A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

20 Best Family Beach Vacations to Make the Most Amazing Memories

Updated: Aug. 09, 2023

Looking for an epic—yet easy—trip with the kids? These are the best family beach vacations for all types of travelers.

Our editors and experts handpick every product we feature. We may earn a commission from your purchases.
Learn more.

Rearview shot of a happy family walking towards the sea
PeopleImages/Getty Images

The best family beaches to visit right now

There are so many reasons to love the summer. The weather is warmer, the days are longer, the kids are home and it’s the perfect time to embark on one of the best family beach vacations you’ll all remember fondly for years to come. Not only that, but a quick weekend trip to a nearby beach can be an affordable and stress-free getaway. There are no apps, wait times or overstimulated children complaining that their legs are tired even though they’ve only been walking for 10 minutes—just days filled with sun, surf and sand that are guaranteed to have your kids in bed and fast asleep nice and early so you can enjoy those balmy summer nights.

If you’re looking for family vacation ideas to make this the best summer ever or you’re planning ahead for winter or spring break, you’ve come to the right place. Whether you want to plan a few quick trips or a weeklong stay at an all-inclusive resort, we’ve found the best beaches across the United States and the Caribbean for every family and budget.

How we chose the best family beach vacations

As the mom of four young children who loves to travel, I’m always looking for fun family excursions. We’ve done everything from amusement parks to dude ranches, as well as a handful of Disney vacations. But no matter how much I plan, or how fun I imagine a trip will be for the kids, the one thing they really look forward to is the beach. In fact, during our last trip to Florida, we offered our children a choice between a few days in Disney or a few days at the beach. They chose the beach. To be fair, it’s impressive how unimpressed my kids are by Disney. But our family genuinely loves the beach. To me, there’s nothing more relaxing than kicking back with a good beach read while my children play or fill their buckets with seashells.

But when it comes to the best beaches for families—from California to Florida and beyond—don’t just take my word for it. In addition to drawing on my own experience as a frequent beachgoer, I spoke to area locals and scoured the TripAdvisor boards to find not just the top beaches but also the best things to do at them and the best places to stay. You’ll be ready to book your vacation (or a few mini trips) by the time you get to the end of this article.

Get Reader’s Digest’s Read Up newsletter for more travel, tech, humor, cleaning and fun facts all week long.

Outer Banks North Carolina Coastline
Jena Ardell/Getty Images

Outer Banks, North Carolina

Best for: Family reunions

There’s a reason families like mine return to the Outer Banks year after year. (We’ve been going every summer for the past nine years!) Miles of soft, sandy beaches meet the Atlantic Ocean on North Carolina’s famed barrier islands, making OBX the ideal East Coast vacation. Whether you’re traveling with just your family or the entire extended clan, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Beach bums have miles of unspoiled beaches that are ideal for lounging, swimming and dolphin spotting. And when it’s time to get out of the sun, you can peruse the quaint shopping villages scattered throughout Duck and Corolla. At night, grab a flashlight and head back to the beach with the kids to see who can spot the most ghost crabs. (It’s super fun!)

What to do: If you’re looking for a little adventure, head to Jockey’s Ridge State Park for some hang gliding on the East Coast’s largest sand dunes, or book a coastal horseback-riding excursion. And to get young minds curious about American history, visit the Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kitty Hawk, walk to the top of the Cape Hatteras Light Station or visit Roanoke Island, where more than 100 settlers mysteriously vanished in the 16th century.

Where to stay: Keep things simple with a stay at the Sanderling Resort in Duck. This family-friendly resort boasts a dune-side swimming pool, private beach access with chairs and umbrellas, lawn games and oversized fire pits perfect for making s’mores. The resort also offers family-friendly excursions such as dolphin tours, wild-horse tours, sunset cruises and a three-day summer-camp experience, where kids ages 7 and up can learn to surf, kayak or use a stand-up paddleboard. Have a larger family? In addition to its 123 guest rooms and suites, the Sanderling also has five vacation homes available to rent.

