The pace of life is slower in Molokai, which means that long hikes and afternoons spent snorkeling aren’t just recommended, they’re practically mandatory—if you’re up for a longer snorkelling or kayaking adventure, try a tour along the Pali coast. Take in tropical views like the swaying fronds of the Kapuaiwa Coconut Grove or an unforgettable sunset over Kepuhi Bay—both priceless experiences that won’t cost you a cent.
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.
Most of the action on Staniel Cay centers around the friendly Staniel Cay Yacht Club, where yachters and landlubbers alike stay, dine, and congregate. Here you can rent 13- and 17-foot boats that will allow you to cruise to some of the uninhabited islets nearby, see marine life like nurse sharks, and visit with the famous swimming pigs of Big Major Cay, which paddle out to sea in hopes of getting a handout from sailors. You can also rent snorkel gear to use at Thunderball Grotto, a natural fishbowl featured in the James Bond film Thunderball. Diving, kayaking, and fishing are other options.
Pickleball proves that active sports and competition don’t have to end when you get older: this mix of badminton, tennis, and ping-pong has exploded in popularity in recent years, and seniors comprise the majority of competitors. The well-regarded tennis center at the Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, has eight pickleball courts as well as five POP Tennis courts (the latter appeal to young and beginner players, since it uses a bigger ball eliminates the challenging overhead serve); pickleball packages include instruction, villa stays, bike rentals, and daily court time. The resort also has a trio of 18-hole golf courses, kayaking on an 11-mile inland lagoon, surfing, and other water sports.
They don’t call this “The World’s Most Famous Beach” for nothing, but it’s so much more than the ultimate spring break destination. Clean, compact sand, trained lifeguards and areas designated for “on-the-beach” parking—no need to haul your gear all the way from the car—make this beach a great spot for families. The boardwalk and small theme park are both kid-approved attractions.
Further afield, you, too, can find your bliss among the beaches of Goa, India, which have welcomed bohemian types since the ’60s. Amarya Shamiyana, a collection of four Moghul-inspired tents in a palm-shaded oasis—just down the beach from Jade Jagger’s boutique—channels that carefree, chic spirit. The hotel bursts with color, from playful hand-painted damask murals to metallic beanbag chairs, and puts you within walking distance of the beautiful party people (from $110 per night).
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.
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.
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.
For many families, Ocean Isle Beach is the best of both worlds: it’s less crowded, with gentler waves and warmer water than other popular North Carolina beaches like the Outer Banks, but it’s only a 45-minute drive from bustling cities like Wilmington and Myrtle Beach. The Museum of Coastal Carolina hosts a wide range of daily events tailored to small children, including story time, planetarium shows and “Touch Tank Feeding,” a chance to help staff members feed the museum’s marine animals.
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If boardwalk fishing or putt-putt golf comes to mind when you picture a traditional beach vacation, mix things up with a trip to this decidedly unique spot on the Big Island. Spot tropical fish as you snorkel at the Kapoho Tide Pools, take a dip in the hot springs at Ahalanui Park or visit Lava Tree State Park (which is just as intriguing as it sounds). All fired up? Try a Hot Lava Hike over crackling terrain and into the jungle.
North Carolina’s Outer Banks don’t actually end at the Virginia state line. Sandbridge, 25 minutes south of Virginia Beach, sits at the northern tip of the OBX, where you’ll find a tiny residential community with a couple of restaurants, an outfitter for kayaking, and a chic condo next to the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge and False Cape State Park. Bring a bike so you can explore the refuge and the state park (which lacks an access road). sandbridgebeachva.com
Or there's Punta Monterrey, just 20-minutes drive up the coast. Right on a private beach, this rustic resort has cabins and bungalows with rates starting at $80 per person per night. The rate includes all home-cooked meals (produce and ingredients come straight from the garden in their jungle, as well as free use of kayaks, and another hidden beach you can have all to yourself with a short hike through the jungle (the resort straddles jungle and beach).
