Fort De Soto, Florida - Florida International University Professor Stephen Leatherman aka "Dr. Beach," has combed this country for top beaches for decades,
It's more than just simply looking at sand and water. So how does a beach top his list? Leatherman evaluates 50 criteria, rated on a scale of one to five, including the color of sand, its softness, the water temperature and wave size.
He says clean bathrooms are a must also.
"You have two [previously winning beaches] in Pinellas County," Dr. Beach says. "I don't know of any other -- other than in Hawaii -- that's had two national winners. Way ahead of the game."
Fort Do Soto topped the list in 2005, while Caladesi State Park in Clearwater did it in 2008. Siesta Key Beach in Sarasota did the same in 2011.
And Dr. Beach says he wouldn't be surprised if other area beaches make the new list.
This year, this professor is adding a bonus on this beach test: No smoking.
"People put [cigarettes in the sand] thinking they're giant ash trays. Next thing i see are kids eating cigarette butts," he says.
As it stands now, beaches are retired when they win. But starting next year, he will start the list over.
"Next year, yes. Fort Do Soto will be back in the mix when I start all over."