Clearwater Beach, Florida
Jon Bilous/ShutterstockThe sugar-white sand beaches and calm Gulf waters make this one of the most popular family beaches in all of Florida. Leave the car parked and hop on a free trolley to find affordable eats and visit the Clearwater Aquarium, home of Winter the dolphin, the inspirational prosthetic tail-wearing star of The Dolphin's Tale films. There's also a fun pirate ship cruise where you and the kids can hit the seas in full pirate attire.
Cape May, New Jersey
Racheal Grazias/ShutterstockAmerica's oldest seaside resort is also one of the best family beach vacations in the U.S. The Victorian architecture and welcoming main street hold sweet treats including ice cream parlors and toy shops. Trolley tours take in the sights. On the beach, kids can search for Cape May diamonds, shining quartz that make great souvenirs. Off the sand, climb the lighthouse to search for whales and ships. Then check in to Congress Hall Hotel for 100 years of charm, a pool, and beach chair service that will make you think you're in the Caribbean instead of New Jersey. Don't forget your perfect beach picnic!
Kaanapali, Maui, Hawaii
Eddy Galeotti/ShutterstockCentrally located on the island's sunny western coast, Kaanapali offers wide stretches of sand framed by shady palm trees, gentle waves, great snorkeling at Black Rocks, and best of all, the Whaler's Village for grab and go snacks and shops. Aloha! (Here's what you need to know before you book a trip to Hawaii.)
Bavaro Beach, Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
Petr Kopka/ShutterstockWhere the Caribbean Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean you'll find the aqua waters and sugary sand that make this picturesque beach a postcard staple. Its smooth and wonderfully clear Blue-Flag-certified surf and range of family-friendly accommodations make it a home run for kids of all ages. The Grand Palladium Resort here has the largest kids club in the Caribbean, with beachside fun for kids 2 to 18. These are the best beach games for the whole family.
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Coronado Beach, San Diego, California
edithpifpaf/ShutterstockSet on an island just over the bridge from bustling San Diego, this two-mile expanse of beach is all golden soft sand, ideal for castle building. The famous Del Coronado Hotel, which resembles an elaborate sand sculpture itself, sits right on the beach and is the perfect spot for a sweet candy stop or an ice cream treat, even if you're not staying the night. Families can rent bikes to coast along the surf, or take surfing lessons. (Check out some of the more unusual surfing spots in the world.)
Cape Cod, Massachusetts
holbox/ShutterstockQuiet ocean waters, soft sand, and rocky beaches perfect for tide pool exploration on the bay side are just some of the reasons families love exploring Cape Cod. Freshwater public ponds such as the delicious sounding Blueberry Pond, between the bay and ocean beaches, are ideal for stand up paddling, kayaking, swimming, and fishing. Ocean Edge Resort, on the lower cape, is located on the widest tidal flats in North America, which is ideal for oyster hunting. At night, the resort builds bonfires where you can toast marshmallows and watch the stars come out. Don't leave home without these beach safety tips.
Amelia Island, Florida
Gestalt Imagery/ShutterstockNestled in the far northeast corner of Florida, the quiet charms here include 40 public beach access points along 13 miles of Amelia Island coastline; you and your brood could explore a different stretch of sand each day for a month, swimming and boogie boarding in the gentle Atlantic Ocean waves, and still not exhaust all the options. The surrounding salt marshes and nature preserves create the perfect environment for bicycling, bird watching, and hiking, plus there's beach horseback riding in Sea Ranch State Park. Extend your island stay at the Ritz Carlton, which features a kids center where children learn about the beach and life beneath the sea based on programs from Jean-Michael Cousteau's Ocean Futures Society.
Matteo Prandoni/BFAREX/ShutterstockThe sapphire blue waters and plush white sandy beach of Mayakoba are some of the most environmentally sound in the Riviera Maya thanks to an eco-initiative of re-seeding the reefs, already one of the largest in the world, to keep beaches and waters here clean and healthy. The reef also creates gentle surf, great for kids to play and swim. Stay at the family-friendly Fairmont Mayakoba for access to the top-rated kids' club, where activities range from beach sports to seaside art projects. The expansive Fairmont also offers free bike usage and boat rides to explore Mayakoba's unique canal systems where you'll spot wildlife among the mangroves and for which its earned the nickname the "Venice of Central America." (Brush up on these common Spanish phrases before you go.)
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Condado, San Juan, Puerto Rico
Sean Pavone/ShutterstockAn urban beach with palm trees and clear waters, Condado's Atlantic Coast dips a bit to create a sheltered swimming beach for pint-sized water lovers. All beaches in Puerto Rico are free, and best of all, the island is a commonwealth of the United States, which means no passport or currency exchange is required to lap up the tropical sun. Bonus: the calm Condado Lagoon including options for stand up paddle boards, kayaks, pedal boats, and a guided snorkeling reef tour.
