20 places to find America’s best sunsets

Chasing the sun around the nation

We’re all guilty of it: We run around with our noses in our phones, barely looking up in time to avoid that telephone pole or open manhole. We hardly even give ourselves the decency to glance up to look both ways before crossing the street, yet something amazing happens when the sun starts to set. People actually stop, put away their phones, and take time to enjoy the view—just long enough before posting about it on social media anyway. Isn’t that something?

Because the sunset can have such an amazing effect on us all, we were on a mission to find the most beautiful sunsets in America. We sifted through hundreds of thousands of social conversations using the hashtag #sunsets to determine some of the most talked about sunset destinations. Of the places mentioned, we narrowed down 20 that have America’s best sunsets that will really make you stop in your tracks and enjoy the show.

No matter the time of day, you’re bound to “ooh” and “ah” the Grand Canyon’s incredibly scenic landscape. After all, it didn’t earn the title of one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World for nothing. Yet, come sunset, the views become even more magical. There are no bad vantage points; join the mass exodus to Hopi Point to see the sunset or head to Yaki Point for a more secluded viewing. Located right on the canyon rim, Bright Angel Lodge is another excellent spot for catching the sun show.

The beauty of the Keys is that you can view the sun rise and set over the water in the same day, as long as you head to the east and west shores, respectively. Come evening, there’s a seat on Ocean Key’s Sunset Pier with your name on it. Order a fruity cocktail to match the tropical vibes, and soak up the front-row viewing of the sun melting into the horizon. Prefer some sunset revelry? Ever since the 1960s, Mallory Square has been hosting the Key West Sunset Celebration. Every evening, all walks of life—from psychics to musicians—join in celebrating the sunset sensation on the Gulf of Mexico.

Let’s be honest, the Aloha State’s legendary sunsets are one of the main reasons why you’ve wound up on the shores of Wailuku. With your beach blanket and tripod in tow, make a beeline straight for the coastline as the day starts to come to a close. Kamaole Beach Park II, in particular, is one excellent place to set up shop for the evening. Sandwiched between Kamaole I and II, this stretch promises postcard-worthy sunset photographs on a clear day—you may even spot Molokini Island in the distance.

Of course the Big Island has to make an appearance on this sunset list. See what the fuss is about with a visit to Kailua-Kona and reservations at Beach Tree Bar & Grill. Dine alfresco with sweeping views of the crashing waves and prepare to earn some new Instagram followers with your amazing sunset shots. Alternatively, soak up the sunshine all day long with a day spent boogie boarding down at Honl's Beach. Once the sun starts making its descent, cozy up on a beach blanket on the grassy knoll and wait for nature to take its course.

Glenwood Springs is here to prove that you don’t need emerald waves and sandy shores to paint an epic sunset. Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park overlooks the rust-colored Rocky Mountains, but the view from the ground just doesn’t do it justice. For remarkable views, climb aboard the Iron Mountain Tramway and marvel at the morphing sky at sunset. If heights aren’t your forte, watch the sun-sation from the warm waters of the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool—we call that relaxation at its finest.

Seattle sees its fair share of rain, but that just makes its sunsets all the more memorable. Perhaps the best views in town are found in Carkeek Park. Sprawl out in the grassy space, surrounded by maple and spruce trees, and wait for the sun to reflect over the sound and dip below the Olympic Mountains. Pier 66, along Seattle’s waterfront, is another solid choice for viewing the final glimpses of sunshine before it vanishes until morning.

U2 once sang that in Santa Barbara, “the blood orange sunset brings you to your knees,” and they weren’t far from the truth. Discover the hypnotic effect of the sunset for yourself at the Boathouse at Hendry’s Beach. Just steps from the sand, this seaside restaurant serves up fresh seafood and inspirational views of the sunset. Another Instagram-worthy sunset spot is at Sterns Wharf. From the edge of the pier, looking out over the waters of the Pacific, there’s nothing but ocean between you and the setting sun.

By this point, you know some of the most fantastic sunset views happen by the sea, but actually getting on the water ups the ante. Allow Captain Jack’s Guide Service to take you on an Apalachicola and St. George Island sunset boat tour, where you’ll shuck fresh oysters, visit Sand Dollar Island, and maybe even see some playful dolphins, while the sun makes moves toward the horizon. Don’t have your sea legs? Stay on dry ground and watch the solar star go down from the porch of Up the Creek Raw Bar—don’t forget your camera.

If you haven’t caught on yet, Hawaii is clearly the place for a rad sunset. With palm trees framing your view of the cotton-candy colored clouds floating over the sea, it’s a really tough act to follow. Head to Tiki’s Grill and Bar, and tear your attention away from the live music and ahi poke for just long enough to be rewarded with a magical view of a Hawaiian sunset. Another spot you’ll be bragging about for years to come is from Top of Waikiki, Hawaii’s only rotating restaurant. Settle in for dinner at sunset, and over the course of an hour you’ll do a full rotation, seeing all of Waikiki and Honolulu under the earth’s natural mood lighting.

