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Best family beach vacations to plan this year

A good beach vacation can sometimes feel like a lifesaver for a family — parents kick back, relax and catch some rays while the kids run around and play. And when it comes to coastal getaways — from the best U.S. beaches to bucket-list spots like the Maldives (check out these underwater villas at the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island) — the options are as endless as the waves in the sea.

Certain destinations, though, provide top-notch accommodations specifically designed for families and have all the sun and fun you could dream of. So, slather on some sunscreen (don’t forget to reapply it every few hours) and plan your trip to one of the eight best spots for family beach vacations.

Martin County, Florida


This under-the-radar beach destination is located between Orlando and Miami on Florida’s Treasure Coast. Whether you stay in Stuart or Jensen Beach, you’ll find more than 22 miles of beaches and 100,000 acres of parks and conservation lands in Martin County.

Related: Brightline announces Stuart as newest rail station in Florida

Bathtub Beach is great for families with young kids looking for calm waters for wading. Stuart Beach is a great option for families with older kids. Several local surf shops offer rentals and lessons for beginners. Families will also love visiting the Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center and The Children’s Museum of the Treasure Coast.

Where to stay

Jensen Beach’s oceanfront Hutchinson Shores Resort & Spa has 178 guest rooms and suites with coastal decor and private balconies overlooking the ocean, pool or Indian River. Standard rooms have one king or two queen beds. Studio and one-bedroom suites are also available. Rates at Hutchinson Shores Resort & Spa start at at $165 per night.

The Marriott Hutchinson Island Beach Resort, Golf & Marina is also on the beach, with two buildings about a half-mile apart. The newly renovated resort tower is located near the property’s restaurants, golf course and pickleball courts. There’s also direct beach access for those who plan to spend most of their time on the sand. Rates at the Marriott Hutchinson Island Beach Resort, Golf & Marina start at $231 or 31,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night.

Where to eat

Seaside Cafe, on the shores of Stuart Beach, offers tasty breakfast and lunch fare, as well as Atlantic Ocean views from the outdoor deck. After your meal, you can walk straight out to the beach.

Conchy Joe’s Seafood Restaurant is a funky, fun waterfront joint serving everything from burgers and fries to oysters, conch chowder and fish tacos.

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Cocoa Beach, Florida


Cocoa Beach is on Florida’s Space Coast, about 5 miles south of Cape Canaveral and 20 miles south of the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex (a great option for a full-day visit). It’s also only a little more than an hour from Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando, so you can easily take a day trip to the theme parks before returning to the beach.

Make time to visit the restaurants, shops and entertainment along the Cocoa Beach Pier and consider going for a sightseeing dolphin cruise. At the nearby Brevard Zoo, you can take a kayak tour past giraffes, rhinos and lemurs, among other animals.

Where to stay

As its name suggests, Hilton Cocoa Beach Oceanfront is right on the shores of Cocoa Beach. It’s also only a 15-minute drive from Port Canaveral Cruise Port and 30 minutes from the Kennedy Space Center. The hotel offers standard guest rooms, along with spacious suites. Rates at the Hilton Cocoa Beach Oceanfront start at $207 or 59,000 Hilton Honors points per night.


The Courtyard Cocoa Beach Cape Canaveral also has direct beach access but is a little bit closer to Port Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center. All guest rooms have private balconies, and the hotel also has a small pool and a poolside bar. Rates at the Courtyard Cocoa Beach Cape Canaveral start at $160 or 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night.

Where to eat

You will want to make multiple stops at River Road Coffee & Popsicles for coffee and evening popsicles. Pro tip: Adults can opt for spiked “boozicles” for only $1.

The Tiny Turtle sits in downtown Cocoa Beach. The restaurant serves Caribbean fusion cuisine and often hosts shows by local musicians.

