10 Breathtaking Sunset Spots in the U.S. to See in Your Lifetime
From rugged California cliffs to the Arizona desert, here's where you should watch the sun go down.
A stunning sunset is the ultimate reward at the end of a long travel day, whether that involves sightseeing around town or camping in the wilderness. Almost any sunset is stunning reminder of the beauty of Mother Nature.
The science behind sunsets is a light scattering phenomenon called "Rayleigh scattering," named after British physicist Lord Rayleigh. "As light waves enter the atmosphere, they begin to scatter in all directions by collisions with atoms and molecules," according to the National Weather Service. "At sunset, light has to travel through a greater distance of atmosphere to reach our eyes," reports Vox. While sunlight contains all colors, blue and violet light, as well as some green and yellow, get filtered out, and warmer colors come through, creating that streaky, saturated effect.
While you can enjoy a sunset every day anywhere, location does matter. Watching the sun fall, turning the sky pink and purple, over a tall mountain, or sitting with your feet in the sand while the entire horizon lights up in fiery orange over a palm-dotted beach can truly take your breath away.
With 50 states home to diverse geological wonders, the U.S. is home to some of the most breathtaking sunsets. From the rugged cliffs of the California coast to the urban skylines of New York City, here is where you can find the best and most beautiful sunsets the country has to offer.
10. Jekyll Island, Georgia
Located off the coast of this Southeastern state, Jekyll Island offers a blend of natural beauty, rich history, and tranquil escape. Nature lovers will appreciate its maritime forests and wildlife spotting, but this barrier island is best known for its 10 miles of unspoiled shoreline. Visitors can swim in the Atlantic Ocean by day, and sit back and relax while watching the sunset in the evening.
"Shoreline driftwood trees provide an ancient feeling in the wash of the tides, while dolphins may leap offshore," says Alexa Hawkins, Director, Marketing & Communications, Jekyll Island Authority. St. Andrews Beach Park is a particular favorite with locals, who often refer to it as "Little Driftwood Beach," and it also includes the picturesque Wanderer Memory Trail.
9. Houston, Texas
The fourth-largest city in the U.S. combines Texas charm with cosmopolitan restaurants and museums. While Houston is known as the "Space City," NASA's Johnson Space Center isn't the only reason to look up at the sky in the city. According to Carl Broadbent, founder of Travel Spock, Houston is home to some of the state's best sunsets too.
"While exploring the city one evening, I stumbled upon the Sabine Street Bridge," he tells Best Life. "It was a warm summer night, and as I walked along the bridge, I was captivated by the breathtaking view of the Houston skyline illuminated by the setting sun. The vibrant colors reflected on the glass windows of the Heritage Plaza building, creating a picture-perfect scene. I sat there, taking in the beauty of the moment, and couldn't help but feel grateful for the serendipitous discovery of this hidden gem."
8. Provincetown, Massachusetts
Located at the tip of Cape Cod, this coastal New England town has much to offer beyond its beautiful beaches. Vacationers enjoy the inclusive artistic community which has grown over the last few decades and has become a favorite destination for LGBTQ+ travelers especially.
It's where Lindsey Danis, owner of queer outdoor travel blog QueerAdventurers, catches her favorite sunsets. She is particularly fond of Race Point Beach because populations of wild seals occupy the area, especially at sunset time. "The seals are very curious and enjoy looking back at you," she tells Best Life. "The park service allows a limited amount of fire permits, meaning that you can also relax on the beach and enjoy a bonfire while watching the sunset or go a bit later to stargaze."
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7. San Diego, California
Situated on the Pacific coast, a combination of fantastic factors makes this California city a must-visit for truly spectacular sunsets. With its mild year-round climate, clear skies, and westward-facing beaches, travelers are treated to unobstructed views of the horizon. Days can be spent enjoying the San Diego Zoo, the historic Gaslamp Quarter, and Balboa Park before watching the sunset at Sunset Cliffs Natural Park.
It's a particular favorite of travel blogger Sarah-Jane Begonja of Chasing the Donkey. "I ended up at Sunset Cliffs Natural Park just as the day was winding down," she tells Best Life. "As the sun dipped low, streaking the sky with a vivid palette of hues, it cast an enchanting glow over the cliffs and the waves beneath. It was one of those instances when the sheer grandeur of nature leaves you speechless, bringing home the simple yet profound pleasures of life."
