HONOLULU (AP) — A tourist-friendly beach named for a Hawaii surfing legend has been dubbed the best public beach in the United States in this year's Dr. Beach ranking.
Duke Kahanamoku Beach, a well-groomed crescent of blond sand and palm trees near the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort, beat out more than 600 other beaches for the distinction.
Stephen Leatherman, a Florida International University coastal science professor who goes by the nickname Dr. Beach, said the cleanliness, safe conditions and amenities pushed Duke Kahanamoku to the top of his 24th annual list.
"It's safe for kids and families," he said by phone. "The water quality's great. The vistas are right off the scale for that place."
Also big for him: Smoking there is banned, as it is on beaches throughout Oahu.
"I hope Hawaii sets the standard and the wave moves eastward to the mainland," he said. "South Beach is a hot beach in Miami but sometimes there I count 10 cigarette butts in a square meter."
On Wednesday at Duke Kahanamoku Beach, visitors lolled under umbrellas and thumbed paperbacks. Toddlers in frumpy hats undertook tiny civil engineering projects. A half-dozen surfing students in garish green rash guards paddled through the placid shallow water, past the seawall and out toward popular surf breaks.
Locals who know Hawaii may quibble about what deserves the best beach title. "There's probably better beaches on the outer islands," said Kainoa Haas, 22, a Honolulu surfer.
But Rhode Island tourists Robert Ferland and Stephanie DeQuattro, at Duke Kahanamoku for a ninth straight day, were impressed.
"It's pretty," said Ferland, 32. "We have nice beaches at home..."
"But it's nothing like here," DeQuattro, 30, finished for him. They saw couples get engaged on the beach every day, and became engaged themselves Tuesday. Ferland said he would have proposed on the beach — but it was raining.