Book Now

Late afternoon in October at Misquamicut State Beach, Westerly
Barry Winiker/Getty Images

Misquamicut Beach, Westerly, Rhode Island

Best for: Weekend getaways

If you grew up in the Northeast like I did, there’s a good chance you spent a day or two at Rhode Island’s most popular beach. Misquamicut features a half-mile of sandy beachfront right on the Atlantic Ocean. This beach boasts some of the best waves in the Northeast, so be sure to pack your boogie boards! Don’t have one? No problem. The main strip, which has a laid-back beach-town vibe, has plenty of shops where you can pick up anything from boogie boards and beach toys to souvenir T-shirts and tchotchkes. When you need a break from the beach, stop by one of the local ice cream shops. Misquamicut is also equipped with well-tended amenities such as restrooms, showers, a playground and concessions that are super convenient when you have kids in tow.

What to do: After you’ve wiped off all the salt, sand and sunscreen, grab dinner and ice cream from one of the local eateries. Even better, get your food to go and head to the Misquamicut Drive-In Theatre to catch a flick. And before you head home, be sure to visit Mystic, Connecticut. This popular East Coast getaway is only a 20-minute drive from Misquamicut, and it’s home to several attractions including the Mystic Aquarium, Mystic Seaport and Old Mystic Village. At this quaint, old-fashioned village, check out these personal favorites: Alice’s Haunted Little Bookshop (it’s as adorable as it sounds!), Munson’s Chocolates and Deviant Donuts.

Where to stay: There’s no shortage of beachy motels in the area, but you’ll want to return to the Pleasant View Inn again and again. This charming oceanfront inn has everything you need for the perfect weekend getaway, including an outdoor pool, restaurant and bar. But the best part about this family-friendly hotel? Kids stay free!

Book Now

Old Orchard Beach, Maine
DenisTangneyJr/Getty Images

Old Orchard Beach, Maine

Best for: An old-timey beach experience

At Old Orchard Beach, you’ll be treated to stunning views and loads of family-friendly activities. It’s home to one of the best beach boardwalks in America, as well as Palace Playland, New England’s last beachside amusement park. Families that have been visiting for decades will tell you that it hasn’t changed much over the years—and it’s the nostalgia that keeps them coming back. The long boardwalk pier is loaded with beach shops and treats, like pier fries and funnel cake, which you’ll love as much as the kids do. And at Palace Playland, you can ride the classics, including a Ferris wheel, a carousel and two speeding roller coasters, just steps away from the picturesque beach.

What to do: To continue with the old-timey theme, catch a minor-league baseball game or visit the Saco Drive-In Movie Theatre, making sure to stock up on snacks from Dickinson’s Candy before you go. If you’re interested in a shopping spree, Freeport, Maine, is just 30 minutes away. There, you’ll find a plethora of stores, including L.L.Bean’s flagship store—complete with giant Bean Boot, the perfect backdrop for a photo op.

Where to stay: Old Orchard Beach Campground, which can accommodate everything from a pop-up camper to an RV, has been family owned and operated for 40 years and counting. Don’t have a camper? You can stay in one of the site’s 10 wooden cabins. Either way, after a day of adventure, you and your family can spend some quality time together around a campfire or enjoying one of the campground’s amenities, which include a swimming pool, playground, Whiffle-ball field, pickleball court, gaga ball pit, rec hall and more.

Book Now

Sailboats moored at Hyannis Harbor, Cape Cod, Massachisetts. Blue sky.
OlegAlbinsky/Getty Images

Hyannis, Massachusetts

Best for: Boaters

Quiet ocean waters, soft sand and an old-fashioned Main Street (complete with penny candy at the local candy shop) are just some of the reasons families love exploring this laid-back town and consider it one of the best family beach vacations in New England. There are six public beaches in Hyannis, but families are drawn to two in particular. For a quintessential Cape Cod beach trip, head to Kalmust Beach, with its gorgeous views and super soft sand that’s perfect for building sandcastles with the littles. And although it’s not an ocean beach, it has some pretty decent waves that make it ideal for boogie boarding and windsurfing. Have younger children? You’ll love Veteran’s Park Beach, which overlooks the boat-filled harbor. It’s on the small side, but as a mom of four young children, I appreciate a smaller beach that makes it easier to keep eyes on the kids while they play. Just be sure to pack a kid-size fishing net, as there are spots where they can hunt for crabs and other sea creatures while they watch the boats go by.

When you’re finished with the beach, go for a ride on the Cape Cod Trolley. It will take your family on a leisurely ride through this quaint New England town that was once a favorite getaway of the Kennedy family. In fact, you’ll find plenty of memorials, museums and tributes to the Kennedys throughout Hyannis.