6. Outer Banks, North Carolina
It's not just the setting for the cult classic Netflix series. Outer Banks, North Carolina is a coastal retreat with lots to offer vacationers, from the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and its maritime heritage history to endless opportunities for fishing, kayaking, and windsurfing.
This barrier island and its beaches provide the perfect setting for sunset watchers, according to Mal Hellyer, a photographer, surfer, and the founder of Raw Mal Roams. "You know that moment when you're standing on sandy shores with the Atlantic Ocean gently tickling your toes, the sky switching gears from blazing orange to hues of soft pink and purple? That's exactly what I felt the first time I was there," she explains. "And it wasn't just the visual spectacle, the musicality of the waves, and the tang of the sea air. It was as if the universe was putting on a spectacular show for me. More than the shifting palette, it was the total sensory immersion and the wave of serenity that washed over me, that made it unforgettable."
5. Key West, Florida
Located at the southernmost point of the U.S., visitors fall in love with Key West's idyllic beaches, turquoise waters with colorful coral reefs, and laid-back island atmosphere. The sunsets of Key West are so famous that the city throws a Sunset Celebration every evening in Mallory Square. It's here that travelers can enjoy the stunning colors of sun-meets-ocean in a tropical paradise, without needing a passport.
Key West sunsets hold a special place in Stephanie Rytting's heart. "The most unforgettable moment was a family vacation there last year," says The Unknown Enthusiast travel expert. "My daughters, born adventurers like their mom, were utterly spellbound by the sky's color display. They joyfully called out the changing colors, turning it into a vivid and unforgettable learning moment. That evening, we hung out at Mallory Square, a famous sunset hotspot in Key West. The place buzzed with performers, food stalls, and craftspeople, all enhancing the joyous atmosphere. Honestly, it's not just the sunset, but the vibrant energy of the place that makes it truly enchanting."
4. Glacier National Park, Montana
This Midwest park is a must-visit destination for nature enthusiasts and outdoor adventurers, home to some of the most stunning mountains, lakes, glaciers, and sunsets, of course. You don't even need to take a hike to enjoy the surroundings, as the park's famous Going-to-the-Sun Road provides a scenic drive through the heart of the park, showcasing its dramatic landscapes from the comfort of your own vehicle.
"This park's charm is almost indescribable," says Liz Ho, a camping guide and the founder of Camping Guidance. "The sun setting behind those magnificent mountains makes for an unforgettable sight. This combination of the rugged landscape and the sunset's soft colors creates a moment that imprints on your memory for life."
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3. New York City, New York
The Big Apple is known for its skyscrapers and pizza rats, but romantics know sunsets against this city's skyline are some of the most stunning among urban landscapes. Every summer photographers gather along the avenues for a chance to capture the famous Manhattanhenge, when the sunset aligns with Manhattan's street grid creating an incredible natural juxtaposition witnesses will never forget.
"I recently took a solo trip to New York City and bought a twilight entry to Top Of The Rock at Rockefeller Center," says travel blogger Lori Helke of LoriLovesAdventure.com. "I witnessed one of the most beautiful sunsets over the city I have ever seen. The price of admission was worth it."
2. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
No sunset list is complete without the Grand Canyon. With 1,904 square miles of geological wonders to explore, visitors will be spoiled for choice when it comes to sunsets. It all comes down to where you want to spend the magic moment, whether it's the Desert View Watchtower for an even more elevated view, Hopi Point for its panoramic views, or the easily accessible Mather Point.
"One of my favorite places to catch the sunset here in the U.S. is the Grand Canyon where you'll see cotton candy skies," says Casey Smith, an NYC-based lifestyle and travel blogger at CaseyLaVie.com. "The sky truly turns shades of pink, orange, and blue, and it's clear how the Grand Canyon is one of the natural wonders of the world."
1. Maui, Hawaii
Nothing is more enchanting than visiting the Hawaiian islands. While sunsets here are some of the best in the nation, Maui is home to some of the most Instagram-worthy sunset spots. Visitors can indulge in a day of hiking through Haleakalā National Park, explore the island's volcanic landscapes, and enjoy a luau feast as the sun colors the sky, or travel through the scenic Road to Hana and watch the sun go down from a hidden beach along the way.
Wanderly, a trip-planning consultancy, recommend Makena Cove Secret Beach. "You won't find big crowds here," they explain. "Bring along a beach blanket and sit on the golden sand for a quiet sunset viewing. For even clearer panoramas, you can also perch on top of the rocky outcrops that lead into the water."