06/30/2012 04:45 pm ET

NRDC's Beach Report Awards '5-Star' Ratings To 12 Locations

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.

NRDC "5 Star Beaches" 2012