CORONADO — Like a Hollywood star, Coronado's 1.5 mile-long beach literally sparkles, thanks to the mineral mica glinting in its sand.
That's one of the reasons why Coronado — flanked by the iconic hotel featured in Marilyn Monroe's 1958 film "Some Like It Hot" — has been named the No. 1 beach in the United States in the 2012 survey by "Dr. Beach" professor Stephen P. Leatherman of Florida International University.
It is the first time "Dr. Beach" has given the top slot to California in the more than two decades that he has been ranking beaches in the United States based on their environmental quality and safety for swimmers.
Coronado Beach, on a peninsula across the bay from San Diego, has near-perfect Mediterranean weather and a postcard backdrop.
"I think it's one of the most super beaches around," said Leatherman, director of FIU's Laboratory for Coastal Research.
Rounding out the top 10 this year were No. 2, Kahanamoku Beach in Waikiki, Honolulu, Hawaii; No. 3, Main Beach, East Hampton, N.Y.; No. 4, St. George Island State Park, Florida Panhandle; No. 5, Hamoa Beach, Maui, Hawaii; No. 6, Coast Guard Beach, Cape Cod, Mass.; No. 7, Waimanalo Bay Beach Park, Oahu, Hawaii; No. 8, Cape Florida State Park near Miami.; No. 9, Beachwalker Park, Kiawah Island, S.C.; and No. 10, Cape Hatteras in North Carolina.
Leatherman ranks beaches on 50 criteria, including the look and feel of the sand, water quality, weather, facilities and crowds. A top score is 250. Coronado came in the 230s, losing points because its water temperature hovering in the 60s allows for only a quick dip for most, Leatherman said. California's chilly coastal waters have cost its pristine beaches points when they've been up against balmy contenders in Florida and Hawaii in the past. Coronado Beach was runner-up last year to Florida's Siesta Beach. Once a beach tops Leatherman's list, it is retired from consideration for future rankings.