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St. Croix (Courtesy of st-croix-vacation-rental.com)

If you’re among the millions of Americans who’ve literally weathered the winter of our discontent— somewhere, someplace, a beach is beckoning.

Indeed, right about now, a beautiful spot stateside, or perhaps in the Caribbean, may be calling your name.

So now is the time to map out your perfect beach vacay. You’ll want a destination that offers the requisite sand, surf and sunsets, of course. And whether you want luxe accommodations with water views, or lodging that’s simply clean and comfy, there are ample options.

We’ve done the legwork for you, selecting beach locales that are close to home (wherever that may be), and still others that can take you on a journey afar.

Wherever you decide to go, make your beach getaway, easy, breezy and fun. And don’t forget to pack your swimsuit.

Maryland’s Eastern Shore

St. Michaels, Md. (stmichaels.org)

From quaint towns with chic appeal such as St. Michaels, to Assateague’s famed wild horses, Maryland’s Eastern shore offers vacationers a mix of unique beach experiences.

Start in Ocean City, a quintessential seaside beach resort. Whether it’s a beach wedding, a White Marlin fishing tournament, muscle car shows, or baptisms during the yearly ‘Jesus at the Beach’ festival, it’s no wonder the town garners upwards of eight million visitors annually.

“We truly appreciate our visitors as they have made Ocean City the great destination that it is today,” said Mayor Rick Meehan.

The Boardwalk at Ocean City, Md. (wikimedia.org)

The beach fare in OC can bring on serious cravings. Think Fishers caramel popcorn, Thrasher’s fries doused with vinegar, Dolles taffy, and creamy ice cream cones from Dumser’s Dairyland. Many local merchants have deep roots in the community, including the Phillips’ family, whose crab cakes are nationally renowned.

A short drive from Ocean City is Highland Beach, which dates back to 1893 as a summer enclave for well-to-do African Americans.

Charles Douglass (son of abolitionist Frederick Douglass) and his wife Laura, founded the community after being turned away from a nearby resort due to their race. The couple later purchased a 40-acre tract of land on the Chesapeake Bay with 500 feet of beachfront and transformed it into a relaxing haven.

July 4 Picnic Dance at Highland Beach. (Courtesy Photo)

Back in the day, residents and guests included Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. DuBois, Paul Robeson, Mary Church Terrell, and poets Langston Hughes and Paul Laurence Dunbar. Maryland’s native son, Frederick Douglass, visited too, but died before the house that his son was building for him was completed.

Highland Beach, incorporated in 1922, became the first African-American municipality in Maryland. Today, it’s more racially mixed,yet still preserves a legacy of African-American history and pride. There’s a museum devoted to Douglass, and the town’s festive 4th of July parade draws multiple generations.

While visiting Maryland’s Eastern Shore, don’t miss Assateague Island National Seashore and Assateague State Park.

“There’s such natural beauty,” says Connie Yingling, a Maryland tourism spokeswoman.

The famous ponies of Assateague Island, Md. (Getty Images)

The parks are located on Assateague Island, a barrier island bordered by the Atlantic Ocean and the Sinepuxent Bay. A few miles of beaches offer swimming, surfing and fishing. Adventurers can explore secluded coves by canoe or kayak, where you’ll birds, deer, and waterfowl.

And a truly magnificent sight is the region’s famous feral horses, which roam and gallop freely.

Wind up your shore visit in St. Michaels, a place of yachts, adorable boutiques, zero fast food establishments, and a feel described as “Mayberry meets Ralph Lauren.” Consider staying at a B & B in town, or choose the upscale Inn at Perry Cabin, which features elegantly furnished rooms, a worldclass spa and gourmet dining. For more info, www.visitmaryland.org

The Bahamas

Abaco Beach Resort (www.abacobeachresort.com)

It’s easy to escape to ‘The Abacos,’— a mini archipelago of 100 islands in the northern Bahamas– less than 200 miles off the coast of Fort Lauderdale.

Set on the sea of Abaco and the Atlantic Ocean, these so-called ‘out islands’ boast white sand beaches, clear waters and some of the world’s largest barrier reefs. The region is a hub for sailing, diving and water sports.

While Abaco is less well-known than the island’s more populous areas, it’s ideal for relaxation sans large crowds.

Visitors can enjoy surfing and shopping to beach bar hopping. Reportedly, Beyonce and Jay-Z were spotted a few years back at Nipper’s Beach Bar & Grill in Great Guana Cay, a lively party spot.

For lodging, the family owned Abaco Beach Resort at Boat Harbour is a 40-acre beachfront property with amenities aplenty, including the largest marina in the Bahamas. For guests who just wanna chill, hammocks are strung between palm trees on the beach.  www. abacobeachresort.com

Virginia Beach, Va.

