Visit Arawak Key to see how the locals live and grab a fresh fish lunch. Join one of the Dolphin Encounters tours to see the sea lions and observe the city from the water, or to go play with docile stingrays in the Stingray City Park. You will notice the ramparts of the old British Fort Charlotte that has never seen a battle. For a bit of solitude, spend some time at the heavenly Blue Lagoon Island. Find things to do.
The 17th-century pilgrim settlement of Eastham makes a tranquil Cape Cod getaway. Wander the paths along the shore taking in sweeping views of the dunes and marshes. To really get away from it all, turn off your phone, pick up your book, and make your way to Dyer Prince Beach. It’s only accessible via a rather overgrown pathway, making it a bit of a hidden gem. Here you’ll find a small beach edged with calm waters.
For diversity of nature on a budget, few beaches in the western hemisphere can rival this little island in the Lighthouse Reef atoll on the Belize barrier reef. Half Moon Caye is a national park, with crystal clear waters and world-class wall diving. Because the area is completely undeveloped, it’s absolutely teeming with marine creatures and birds. It happens to be the breeding ground for the hemisphere’s only red-footed booby colony.
Alabama’s Gulf Coast isn’t all about the beaches: the 6,000-acre Gulf State Park between Orange Beach and Gulf Shores, for example, has six different ecosystems, including wet pine flatwoods, live oak maritime forests, coastal dunes and swales, longleaf sand ridges, freshwater marshes, and coastal hardwood swamps. You can explore them all by foot or bike on the paved, 15-mile Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail, keeping a sharp eye out for white-tailed deer, foxes, and alligators. After a day of pedaling, geocaching, and birding, settle down for the night at one of the park’s new outpost campsites, built on platforms and equipped with bunk beds, grills, and canvas tenting. Not into roughing it? Segway tours of the trail are available, too. 

The fishing town of Wells, Maine, is made up of harbors, beaches, and nature reserves. From modest fishing boats to luxurious yachts, boat owners can dock at Wells Harbor. The coastline provides almost 4 miles of beaches. The longest stretch, Wells Beach, is almost a mile long, and here guests can enjoy the view from the sandy dunes and grassy knolls. In the summertime, music concerts in the gazebos are common and always free. The town is also home to an annual chili festival, where chili makers can compete in the World Chili Championship Cook-Offs.

The 17th-century pilgrim settlement of Eastham makes a tranquil Cape Cod getaway. Wander the paths along the shore taking in sweeping views of the dunes and marshes. To really get away from it all, turn off your phone, pick up your book, and make your way to Dyer Prince Beach. It’s only accessible via a rather overgrown pathway, making it a bit of a hidden gem. Here you’ll find a small beach edged with calm waters.


While most Americans have never heard of it, Fernando de Noronha is regarded by many Brazilians as having the most beautiful beaches in the country—and that’s saying a lot coming from a nation full of sand and sun connoisseurs. With its steep bunny-ear hills that soar up from undeveloped white and gold beaches, Fernando de Noronha might look more at home alongside Bora Bora and the other islands of French Polynesia than it does hundreds of miles from mainland Brazil. But unlike those Pacific islands, Fernando de Noronha is cheaper and easier to get to, at least from the East Coast of the U.S.

Looking for the next Costa Rica? Just head down the coast a few miles to Panama and the Isla Bastimentos, part of the Bocas del Toro archipelago in the Caribbean Sea, a 20-square-mile island that’s a microcosm of some of Panama’s top tourism offerings. Here you’ll find virgin rainforests home to sloths and monkeys, offshore coral gardens and mangrove islands perfect for snorkeling, and stunning beaches pounded by Hawaii-sized waves.
Taking the family to the beach can create lifelong memories, as long as every member of the family is satisfied. To help you choose your next family beach vacation, U.S. News considered factors like safe waters, kid-friendly attractions, dining options, spacious accommodations and multigenerational appeal to determine the list below. Weigh in by voting below, then use this list to plan your upcoming travels.
Tamarindo Beach is along the green, mountainous northwest coast of Costa Rica. Not only does it offer the remote, relaxing views of the Pacific the country is known for, it’s also a hub for sea turtles, and several companies offer tours to watch the nightly ritual of turtle nesting. It’s also bordered by the largest mangrove estuary in Central America at Estero de Tamarindo.

