21 Best Family Beach Vacations

Written by Lura Seavey
Updated May 3, 2023
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Families planning their next beach holiday have a wide variety of destinations to choose from, whether looking for an inexpensive family vacation or the ultimate tropical vacation. There are many great options in the US, from the Outer Banks on the continent's East Coast to the shores of Hawaii.

Father and son enjoying the beautiful beach in the Turks & Caicos
Father and son enjoying the beautiful beach in the Turks & Caicos

Those looking for a truly exotic beach vacation can venture to the distant islands of Thailand or Fiji, enjoy an unforgettable time on the Greek island of Corfu, or go the extra mile to visit the stunning Shark Bay in Western Australia.

The best family beach destinations are those with plenty of things to do both along and beyond the shoreline, from amusements for younger kids to activities for teens, as well as ample opportunity for family activities like kayaking or boating excursions.

For the top places to visit, read our list of best family beach vacations.

1. San Diego, California

Beach and palm trees in San Diego, CA
Beach and palm trees in San Diego, CA

There are so many things that make San Diego one of the best places to visit with kids, and its 70 miles of beautiful beaches have a lot to do with that. The most popular family beach is Pacific Beach, also known as The Strand. You can find everything you need on this two-mile stretch of beach, from equipment rental shops to restaurants, as well as restrooms, lifeguards, and showers.

Belmont Park is a great option for those looking for a seaside amusement park, with rides ranging from kiddie-friendly to thrilling. San Diego's Sea World has a variety of ocean life, including dolphins, sea lions, and orcas, as well as a range of rides and other aquatic-themed amusements.

La Jolla Shores is another beach that's popular with both tourists and local families, and it's especially well-known as a great place to learn how to surf and SCUBA dive. Families can learn more about life beyond the beaches at the Birch Aquarium in La Jolla, home to a variety of species native to the Pacific Ocean, including a large coral reef aquarium.

Even the most dedicated beach lovers will want to take a day to meet the animals at the San Diego Zoo, one of the city's top family attractions, which is home to more than 3,700 animals. Animal lovers can also visit Safari Park, located nearby in Escondido, which features giraffes, lions, and other African mammals within an authentic habitat.

This is also a great place to visit if you're an active family looking for outdoor adventures. You can take a family kayaking excursion to explore the La Jolla Sea Caves, take to the San Diego Bay in a sailboat, or kick it up a notch with a speedboat tour. Need a break from the water? Go hiking at the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, or get a bird's-eye view paragliding over the stunning coastline.

Families looking for something to do on a rainy day can head to Lego Land amusement park in nearby Carlsbad.

2. Providenciales, Turks & Caicos

Beachfront on Grace Bay in Providenciales, Turks & Caicos
Beachfront on Grace Bay in Providenciales, Turks & Caicos

Also known as Provo, this island is home to one of the Caribbean's most beautiful beaches, Grace Bay Beach. This eight-kilometer beach is lined with incredibly soft white sand and crystal-clear water, which is home to a coral reef full of tropical fish.

Grace Bay Beach lies within the Princess Alexandria National Park, a protected area covering over 6,500 acres of coastal and marine habitats. The park is also home to an iguana sanctuary on Little Water Cay (also known as Iguana Island), as well as wetlands including Mangrove Cay. Visitors can explore the area via paddleboard, sailboat, or kayak, and several tour operators offer snorkeling excursions that explore more remote areas.

Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in the Turks and Caicos Islands

3. Phuket Island, Thailand

Patong Beach, Phuket Island, Thailand
Patong Beach, Phuket Island, Thailand

For the ultimate tropical family vacation, head to Phuket Island, located off the western coast of southern Thailand. This is where you will find some of Thailand's best beaches, from tourist-packed resort areas to smaller coves that can only be reached by boat.

The island's biggest beach is Patong Beach, a lively place with many hotels and resorts to choose from and plenty of restaurants and shopping. Another hot spot is Nai Harn Beach, popular with families because of the good range of amenities within walking distance of the beach. Overall, Phuket Island is home to more than 30 beaches, providing the perfect spot for every interest.