What to do: Book a boat tour that will take you past some of the area’s most notable landmarks that are best viewed from the water, including the Kennedy Compound. For more adventure, book a whale-watching tour or a family-friendly fishing charter. Visiting this area in the fall? Check out our guide to the best places to see New England’s fall foliage.

Where to stay: Located just three miles from Hyannis Harbor, the Cape Codder Resort and Spa is centrally located, but that’s not the only reason you’ll love it. It offers an indoor and outdoor pool, two restaurants, a full-service spa and an 8,200-square-foot water park your kids will love. The resort also offers a selection of recreation equipment, board games and live entertainment for a well-rounded stay.

Book Now

Grand Lake Colorado
twilightproductions/Getty Images

Grand Lake, Colorado

Best for: Lakeside family fun

Whoever said the best family beaches are only found on the coasts? This picturesque destination sits at the base of Rocky Mountain National Park, with the historical town on its shores. Visitors can hike, boat and play at Town Beach (one of Colorado’s few sandy beaches)—all while taking in stunning mountain views. Located just two hours outside Denver and Boulder, and three hours from Colorado Springs, it’s a little slice of heaven for outdoor-loving families. In the summer, this little mountain beach town is filled with Colorado natives, as well as travelers from around the country who want a beach vacation with a quintessential Colorado vibe.

Pack a picnic and head to the beach. It’s not very big, but the picnic area guarantees lunch with a view, and kids will love playing in the sand and splashing around in the shallow (albeit chilly) swimming area. To experience even more of this breathtaking lake, older kids and adults can take in the scenery from a rented stand-up paddleboard or kayak.

What to do: Begin your day with a short, family-friendly hike to Adams Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park, making sure to do some sightseeing along Trail Ridge Road, aka the park’s “Highway to the Sky.” Then head to the lake, where the kids can play on the beach and pile into a pontoon boat. Pro tip: Trail Ridge Marina is a favorite for pontoon and kayak rentals. Just be sure to book your pontoon boats early so you get your preferred date and time. For live entertainment, check out the Rocky Mountain Repertory Theatre, which brings some of Broadway’s biggest hits to the state.

Where to stay: Grand Lake Lodge, which has been around for more than a century, is on the National Register of Historic Places. Originally purchased from the Sears Roebuck catalog, it was recently remodeled, so you’ll get plenty of modern amenities in addition to incredible panoramic views from just about everywhere on the property.

Book Now

Palm trees and beach, Morris Bay, St. Mary, Antigua, Leeward Islands, West Indies, Caribbean, Central America
Frank Fell/Getty Images

Saint Mary, Antigua

Best for: Instagram-worthy photos

A slice of heaven in the Caribbean is just a short flight from major East Coast cities, from New York to Miami. Antigua boasts 365 white-sand beaches (one for every day of the year!), aquamarine waters and endless adventures the whole family will enjoy. Valley Church Beach is a favorite for many families because the soft sand and crystal-clear, calm waters are great for young children. Plus, depending on where you’re staying, this stunning beach is easy to get to via taxi or a quick walk. The beach also has well-kept changing rooms, bathrooms and showers available for public use, a beach bar where you can get snacks and drinks for the kiddos, and reasonably priced umbrella and chair rentals.

What to do: Adventure lovers can get their kicks ziplining through the rainforest, swimming with stingrays, snorkeling with sea turtles, kite surfing, fishing and more. If your family enjoys sightseeing (not to mention a science lesson or two), then you won’t want to miss Devil’s Bridge. The bridge is actually a natural limestone arch that has been formed by hundreds of years of crashing waves. Your family will also get to see the bridge’s blowholes, which blast water into the air—perfect for some dramatic Instagram snaps! Just be sure to wear good shoes, as the area can be slippery.

Where to stay: Curtain Bluff is an all-inclusive, five-star sanctuary that gives families a true taste of Antigua on their family beach vacations. This iconic luxury resort offers plenty of kid-friendly conveniences, including the CeeBee Kids Club, which offers children ages 3 to 10 hands-on, destination-driven activities, complimentary outdoor and water-sport activities, and kid-friendly menus. You can also hire a babysitter through the hotel for an extra cost, so you can enjoy relaxing spa treatments, leisurely dinners, nightly dancing to live music and a little grown-up time.