There are more than 700 islands in the Bahamas, but the vast majority of travelers never get beyond the mega resorts of New Providence (home to Nassau), Paradise, and Grand Bahama islands. That means there are plenty of lightly trafficked “Out Islands” to choose from for off-the-beaten-path beach vacations. For glassy, gem-colored water, condo-free beaches, affordable accommodations, and some the best sailing grounds in the world, head to Staniel Cay, a two-square-mile island within the Exuma Cays.
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Sunshine and cool breezes slowly turn to sultry, starry nights. This is the beach vacation of your dreams, where you’ll reach that blissful state of ‘ahh’. Your stress-free, no-itinerary days may include lounging at Myrtle Beach resorts or swimming with dolphins on your Hawaii vacations. But whether your trip is romantic or rooted in family fun, we’ve got the perfect beach resorts for you.
On the quieter northern end of Phuket’s Patong party beach, this hotel is the bottle-service-club alternative to area hotels with a more frat-like atmosphere. At night, the angular slate-gray exterior glows; the windows of 123 guest rooms are illuminated in jewel tones like yellow, purple, and blue. Interiors have low-slung beds and Eames chairs. Most first-floor rooms offer direct access to the pool, while upstairs suites overlook the Andaman Sea.
There’s a reason San Diego consistently ranks as one of the most family-friendly beach destinations in the States: it’s beautiful, it’s affordable, and you’ll never run out of things to do—especially if you bed down at the funky Hotel La Jolla. The high-rise hotel sports a retro coastal design (think: wood paneling, '70s beach photography, and mid-century furniture), and features an outdoor pool, spa services, a poolside bar, and a bike and hula hoop-borrowing program. A popular place to start the weekend is The Cottage—a sunny eatery known for its lively atmosphere and mouth-watering lemon ricotta pancakes. Grab your camera and continue on to La Jolla Cove to watch sea lions bathe on sandstone rock formations, or check out the latest exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art.
Key West, FL: There is so much history in Key West, you feel like you’ve stepped into one of the Hemingway’s stories. Get into the spirit of the place by staying at the charming, luxurious Curry Mansion Inn, where time has stopped and where you will be treated like royalty. Join the crowds at Mallory Square in Key West’s charming historic Old Town and watch the street performers’ show. Sunset-watching is a daily pastime in Key West, from Mallory Square or from the colorful Sunset Pier. Visit Ernest Hemingway’s beautiful Victorian house in the Old Town. Stroll through the Historic Seaport at Key West Bight to watch the boats and old fishermen. While here, make sure you grab a fresh fish lunch, or book a dolphin watching boat tour. For a respite from the crowds and relentless sun, sit for a while on a bench in the shady, fragrant Key West Garden Club.
We’ve never found a beach we didn’t love, so to help us narrow down the list, we asked Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman, better known as Dr. Beach, to lend us his expertise. Every year, he picks America’s top 10 beaches after considering factors such as sand softness, water temperature, pollution, and views. Dr. Beach is currently the director of Florida International University’s Laboratory for Coastal Research, but when he isn’t working, he retreats to his favorite seashore, Cape Florida State Park.
Though technically this border city sits in France, it’s more accurately described as Basque Country, home to that unique enclave on the Spanish-French border. Hendaye Beach sits wedged between the Pyrenees and the Atlantic, and while an afternoon enjoying the sun is great, the old city at the top of the hill is definitely worth a visit. It’s an old Basque city with fascinating architecture and sweeping views out over the Bay of Chingoudy. A short drive or bus ride gets you to San Sebastian, one of the smallest foodie capitals on the planet.

Often travelers don’t understand exactly what kind of a vacation they are booking and what best beach vacations mean to them. For example, during our stay at a secluded resort on Maui, many people complained that there was nothing to do. The hotel manager helped them arrange a vacation on the much busier West Side, but most resorts won’t be this accommodating, so be sure to research your destination before you book your stay. The actual resort may offer pools, beaches, golf, tennis and other activities, but if it is pretty isolated like in the case of East Maui, where the drive to the nearest nightclub or shopping takes several hours, that may not be for everyone.


You don’t have to go to the Caribbean or Fiji to get a taste of private-island romance: Palm Island, located on Florida’s Gulf Coast between Sarasota and Fort Myers, is only reachable by boat and seems much farther away than the six minutes it takes to cross the Intracoastal Waterway from the mainland. The Palm Island Resort has about 100 villas in five clusters around the island, each centered on public areas that include pools, hot tubs, a clubhouse, and other amenities. The island also has a full-service marina (so boating and fishing are never far away), and the tennis center offers lessons and equipment rentals. A one-bedroom beach villa would be perfect for a couples getaway just steps from the sand, and one of Florida’s best seafood restaurants, Leverock’s, is just a short water-taxi ride away.

