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.
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.
OK, so getting here might be a little trickier than it was a few months ago. But if you can finagle it, a flight to Varadero is about $200 from Miami. Varadero Beach is relatively unspoiled; the diving here makes you feel like you’re the first human who’s ever been underwater. Add in some of the friendliest people in the world working along the sand, and you’ve got the best all-around beach day in the Caribbean.
Whether you're into surfing, sailing or touring Gilded Age mansions, Newport is a beach vacation destination with a star-spangled pedigree. Its largest beach, Ruggles, is sweeping crescent of sand favored by surfers, while its historic Thames Street is lined with antique shops, pubs and seafood restaurants. Choose from an array of romantic inns (The Chandler at Cliff Walk and Forty 1 North, for instance) or full-service hotels (Newport Marriott or Hotel Viking). For active sightseeing, stroll or jog the scenic 3½ -mile Cliff Walk with grand mansions on one side and the sailboat-studded waters of Narragansett Bay on the other.
The French couple William and Muriel Demy fell in love with St. Martin on their first visit and eventually bought a beachfront villa, opening it as the Love Hotel in 2008. The seven-room property has light-filled rooms with no pretensions and simple dark wood furniture built by William. For lunch, order from the hotel café’s chalkboard menu that touts everything from Carib beer ($4) to Ruinart champagne ($100).
Santa Monica, CA: There is more to Santa Monica than its world famous three and half miles long spectacular beach, but that is where you have to start your visit to understand the spirit of this fun, relaxed and exciting coastal town. After you shake the sand from your feet, stroll along the iconic Santa Monica Pier for a cold drink, fantastic views of the ocean and a visit to the aquarium to see what lives under water all around you. For a nice meal and a bit of shopping, walk through the tree-lined shady pedestrian Third Street Promenade in downtown Santa Monica. If you are travelling with kids, take them to the Looff Hippodrome for some fun rides or drive up the Santa Monica Mountains to stretch your legs, take in spectacular views and breathe fresh, cool mountain air.
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.
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.
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.
Australia: Kewarra near Cairns offers a beautiful sandy bay, a garden filled with exotic birds and pristine rainforest surroundings. Thala Beach Lodge, also near Cairns, is a unique getaway with two pools, waterfalls, spas and grottos. Lizard Island has 24 secluded beaches, a freshwater swimming pool, snorkeling and scuba diving on its own coral reefs. Ask for a room right next to the ocean.
Although it’s situated in a gated luxury community of golf courses and vacation homes, there’s an untouched beauty to the surrounding nature trails and mangrove forests. That means guests at Magdalena Grand Beach Resort enjoy the thrills of back-to-nature adventure combined with the perks of a large resort development. All 178 rooms have marble baths, high-def flat screens, and ocean-view balconies.
Many people who haven’t traveled in Texas are surprised to learn that there’s an amazing beach along the southern coast of the state. South Padre Island is accessible by road and very popular as a budget-friendly beach destination in the U.S. Accordingly, this area has become famous for its spring break parties, but the beach is very calm and serene if you visit in September or October. In the early fall, the crowds disburse but the temperatures are still warm enough to spend your days at the beach. Families and adventurous couples can keep busy here with water parks, sailing, kiteboarding and even dolphin watching. The town of Galveston is also a fun place to visit for a beach trip because it’s only 45 minutes from Houston and has a nice beach, winery, parks, and gardens.
Robin and Sue Ricketts, who helped create and manage such luxurious island hotels as Malliouhana and Cap Juluca. Now the Ricketts have embarked upon a new project: the 27-room Anacaona Boutique Hotel, a stylish and affordable alternative on an island that is known for its sky-high prices. The modern, tropical rooms (Frette linens; gold and lime pillows; iPod docking stations) look out onto one of two swimming pools, and those on the upper floors have vistas of the sea. The mile-long Meads Bay beach is just steps from the property.
A half-hour drive from Myrtle Beach’s high rises brings you to a little beach town full of rambling rental houses. Sunset Beach proudly preserves its undeveloped beachfront with wide setbacks―that means a spacious beach. Lofty sand dunes stretch 3 miles south to the inlet connecting the Carolinas on Bird Island state nature preserve. sunsetbeachnc.gov
During your stay in Myrtle Beach, you are sure to never be bored. In fact, there are so many things to do along the Grand Strand that you might find yourself having to plan another trip in the near future! With the idyllic scenery of the Atlantic Ocean at your doorstep, relaxation and serenity await you every day. For the golf enthusiasts in your group, there is no finer place than the Golf Capital of the World to spend a day (or two!) on the greens. There are more than 80 local golf courses to choose from during your stay. When it comes to shopping, Myrtle Beach has you covered for epic retail adventures with two Tanger Outlet shopping centers, as well as hundreds of boutique stores scattered throughout locations including Market Common and Broadway at the Beach. If you're looking for live entertainment during your vacation, the toughest decision will be selecting the ones you have time to see. From dinner shows like Pirates Voyage and Medieval Times to musical performances at the Carolina Opry and House of Blues, there truly is something for everyone in your group. The Grand Strand also plays host to a number of exciting amusement and water parks including Family Kingdom and Myrtle Waves. All of these experiences can become irreplaceable memories with your next vacation with Beach Vacations!
Sail (metaphorically or literally) into beautiful Newport, Rhode Island, for a summer girlfriend getaway at the timeless Hotel Viking, which is celebrating its 90th anniversary with a makeover that has brightened up the lobby and restaurant but keeps intact the history and charm that makes this a great Newport address. The hotel’s central location at the head of Bellevue Avenue is convenient to the shops and restaurants there and Thames Street, as well as the city’s fabled mansions and Cliff Walk (shown here). Packages include discounts at the hotel’s SpaFjor, and the rooftop Top of Newport Bar is the best place in town for sunset cocktails with friends. Book it here: Hotel Viking.
Historic lighthouses, wild horses and scenic flights in open-cockpit biplanes above the spot where the Wright Brothers first flew — a vacation in the Outer Banks can include all this, and more. With a large inventory of beach house rentals (and quite a few resorts and inns, too) towns such as Duck, Corolla, Hatteras, Nags Head and Kitty Hawk are scattered along this series of sand-dune-studded barrier islands, making it a top spot for leisurely getaways with friends and multi-generational family vacations. Fresh seafood is plentiful and activities include hang gliding, bike riding and deep-sea fishing.
This pretty South Carolina barrier island offers ten miles of rolling sand dunes and sea grasses, not to mention pristine and mercifully quiet golf courses. One of the best beach vacations for families, Kiawah Island is kid-friendly but not overrun—just what you need to chill. Try Kiawah Beachwalker Park where you can walk through pine trees and yucca plants before emerging onto the sands.