Whether you’re there to surf or sink your toes into the sand, the beach is the perfect place to escape, relax, and forget your troubles. Though they can’t necessarily bring the sand and water to us, happy songs about the beach help us escape and remind us to enjoy the little things.
If you’re looking for the best songs to bring to the seashore with you or only looking for the best beach songs for Instagram stories, check out these 21 great songs about the beach.
“Margaritaville” – Jimmy Buffett
Inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2016, “Margaritaville” is one of the greatest songs about the beach of all time. Singer and songwriter Jimmy Buffett grew up in Mississippi and Alabama before moving to Florida, giving him a fresh perspective of Florida’s peaceful Caribbean lifestyle.
The song’s lyrics describe staying on the beach for an entire season. The singer watches tourists, partakes in resort activities, stuffs his face with good food, and plays his guitar. Who’d want anything more?
“Under the Boardwalk” – The Drifters
“Under the Boardwalk” is a 1964 song about a man and a woman sneaking under the boardwalk to spend some time out of the sun. The song is a follow-up to “Up On the Roof” and was proceeded by “I’ve Got Sand in My Shoes.”
“Under the Boardwalk” has a hint of sadness in its recording. This is heavily credited to the death of Rudy Lewis, the former lead singer of The Drifters. Lewis died the morning “Under the Boardwalk” was originally intended to be recorded. Johnny Moore sang the song in its final recording instead.
“Surfin’ U.S.A.” – The Beach Boys
One of the best foot-tapping songs with the beach in the lyrics, “Surfin’ U.S.A.,” was a collaboration between The Beach Boys and Chuck Berry. The song is very similar in style and composition to Berry’s “Sweet Little Sixteen.”
“Surfin’ U.S.A.” is quite simple lyrically, celebrating surfing and having fun on the beach. The song lists what The Beach Boys considered some of the best surfing spots in California, along with one spot in Hawaii and another in Wales.
“Cake By The Ocean” – DNCE
“Cake By The Ocean” was the debut song of Joe Jonas’s band DNCE. Originally peaking at No. 9 in the US, this song about the ocean and beach remains one of DNCE’s greatest hits today.
The song is about having sex on the beach, with the words “cake by the ocean” intended to replace the common phrase and drink name, “sex on the beach.” Jonas later explained that “Cake By The Ocean” can actually refer to any activities you love on the beach and doesn’t have to be specifically about sex.
“Wipe Out” – Surfaris
Despite having barely any lyrics, “Wipe Out” is a song about the beach that personifies the seaside life better than most. Most recognizable by its rockin’ drums and guitar riffs, “Wipe Out” is the perfect song to surf to
Every member of Surfaris was broke at the time of recording “Wipe Out.” The members had to ask for money from friends and family to get the song made, having no idea how much of a hit their instrumental track would go on to be. “Wipe Out” has remained one of the most popular beach party songs for nearly 60 years.
“Soak Up the Sun” – Sheryl Crow
“Soak Up the Sun” is an upbeat, lighthearted song about making the most out of life. It was intended up to be the ultimate cheer-up song, written from the perspective of a childish, happy-go-lucky character who doesn’t understand why everyone else is so down.
Co-writer Jeff Trott got the idea for “Soak Up the Sun” while on a flight to New York and thinking about all the things he wanted to do when he landed. “Soak Up the Sun” was one of the best beach party songs of the 00s and is a delightful song about the sun.
“Surf’s Up” – The Beach Boys
Written in only an hour by Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks, “Surf’s Up” is a rather somber Beach Boys song. The lyrics use surfing and catching waves as an analogy for youthful innocence lost to adulthood.
Interestingly, “Surf’s Up” is less about being on the beach and more about leaving the beach. The title “Surf’s Up” was believed to indicate The Beach Boys putting up their boards and cleaning the sand off their feet.
“Some Beach” – Blake Shelton
A pun for the curse “son of a b****,” “Some Beach” is a song about frustration. The song describes irritation from having a parking spot stolen, being flipped off, and having your teeth drilled.
Whenever he gets too stressed, Shelton pictures himself lying on some beach. “Some Beach” cleverly turns the negativity of saying “son of a b****” into something positive, inviting the listener to picture a calming ocean shore instead.
“Rockaway Beach” – Ramones
“Rockaway Beach” is an upbeat punk rock song describing Rockaway Beach and Boardwalk in Queens, NY. Songwriter and bassist Dee Dee Ramone wrote the song about growing up in New York City and finding solace on the beach.
The lyrics describe Rockaway Beach not being too far away from anything and being better than everything else in town. The playground concrete is too hot, the buses are too slow, and the radios don’t play anything good — might as well hit the beach!
“Kokomo” – The Beach Boys
“Kokomo” is yet another song proving that The Beach Boys are the kings of songs about the beach. The song describes the fictional island of Kokomo, which is the cumulation of every other vacation spot listed in the lyrics.
“Kokomo” was originally written for the 1988 movie Cocktail starring Tom Cruise. “Kokomo” reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 in the United States and has since been the name of numerous resorts trying to gain some free marketing.
“Malibu” – Miley Cyrus
“I never came to the beach/Or stood by the ocean,” sings Cyrus in the opening of ‘Malibu’. She describes how she was always too scared to swim and never had much of an interest in the beach until her lover brought her. It was only after that that she noticed how much more beautiful everything was down by the shore.
