Taking the family to the beach can create memories for a lifetime as long as every member of the family is satisfied. To help you choose a beach destination for your next family vacation, US News has taken into consideration factors such as safe waters, kid-friendly attractions, dining options, spacious accommodations, and multi-generational attractiveness to determine the best family beach vacation in the United States so use this list to plan your next trips. (Note: Some of the following destinations may be affected by the coronavirus outbreak. Check with the CDC and the US State Department before traveling.)
# 1. External Banks
The beaches of the Outer Banks are praised for their consistent but manageable waves and verdant landscapes. And you can count on North Carolina’s OBX to offer exceptional summer weather (think: the highs of the 70s and 80s). Plan to rent a cottage or condo for more space without being too far from the beach. For plenty of sand to spread out on and build sand castles, visit the sweeping shores of Nags Head. Or, head to Kitty Hawk or Kill Devil Hills to surf the rough waters. Duck is the beach town to go to if you’ve brought your four-legged family member with you.
# 2. Destin
The family atmosphere and impressive beaches of this Florida town attract multigenerational groups year after year. The stiff white sand and calm jade waters at Henderson Beach State Park and the Shores at Crystal Beach Park are perfect for photos. Additionally, many Destin resorts cater to children, so parents can relax while the little ones play. Boat trips are also a great way to spend quality time with the family; all ages will have fun looking for jumping dolphins and kids will have a blast on pirate themed cruises.
# 3 Maui
While cost is a stumbling block to any family vacation, it is a particularly big stumbling block for many when it comes to traveling to Hawaii. However, Maui has some of the most abundant and exotic beaches in the United States for families. Kihei’s Wailea Beach and Lahaina’s Baby Beach are options to visit, with sun-kissed sands and calm waters ideal for little swimmers. And all ages will want to head to Haleakala National Park for an educational yet memorable visit to the world’s largest dormant volcano.
# 4 Head of the Hilton
Hilton Head, South Carolina is perfect for families looking to slow down. Here you will find two noteworthy beaches: Alder Lane Beach and the ever popular Coligny Beach Park. For a break from the sand, take a walk (or bike ride) through Harbor Town and climb to the top of the lighthouse. Golf and tennis courses also abound, giving your family plenty of options to stay active while on vacation.
# 5 Amelia Island
This barrier island off the northeastern coast of Florida offers plenty of space to spread out in the sand – 13 miles, to be exact – but also promises plenty of fun away from the shore. Head to Egans Creek Greenway, a protected area of over 300 acres that is home to alligators, snakes, bobcats and many birds. For more wildlife viewing opportunities, sign up for Amelia River Cruises’ family-friendly sunset tour. You will cruise around the island in search of pods of dolphins and hear a brief history of the area.
# 6 Honolulu – Oahu
Oahu is expensive, but is home to some of the most inviting beaches in Hawaii. Head to Waikiki Beach or Ala Moana Regional Park, two beaches where the water remains relatively calm and lifeguards are always present. When you need a break from the beach, hike the kid-friendly Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail or explore some of the island’s historic sites, such as the Battleship Missouri Memorial. If your family is visiting in late December or early January, be sure to check out the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing competition on Oahu’s North Shore.
# 7 Nantucket
Families visiting this Massachusetts island south of Cape Cod will want to head straight to Children’s Beach. In addition to the calm waters, this stretch of sand is also home to a playground and picnic areas. In addition, every summer it hosts free evening concerts. For more fun on the water, sign up for a Critter Cruise. Young people learn about the local marine fauna and have the chance to cast a line. The touch tanks at the Maria Mitchell Aquarium and the sperm whale skeleton on display at the Whaling Museum are two other must-sees for curious children.
# 8 Bald Head Island
This island off the southern coast of North Carolina boasts 14 miles of beaches. Families in search of calm waters should head for the sands of South Beach. Meanwhile, travelers with older children who want to boogie board or surf should head to East Beach. When you’re ready to explore more of the area, sign up for a kayak or canoe tour of the winding marshy coves that surround the island. And if you visit in the summer, consider joining a turtle walk hosted by the Bald Head Island Conservancy. During the 45-minute walk, you will look for nesting loggerhead sea turtles.
# 9 Myrtle beach
Myrtle Beach has no problem luring East Coasters to its vast sands. After spending time on the beach (this area boasts 60 miles of sandy South Carolina shores), check out Ripley’s Aquarium in Myrtle Beach or play a game at TicketReturn.com Field at Pelicans Ballpark. Myrtle Beach State Park is another must-see for families, as you’ll find fewer crowds here, a nature center, campgrounds, trails, and a beach pier. Just make sure you’re wearing plenty of sunscreen – the South Carolina sun can be unforgiving.
# 10 Monterey
Six beaches are available in Monterey, California, but families are more drawn to Window on the Bay Beach for its playground and skate park, and Municipal Beach for its calm waters and restaurant-filled pier. Meanwhile, families with older children who enjoy water sports should head to McAbee Beach for diving and kayaking. For even more fun, watch whales or touch the bat rays at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
# 11 Chief May
Cape May’s nearly 3 miles of family-friendly sand is filled with New Jersey folks during the school holidays and out of town in the summer. You and your little ones can bond while surfing, kayaking or strolling along the boardwalk. Sunset Beach is a popular spot for families, and The Cove, while often crowded, is fun for surfing. Just remember to purchase beach labels for visits between Memorial Day and Labor Day, and to book accommodation a few months in advance.
# 12 St. Augustine
Founded by the Spaniards in 1565, St. Augustine, Florida has a rich history that will appeal to families of different ages and interests. Young people will love the interactive exhibits at the Sant’Agostino Pirate and Treasure Museum and the exotic animals on display at the Sant’Agostino wilderness reserve. Additionally, the beaches in the area, including St. Augustine Beach and Anastasia State Park, offer more than 40 miles of sandy shoreline and are hugely popular with families thanks to features like splash pads, small waves, volleyball courts, and outdoor showers. .