Book Now

Pristine and idyllic beach at sunset in a bright day, Naples, Florida, USA
Pola Damonte via Getty Images/Getty Images

Naples, Florida

Best for: Animal lovers

Located in Southwest Florida, Naples is renowned for its beautiful white-sand beaches, upscale shopping and delicious restaurants. Kids will love spotting the area’s resident manatees on a special manatee boat tour, as well as feeding the giraffes at the Naples Zoo. If you’re looking for a way to beat the heat, head to the Sun-N-Fun Lagoon water park, or to the Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples for some air-conditioned, interactive play. It’s also all just a hop, skip and a jump away from Everglades National Park, America’s only subtropical wilderness, and a plethora of family-friendly attractions.

What to do: Plan a day to visit Everglades National Park, an hour and a half south of Naples, and book an airboat tour through the mangrove tunnels to spot birds, boars and gators. And nature lovers and eco-tourists alike won’t want to miss Tigertail Beach Park on nearby Marco Island. Here, you can join a free, guided nature walk before parking yourself on the beach or embarking on a three-hour boat tour, where kids get to spot, photograph and even name bottlenose dolphins. They’ll also have the opportunity to collect exotic seashells on surrounding barrier islands.

Where to stay: The Ritz-Carlton, Naples was recently renovated with families in mind, adding larger guest rooms and suites to accommodate larger families. It also boasts an entertainment lounge geared toward teens that’s stocked with XBoxes, Playstations and Nintendo Wii, an interactive gaming station, a Blu-ray player and flat-screen TVs.

Book Now

waikiki beach
M Swiet Productions/Getty Images

Honolulu, Hawaii

Best for: City slickers

The largest city on Oahu, Honolulu offers the quintessential Hawaiian vacation for families looking for a tropical escape. No, it’s not Maui with its world-famous beaches, or Kauai with its breathtaking rainforests. But this bustling paradise in the heart of Hawaii offers the best of both worlds with its pristine beaches and modern, oceanside city that has plenty of shopping and dining options. You’ll also find several historical attractions nearby, including Iolani Palace and the Pearl Harbor National Memorial. If you’re traveling with little ones and want to take them to a spot that’s less crowded, head over to Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon. This man-made lagoon is a calm, quiet spot where the kids can play, learn to use a stand-up paddleboard or pedal around on a water bike.

What to do: All through the summer, enjoy poolside Summer Flix presented by the Hawaii International Film Festival on the Muliwai Deck at the hotel; take the kiddos just steps away to Ala Moana Center, the largest open-air mall in the world; or just kick back and relax on Ala Moana Beach, hailed as one of Hawaii’s best swimming beaches by Oahu residents. Adventurous families will want to head east to Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, the most famous of Hawaii’s snorkeling beaches and one of the best in the world for viewing marine life such as tropical fish and green sea turtles up close.

Where to stay: Floor-to-ceiling windows provide guests with stunning ocean views at Prince Waikiki. This hotel is situated right in the center of Honolulu and is within walking distance of the Ala Moana Center, Waikiki, Ala Moana Beach Park, Kaka’ako neighborhood restaurants, street art and shops. It boasts an award-winning restaurant and bar, as well as access to some of the most breathtaking beaches in Hawaii. For more options, check out these all-inclusive Hawaiian resorts.

Book Now

Grace Bay Turks and Caicos
minimum/Getty Images

Providenciales, Turks and Caicos

Best for: Sunbathers and lovers of water sports

The tropical beaches on the island of Providenciales (or Provo, as the locals call it) have it all: 12 miles of white, buttery soft sand, crystal-clear turquoise waters and a laid-back vibe that can make even the most stressed-out parent say “aah.” This breathtaking locale is what most people envision when they plan a trip to the Caribbean, and its Grace Bay Beach has been voted the best beach in the world more than once. According to one family that visits Turks and Caicos every summer with their five children, this is a vacation that’s truly meant for relaxing and soaking up the sun.

What to do: Spend the day relaxing on the beach and swimming in the calm, clear water. Or, if you’re the type who can’t sit still, you can snorkel, scuba dive or try the island’s various water sports, such as jet skiing, water skiing and windsurfing. When tummies start to rumble, head over to Omar’s Beach Hut for fresh conch, island mac and cheese, and beachy cocktails.