Cyrus penned this summer love song about her boyfriend at the time, Liam Hemsworth. The two lived in Malibu together and Miley describes how their relationship beautified her surroundings and helped her to appreciate where she was, both geographically and in her life.
Although Cyrus was notoriously private about her relationship before this point, she reasoned that when people were talking about her relationship anyway, she might as well put her point of view out there.
“Solar Power” – Lorde
Lorde embraces the sun in this joyful track from her album of the same name. With red cheeks and in little clothing, she leads a group of young people out onto the beach to soak up the ‘solar power’. Lorde’s so committed to the beach life that she even throws her phone in the water. “Can you reach me? No, you can’t,” she sings cheekily.
The lead single on the album, ‘Solar Power’ doesn’t just see Lorde leading her friends to the beach, but leading the listener into the sun-kissed world of the record, which captures a summer spent in her native New Zealand. Lorde described the record as “a celebration of the natural world”.
“Surf City” – Jan & Dean
This cheerful ode to surf culture describes a cheerful trip down to the beach to catch some waves. Written in collaboration with Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys, ‘Surf City’ resembles a Beach Boys track in many ways, with its repeated vocal hook and swinging instrumental. This was one of many tunes that Jan & Dean put out celebrating California culture in the mid-60s, and the aspirational surfer lifestyle they portrayed had young people flooding to the beaches of Malibu.
“Sea And Sand” – The Who
Unlike many beach songs, this track from The Who is far from joyful. Opening with the sounds of crashing waves and squawking seagulls, the track then diverts into the story of a young man who comes to the beach because he can’t face slinking back home after being thrown out by his parents. He then begins examining how he can be good enough for the girl that he loves. His internal monologue continues as he stands on the beach and stares out at the sea.
“California Gurls” – Katy Perry ft Snoop Dogg
Katy Perry celebrates the women of California in this hit track from Teenage Dream. An all-time favourite summer anthem, the track translates just as well to the clubs as it does to the beach. Perry was inspired to write the track after Jay-Z’s ‘Empire State Of Mind’ was played at a party. Watching her friends put their drinks in the air to celebrate New York, Katy wanted to pen a tune that would have everyone celebrating the beaches of California – particularly one from a female perspective.
“Seaside” – The Kooks
The Kooks sing about a love that’s become a little less simple than it used to be in this beachy track. Sung over a simple strummed guitar, ‘Seaside’ sees a man asking the girl he loves to come to the beach with him where he fell in love. He tells her that he’s just trying to love her, and finds it difficult to do when she’s far away. Maybe if they head down to the beach things will feel uncomplicated again.
“I Want To Go To The Beach” – Iggy Pop
Iggy Pop sings about wanting to escape it all and find his way to the seaside. “I want to go to the deep/Because there’s nowhere I want to be”. In this mournful track, he expresses that he can’t quite shake off the sadness inside him, and he feels like the best thing for him might just be to go sit on the beach and feel what he’s feeling.
He calls a trip to the beach his “escape” and ends the track still dreaming about making it. Iggy’s gravelly vocals and the hypnotising instrumental give the song and unreal quality, as if we’ve found our way into one of his daydreams.
“Beachin’’ – Jake Owen
This country-tinged track from Jake Owen describes a trip to the beach with the woman he loves. ‘Beachin’’ is all sunshine and summer joy – they’re walking over white sand with cold cans of drink, finding their way to a margarita bar and dancing with a reggae band. Owens had previously had a summer hit with ‘Barefoot Blue Jean Night’. He later called ‘Beachin’’ a “sister song” to its predecessor.
“Island In The Sun” – Weezer
Weezer describe that holiday feeling on ‘Island In The Sun’. They’re dreaming about being on a beach on a remote island somewhere in the middle of the sea, with no worries or responsibilities. ‘Island In The Sun’ almost didn’t make the cut as a single, but after producer Ric Ocasek fought for the track it ended up becoming a radio hit. It went on to become the most licensed track in the Weezer catalogue, which frontman Rivers Cuomo attributed to its clean guitar sound that he thought appealed to mainstream audiences.
“Snow On The Beach” – Taylor Swift ft Lana Del Ray
Swift sings about the supernatural experience of seeing snow fall on the beach in this magical track. With backing vocals from fellow singer-songwriter Lana Del Ray, Swift explains that this is how falling in love feels to her: the surreal, this-can’t-be-happening feeling of watching snow fall down on the sand.
“Peaches” – The Stranglers
The Stranglers only come to the beach for one thing, and it isn’t to swim. They describe a walk along the shore and all the beautiful women they pass on their way. Mostly spoken rather than sung, they narrate their time on the beach and describe in detail all the different girls they see.
These upbeat, optimistic, and romantic beach songs are hard to get out of your head — and for a good reason. Despite many of these songs being tonally similar, it’s interesting to see the differences artists take when writing songs about the beach.
Which songs about the beach are your favorites? Are there any great songs about the beach we missed?
Caitlin Devlin is a music, entertainment and lifestyle writer based in London. When she’s not creating playlists for Repeat Replay, she’s reviewing gigs and interviewing artists for Ticketmaster UK and thinking about what her Spotify Wrapped will look like this year.