Top 40 Beaches

The West's best spots to swim, sun, splash, and stroll, from Puget Sound to San Diego
Peter Fish

The human body is seventy percent water. So is the surface of the earth. The link explains why, each summer, we feel that primordial pull to the Pacific shore. The sun rises high in the sky, a salt breeze brushes the cheek, and down to the sea we go.

The Pacific washes 7,863 miles of shoreline along Washington, Oregon, and California. That makes for a lot of beaches. Each has its own specific gravity, but all share the power to stir memories, sensual, immediate. The crash of waves, the smell of suntan lotion, the burn of bare feet on sand. The transistor radio playing something from a vanished year's pop charts. "Daydream Believer." "We Got the Beat." Some trivial song you'll remember the rest of your life, like this day at the beach.

Eventually the day wanes. The sun dips to the horizon. It is time to fold the towel, turn off the radio, head home. But first, step back toward the water. Dunk one toe, or throw yourself headlong into the breaking surf. In that moment, an alchemy occurs. You are forever young. The ocean, the beach, the summer are never ending.