Where to stay: The Shore Club Turks and Caicos is the only development on Long Bay Beach, the quieter side of the island, and it has something for everyone of all ages. Its calm, shallow waters and smaller crowds are perfect for younger children, and if you want to head to the famed Grace Bay Beach, it’s only two-and-a-half miles down the road. To keep tiny travelers entertained while you enjoy some time to yourself, check out the hotel’s Jungle Jam Kid’s Club. This complimentary amenity for children ages 4 through 12 has plenty to keep them busy, from arts and crafts and creative play to seashell collecting and water-sports lessons.

Book Now

Coronado Beach
Molly Aaker/Getty Images

Coronado Beach, San Diego, California

Best for: Families that want to keep busy

Set 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 candy stop or an ice cream treat, even if you’re not staying the night. Families can rent bikes to coast along the shore, book surfing lessons or take a leisurely tour through the local canals and waterways in a Venetian-style gondola. Really, we could go on and on about why this is one of the best beaches in California and a great option for a budget-friendly family beach vacation.

What to do: In addition to perfect weather and pristine beaches, San Diego offers tons of family-friendly activities. Kids of all ages will love visiting the world-famous San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park, where you can see giraffes, rhinos and other animals up close as you’re driven around in a covered, open-air safari truck. You can also spend a day at the nearby Legoland California, Sesame Place San Diego or SeaWorld San Diego, or drive 90 minutes to Disneyland.

Where to stay: Hotel del Coronado, or the Del, as the locals call it, is a San Diego landmark that has been standing for more than 130 years. Though this historic property has welcomed many high-profile guests, including celebrities and U.S. presidents, it’s perfect for families looking for an old-meets-new beach vacation. The hotel has its own private sections of beach, where you can rent daybeds, loungers or chairs and umbrellas—basically, anything you need to make your family’s beach day as comfy as possible. The hotel also boasts an Olympic-size pool, a newly launched Ocean Explorers program for kids, Underwater Virtual Reality and more.

Book Now

Beautiful day at the beach
Daniela Duncan/Getty Images

Folly Beach, South Carolina

Best for: Boho beach vibes

When it comes to South Carolina hot spots, Hilton Head and Myrtle Beach are usually the first destinations that come to mind. And while they may be great vacation spots, they are overflowing with tourists in the summer. If big summer crowds are not your jam, then Folly Beach is the place you’ll want to be. Easy beach access, smaller crowds, less traffic and a laid-back Bohemian atmosphere make Folly Beach one of the best East Coast beaches for families. This 12-square-mile barrier island is just minutes from historic downtown Charleston, and it’s loaded with things to do. From an eclectic array of local shops, bars and restaurants to six miles of wide beaches and a pier that stretches 1,049 feet into the Atlantic Ocean, this vacation destination lets you be as relaxed or as busy as you’d like.

What to do: Book an eco-tour to spot the resident dolphins and sea turtles, or check out the Bohemian shops in town. Or take a 20-minute drive to downtown Charleston, where you can enjoy a horse-drawn carriage ride, visit the South Carolina Aquarium, or head out on a Pirate Adventure Cruise complete with costumes, treasure maps and plenty of pirate songs. Whatever you decide to do, just make sure to catch one of Folly Beach’s famous sunsets.

Where to stay: Wake up to the ocean every day at Tides Folly Beach, where every guest room has an oceanfront view. The hotel has 132 guest rooms, offers a heated, oceanfront pool, and is pet-friendly, for families that happen to be traveling with their fur babies too.

Book Now

Summer and Travel - Concept
Dan Reynolds Photography/Getty Images

Amelia Island, Florida

Best for: A quiet beach vacation

Nestled in the far northeast corner of Florida, Amelia Island exudes a quiet charm with 40 public-beach access points along 13 miles of 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, and it’s one of the only places in Florida where you can ride along the shore.

I lived in Jacksonville for two years, and Amelia Island became one of our favorite spots for family beach days. It’s quieter than other beaches in the area, and the fact that you can horseback-ride on the shore and make bonfires on the beach (sunset to sunrise) make it especially unique. It’s also a great place for finding fossilized shark teeth, so be sure to bring a small baggie or jar!

What to do: Dedicate a day to exploring St. Augustine, the oldest city in the entire United States. Located about an hour and 20 minutes from Amelia Island, the city is loaded with historic buildings, fun shops and restaurants. When you’re done walking around the city, head 10 minutes down the road to the St. Augustine Alligator Farm. Kids can watch alligator feedings, hold a live snake and learn all about Florida’s native animals and environment.