For a more peaceful place to spend the day snorkeling, take a short boat ride from Patong to Freedom Beach, one of the island's rarer unspoiled beaches. If you want to explore even farther, Phuket Island makes an excellent place to serve as home-base for exciting day trips to other beautiful destinations, from remote islands to stunning national parks.

Accommodation: Top-Rated Family Resorts in Thailand

4. Waikiki, Hawaii

Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head State Monument in Honolulu, Hawaii
Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head State Monument in Honolulu, Hawaii

One of the most famous beach resorts in the world and one of Hawaii's top beaches, Waikiki is a perfect family holiday beach destination located in one of the most beautiful places on Earth.

Waikiki consists of several beaches that sit along the southern shore of the island of O'ahu in the heart of Honolulu, home to major tourist attractions like Pearl Harbor and the USS Missouri Battleship, as well as natural attractions like Diamond Head State Monument.

Nearly all the beaches in the Honolulu area are great for families, and many of them are considered an excellent spot to learn how to surf thanks to gentle waves. There are plenty of rental shops where you can find boards and other water sports equipment.

For an unforgettable experience, plan a visit to Hanauma Bay, where the family can learn about the fragile reef ecosystem and then snorkel in the shallow, protected waters of the unique volcanic bay.

5. Costa Adeje, Tenerife, Canary Islands

Playa Del Duque, Costa Adeje, Ternerife
Playa Del Duque, Costa Adeje, Ternerife

Located on the southwestern coast of Tenerife in Spain's Canary Islands, the Costa Adeje is home to several top beaches and a plethora of excellent resorts. Playa del Duque is the most popular beach, located within walking distance of two shopping centers and plenty of restaurants, and Playa Fañabé is nearby, both located in Adeje.

Both beaches have been awarded the Blue Flag for cleanliness and have on-site rest and shower facilities, as well as accessible ramps for wheelchairs and strollers. There are also on-site vendors who offer chair and umbrella rentals, as well as a variety of water sports equipment.

The town of Adeje is also home to two water parks, Aqualand and Siam Park, which are located near the beach, as well as Jungle Park, a zoo that is home to a variety of animals including penguins, primates, big cats, and more.

Read More: Top Attractions & Places to Visit in the Canary Islands

6. St. Augustine, Florida

Beach chair on the beach in St. Augustine, Florida
Beach chair on the beach in St. Augustine, Florida

With 42 miles of beach to spread out on, St. Augustine and Ponte Vedra offer a classic Florida family beach experience without the crowds. March through November are the warmest months, but even a mid-winter visit to this northern Florida town is fun, with pleasant weather and a constant lineup of events and things to do.

St. Augustine Beach is the city's busiest stretch of shore, lined with resorts, hotels, restaurants, and shops. It's also home to the St. Johns County Ocean Pier, a popular St. Augustine fishing spot that hosts a good visitor center filled with useful info. This is the most popular beach for families who don't want to go far to find amenities, including plenty of water sports outfitters and tour companies.

Ponte Vedra Beach is another popular St. Augustine beach, loved by kids and kids-at-heart for being one of the best spots to find fossilized shark teeth. Vilano Beach is another favorite, home to a free pier and popular with surfers. It's also a pet-friendly beach year-round, so your four-legged besties can come hang out, too.

7. Outer Banks, North Carolina

Kites flying at the Outer Banks, North Carolina
Kites flying at the Outer Banks, North Carolina

The barrier islands along the coast of North Carolina are known collectively as the Outer Banks, and they are home to an abundance of beaches, small coastal towns, and many natural and historic attractions.

Cape Hatteras National Seashore is the area's best-known tourist destination, popular with families for its resorts and variety of things to see and do, including 70 miles of public beaches. If you want to leave the sand and get out on the water, there are plenty of water sports opportunities, and this is also one of the best places for deep sea fishing in the state.

