Photo by David P.

Find the perfect beach to visit this summer!

Summer is fast approaching and with it comes all the excitement and sunny escapes of the season. Many people are starting to plan their first beach trip of the year. But it can be hard to choose the best beach to visit in the US.

From the soft white sands of Florida to the black volcanic shores of Hawaii, the U.S. has over 95,000 miles of coastline. This incredible variety of beaches makes it difficult to choose the perfect summer destination, so we’ve created this list of interesting, picturesque locations to help you out. Here are our picks for the 5 best beaches to visit this year:

La Jolla Beach & Cove, California

The rocky walls and floors of La Jolla Cove frame the waves of the Pacific Ocean.

Find a secluded spot to sunbathe in the sunny La Jolla Cove!

Photo from Piqsels

This rocky stretch of the California coastline, just outside of San Francisco, is a perfect spot for any type of beach lover. Swimmers and sunbathers can relax along the sandy shore, where lifeguards patrol all year. The gentle waves that come in from the Pacific are great for improving your surfing skills. There are also many great hiking trails around the coastal cliffs where you can work up a sweat before cooling off in the ocean.

The marine life found at La Jolla Beach and Cove also enjoys resting in the sun-soaked shallows as the surface level heats up. Most visitors delight in spotting harbor seals and sea lions playing in the rocky cove. Those who venture into the water to snorkel will be rewarded with a memorable view of the leopard sharks or if you’re really lucky, a dolphin. The delightful blend of idyllic shores and adorable wildlife makes this La Jolla paradise one of the best beaches to visit this year.

Punalu’u Beach, Hawaii

Small waves are breaking across the dark black sands of Punaluu Beach, lined with palm trees.

Explore the exotic black sands of Punalu'u beach!

Photo by Steve C.

The breathtaking black sand of Hawaii’s Punalu’u Beach was formed by lava rapidly cooling when it reached the ocean through underwater vents. Most travelers come to this remarkable beach to see the dark sand and to witness the water’s swirling colors. The oil-spill effect, which comes out in the right light, is created by the mixing of the Pacific ocean with the constant stream of fresh spring water which empties out near the beach. This means that the water temperatures are low, but that becomes a pleasant relief when the black sand starts baking under the summer sun.

Swimmers can wade into the shallows if they’re careful as the underwater currents can get very strong at certain times of the day. Punalu’u Beach is also known as a resting point for migrating sea turtles, who wade onto the hot sand to warm themselves up after their long journey. The black sand and churning sea mean Punalu’u is known as one of the best and most interesting beaches to visit this year.

Sleeping Bear Dunes, Michigan

Broken tree stumps and green vegetation are mixed in with the sand along the sloping shores of Sleeping Bear Dunes which disappear into Lake Michigan.

Find some peace on the sunny shores of Sleeping Bear Dunes!

Photo by John S.

Sunbathe in style this summer along the ridges of the amazing Sleeping Bear Dunes. These steep sandy dunes provide a comfortable resting spot for weary travelers and the soft beaches disappear seamlessly into the clear, warm waters of Lake Michigan. Swimming is encouraged here and you can even rent a small motorboat, pedal boat, or canoe if you want to explore the vast lake. This sunny in-land oasis is one of the best beaches to visit this year for anyone seeking a mix of relaxation, boating, and peaceful country walks.

Many people come here to camp in one of the nearby campgrounds because one day at the dunes is never enough. There are many miles of walking and hiking trails surrounding Sleeping Bear Dunes where you can spot deer, porcupines, and foxes roaming through the woodlands.

Fort Bragg Glass Beach, California

Soft, colored sea glass covers the pebble beach as the Pacific Ocean hits against large rocks in the background.

Discover the rainbow colors of the Fort Bragg Glass Beach!

Photo by John K.

This colorful pebble beach near Fort Bragg owes its existence to the town’s historic dumps, where glass and garbage were once discarded onto the rocky coastline. After a century of erosion, the trash heap has transformed into a beautiful kaleidoscope of pebbles, shells, and smooth sea glass.

