Best US beach – Coopers Beach – is also the priciest

Among the Top 10 beaches in the United States, No. 1 Coopers Beach in Long Island costs the most.

Kathy Willens/AP
A woman examines a find on Coopers Beach in Southampton, N.Y., May 13. It has been selected as America's best beach in an annual survey, but it also has the most costly parking among the Top 10 beaches.

The No. 1 beach in the United States – Coopers Beach in Southampton, N.Y. – is also the priciest.

The beach won honor in the list of Top 10 beaches released Friday by "Dr. Beach" (a.k.a. Prof. Stephen Leatherman). Unfortunately, a weekday on its "grainy white quartz sand" will set you back $30 for parking on weekdays. A weekend day is $35.

But look at what you get for your money: "Historic mansions grace the beautiful, grass-covered sand dunes; the turrets of Calvin Klein’s mansion are among the views visible from Coopers Beach," Mr. Leatherman, director of the Laboratory for Coastal Research at Florida International University, writes on his website.

IN PICTURES: Top 10 beaches 2010

If you want your beach time a little cheaper, park in Southampton and bicycle to the beach for free.

The next most expensive beach on the Top 10 list is also in the Hamptons on Long Island: No. 5 Main Beach in East Hampton, N.Y. Parking will cost you $25 on weekdays. And it's better to take it, because there's no public beach parking for nonlocals on the weekends.

The only other beach on the Top 10 list that comes close in cost is Coast Guard Beach in Massachusetts, where entrance to the Cape Cod National Seashore beaches costs $15 a car.

At the other end of the spectrum are the beaches that don't charge a thing for parking, although sometimes the parking is limited. Five of the Top 10 beaches fall in that category: No. 2 Siesta Beach in Sarasota, Fla.; No. 3. Coronado Beach in San Diego; No. 4 Cape Hatteras in the Outer Banks of North Carolina; No. 6 Kahanamoku Beach in Waikiki in Oahu, Hawaii; and No. 9 Hamoa Beach in Maui, Hawaii.

Leatherman's Top 10 list varies from year to year. Last year's winner, Hanalei Bay in Kauai, Hawaii, didn't even appear on this year's list.

"The rankings do change every year because things happen – beach erosion, hurricanes, oil spills, etc.," Leatherman writes in an e-mail.

So far, the BP oil spill in the Gulf has not had an impact in Florida, he writes. "Not a drop of oil has come ashore in Florida yet and the prospect is really good that none will this summer. It all depends upon BP, but I can't imagine that this spill will drop Gulf beaches off [the list] even next year."

Here's his list of Top 10 beaches for 2010 and their costs:

1. Coopers Beach in Southampton, N.Y. – $30 weekdays/$35 weekend days

2. Siesta Beach in Sarasota, Fla. – free

3. Coronado Beach in San Diego – free

4. Cape Hatteras in the Outer Banks of North Carolina – free

5. Main Beach in East Hampton, N.Y. – $25 weekdays

6. Kahanamoku Beach in Waikiki, Oahu, Hawaii – free

7. Coast Guard Beach in Cape Cod, Mass. – $15

8. Beachwalker Park in Kiawah Island, S.C. – $7

9. Hamoa Beach in Maui, Hawaii – free

10. Cape Florida State Park in Key Biscayne, Fla. – $8

IN PICTURES: Top 10 beaches 2010

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