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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - With Americans packing up for travel over the Memorial Day weekend, one coastal hot spot in Southern California is winning praise as the best U.S. beach in an annual ranking from a Florida professor.
San Diego's Coronado tops the list from "Dr. Beach," otherwise known as Stephen Leatherman, director of the laboratory for coastal research at Florida International University.
The 1.5-mile stretch of Coronado Beach is set against the historic Hotel del Coronado, on an island just across San Diego Bay from the city's downtown. It is reachable by ferry or water taxi.
"The beach is very flat, making it great for skim boarding and walking, and the sand has a silvery sheen because of the presence of mica," Leatherman's website said.
Coming in second on the list was Kahanamoku Beach in Waikiki on the island of Oahu in Hawaii. The Dr. Beach website describes the destination as benefiting from a shallow offshore reef that protects swimmers from big waves, making it ideal for children.
The other destinations on Leatherman's Top 10 list are: Main Beach in East Hampton, New York; St. George Island State Park on the Florida panhandle; Hamoa Beach in Maui, Hawaii; Coast Guard Beach in Cape Cod, Massachusetts; Waimanalo Bay Beach Park in Oahu, Hawaii; Cape Florida State Park in Key Biscayne, Florida; Beachwalker Park in Kiawah Island, South Carolina; and Cape Hatteras on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.
Last year, the top destination on the list was Siesta Beach in Sarasota, Florida. The 2010 winner was Coopers Beach on New York's Long Island.
Leatherman has released his list of top coastal destinations every year since 1991. His criteria for judging a good beach include the width of the beach, the color of the sand, the slope, water temperature, frequency of rain, noise factors and the presence of lifeguards.
The full list for 2012 coastal destinations is available at drbeach.org.
Reporting By Alex Dobuzinskis; editing by Todd Eastham