A rare sight, the glass beach draws in couples and families who come to walk along the vibrant seafront. Indeed, the steady stream of tourists who visit the beach each year has reduced the amount of glass you can see between the pebbles. However, the beach still lights up in a rainbow of colors when the sun starts shining. Efforts are even being made to bring new sea glass to Fort Bragg. Its history as a dump means it’s not safe to swim at the glass beach, instead, you can find sandy swimming beaches and crab-filled tidepools only a short walk away.

Moshup Beach, Massachusetts

Green grass sits atop the colorful cliffs of Moshup Beach, with the sand and sea down below.

Visit the island paradise of Moshup Beach this year!

Photo by Bart H.

On the island of Martha’s Vineyard in the south of Massachusetts, the secluded shores of Moshup Beach are a welcome haven for every visitor. This sandy stretch, over a mile long, looks like a Mediterranean paradise when the summer arrives. The perfect sun-soaked shores make Moshup the best island beach to visit this year. While the Atlantic waters are colder than their Pacific counterparts, the calm shallows can be refreshing on a baking hot day.

Moshup Beach is highlighted by the colorful Gay Head Cliffs that overlook the seafront and offer stunning views over the island. Many visitors walk along the beach and cliffs to see the vibrant layered clay that makes up this natural landmark, before having a picnic on the grass. Walk far enough along Moshup Beach and you might find some people enjoying the warm sand without their clothes getting in the way.

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Like many of the recent Marvel Cinematic Universe films, LGBTQ+ fans awaited the release of Thor: Love and Thunder in open anticipation of the inclusivity that both Marvel and Disney had promised. However, the fans were only setting themselves up for disappointment when the film was finally released.

Despite passionate assurances from studio heads to key actors, Thor: Love and Thunder was NOT spectacularly gay. It wasn’t even that good…

Premiere Night Promises

A bolt of lightning cuts across a rainbow on a dark and stormy night.

Lightning bold across the sky

Photo by Bill D.

Standing on the red carpet at the London Premiere of the film, director and actor Taika Waititi and fellow cast members Natalie Portman and Tessa Thompson were offered up the inevitable question: “How gay is the film?

Amidst some laughter from the crowds, Waititi gestured towards Portman to respond. The actress (who plays Thor’s love interest, Jane Foster, throughout the franchise) raised the microphone to her lips and thought for a moment, before delivering a quiet yet fateful: “So gay!

Barely a moment had passed before the gathered fans went wild and Taika Waititi gave his own verdict: “Super gay!”. Tessa Thompson made no statement on the ‘gayness’ of the film, instead opting to swing her microphone around suggestively. As more cheers erupted, a second round of “super gay” slipped out of Waititi’s mouth, before he urged the fans to enjoy the film.

Thor: Love and Thunder’s LGBTQ+ Potential

Thor’s movie-goers were definitely hyped up for a gay extravaganza and they had a specific character in mind. The fan-favorite Valkyrie, played by Tessa Thompson, stumbled her way into the MCU during Thor’s third film, Ragnarok. The Asgardian warrior won many people over with her wit, sarcasm, and pure badassery.

After the events of Avengers: Endgame *spoilers*, Thor Odinson gives up his claim to the throne of Asgard and names Valkyrie as king in his stead. This left many fans excited to see what would become of the character, especially after certain revelations were made at the 2019 San Diego Comic-Con:

“As a new king, she has to find her queen. So that’ll be her first order of business.”

With these words, Tessa Thompson threw her LGBTQ+ fans into a frenzy, with heavy expectations for the then-upcoming fourth installment of the Thor films. Indeed, in an interview with the LA Times, shortly before the film's release, Tessa Thompson was asked to comment on the sexuality of her character. She responded with several promising remarks, including “there’s a lot of folks that are righteously very hungry for that representation to exist in these movies, as am I”.