Where to stay: It may be a splurge, but the Ritz-Carlton is totally worth it for families. Children can have outdoor adventures at the kids center, accompany Princess Amelia on a treasure hunt through the resort, and experience a Princess and Pirate Tuck-In with a bedtime story (from a pirate and princess!) and some milk and cookies. And if you sign up for Kids Night Out, your children (ages 5 through 12) will be kept happy, busy and safe while you slip away for a romantic evening at Salt Restaurant.

If that’s out of your budget, don’t worry—there are plenty of affordable options nearby. You can’t go wrong at the beachfront Seaside Amelia Inn, which features a private boardwalk that leads right to the white-sand shore.

Book Now

Beautiful Quiet Beach
anastasiasa/Getty Images

El Escambrón Beach, San Juan, Puerto Rico

Best for: Paradise without a passport

An urban beach with palm trees and clear waters, El Escambrón Beach is a picturesque spot that features city views and shallow, clear blue waters that are safe for pint-size 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. Another reason families love San Juan is because it’s considered a safe destination, and you’re not confined to your resort. Families that enjoy exploring can rent a car and plan a few day trips to various beaches, book a guided tour of El Yunque rainforest or visit Laguna Grande, one of Puerto Rico’s bioluminescent bays. Bonus: All these activities are less than an hour from San Juan.

What to do: Nearby Condado beach is known for being too rough for swimming, but the calm Condado Lagoon is ideal for stand-up paddle boards, kayaks, pedal boats and a guided snorkeling reef tour, where you may even run into the resident manatees. If you want to soak in the island’s culture, plan a trip to Old San Juan, which has charming cobblestone streets, colorful buildings and whimsical art installations, or Castillo San Cristóbal, where kids can explore the 300-year-old Spanish fort.

Where to stay: The Condado Vanderbilt Hotel offers old-school grandeur along with some of the best views in San Juan. Unlike some of its neighbors, which boast casinos and a bustling nightlife scene, the Condado Vanderbilt is on the quieter side, so it’s easier to navigate with kids in tow. Kids will also love the giant pool and the fact that the hotel is just a short, six-minute walk to El Escambrón Beach.

Book Now

Caribbean, Cayman Islands, George Town, Luxury resorts and Seven Mile Beach
Westend61/Getty Images

Seven Mile Beach, Grand Cayman Island

Best for: Snorkeling

Of course, you come here for the seven award-winning miles of tropical Caribbean beach, but you’ll enjoy it with your family for things like water sports, snorkeling and excursions that get you up close and personal with marine life. Just remember to steer clear of rocky areas and crevices while snorkeling, or you may find yourself a little too close with a moray eel, like I did! But the best part of a trip to Grand Cayman is that no matter where you stay, you’re not limited to just one sliver of this gorgeous beach. The entire waterfront is open to the public, so you can take the family on a seaside stroll anywhere you’d like.

What to do: While the beach is lovely, you’ll want to embark on a few excursions too. Feed, swim and even pet friendly stingrays in the crystal-clear waters at Stingray City. Or visit the Cayman Turtle Centre and swim with yearling green sea turtles and shoot down a 100-foot water slide. You can even spot bioluminescence on boat rides through water that sparkles in electric hues of green and blue. And since the beach faces the west, be sure to catch one of the magnificent sunsets.

Where to stay: Stay at the Kimpton Seafire Resort, which was the island’s very first AAA Five Diamond lifestyle resort. But don’t worry—it’s also family friendly. It has plenty of eats and activities the kids will love, as well as access to the island’s first coastal walking and biking boardwalk, all right on the beach.

Book Now

The Hamptons, New York
TraceRouda/Getty Images

Coopers Beach, Long Island, New York

Best for: Escaping from New York City

Rated among the Top 10 Beaches in America by 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 Manhattan. Although it’s just 500 feet long, it’s part of a longer seven-mile stretch of white-sand beaches belonging to Southampton, known for its charming villages and miles of farmland. And while this posh destination is known for its pricey homes, busy nightlife and upscale shopping, the soft, sandy beaches are a better alternative than the island’s rocky North Shore. And as someone who lived on the east end of Long Island for more than a decade, I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to be a celebrity or have a house on Billionaires Row to enjoy the Hamptons.