In addition to sightseeing cruises and the historic Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, Hatteras Island is home to the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum. This museum will interest all ages, featuring artifacts from over 2,000 shipwrecks, as well as exhibits on real-life pirates and legendary ghost ships.

Another popular tourist destination is Roanoke Island, famous for its long-lost colony. Roanoke Island attractions include the Outer Banks History Center, and the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site. Those who want to explore more of the islands by car can cruise the Outer Banks Scenic Byway, which includes two ferry rides and 138 miles of road.

8. Nassau, Bahamas

Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island, Nassau
Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island, Nassau

Nassau is one of the best-known islands in The Bahamas, both a popular cruise ship port and family resort destination. Nassau's Paradise Island is home to the biggest resorts, as well as a great shopping and dining complex, Marina Village. No matter where you stay, tourists can visit many of the attractions on the grounds of the bigger hotels, like the Versailles Gardens and French Cloister.

The Royal at Atlantis is the ideal place to stay in Nassau with kids, serving not only as a full-service resort but also as a theme park. Designed to capture the magic and grandeur of the lost city of Atlantis, this huge resort has on-site family entertainment; a water park; and an impressive marine habitat, which includes dolphins and other favorites.

9. Arenas Del Mar, Costa Rica

Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica
Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica

Costa Rica offers everything a family could want in a dream beach vacation, from stretches of white sand to adventures into the nearby rainforest. It is also a top destination for eco-conscious tourists, with a large number of resorts dedicated to sustainability and preserving the ecosystems that make this such a beautiful place, including many of their all-inclusive resorts.

Arenas del Mar is located on the western shore of the country, facing the Pacific Ocean, with the beach's eastern border made up of forests known for their population of sloths. It is also close to the Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio, which offers numerous hiking and wildlife viewing opportunities.

Read More: Top-Rated Beaches in Costa Rica

10. Perhentian Islands, Malaysia

Pristine beach in the Perhentian Islands, Malaysia
Pristine beach in the Perhentian Islands, Malaysia

The Perhentian Islands are located off the northeastern coast of Malaysia, best known for having some of the best beaches in the country. These islands are also home to extensive coral reefs, which attract snorkelers and SCUBA divers. Tourists have many resort options on the two main islands, and can explore the smaller uninhabited islands via tour.

Read More: Best Places to Visit in Malaysia

11. South Padre Island, Texas

South Padre Island
South Padre Island

The only tropical island in Texas, South Padre Island is the perfect place to visit for a low-key family beach vacation in the Gulf of Mexico. One of the top activities here is sandcastle building, and there are several places right on the beach that offer lessons for all ages, so you can go home an expert.

Although you won't find packed crowds on the beach, there are plenty of things to do here with the kids when they tire of swimming, paddleboarding, and surfing. The beachfront area is full of restaurants with live music that everyone can enjoy, and visitors will find a variety of unique activities, like art classes among the shops and weekly markets. Several resorts on South Padre Island make for a great family vacation.

Nature-lovers will enjoy the expanse of the Padre Island National Seashore, home to beautiful beaches and dunes; sea turtles; and, seasonally, over 350 species of migratory birds. Families can learn more about the local wildlife and ecosystem at the Malaquite Visitor Center.

12. Virginia Beach, Virginia

Virginia Beach Boardwalk
Virginia Beach Boardwalk

Virginia Beach is a family favorite among East Coast beach vacation destinations thanks to its variety of things to see and do with kids, both on the beach and off.

The majority of hotels line the stretch of oceanfront unofficially known as "Resort Beach," and the three-mile Boardwalk sits between them and the water. Just on the other side of the hotels is Atlantic Avenue, home to a variety of beach shops, restaurants, and other amenities.

A great rainy-day option for families is the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center, home to sea turtles, sharks, otters, and a variety of marine life, as well as a walk-through aquarium tunnel. There is also a dinosaur exhibit and a movie theater.

