The best beach in the USA

People like to say there aren’t seasons in Florida. That’s not exactly true. Seasons are subtle here: once you’ve been here a while, you can spot them.

Seasons in Florida aren’t like in New England, where brilliant fall foliage, harsh blizzards, wet springtimes and glorious summers make themselves known like clockwork.

There’s a quiet ferocity about Florida seasons. Now that I’ve been here 11 years, I can tell what time of the year it is by the small _ and, occasionally, large _ events that are happening around me.

There’s love bug season, where black bugs copulate on windshields. Alligator season, which is dangerous for small dogs and people with no fear. Orange blossom season, which is heavenly. Hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30.

May is Dr. Beach’s season. Dr. Beach is also known as Stephen Leatherman, and he’s a professor at Florida International University in Miami. Each May, Leatherman makes his predictions for “Best Beach” in the United States. Somewhere in Florida is usually on the list.

This is the 21st year of his predictions. The top beach for 2011: Siesta Beach, which is near Sarasota. As my friend and AP colleague Mitch Stacy writes:

“The sand is like sugar,” said Leatherman, director of FIU’s Laboratory for Coastal Research. “Some people can’t believe it. You have to bring sunglasses because it’s so bright. It’s super soft, super fine. They claim to have the finest, whitest sand in the world, and I can’t argue with that.

I did the Associated Press video on this story.  I went to Siesta Beach this week to interview beachgoers and get footage of the sand and water. Definitely a tough assignment.