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If you’re thinking about a family beach vacation, the list of options is so long it can feel overwhelming just trying to decide where to go. Whether you’re looking for something close to home, the west coast, east coast, south coast, or a destination that’s more exotic, there’s something out there that’s perfect, but it can be hard to know for sure until you go. These options might just inspire the motivation you need to book before the best accommodations are sold out.
The Outer Banks, North Carolina
The Outer Banks make for an ideal family vacation, with opportunities to book vacation rentals that have room for everyone, right on the beach. This long, narrow strip of land separates Pamlico Sound from the open waters of the Atlantic, which means visitors can enjoy a variety of activities like surfing, paddle boarding, kayaking and wading. There are lots of local shops in the area that offer equipment rentals and lessons, and, you can even discover stretches with wild horses, who’ve roamed the beaches in the area for centuries now.
Ocho Rios, Jamaica
Jamaica is one of the most affordable Caribbean destinations and it’s filled with family-friendly resorts, including all-inclusive options, not to mention non-stop flights are available from many cities around the U.S. Not only can everyone enjoy playing in the sand and crystal-clear turquoise waters, but if you stay in or near Ocho Rios, it’s easy to visit Dunn’s River Falls which features a series of cascading waterfalls and tranquil lagoons. There’s an easy hike families can do that are even suitable for toddlers – the Dolphin Cove Nature Trail is a nature trail for exploring wildlife like iguanas, birds, and resident snakes as well as tropical plants.
Located on the northern Oregon coast, Seaside offers a ton of family-friendly attractions just a little over an hour’s drive from Portland. There’s a two-mile-long paved promenade that’s great for strolls and bike rides. It also borders the three-mile-long stretch of beach for endless activities in the sand. You can also visit the aquarium which sits just off the “Prom,” home to sea lions that perform tricks on their own in hopes of convincing visitors to toss a fish their way. Plus it has a touch tank for feeling prickly sea urchins, starfish, anemones and more. Downtown hosts an arcade and a wide range of souvenir shops and eateries.
Los Cabos, Mexico
Los Cabos, which sits at the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula, has long been known as a popular honeymoon and partying spot, but it also makes for a fantastic family beach vacation. On one side are the turquoise waters of the Sea of Cortez, ideal for swimming and snorkeling, and on the other, the wild waves of the Pacific. There is a wide range of resorts in both San Jose del Cabo, the quieter side, and in Cabo San Lucas, the heart of the action with its iconic arch at Land’s End and beautiful, swimmable Medano Beach.
Clearwater Beach, Florida
By heading to Clearwater Beach, families can enjoy the warm, crystal-clear waters of the Gulf of Mexico for a wide range of water sports, including parasailing, and excursions like dolphin cruises. Kids will love the family-friendly Clearwater Beach activities, including Pier 60 with its sunset festival hosted nightly that features a variety of performers like stilt walkers and magicians as well as live music and local artisans.
Stay on Grand Cayman at Seven-Mile Beach, particularly at its north end or in the more secluded area of Rum Point, and you’ll be able to take advantage of clear, shallow warm water that kids can wade in as far as 25 feet. The largest of the three Cayman Islands is a water lover’s paradise with a multitude of family-friendly activities and attractions. At Sting Ray City, the whole family can walk into the water and be surrounded by hundreds of gentle stingrays, and even feed them by hand for an especially unforgettable, experience. There’s also a turtle farm nearby where kids can swim with the animals in the turtle lagoon.
San Diego, California
San Diego is always a hit with families, with pristine white sand beaches and a wealth of attractions. Visit Balboa Park, the country’s largest urban cultural park home to 16 museums, the San Diego Zoo, gardens, restaurants, and more, or head over to LEGOLAND. Of course, the kids might just want to spend their days building sandcastles on beaches like Coronado Central on Coronado Island, accessed by crossing the bridge from downtown.
Poipu Beach, Kauai
Kauai is ideal for a family beach vacation with a long list of interesting attractions, with Poipu Beach arguably the best spot to base yourself. Adults and kids of all ages will love Poipu Beach Park which offers a shallow wading area for young ones as well as areas to swim, snorkel or surf. Enjoy picnics under shady palm palms, and walks or bike rides along the Mahaulepu Heritage Trail. This is also a great place to enjoy a colorful sunset or embark on a sunset catamaran cruise.
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
One of the most popular family-friendly beach getaways in the U.S., Myrtle Beach not only offers sands for lounging on and beautiful blue waters to splash around in, but a boardwalk and promenade that spans more than a mile. It has a carnival-like atmosphere, complete with arcades, rides like the popular SkyWheel, souvenir shops and eateries. On summer nights there’s live entertainment like stilt walkers and jugglers as well as a firework display. The city is also famous for its golf courses, offering a host of fantastic 18-hole courses as well as mini-golf so the whole family can play, such as Jungle Lagoon, Treasure Island and Captain Hook’s Adventure Golf.
South Padre Island, Texas
This popular Texas beach destination may be a favorite with spring breakers, but it’s a great choice for families too, with a wealth of family-friendly, affordable hotels and all sorts of water sports available, including dolphin watching, sailing, swimming, kiteboarding and more. Schlitterbahn South Padre Island is a highlight, a water park with some two dozen rides, slides and rivers to float on. Plus there are 60 miles of beach in the area for relaxing, sandcastle building and shell collecting. Visit the South Padre Island Dolphin Research and Sea Life Nature Center to learn more about marine life here through educational demos and a touch tank.