Ely is the kind of rustic place where you wind up spending all your time exploring the great outdoors, so you might as well find a good spot to catch the sunset while you’re at it. Come summertime, rent a cabin at Burntside Lodge to watch the fiery sun retreat over the Burntside Lake—the beauty of it is sure to be seared into your memory forever. Don’t feel like making a fuss out of finding a legendary spot to watch the show? Simply spectate from a quiet street corner and you’ll receive the same blissful effects.

Follow the setting sun to the rural town of Spencer and you’ll be dazzled by the sky production. For a sunset scene you won’t soon forget, make dinner reservations at Gary’s on the River. This 19th-century church turned restaurant has an outdoor patio that overlooks the water—an undeniably good sunset viewing location. With a plate of the smoked trio platter and sunset vibes, we dare you to find a happier place.

When you think of Moab, your mind probably goes straight to the magnificent red and orange rock canyons. Now, imagine those formations under the glow of the setting sun. Even your wildest dreams won’t do it justice, so see it with your own eyes at none other than The Sunset Grill. Overlooking the valley, Moab’s oldest operating restaurant sits 225 feet above the roads, showcasing an unspoiled view of the sun lowering behind the canyons. If you’d rather earn your sunset, venture 5 miles outside of Moab on the Delicate Arch hike, where you’ll stand below the famous rock formation with the setting sun illuminating it.

The thing about Hawaiian sunsets is that each one is unique and more breathtaking than the last, and the views from Duke’s Kauai proves it. Grab a seat overlooking Nawiliwili Bay and marvel as the sky turns the same color as the tropical cocktail in your hand. Meanwhile, if you’re in the mood for sunset vibes all vacation long, stay at Aqua Kauai Beach Resort and picnic down at the beach as the day turns to dusk. Even though the sun will set behind the mountains to the west, you won’t find yourself complaining about the views.

Sometimes, only after a loud and angry thunderstorm rages through town can you really appreciate the silent serenity of a sunset. In Lamar, in particular, the more violent the storm, perhaps the more beautiful the sky as the sun pours through the colorful cumulonimbus clouds. But if you’re looking for a more traditional sunset, sans the rain clouds, head east to nearby John Martin Reservoir State Park, where you can awe at the fireball star as it glides over Lake Hasty’s horizon.

There’s something about a sunset in the countryside that makes you get all sentimental—or maybe that’s just us. Decide for yourself in Mankato, where the sun dips perfectly behind rows of corn stalks with green pastures in the distance. If that’s not magical enough for you, hike the Red Jacket Trail just before sunset and gaze up at the pink and orange clouds swirling above the wooden bridge and riverfront—nature’s artwork at its finest.

Whether you’re a night owl heading home from the clubs or an early bird just starting your day, head to the shore at daybreak and watch as the sun rises above the Atlantic Ocean. Of course, the sun will set in the west, so later that day, plan on dinner at the swanky rooftop restaurant, Juvia, and view the sun falling behind the Miami skyline. Just minutes from Juvia, you’ll find another sweet spot, the waterfront restaurant, Monty’s Sunset. Snag a seat at the poolside and count down the minutes as the sun sinks behind the skyscrapers across the bay.

Head out on the highway and ride into the sunset in the desert town of Barstow. One of the best sunset spots in America is from the seat of your car, cruising along the Barstow Freeway with the windows down and the wind flying through your hair. The desolate desert landscape will whiz past your vision as the sun above slowly descends behind the Soda Mountains, leaving fluorescent trails in the sky that look like they’re in a scene from Monet’s masterpieces. You’ll be pressed to find a more peaceful experience than just you, the sun, and the open road.

Alaska is known for its mystical northern lights, but don’t let them outshine Kodiak’s marvelous sunsets. As the sun starts making its way west, venture over to Dead Man’s Curve, where you’ll see the show in all its glory. The sun’s rays stretch out over the Saint Paul Harbor, as the clouds above start their transformations from blue to orange, pink, and purple. There’s no denying the beauty of this coastal destination just before twilight.

People brag about California sunsets and for good reason. See what everyone’s taking about down at Santa Monica Pier. Jutting out into the Pacific Ocean, the pier showcases a straight shot of the sun lowering below the ocean horizon, and you can relish it in the best seat in the house: from the gondola of the Ferris wheel. Rather keep your feet on solid ground? Saunter over to The Lobster restaurant on the pier, where you’ll can sip up the unrivaled sunset views with some caviar and oysters in hand.

New Bedford rounds out our list of the most epic sunset areas in the nation. To get a good look at the solar performance on Massachusetts’ scenic South Coast, venture over to Fort Taber-Fort Rodman, where you’ll have an awesome vantage point of the sun sailing over Buzzards Bay. Harbor Walk is another go-to spot to view the tangerine sun departing for the evening—stroll along the Bayfront and look forward to what the new day will bring.

Image Sources

Wailuku: Flickr/Mike

Ely: Flickr/Greg Gjerdingen

Spencer: Flickr/cleong

Lihue: Flickr/Robert Linsdell

Mankato: Flickr/Doug Kerr

Barstow: Flickr/Floris Ooosterveld

Kodiak: Flickr/naql