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College Surf 101: 15 Colleges Near the Beach

Alyson Campbell March 15, 2024

College Surf 101

After a long, bleak, gray winter, you may be dreaming of warmer temps, some Vitamin D, longer days, and perhaps even a stroll on the sand. If you are a student building your college list, this may be something you have been dreaming of, too. Truthfully, as the members of the Estrela team get to know their students, we find MANY times that more desirable weather and climate is at the top of our student’s “must have” lists. We also know that a warmer climate can be found at many schools in the southern and western parts of the US, but what colleges and universities are specifically on, or extremely close, to the water? Check out our list of 15 colleges offering both beach access and a top-notch education!

1: California State University at Long Beach, Long Beach, CA

Aptly nicknamed “The Beach” it is located 25 minutes from LA, and only 3 miles from the Pacific Ocean. 

California State University--Long Beach - Profile, Rankings and Data | US  News Best Colleges

2: Coastal Carolina University, Conway, SC

Located nine miles from Myrtle Beach, SC, students at Coastal Carolina enjoy approximately 215 days of sunshine per year and average school-year temperatures around 75 degrees!

Coastal Carolina Consolidates EdTech Tools with a Single, Trusted and  Experienced Vendor YuJa

3: Eckerd College, St. Petersburg, FL

Eckerd is not close to Miami, but they have their own South Beach! Eckerd students have access to a private beach with two sand volleyball courts, a skateboard ramp, a fire pit, swing sets, an outdoor pavilion and an adjacent full-size rugby and soccer field. 

Timeline - Waterfront Programs | Eckerd College

4: College of Charleston, Charleston, SC

Located in the heart of historic Charleston, “C of C” is only 10 miles from the nearest proper beach, but within walking distance of the water. 

CofC Officially Named a Tree Campus

5: Flagler College, St. Augustine, FL 

This small, private, liberal arts college boasts gorgeous Spanish architecture while being only four miles from the ocean. You may find yourself having class on the lawn, and studying on the sand!

Historic Tour of Flagler College former Hotel Ponce de Leon - Flagler's  Legacy

6: Pepperdine University, Malibu, CA

Nestled in the Santa Monica Mountains, Pepperdine is only seven miles from the beach, and 20 miles from the world-famous Santa Monica Pier. You can see the winding coastline views from campus!

Pepperdine University Hybrid Education Partnership | 2U

7: Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, FL

Just under 4 miles from a handful of public beaches in Boca Raton, you can also check out local ice cream shops, smoothie bars, and local restaurants right near the water.

Florida Atlantic University | Boca Raton, FL - Caulfield & Wheeler Inc.

8: Hawaii Pacific University, Honolulu, HI

This location is paradise for students who love to paddle board, surf, snorkel, hike or bike! Three miles from Waikiki Beach, and with views of the Pacific Ocean from the top of campus, 80% of students say that the location was the determining factor for attending.

Apply to Hawaii Pacific University

9: Florida Gulf Coast University, Fort Myers, FL

Just 20 minutes from the water, and 45 minutes from popular public Fort Myers beaches, FGCU showcases sun, sand, and shopping on Florida’s Gulf coast. 

FGCU International Admissions Brochure by Florida Gulf Coast University -  Issuu

10: University of California - San Diego, San Diego, CA

UCSD students are only a 15 minute walk from the scenic cliffs of Glider Port where visitors can paraglide over the Pacific Ocean and land on the beach below. San Diego is known for its incredible year-round climate, and the UCSD student body ranks as one of the “happiest” in the US. 

University of California, San Diego | UCSD - Requirements + Data |  CollegeVine

11: Jacksonville University, Jacksonville, FL

Jacksonville University is on the river AND close to the beach! With almost a mile of JU’s campus on the banks of the St. John’s River, the campus is only 20 minutes from the Atlantic Ocean. 

Apply to Jacksonville University

12: University of North Carolina at Wilmington, Wilmington, NC

Popular Wrightsville Beach is only 3 miles from the heart of campus, and two more popular Carolina beaches are 15 minutes away. Plenty of options for sea-seekers!


13: Lynn University, Boca Raton, FL

Three popular beaches are only six miles or less away from Lynn University’s campus. Also popular, Deerfield and Delray Beaches boast some of the local's favorite shopping and snacking establishments.

Lynn University recognized in The Princeton Review Guide to Green Colleges  | Lynn University

14: University of California - Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA

UCSB has an entire map of different beaches, depending on your location, activity, or vibe. Talk about choices! They also have a private beach for UCSB students. 

California University of Santa Barbara (UC Santa Barbara) (Santa Barbara,  USA) | Smapse

15: University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, HI 

This Honolulu beach is even closer to Waikiki Beach than its island counterpart (aforementioned HPU). Waikiki Beach is known for its warm, cloud-free climate, stunning white sand, and is a top surfing location in the United States.

About UH Mānoa | University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

Whether you’re California dreamin’, or walking on the sun - we hope this list provides a great start. Happy college surfing...we mean college searching!

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Tagged: campus visits, summer break, college search, campus tours, University of California, UC, marine biology, Alyson Campbell

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