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It’s worth experiencing both Tobago’s beaches and its wild interior. Tobago was purportedly the inspiration for Robinson Crusoe, and even though the deserted beaches described in the novel were based on observations made almost 300 years ago, you can still find such beaches on the island today. Try going to Pirate’s Bay, which was used in the 1954 film version of the novel.
Maui: For those who like dry sunny weather, the resorts of West Maui offer plenty of activities. Kapalua has three beautiful bays, three golf courses, tennis, spas and other activities for guests of all ages. Makena Resort is located on a more secluded spot, surrounded by scenic views. If you are looking for a place that will let you get away from it all, try the quiet town of Hana on East Maui. The only luxury resort in town, Travassa Hana, has a relaxing spa and a restaurant that serves dishes made from organic ingredients. Visitors can spend their days relaxing on the tropical Hamoa Beach.
If you're looking for a beach vacation destination that offers active summer sports as well as easy access to a city famous for its history and quirky charm, check out Hilton Head Island. Located 45 minutes from Savannah, Georgia, it has carved a niche with its focus on golf, tennis, biking and nature walks, along with a plentiful supply of hotel rooms (major resorts include Marriott, Sonesta, Omni and Disney) and condo and house rentals in all price ranges. Day trips to Savannah add antiquing, historic home tours and lowcountry cuisine (shrimp and grits, anyone?) to the mix.
Budget for the trip: TAP is doing its part to pump up Portuguese tourism, and round-trip flights to Lisbon are regularly $600 or less from the East Coast. For about $50, two trains take you from Lisbon to Algarve. Once you’re there, the famous cheap food, wine, and beer of Portugal are at your disposal, and your costs will be minimal. Hotels aren’t bad, either -- as little as $40 a night.
Huntington Beach, otherwise known as Surf City U.S.A. is a mecca for surfers of all ages and abilities. Lessons and equipment rental are available for individuals and groups at the Banzai Surf School, an accredited member of the National Surf Schools & Instructors Association. Beachgoers who would rather catch some rays than catch a wave can stretch out on a beach towel along 10 miles of award-winning sandy shoreline. Beach volleyball is a popular waterfront sport and tournaments are held throughout the year. For bicycle rentals and burger baskets, tourists can hit one of the concession stands along the beach. Things to Do in Huntington Beach
Ormond Beach’s clean, uncrowded oceanfront features white sand, well-trained lifeguards and regular dolphin sightings. Family-friendly amenities like ample public restrooms and easy parking makes this stretch of shoreline the perfect spot to plant your beach umbrella. The area is full of gems like Peach Valley Café, a beloved local breakfast spot, where the apple fritters come highly recommended. Plan a day trip to Orlando (major attractions like Disney World are just an hour away!), or play a round at one of the area’s reasonably priced golf clubs.

International beach vacations were once reserved for that unapologetically wealthy tech scion in your freshman dorm who casually mentioned his “summer on the Côte” while everyone else hoped to scrounge gas money to Panama City. And, true, trips to St.-Tropez aren’t exactly going at a deep discount these days. But that doesn’t mean you can’t take a solid beach trip on a moderate budget -- inside the United States, especially.
This charming beach town is super accessible, particularly for Houstonians who only have to drive 45 minutes to get there. And once you arrive, you can get just about anywhere by foot, so there's no need for pricey cabs or rental cars. Learn about the historic island city, one of the country’s leading ports in the 19th century, at Moody Mansion, the former home of one of Galveston’s founding families, or at the East End Historical District, where you’ll find a dazzling string of restored Victorian landmarks. From there, tuck into a diet-busting feast of hush puppies, corn on the cob, and three-pound platters of steamed crawdads at Benno’s on the Beach, a casual waterfront hang with an outdoor patio and wallet-friendly prices. Your Victorian-inspired digs at the Tremont House are the perfect place to kick back and relax after a long day of exploring.
Jamaica is a top destination for couples celebrating their honeymoons and anniversaries, but it has beaches well-suited to travelers regardless of whether you’re celebrating something or not. You can find direct flights to Montego Bay from many cities, and Ocho Rios tends to be even more affordable than Montego Bay. You’ll find plenty of all-inclusive resorts here, but also small hotels that are near local restaurants and bars that offer cheap eats and drinks. While in the Ocho Rios area, you can spend lots of time on the sandy beaches and go hiking and swimming by waterfalls.
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Sanibel Island is a beachcomber’s delight, one of the best beach vacations for finding beautiful seashells that wash up on its sands. Residents here are conservationists and work hard to preserve the natural beauty of their home, so it’s a great place to find an undisturbed spot for a bit of quiet contemplation. Try the perfectly chilled-out Bowman’s Beach for shelling, paddling, or settling down with a good read.
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