Hilton Head, South Carolina

Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. HILTON HEAD ISLAND

Hilton Head Island has wide sandy beaches and a quaint, nostalgic atmosphere that make it the type of destination families return to year after year for an annual beach vacation. The island’s compact size — fewer than 5 miles wide and only 12 miles long — makes it easy to bike or walk to many area activities, restaurants and, of course, beaches.

There’s a decent chance you’ll stay in a resort with beach access, but Hilton Head has several public-access beaches, too. Coligny Beach Park, Driessen Beach Park, Islanders Beach Park and Burkes Beach all have family-friendly amenities like playgrounds, restrooms and picnic pavilions.

Hilton Head also offers several different types of boat excursions on the island. You can opt for an interactive pirate cruise or a sightseeing dolphin cruise, among other options. You should also make time for a visit to Harbour Town, where you can shop, dine and climb 114 steps to get to the top of the Harbour Town Lighthouse.

Where to stay

The Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa is an upscale beachfront resort on the island’s north end near Folly Field Beach Park. Standard guest rooms have one king or two queen beds, hardwood floors and private balconies. The resort has three outdoor pools and four restaurants. Beach chairs and umbrellas are not provided, but a rental station is near the resort’s beach access point. Rates at The Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa start at $331 or 57,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night.

Related: Best Hilton Head resorts for families

Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort. TARAH CHIEFFI/THE POINTS GUY

Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort is located on the marshy banks of Broad Creek. It’s a short drive or bike ride (Disney also offers a free shuttle) to the beach, but you can enjoy all aspects of South Carolina’s unique coastal backdrop. Room sizes range from studio suites to two-bedroom villas. Like other Disney resorts, this one has daily activities, two pools (one at the resort and one at the beach house) and quick-service eateries serving Disney favorites like Dole Whip and Mickey waffles. Rates at Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort start at $241 per night, but you can save by renting Disney Vacation Club points through a company like David’s Vacation Club Rentals.

Where to eat

There are endless options for fresh seafood when you visit Hilton Head Island, so we will narrow it down for you.

Fishcamp on Broad Creek has delicious seafood, live music, lawn games for kids and gorgeous Lowcountry views.

Skull Creek Boathouse offers the same great food, views and entertainment, and you may spy some gators and fish if you go for a walk on the pier.

Waikiki Beach, Honolulu


Hawaii has no bad beaches for families, but Waikiki Beach in Honolulu has some particularly family-friendly offerings. In addition to your time on world-famous Waikiki Beach, you can visit the Waikiki Aquarium and the Honolulu Zoo and hike the 1.6-mile round-trip Diamond Head Summit Trail.

Related: 11 best family resorts in Hawaii for a relaxing vacation

Waikiki Beach itself is 2 miles long and divided into several sections. In front of the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort, Duke Kahanamoku Beach is a calm, human-made lagoonlike wading pool that is well suited for families with small children. If you want to take on Hawaii’s legendary waves, head to Queen’s Beach for lessons with the Ohana Surf Project.

Where to stay


Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa sits directly on the coast. The resort’s standard rooms and suites all have open-air, private lanais with views of Diamond Head, Waikiki Beach or the Waikiki area. The hotel also has a rooftop pool, a game room and a Hawaiian Heritage Center where guests can learn about Hawaiian culture and attend a luau on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Rates at Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa start at $334 or 62,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night.

Related: Best hotels in Honolulu

Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort. CLINT HENDERSON/THE POINTS GUY

Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort is in the heart of Waikiki, with direct access to Kahanamoku Beach and stunning views of Diamond Head. With eight towers and more than 2,800 guest rooms, this resort is larger than most. If you can, go for a room in the Rainbow Tower, which is closest to the beach and pool area. Rates at Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort start at $300 or 70,000 Hilton Honors points per night.

Where to eat

Dining on island cuisine at Duke’s Waikiki is practically a tradition for visitors and locals alike. Be warned that reservations fill up quickly (especially during dinnertime), so reserve your spot as soon as you know your travel dates.