What to do: In addition to exploring the Hamptons on your family beach vacation, there’s no shortage of things to do on the South Fork of Long Island. If you’re traveling with teens or adult children, packing a picnic lunch to enjoy at Duck Walk Vineyards or the upscale Wolffer Estate Vineyards is a must (sorry, no young children allowed). You’ll also want to dedicate a day to visiting the North Fork; in addition to some excellent wineries, you can visit antiques stores, go fruit picking and indulge in delicious eats.

Just 30 minutes away from Coopers Beach, you’ll find Briarmere Farms, which is known for delectable fresh fruit and cream pies. Just be sure to get there early before they sell out! If you’re traveling with younger children, try Harbes Family Farm, where the kids can meet some of the farm’s resident animals, see a pig race, take a musical hayride or participate in an array of fun activities while you set up a picnic and sip wine from Harbes Vineyard. And on your way home, make sure to stop at one of the many local farms and let the kids pick their own in-season fruits and veggies to fill your fridge. (Maybe they’ll actually eat them if they pick them!)

Where to stay: Located in the heart of Southampton, the Southampton Village Motel is an elegant little gem that’s surprisingly affordable for the area. Beach access, which is normally $50 per day, is included with your stay. When you’re through with the beach, explore the town on one of the motel’s complimentary bicycles.

Book Now

Terrence wijesena/Getty Images

Nassau, Bahamas

Best for: An affordable overseas getaway

Just a three-hour, nonstop flight from New York City airports, the Bahamas is a quick and relatively affordable getaway. Soft white sand, turquoise waters and an inviting downtown make this one of the best family beach vacations. As the capital city of the Bahamas, Nassau offers tons to do. Whether you want to enjoy the beach (where local vendors will braid your hair while you sip on drinks out of a freshly opened coconut), peruse the bustling Straw Market or visit a Mayan-themed water park, this is one trip the whole family is sure to enjoy. You can visit any time of year, but keep in mind that peak season is mid-December through mid-April.

What to do: Pigs don’t fly, but did you know that they swim? Book an excursion to Rose Island, where you can snorkel with fish, sea turtles and—yep—pigs! Before you leave Nassau, make sure to scoop up some authentic island goods at the Straw Market downtown, and try a few of these other prime Bahamas activities too.

Where to stay: The Grand Hyatt Baha Mar has everything you could possibly want from a Bahamas vacation: spectacular ocean views, six pools, a spa, casino and an oceanfront water park that boasts 24 water slides, a tropical action river and the first ProSlide Dueling Water Coaster. Oh, and did we mention that Baha Mar is home to a flock of 21 flamingos? Be sure to book a Flamingo Encounter for an up-close-and-personal experience with the flock’s ambassador flamingos—Baha, Lynden, Luca and Indy. No wonder it’s on our list of the best Bahamas resorts!

Book Now

Laguna Beach Arial View
Luciano Lejtman/Getty Images

Laguna Beach, California

Best for: Active families

Laguna Beach is unique from other California coastal cities with its seven miles of coves and beaches where visitors can explore sea caves, tide pools, oceanside bluffs, natural tide pools and, of course, sandy beaches, all within city limits. Laguna Beach also boasts the most beachfront lodging options in all of California, making it an ideal spot for a family beach getaway. Families traveling with younger children should make their way to Diver’s Cove, where the kids can splash around in shallow waters. Traveling with older kids who want some adventure? Pack your boogie boards and take them to ride the waves at Main Beach. And kids of all ages will be captivated by a whale-watching excursion.

What to do: Keep yourselves moving with a family hike at the local coastal bluffs and canyon trails, or dedicate a day to riding through some of the area’s renowned mountain-biking trails. Or take a trolley into the city to peruse boutique shops and fine-art galleries, and enjoy a meal at one of the local cafes. Frequent visitors love Sapphire, Cellar. Craft. Cook. Not only does it feature an outdoor dining patio with a view, but it is reasonably priced and known for its generous portions.

Where to stay: Located right on Laguna Beach’s shoreline, where the Pacific Ocean meets 500 feet of pristine white sand, Surf & Sand Resort is the ultimate destination for families looking for a beachfront getaway. Experience pure bliss with gorgeous ocean views and the sound of waves crashing beneath each private oceanfront balcony, or listen from the resort’s elevated oceanfront pool.

