, AL
Gulf State Park Pavilion Beach, Baldwin County, AL
Dewey Beach, Sussex County, DE
Ocean City Beach 6, Worcester County, MD
Park Point Franklin Park / 13th Street South Beach Park Point, St. Louis County, MN
Lafayette Community Club Beach, St. Louis County, MN
<em>[Nearby Park Point beach pictured]</em>
Hampton Beach State Park, Rockingham County, NH
Wallis Sands Beach, Rockingham County, NH
Family enjoying a day at Wallis Sands Beach in Rockingham County, New Hampshire. This beach was awarded "5 star" status by NRDC's Testing the Waters beach report.
South Padre Island Beach, Cameron County, TX
An early sunrise at South Padre Island Beach in Cameron County, Texas. South Padre Island Beach was awarded "5 star" status by NRDC's Testing the Waters beach report.