Image: Laguna Beach, Orange County, Calif.
Brett Hillyard  /  iStockphoto.com
The surf's always up on Laguna Beach, in Orange County, Calif., where toned bodies ride the waves and play perpetual volleyball. Laguna is blessed with coves secluded enough to give couples a chance to get cozy. For solo travelers, the flirt factor is high in village cafes and on the plentiful hiking trails.
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updated 6/18/2008 9:54:14 AM ET 2008-06-18T13:54:14

Sexy is a state of mind, most easily induced while sipping cocktails on a beach filled with beautiful people. Dreams of barefoot strolls and barely-there beachwear help coax us through the gray days of winter. You know how it is. On a clear summer night, when the warm wind kisses your skin and the sun slips down into the sea, even the most jaded city slicker starts to feel the sap rising. So break out the bikinis and bring on the margaritas. Summer is here, and it’s time for a little reckless abandonment.

For many urban jungle dwellers, the stimulation of breathtaking scenery and perfect temperatures is enough to kick-start the libido. The topographically-blessed states of California and Hawaii offer perhaps the most gratifying combination of untamed nature and unrestrained sexiness. Picture yourself cavorting among hula dancers in the lush tropical wonderland of Maui’s stunning Ka’anapali Beach. Or perhaps you’d rather be frolicking with ripped surf kings beneath the rainbow-laced mountains of Kauai’s Hanalei Bay. California’s La Jolla Cove, with its rugged sandstone cliffs, is another one of those pinch-me beautiful places etched into our minds from countless movies and postcards. These are places that demand we peel back as many layers of prudery — and clothing — as we dare.

Maybe you prefer your own private paradise? Two of our top picks boast special temptations for those vacationing à deux. Amid the lavish resorts of Mexico’s Playa del Carmen, couples indulge in intimate massages surrounded by lush, fragrant gardens. Private infinity pools, secret dining spots, and Mayan saunas right on the beach are all here for the taking. Laguna Beach, a coastal jewel set between Los Angeles and San Diego, offers hidden coves beyond the more scene-y stretches where you and your amour can steal away from prying eyes. For adults-only romance, Miami’s South Beach delivers plenty of sexy hotels where you can lounge on secluded beach-beds and suck the toes of your one-and-only.

Of course, you might be in the mood for belly shots at the local bar. Cheesy? Perhaps. But when bodies wriggle across the dance floor and naughtiness fills the air, everyday personalities dissolve and we all get in touch with our Inner Hottie. Fortunately for the beach-bound, nothing cures a hangover like a dip in the ocean or perhaps a little hair-of-the-dog at the swim-up bar.

If you’re ready to keep up with best, Cabo San Lucas is world-famous for attracting thirsty college kids, cruise ship revelers and fashionable party people from every corner of the world. From a casual beach-bar cerveza to a full-throttle dance-a-thon, Cabo delivers an endless festival of sensual summer entertainment. For a très chic party-scene, South Beach scores again with its jet-setting sun worshippers from near and far who don’t know the meaning of the word “no.” Deco and decadence go hand-in-hand in this haven for fun-loving models and flamboyant beach boys.

When the thermometer rises, let’s face it, people seem to get hotter, too. We’re talking about toned torsos, bulging biceps, luscious legs, and bronzed butts. Sun-kissed tresses and peek-a-boo tan lines. California’s Manhattan Beach and Pacific Beach are the best places to check out the buff boys and girls of summer as they glide along on rollerblades and leap gracefully among volleyball nets. If the golden SoCal scenery wasn’t enough, PB’s tanned, twenty-something surfers and MB’s well-muscled professional volleyball players are attractions that no summer pleasure-seeker should miss. Their enviable physical perfection urges you strike a pose on a surfboard and take a turn at wind-surfing, sailing, or sea kayaking. You not only feel sexy, you look sexy, too, and that’s half the game. No skills? No problem. Get a local beach babe to show you the ropes.

Image: Ka'anapali, Maui, Hawaii
Jay Spooner  /  iStockphoto.com
Ancient Hawaiian royals couldn't resist the appeal of this Ka'anapali, in Maui, Hawaii, and neither can we. Against a backdrop of lush tropical scenery, bronzed beauties sail, scuba dive, and swim among gentle waves. As the sky turns from pink to violet, hula dancers undulate among blazing torches to the sounds of beating drums. Ka'anapali is sexy at its most radiantly sensual.
Finally, some may call it swimming with the sharks, but there are people who like a little bling-bling with their bikini. Main Beach, East Hampton, is the most happening section of the fabled Long Island playground where the rich and famous gather every summer. Each way you turn, A-listers, celebrities, trust-fund bunnies and house-sharers are blowing off serious steam. Chasing hot Hamptonistas in velvet-roped clubs is certainly not a sport for the timid, but there are plenty of seaside bars for more low-key flirting. Of course, if you’re ensconced in one of the multi-million-dollar mansions that line the beach, the party will be coming to you. Bonus: East Coast surfers flock to the Hamptons to pick up swells.

In the following list, you’ll find our top 10 North American zones of serious summer sex appeal (we’re including Hawaii). While some of these beaches are family-friendly, the focus is on places where adults get to play in a giant sandbox. These are slices of heaven where you can bask beside beach beauties and let fruity cocktails awaken your mojo. Frankly, this list is bound to be controversial. Where is Malibu? What of South Padre Island? Really, the only way to be sure which beach is the sexiest is to get out there and try them all. That’s a summer assignment we highly recommend.

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