Virginia Beach, an East Coast resort city along the Atlantic Ocean, is chock-full of pleasurable activities for the entire family.

Virginia Beach, Va. (Courtesy of the Virginia Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau)

Catch a wave while surfing, or kayak through a national wildlife refuge. Enjoy a symphony performance on the beach as the sun goes down.

As the weather warms, the Mid-Atlantic’s largest population of bottlenose dolphins returns each year to the Virginia Beach coast. Pods of dolphins can be spotted feasting, jumping and playing. Other family pleasures abound: roaming magicians, jugglers, bands in the park, and costumed characters near the Boardwalk.

Begin (or end) your day by collecting seashells at the Sandbridge area along the southern shore, a quiet enclave partially surrounded by the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. www.visitvirginiabeach.com

Hawaii

If you dream of breathtaking landscapes with mountains, volcanoes, palm trees and unobstructed views of the Pacific Ocean, then Hawaii says “Aloha.”

Molokai, Hawaii. (Courtesy of gohawaii.com)

While noteworthy as the birthplace of President Barack Obama, Hawaii has long been famed for its exceptional beaches. Massive blue waves, daring surfers, hula dancing and other cultural traditions, bring millions of annual travelers. They’ll find a multicultural population, and a mix of hustle, bustle and serenity.

“What’s best in me, and what’s best in my message, is consistent with the tradition of Hawaii,” the Commander-in-Chief has said.

Indeed, America’s first Hawaiian-born president has been a boon to local businesses. Stores hawk Obama T-shirts, bobble heads and other trinkets, while tour companies have added sites associated with the president to their itineraries.

Do check out Sandy Beach, located on the eastern tip of Oahu, said to be one of Obama’s favorite beaches as a youngster. And the First Family has spent Christmas on a compound at Kailua Beach in East Oahu. The scenic beach is renowned for its pristine white sand and oceanfront vistas, and like others in Hawaii is open to the public. www.gohawaii.com

United States Virgin Island

There’s much to swoon over in the U.S. Virgin Islands: pretty, powdery beaches, stunning emerald waters, and sun-drenched days. Not to mention a decidedly romantic vibe that may make you want to run off with your beloved.

Lovely St. Croix (Courtesy of st-croix-vacation-rental.com)

Part of the Lesser Antilles of the Caribbean, the U.S.V.I. has three principal islands – lovely St. Croix, tranquil St. John, and St. Thomas, which is cosmopolitan.

The islands have been ruled in succession by the Spanish, English, French, Knights of Malta, French (for a second time), the Danish and now, the U.S., making for a cultural blend that is rich in heritage, crafts, cuisine and lifestyle.

“We honor our traditions as we remember our past and envision our future,” said Beverly Nicholson-Doty, Commissioner of Tourism.

St. Croix, the largest of the trio, is situated entirely in the Caribbean Sea. You’ll find pastel buildings and charming shops while strolling the historic cobblestone streets of Christiansted and Frederiksted.

Meanwhile, the area offers Mother Nature’s eye candy, from rolling green hillsides, to botanical gardens and rainforests.

Take a half day sail to Turtle Beach on Buck Island (about 1.5 miles off the northeast side of St. Croix) which offers first-rate snorkeling (thousands of tropical fish and sea turtles) and hiking trails with stunning views. It’s been voted one of the world’s most beautiful beaches by National Geographic.

A few stops worth making in St. Croix include Salud Bistro, where the ambiance and island-inspired cuisine are both delightful. Then there’s Zion Modern Kitchen, a hot new restaurant with excellent service where dishes range from curry calamari, to lobster ravioli.

And there’s buzz building for a forthcoming establishment called balter, from Digby Stridiron, the USVI’s award-winning Culinary Ambassador. Chef Digby received his culinary education on the mainland at Le Cordon Bleu, and Johnson and Wales. He’s a young, world-class chef who strives to honor the history and magnificence of his native St. Croix, one delicious plate at a time.

There are plenty of places to stay on St. Croix, including Annaly Mill, a historic villa located in an old sugar mill in the west end’s rainforest. The Buccaneer, a sprawling property with a fantastic beach, swimming pools, a fitness center, tennis, golf and fine dining options, is owned by a family who has welcomed guests for generations.

Best of all about the U.S.V.I: American travelers won’t need a passport in this U.S. Territory. Delta and American airlines have both increased accessibility from major U.S. cities, so it’s easier than ever to escape to paradise.

Go to VisitUSVI.com or www.gotostcroix.com.