*Warning: spoilers ahead!*

So, How Gay Was Thor 4?

To put it simply: not gay at all. Not only did Valkyrie end up without a fabulous new queen, her non-heteronormative sexuality only got the barest mention (a brief line about a previous, now dead, girlfriend). Valkyrie may have made bedroom eyes at some pretty ladies before an action scene spoils the moment, but that’s about as much as we get.

The film does get some credit for introducing a trans character in a minor yet significant role. Thor returns to his people (after a brief stint as a Guardian of the Galaxy) only to find out that the daughter of one of his closest (and deceased) friends is now a boy. The issue is, whether due to personal prejudice or some alien inability to grasp the concept of being transgender, it does take Thor a frustrating few moments to come to terms with the change. And to stop deadnaming.

In fact, the only concession to the queer community was Taika Waititi’s extraterrestrial character Korg finding a husband in one of the closing scenes. This heartfelt moment was somewhat underscored by the revelation that Korg’s entire species is male, meaning he had no other choice but to be ‘gay’.

This Is Not Marvel’s First Queerbaiting Attempt

Close up of an eye reflecting an unknown scene as a rainbow crosses the image.

Photo by Harry Q.

This is, by far, not the first time that LGBTQ+ fans have been sorely disappointed by the workings of Marvel and Disney. In fact, people across many social media platforms have been chiding expectant viewers for once again falling for classic queerbaiting tactics. “Being queerbaited by the MCU is like being a golden retriever with a human who always pretends to throw the ball”, one Tumblr user declared.

Captain Marvel, starring Brie Larson, was the perfect moment for the MCU to introduce its first lesbian lead. Larson’s character seemed to have an intense relationship with another woman, going so far as to help raise her child (before Larson’s Carol Danvers disappeared from Earth for 6 years). Despite leaning into several romantic tropes, the status of their relationship was never fully fleshed out. However, it was also the franchise’s first female-led superhero movie, so maybe they thought that introducing her as a lesbian would make the film too awesome.

The heavily anticipated Avengers: Endgame was also slated to introduce the MCU’s ‘first gay character'. While many fans were excited, particularly as this would be the second of Larson’s appearances on screen, the big gay build-up was a massive letdown. The film’s director Joe Russo made a cameo as a blip survivor mourning the loss of his husband. A five-second throw-away scene that had no impact on the outcome of the film. Big whoop...

Even when we did see a film with a gay lead, The Eternals, there were also ten other straight leads. At that point, it just seemed more like basic probability than an attempt at pushing LGBT+ superheroes into the spotlight.

Why Can’t Disney Let Marvel Be Gay?

The big problem with allowing a few characters to be anything other than cishet is that there are still many countries in the world that outlaw homosexuality. As much as we like to think that the MCU is being made for comic book fans, we all know the purpose of the films is to make money for Disney. And without certain markets in Asia and the Middle East, Disney wouldn’t be raking in up to (and over) one billion dollars per theatrical release.

Is There Any Hope For LGBTQ+ Fans In The MCU’s Future?

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, the second in the much-loved Black Panther arc, will be released in cinemas this November. The studio has confirmed that the film will contain a queer character. Actress Michaela Coel will play Aneka, a warrior, and trainer of the king’s guard. Whether or not her diversity will stand out in the film (let alone endure for more than a 10-second scene that can be easily cut) remains to be seen.

Next year’s The Marvels film, starring Brie Larson, Iman Vellani, and Lashana Lynch may offer the MCU a chance to redeem itself in the eyes of its LGBT+ fans. The studios may feel it’s finally time to offer us the heartwarming lesbian relationship between Larson’s Carol Danvers and Lynch’s Maria Rambeau that seemed to be teased in the first Captain Marvel. Don’t raise your hopes too high, though, as you may yet end up as a stubborn golden retriever waiting for a cinematic universe to finally throw that rainbow ball.