Hilton Head, South Carolina
Sean Pavone/ShutterstockThe beaches here stretch for miles, but it's the laid back atmosphere that draws families year after year, with activities such as pontoon boats to rent, volleyball, and some of the best biking in the Southeast on long expanses of car-free, beachside trails. Stay at the Sonesta Resort at Shipyard Beach where families are entertained with outdoor movie nights and s'mores around the fire pit. These are the best beach movies of all time.
Seven Mile Beach, Grand Cayman Island
mikolajn/ShutterstockYou come, of course, for the seven miles of tropical Caribbean beach. But you'll want to stay on to feed, swim, and even pet friendly stingrays in the crystal-clear waters at Stingray City, or to visit Cayman Turtle Farm and swim with yearling green sea turtles and shoot down a 100-foot water slide, or to spot bioluminescence on boat rides through water that sparkles in electric hues of green and blue. While you explore all the exciting family adventure options here, stay at the new Kimpton Seafire Resort, which offers kid-friendly eats, activities, and access to the island's first coastal walking and biking boardwalk all right on the beach.
Coopers Beach, Long Island, New York
Cristiana Lamela/ShutterstockRated among the "Top Ten Beaches in America," according to Dr. Beach, for its clean and uncrowded sands, this eastern Long Island beach is a perfect spot for families looking to enjoy a day of surf only 90 minutes east of New York City. Although it's just 500 feet long, it's part of a longer 7-mile stretch of white sand beaches belonging to Southampton, known for its charming villages and miles of farmland.
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Cannon Beach, Oregon
Marisa Estivill/ShutterstockYou'll spot the massive Haystack Rock surging out of this Pacific Ocean spot, 90 minutes west of Portland, as soon as you enter this beach. Cannon Beach is a family favorite more because of what's on the shore and in the sand than what's in the water, which stays a chilly 60 degrees even in summer. Your kids will be able to examine tide pools, hunt for minerals, and build in the sand, all without breaking a sweat in this naturally air-conditioned hideaway. For more Oregon coastal adventures, check out this Oregon Coast Highway itinerary.
Sanibel Island, Florida
Dan Logan/ShutterstockSanibel Island's famous white sand beach is complemented by swimming in the warm Gulf, where its easy for little kids to practice their strokes since there's no shore break or undertow. Thanks to the destination's geography and the east-west orientation of the water, the waves catch incoming shells of all shapes, varieties, and colors. They arrive daily by the hundreds of thousands, mostly fully intact, making for a fabulous, free, treasure hunt every day. Pack light so you'll have plenty of room in your suitcase for nature's souvenirs.
Rehobeth Beach, Delaware
Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
Ruth Peterkin/ShutterstockGreater Fort Lauderdale is home to 23 miles of Atlantic coastline and six beaches that are Blue Wave certified by the Clean Beach Coalition for water quality. Family beach highlights include cove-like Deerfield Beach, which boasts a family playground, volleyball, dining at open-air eateries, and fishing off the Deerfield Pier; retro cool Hollywood Beach is another home run for families with a boardwalk that runs 2 ½ miles along the sand, where kids and parents can bike, stroll, or people-watch at outdoor cafes. Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort, located directly on the Boardwalk, features beachfront FlowRider safe surf lessons plus a kids club, making it an ideal family beach retreat.
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Waikiki, Oahu, Hawaii
emperorcosar/ShutterstockWhen you think of Hawaii, this is probably the beach you picture first: miles of flour white sand ringed by the azure Pacific Ocean, fronted by palm trees and ringed with crisp-edged hotels. Kids will love all the action in this water heaven—with snorkeling, swimming, bodysurfing, sailing, and canoeing all happening around you. For little ones who want to see what's under the sea, the small Waikiki Aquarium is an easy way to spot coral reef creatures and explore touch tanks for hands-on fun. While you're there, let the zen of these popular Hawaiian phrases help you de-stress.
Santa Cruz, California
Ross Helen/ShutterstockThe boardwalk here is a California classic; the beautiful carousel where you can capture a while riding one of the elaborately painted horses is a don't-miss. After you hit the sand and refresh with an ice cream, jump on the Roaring Camp Railroad, which stops right along the boardwalk for a steam engine train ride through the awe-inspiring towering red woods for a truly "only in California" experience.
Katama South Beach, Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts
Philipp Dase/ShutterstockFamilies love the unspoiled charms of this tiny island, especially the three miles of quiet barrier beach on the south shore just on the edge of charming Edgartown, where there's surf on one side and a protected salt pond on the other.
Providenciales, Turks and Caicos
BlueOrange Studio/ShutterstockThis tropical beach has it all: 12 miles of butter soft sand, crystal clear turquoise-hued Caribbean waters, and a laid-back vibe that can make even the most stressed out parent say "ahh." For the ultimate in family fun, check into Beaches resort, for kids clubs, Sesame Street characters, and multi-age kids clubs.
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