Book Now

Beach Looking Down 3
Brendan Beale/Getty Images

Ocean City, New Jersey

Best for: Families with young children

Families looking for a wholesome beach vacation are sure to find it in Ocean City, New Jersey. With its eight miles of beautiful sandy beaches, two-mile-long boardwalk and plentiful free entertainment, you (and the kids) won’t want to leave. There are five main neighborhoods in Ocean City, but for a moderately priced stay that’s close to the beach, boardwalk and popular Asbury Avenue, set up camp in the North End Neighborhood. We rented a house in this neighborhood every summer for years, and it really is central to just about everything.

No matter where you decide to stay, though, it’s worth noting that Ocean City is a dry town, meaning there are no bars or liquor stores. That also means you won’t have to deal with boisterous beachgoers who might be having too good a time as you come and go from the beach.

What to do: Visit Ocean City’s Totally Tubular Aqua Park. This inflatable water park offers 8,500 square feet of water play for kids ages 6 and up. Or spend the day at Playland’s Castaway Cove, which features rides, go-karts and mini golf. And if you want a change of scenery, take a 40-minute drive down to Wildwood, where thrill-seekers can enjoy a variety of rides and attractions right on the boardwalk, which spans an impressive 38 blocks.

Where to stay: If you’re traveling with young children, your best bet is to rent your own beach house that’s a short block or two from the beach. This affordable option allows kids to have their own rooms and areas to play. You’ll also be able to prepare meals “at home” rather than drag the entire clan out to a restaurant three times a day, which helps you save money and your sanity!

Book Now

Tropical paradise: idyllic caribbean beach with palm trees, Punta Cana, Saona
agustavop/Getty Images

Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Best for: Outdoor enthusiasts

Where the Caribbean Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean, you’ll find the aqua waters and sugary sand that make this picturesque location 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. Meeting the monkeys at Monkeyland, snorkeling with dolphins at Dolphin Island Park, boat excursions and cave swimming are just a few activities that will delight those who have an affinity for the great outdoors.

What to do: Plan an excursion at Scape Park to zipline on a cliff, swim in underground caves, jump from water ziplines and ride in splash hammocks. If you want to see more of the island, book a horseback ride through the Dominican countryside or an inland safari, where you’ll ride an ATV into nearby towns and villages.

Where to stay: At Eden Roc Cap Cana, little ones can play by the kids pool or head to the Koko Kids Club, where they can paddle through the property’s man-made lagoon in a kid-size kayak. Or they can partake in private pizza-making classes, movie nights, Spanish lessons, piano lessons and more. Parents can also secure private babysitting services in order to take some well-deserved time to themselves.

Book Now

St Lucia Caribbean, woman on vacation at the tropical Island of Saint Lucia
fokkebok/Getty Images

Soufrière, Saint Lucia

Best for: History buffs and families with adult children

Soufrière is home to the Piton Mountains, which are a surreal UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s also home to an iconic pair of now-dormant volcanoes as well as lush rainforests and, of course, beaches that are so perfect, it’s hard to believe they’re real. Families can enjoy land, air and sea activities, from hiking and ATV biking to ziplining and snorkeling in the island’s renowned crystal clear waters. This stunning destination will be best enjoyed by families traveling with adult children, as little ones are likely to become restless during tours of historic rock carvings, old sugar plantations and rum distilleries. Not only that, but a rainforest hike up Gros Piton will be tough on little legs.

What to do: History lovers can familiarize themselves through immersive tours of the chocolate-making process, and even make their own chocolate to take home at the Fond Doux Plantation. Or if you’re a cocktail connoisseur, hear the colorful story behind the island’s last remaining distillery, St. Lucia Distillers, which is home to Bounty and Chairman’s Reserve rums. And, of course, no trip to St. Lucia would be complete without a visit to Sulphur Springs, where you can visit a drive-in volcano, take a mud bath or soak in a natural jacuzzi.

Where to stay: Sugar Beach is situated on more than 100 acres of tropical rainforest and flanked by the Pitons. And if you do wish to bring younger children along, this luxury hotel also has Sugar and Spice Clubs that cater to children ages 4 to 12. Kids can take part in treasure hunts, arts and crafts, archery and coconut bowling, as well as fish feeding and sand-castle building at the beach. At the Spice Club, teens and tweens can enjoy indoor activities such as table tennis, billiard tournaments and video games, as well as outdoor experiences including kayaking, paddle boarding and tennis. Sugar Beach also has a dedicated Sailing Club, a five- to six-day program that teaches teens the basics of sailing.

Book Now