STEPHEN LEATHERMAN VIA ASSOCIATED PRESS
Fleming Beach Park, a mile-long crescent white-sand beach on Maui's western shore, was named America's best beach.
Maui's Fleming Beach on top of national ranking
Three Hawaii beaches made it into the top 10
D.T. Fleming Beach Park, a mile-long arc of white sand near the Ritz-Carlton in Kapalua, Maui, is the No. 1 beach in the world, according to Stephen Leatherman, a coastal scientist better known as "Dr. Beach."
1. Fleming Beach Park, Maui
2. Caladesi Island State Park, Dunedin, Fla.
3. Ocracoke Island, Outer Banks, N.C.
4. Coopers Beach, Southampton, N.Y.
5. Hanalei Bay, Kauai
6. Main Beach, East Hampton, N.Y.
7. Coast Guard Beach, Cape Cod, Mass.
8. Coronado Beach, San Diego
9. Hamoa Beach, Maui
10. Barefoot Beach Park, Bonita Springs, Fla.
Source: Stephen Leatherman
"It's a nice beach for picnicking, it's a nice beach to go body surfing, it's a nice beach to go diving -- it has everything, actually," Don Rosenthal, recreation technician for the western district of Maui County, said when he heard the news. "It's got nice shady areas for us local people who don't want to get a suntan."
The selection brings Leatherman full circle in his annual rankings of the Top 10 Beaches in the United States, which started in 1991 with the selection of Kapalua Bay Beach, just down the road from Fleming. Altogether, 11 Hawaii beaches have been national winners. Previous winners are excluded from the rankings.
"Fleming Beach is a wonderful beach, but when the surf is up during the winter months, it is best to stay close to shore unless you are a very strong and experienced swimmer," Leatherman said in a news release. "Only swim when lifeguards are on duty."
In his regular job as director of Florida International University's Laboratory for Coastal Research, Leatherman studies storm impacts, erosion and ways to keep beaches healthy. He started ranking public beaches after surveying 650 nationwide, and he judges them based on 50 criteria, from water quality to showers.
Along with the ample white sand and clear water, Fleming Beach also offers a good view of Molokai, plenty of shade and showers, restrooms, grills and picnic tables.
It is named after the late David Thomas Fleming, a former Maui County chairman who is credited with planting 80,000 trees on the island.
"Personally, I like the location," Rosenthal said. "It's probably not as crowded an area as some of the other beaches on this side of the island. It's a little out of the way. You would never know D.T. Fleming was there unless you were a local person or you actually stayed at the Ritz-Carlton."
The 10 other beaches named as national winners since 1991 are Kapalua Bay, Hapuna Beach, Lanikai Beach, Hulopoe, Kailua Beach Park, Wailea Beach, Mauna Kea Beach, Poipu Beach Park, Kaanapali and Hanauma Bay. Once a beach has been declared a national winner, it is retired from the survey.
The news of the latest win for Maui was welcomed by tourism officials.
"We're thrilled to have the honor," said Terryl Vencl, executive director of the Maui Visitors Bureau. "It is of course one of the many things that help to make us the best island in the world, year after year."