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.
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.)
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.