Beaches are places to witness water bodies and the vastness of the unexplored ocean. Even though the deep waters are largely a mystery to us, staring into them lends us comfort. One of my favourite memories of this year is at the beach in a coastal town in India. I stared at the rising moon and asked the waves all the questions I wanted to. They didn’t say anything to me in words, but god, did they answer. I left with the taste of salt on my lips, tiny grains of sand in my hair, and renewed hope in my heart. You probably have your own version of your beach story, or have yearned for one. While we do that, let’s read these books set at the beach to know someone else’s story.
Whether you’re looking for romcoms, slow burn romance, family drama or coming-of-age narratives, this list has something for everything. We witness characters navigate their lives while the sun shines in their eyes and the waves roar in their ears. The tides in their lives rise and fall with as much turbulence and serenity as the ocean’s. Let’s welcome the summer by curling up with a book set at the beach.
Where The Rhythm Takes You by Sarah Dass
This debut novel takes its inspiration from Persuasion by Jane Austen. It is set at a beautiful resort in Taboga, an island in the Gulf of Panama. Renya is seventeen and has lived on the island her whole life. Her first love, Aiden, returns with his Grammy-nominated band after pursuing his music career. Will the sparks fly again or has the fire died down? We get to witness what unfolds as Renya and Aiden get a second chance at the first love.
Sun of a Beach by Mia Sosa
This short fun read was originally an Audible original, and has been released in other formats since. Do you wanna read something fun, flirty and steaming while basking in the sun? This book has got it all. Naomi Reyes has a low tolerance for nonsense, but ends up babysitting Donovan Taylor, who’s an insufferable creative director. If you’re looking for an enemies to lovers story set on a gorgeous tropical island, you should check this out!
Good Girl Complex by Elle Kennedy
As the title suggests, our protagonist Mac can’t let go of her people pleasing tendencies. She’s exhausted from the act. She wants more than anything to focus on her online business, but ends up getting a college degree on her parents’ persistence. To do this, she moves to the beach town of Avalon Bay. She meets the local bad boy Cooper Hartley, who brings our the impulses she’s suppressed for so long. They foster an unlikely friendship, but it’s threatened by the secret he’s been keeping all along.
Happy Place by Emily Henry
Harriet and Wyn are the perfect couple that’s adored by everyone…except they broke up five months ago and haven’t mentioned it to anyone. So when they go on their annual vacation at their Maine cottage with their best friends, they end up in the same room. This is the last year they’ll have this place, so they want to play their part and not break their friends’ hearts. But how long can you pretend with people who know you best?
The Beach Trap by Ali Brady
At 12 years old, Kat Steiner and Blake O’Neill meet at Camp Chickawah. They instantly hit it off, until they realise they’re also half sisters. Fifteen years later, when their father dies, they discover their joint inheritance: a beach house in Destin, Florida. Blake wants to sell the house, but Kat wants to preserve their childhood memories. They reluctantly agree to renovate the house while each are enticed by romances.
Sag Harbor by Colson Whitehead
This book is set in Sag Harbor, a small village in the Hamptons on the east end of New York’s Long Island. Benji Cooper spends every summer there in a community of fellow African Americans. It’s a getaway from his life in an elite prep school in Manhattan, where he’s surrounded by white people. Benji is confused by both places and his own place in the world, but is hoping things change this summer.
The Star Side of Bird Hill by Naomi Jackson
Dionne and Phaedra, our sister duo, leaves their home in Brooklyn to visit their grandmother in Barbados. Dionne spends her time there looking for love and testing her grandma’s patience. On the other hand, Phaedra accompanies her grandmother in her job as a midwife, and gets curious about her mother’s past. This lyrical coming-of-age story makes for a perfect summer read.
Dear Haiti, Love Alaine by Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite
The setting of this fun read, written by two sisters, alternates between Miami and Haiti. The story unfolds in an epistolary style with letters, emails, articles, and diary entries. Alaine is sent to Haiti on a “spring volunteer immersion project” after “the incident.” So it doesn’t feel like a vacation except she gets to flirt with a cute intern, spend time with her mum, experience Haiti for the first time, and possibly uncover a family secret!
The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren
If you’re over cheery female protagonists in every romcom that you read, you should check this out. Olive is pessimistic and considers herself to be downright unlucky. When her twin sister Ami gets married, everyone in the wedding gets sick from eating bad shellfish. The only people who are unaffected are Olive and Ethan, the best man who’s also her sworn enemy. That’s how they end up going to an all-expenses-paid honeymoon to Hawaii. They’ve got to pretend to be newlyweds, and Olive’s life seems more inconvenient than ever — until things turn, and she almost starts to feel lucky.
We Are Okay by Nina LaCour
This book is set at the beach in its flashbacks from the California coast. The present is set in wintertime in New York. If you want to experience the charm of both seasons in one read, pick this up. It has love, longing, queerness, friendship, grief, and the need to figure yourself out as the first flowers of adulthood start to bloom. I read it because John Green described it as “a poetic meditation on loss.” I cannot describe it better.
If you enjoyed this list of books set at the beach and want more recommendations based on your specific reading needs, check out our service TBR: Tailored Book Recommendations. It pairs you with a professional book nerd. You get the best books you didn’t know you were looking for and a curated reading experience with recommendations that are as diverse and exciting as books and readers are.