Other area attractions include the Adventure Park (located next to the aquarium), Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, and the Military Aviation Museum.

13. The Algarve, Portugal

Camilo Beach, Algarve, Portugal
Camilo Beach, Algarve, Portugal

The Algarve is home to many of Portugal's best beaches, home to a fantastic Mediterranean climate and a wide selection of family resorts for the ultimate holiday. Located on Portugal's southern coast, the beaches of the Algarve range from a landscape of sprawling dunes to swaths of sand with dramatic cliffs as a backdrop.

One of the largest Algarve beaches is Falésia Beach, occupying almost six kilometers of cliff-lined sandy beaches that stretch from Olhos de Agua to Quarteria. Thanks to its size, this beach has plenty of space to spread out and enjoy the beach undisturbed, but if you prefer to have amenities close, you will find plenty of resort options overlooking the water.

For a more secluded beach vacation within a stunning setting, head to Camilo Beach near Lagos in the western side of the Algarve. This picturesque beach sits nestled within sandstone cliffs, accessible only via a long set of stairs.

Read More: Top-Rated Attractions & Places to Visit in the Algarve

14. Ocean City, Maryland

Crowded beach at Ocean City, MD
Crowded beach at Ocean City, MD

Ocean City is a smaller beach town on the East Coast, perfect for a laid-back family beach vacation with younger kids. All the beaches here, 10 miles total, are free and open to the public, and families on a budget will appreciate the relatively low prices at most of the area hotels and resorts.

Getting around with little ones is extra easy here thanks to an inexpensive tram system that traverses the beach area, allowing visitors to explore easily.

One of the best aspects of Ocean City is its three-mile wooden Boardwalk, an area that will make any adult feel nostalgic. Along the lively boardwalk area is a classic Ferris wheel that overlooks the ocean, a seaside roller coaster, and a beautiful vintage carousel built in 1902.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Maryland

15. Corfu, Greece

Beach on Corfu Island, Greece
Beach on Corfu Island, Greece

The beautiful Mediterranean island of Corfu is one of the most popular Greek islands, known for its soft-sand beaches and historic Greek sites. Many of these can be found in Corfu Town, a UNESCO-listed seaside town that is home to two 16th-century fortresses, the expansive Esplanade, and several historic churches.

The beach in Glyfada is a favorite for tourists, home to several resorts and plenty of activities, from shopping and dining to water sports and boat tours.

The beaches of Paleokastritsa, six in all, are some of the most beautiful beaches in all of Greece and also the best for families, each located in a protected cove. La Grotta Beach is one of these, and although it is not a place for sunbathing it's a top choice for swimmers.

16. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

SkyWheel at Myrtle Beach
SkyWheel at Myrtle Beach

Myrtle beach is well known as a popular East Coast spring break destination, but it's also one of the best vacation spots for kids, teenagers, and families thanks to its wide variety of entertainment options and activities.

There are plenty of beachfront resorts and hotels to choose from, many of which are close to the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk, home to the Skywheel and other fun amusements.

The Family Kingdom Amusement Park will make kids of any age happy, with rides ranging from a kiddie train for the little ones to thrill rides like the Sling Shot. There is also a water park next door that has a good variety of attractions, from a lazy river to speed slides.

Even if there's a rainy day, there is plenty do at Broadway at the Beach, an entertainment complex that houses Ripley's Aquarium, WonderWorks, and Dolly Parton's Pirates Voyage dinner show.

17. Mamanuca Islands, Fiji

Castaway Island in the Mamanuca Islands, Fiji
Castaway Island in the Mamanuca Islands, Fiji

The South Pacific islands of Fiji offer such a wide variety of family beach destinations, it's hard to pick just one. But the Mamanuca Islands are where it's at for those who want near-perfect weather and seemingly endless white-sand beaches.

These islands are particularly well-known for their coral reefs and idyllic tropical beauty, and have plenty of resorts to choose from, including some of the best all-inclusive resorts in Fiji.