There are plenty of Airbnbs, where rentals can go as little as $75 a night, and doubles at the only luxury hotel, The Asbury, are $210 a night during summer. The hotel has "quad" (four bunk beds) and "octo" (eight bunk beds) accommodations that bring the rate down a lot cheaper per person. A quad averages $280 per night ($70 per person) and octo averages $580 per night ($72.50 per person).
Come see why Corolla has been named to numerous "best beaches" lists. It's really no surprise, considering the Outer Banks coastline boasts 120 miles of sand, sea and serenity. The appeal of these windswept sands, refreshing sea breezes and vast blue skies has drawn visitors to the Outer Banks and transformed Corolla from a simple seaside fishing village to an upscale vacation destination. Activities on Corolla's North Carolina beaches go beyond sunbathing and splashing in the surf. The beaches in Corolla are pet-friendly year round, and off-road vehicles are welcome on 4WD-accessible shorelines north of town. Then, there are the famous wild horses of Corolla, which can be spotted on an excursion with a local Corolla Wild Horse Tour.
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.
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.
Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman, aka “Dr. Beach,” recommended this island just north of Clearwater Beach five years in a row, and it was the national winner in 2008. It’s an all-natural beach, ideal for swimming, sunning, and shelling. Take a private boat or the Caladesi Connection ferry to stroll the 3-mile beach, kayak its mangrove trails, or hike under live oaks. floridastateparks.org/caladesiisland
It’s also perfectly possible to splash out in a trendy destination like Panama, and still come in within budget. Donald Trump’s curving skyscraper in Panama City should do the trick—with a deep-soak tub and high thread count included. Pair that urban beach experience with a stay along the Pacific coast beaches—fantastic for surfing—at the rustic-but-stylish El Sitio (from $99 per night).
While it's hard to argue with the universal appeal of simply basking in the sun on beautiful white sand beaches (with maybe a frosty drink in hand), there's just so much to do on an island vacation. Active explorers can survey coves and ruins, take jeep tours, parasailing lessons, or set out on day cruises. For water enthusiasts, there are scuba diving, snorkeling, diving, and sea kayaking opportunities galore in most any island vacation spot. And if you're in search of dynamic nightlife, island travel is just the ticket: a beach vacation just wouldn't be complete without nights of feasting on fresh seafood, dancing the night away in after-hours clubs, or just chilling poolside at the cocktail bar at sunset. Soak up the serenity of unspoiled landscapes and enjoy the variety of activities that come with a beach vacation.
A young Dutch couple, Martin Franken and Nicole Roomer, run this 10-room inn just south of this Dutch Antillean island’s main town, Kralendijk. It’s not much to look at from the road, but there’s an inviting pool in the courtyard, lounging space under the thatched-roof bar, and bright rooms accented in yellows, reds, and greens. In the evening, order the fish Creole or garlic shrimp, cooked on the spot by local ladies in a hut beside the pool.
You’ve heard of pop-up shops and restaurants. Now meet the pop-up hotel, developed by the Berlin-based Design Hotels brand. Papaya Playa’s 99 thatched-roof cabanas are outfitted with local textiles and hammocks and attract visiting artists, designers, and DJs. They collaborate at a beach amphitheater, spin at Mayan full moon parties, and share freshly baked bread from the clay oven.
Sixty miles of beautiful beaches welcome visitors to this popular vacation spot. Guests of the town’s many campgrounds, condos, bed and breakfasts, and resorts will enjoy the plethora of activities Myrtle Beach has to offer. Kids and adults can go scuba diving or surfing using their own equipment or rental equipment from one of the local shops that outfit watersports enthusiasts. Those who feel the need for speed will love going parasailing or taking a ride on a jet ski or banana boat. Attractions like a 5D theater, Ripley’s Aquarium, a trampoline park, and the SkyWheel, a Ferris wheel with glass-enclosed gondolas, provide endless entertainment opportunities for the whole family. Things to Do in Myrtle Beach
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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.