For some of us, it’s not a great beach unless there’s a great beach bar associated with it. Waves too rough to fish or surf? I’ll just hang out at the bar. It’s gonna be pouring down rain all day? You know where to find me. But what makes a GREAT beach bar?
Here are 10 signs you’ve found the most idyllic sandy spot.
This might seem obvious, but it’s not quite as dumb as it sounds. After all, there are “beach bars” in Manhattan, including Jimmy Buffett’s brand-new Margaritaville resort in Times Square. And almost every beach town has cool bars that aren’t on (or even near) the actual waterfront. To be a truly great beach bar, you at least need an unobstructed view of the water. It doesn’t even have to be a view of the ocean or gulf. A great beach bar can be perched on a bay, lake, or canal. But you score big beach bonus points if guests track in the sand when they walk through the door (if there even is a door).
Speaking of which, it’s certainly possible to have a great beach bar without a fresh ocean breeze flowing through the space. But it really begins to feel authentic when the only thing keeping pesky flies off your beer bottle is a lime wedge and a steady coastal breeze. Bonus points for huge wicker ceiling fans that perpetually keep that salt air breezin’ by.
A true beach bar has embarrassingly low standards when it comes to dress codes. Every legit beach bar should welcome flip-flops and even outright bare feet. Throw in some ripped shirtless surfer dudes and a few pretty women in bikinis, and now you’re looking pretty darn beachy.
Live music can pump life into any dead space, but especially when it comes to beach bars. Whether they’re spinning outlaw country, Marley reggae, classic rock, or a swanky sunset ultra-lounge mix, music is an essential part of the best beach bar experiences. But hey, it doesn’t have to be live music, and you don’t even need a killer sound system. Sometimes a D-battery-powered boombox with the right “greatest hits” cassette can be just what the doctor (or bartender) ordered. Bonus points for a free jukebox that hasn’t changed its playlist in 30 or more years.
Hey, I love an ice-cold beer as much as the next person. But after a couple of cold brews, I’m usually ready for a real drink. You know, a pina colada or a frozen strawberry daiquiri. Okay, okay. I know. Those aren’t “real drinks.” I’m normally a neat bourbon or straight-up martini kinda guy. But, just between us, let’s admit it: nothing gets you in a beachier mood than a colorful cocktail punch with a big ol’ pineapple wedge stuck on the lip. Dirty Banana, anyone? Make up your own jokes.
Beach volleyball. Shuffleboard. Cornhole. Hook and ring. Ladder toss. When you finally find your ideal beach bar, you’re gonna wanna hang out for a while. The best beach bars provide you with an excuse to hang out all day and all night. Not that you needed an excuse, but you feel (and look) like less of an alcoholic when you have something to pass the time besides just dangling your sandy toes off the barstool.
No, we’re not talking about the bartender or wait staff. We’re talking about Wi-Fi and mobile phone service. In an era where most of us are addicted to an assortment of digital screens, it’s nice when a beach bar forces us to live in a precious real-world moment rather than in a virtual universe full of endless bad news and negative energy. Let’s admit it: it’s hard to put the phone down, especially when you’re eager to “check-in” to your newly discovered tropical paradise. So kudos to those disconnected beach bars that don’t give us any choice but to live in the moment.
Not all beach bars are blessed enough to face due west. Setting such a sky-high standard would seem particularly unfair to all the geographically-challenged beach bars along any eastern shore. But let’s admit it, a bar definitely scores big if it boasts an epic sunset vista. Bonus points if the bar has a special ritual commemorating the daily moment when another sun slips down into the sea. (But subtract points if that ritual spoils the serene moment with something like a deafening cannon blast.)
Most bars can only be accessed by car or foot. A good beach bar can also be accessed by boat. A GREAT beach bar can ONLY be accessed by boat. Whether it’s a rickety old dock or a high-tide hull slide, it’s always better to beach bar by boat when possible.
Okay, this is wishlisting just a little. This one’s more “beach bar bonus point” material than an absolutely essential requirement. But if the bar offers an old rope hammock swaying somewhere under the palms, just begging for a late-afternoon siesta, that’s gotta be worth a little something.