Families who want to be a little closer to more options might want to stay on Viti Levu, the largest of Fiji's islands. The capital city of Suva sits on the eastern side of the island, while the town of Nadi on the west coast is smaller but full of shops and authentic restaurants.

18. Cocoa Beach, Florida

Surfers at Cocoa Beach, Florida
Surfers at Cocoa Beach, Florida

Sitting on the Atlantic coast of Florida near Cape Canaveral, Cocoa Beach is among the best family-friendly Florida beaches for kids of all ages. Younger kids can swim safely thanks to its shallow waters, and families can easily find lessons and rentals for boogie boarding, surfing, and even jet skiing for older kids and teens.

Nature lovers will want to spend some time with the manatees, easily spotted on coastal kayaking tours, as well as other wildlife, including dolphins and birds.

Things to do in Cocoa Beach include the Eastern Florida State College Planetarium, which hosts a spectacular laser show that is a perfect rainy-day diversion, and plentiful shopping and dining in downtown's Historic Cocoa Village.

Cocoa Beach is also well-positioned for day trips to several top Florida attractions; it's only an hour's drive from Walt Disney World and close to the Kennedy Space Center.

19. Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Beach resort in Punta Cana
Beach resort in Punta Cana

Bávaro Beach is the family-favorite in Punta Cana, a beautiful resort town that sits on the easternmost tip of the Dominican Republic.

Families love the warm Caribbean water, which is calm enough for even the little ones to go swimming, and there are a good range of all-inclusive and family resorts that sit right on the beach. Most of these offer kids' programs that give parents a chance to relax or take the older kids out parasailing or boating.

Equipment rentals for parasailing, kitesurfing, and other water sports can be found all along the beach, and parents can be reassured by roped-off safe swim areas that ensure the kids know the spots to avoid.

20. Destin, Florida

Aerial view of the beach at Destin, Florida
Aerial view of the beach at Destin, Florida

Once a relatively calm fishing town, Destin has become known for its excellent variety of family resorts. Destin is known for its incredible white-sand beaches. It sits on the Florida panhandle, close to several conservation areas that are home to birds and other wildlife.

There are plenty of things to do here right on the shore, from sandcastle building lessons for the little ones to jet skiing and more exciting water sports for teenagers and parents. The Destin Harbor Boardwalk offers a classic beach amusement atmosphere, and if you want to get away from the crowds, you can head to Henderson Beach State Park.

Destin has a good variety of resorts, and if you are traveling with pets, you'll find plenty of pet-friendly hotels.

Read More: Best Beaches on the Florida Gulf Coast

21. Shark Bay, Western Australia

Shell Beach on Shark Bay, Australia
Shell Beach on Shark Bay, Australia

The Shark Bay World Heritage Area in Western Australia is home to some of the most fascinating shoreline attractions in the world. Shark Bay is a particularly excellent area for young swimmers, well-protected from the open ocean by peninsulas, and the water is also extra salty (hyper-saline), which makes swimmers extra buoyant.

The area's most impressive attraction is the Monkey Mia Conservation Park, located near Denham. Here, you will have the unique opportunity to hand-feed wild dolphins in the bay, as well as observe other ocean life, including turtles, rays, and dugongs. You might also see birds such as emus and pelicans along the park's stunning white-sand beaches and red sand dunes.

Shell Beach is also an extraordinary sight, a 70-kilometer stretch of shoreline that is made entirely of tiny shells left behind by the Shark Bay cockle. Another remarkable natural attraction is the Hamelin Pool, home to examples of some of the planet's earliest life, stromatolites. You can check out these living fossils via a boardwalk that allows you to view them without disturbing the fragile life.

While in the area, you can enjoy a variety of marine tours and water sports, as well as excursions on land, including cultural tours focusing on Aboriginal peoples.

Accommodation: Where to Stay near Shark Bay

Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Western Australia

Map of Family Beach Vacations