You can’t visit Hawaii without indulging in a fresh poke bowl. There are several spots where you can find what you seek, but we recommend Barefoot Beach Cafe. This casual oceanfront restaurant with nightly live music also serves breakfast, sandwiches, coffee, shave ice and smoothies.

Anna Maria Island, Florida

Anna Maria Island, Florida. BRADENTON GULF ISLANDS

Anna Maria Island is just south of Tampa on the Gulf Coast. Unlike many tourist spots, there are no chain stores or restaurants, and no building is taller than three stories. The island is accessible from the mainland via the Gulf Islands Ferry. If laid-back seclusion is what you’re after, you’ll find it here.

Families with young kids should head to Anna Maria Public Beach or nearby Bayfront Park. You’ll find a playground, picnic pavilions and the City Pier. Shell-seekers, on the other hand, can visit quieter Coquina Beach. Leave time to meet the rescue manatees at The Bishop Museum of Science and Nature, go on a dolphin-spotting boat tour and check out the 1.5-mile Bradenton Riverwalk.

Where to stay

Mello on the Beach is a boutique, beachfront hotel reminiscent of a 1950s midcentury modern beach resort. Rooms are designed with all the comforts of home, including separate living and dining areas and kitchens. Single and multibedroom units are available, with rates starting at $388 per night.

Springhill Suites Bradenton Downtown/Riverfront is an all-suite property on downtown Bradenton’s riverfront. The hotel has an on-site restaurant, an outdoor pool and a fitness center. Rates start at $158 or 22,240 Marriott Bonvoy points per night.

Where to eat

At the Cortez Fishing Village, you can explore the area’s maritime heritage and dine on fresh seafood.

The Beach House Waterfront Restaurant has food as good as its ocean views, and kids can play in the sand while you wait for food.

Nauset Beach, Massachusetts

Nauset Beach is a public beach that spans about 10 miles on the east coast of outer Cape Cod in Orleans. During the summer months, outdoor showers, picnic tables, food trucks, rental gear like chairs and umbrellas, and restrooms with changing rooms are available for beachgoers. Lifeguards are also on duty during the summer season.

You can get farther out in the water and search for seals and whales on a private (up to six guests) boat tour with Harbor Seal Boat Tours (open seasonally), or put away the swimsuits and pick up some clubs at Cape Escape Adventure Golf, a nautical-themed 18-hole miniature golf course.

Nauset Beach, Massachusetts. NAUSET BEACH TOURISM

Where to stay

Nauset Beach Inn is a beachfront resort and the only lodging inside the well-protected Cape Cod National Seashore. Standard rooms start at $449 per night and sleep up to four guests; cottages sleep up to six. Guests can also take advantage of complimentary kayak, canoe and paddleboard rentals (available seasonally).

AutoCamp Cape Cod offers luxury tents and airstreams of various sizes in close proximity to the ocean. Rates start at $296 per night.

Where to eat

The Barley Neck is an upscale spot and is perfect for dinner, drinks or Sunday brunch. It often has live music on the lawn, too.

For something a little more laid-back, The Alley Bowling + BBQ has bowling lanes, arcade games, house-smoked barbecue and a full bar.

Palm Beach, Aruba

If calm, gin-clear waters are what you’re after, look no further than Palm Beach on Aruba’s west coast. The tranquil water makes it a perfect spot for families with young children who are timid around big waves. There’s plenty of shallow water for splashing around. The weather is practically perfect no matter when you visit, and the beach is wide and long.

There is a popular community playground at Neptali Henriquez Park if your kids need to release some energy. There’s lots of sand to play in. Plus, you’ll find a large climbing structure and slides. Palm Beach is also home to the Aruba Surf & Paddleboarding School, which offers rentals and lessons.


Where to stay

The Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort Spa & Casino is right on Palm Beach and sits within walking distance of many area shops and restaurants. On-site, you’ll find a casino, a spa, multiple pools and a kid-friendly waterslide. Rooms sleep up to four (more than that requires connecting rooms). The Hyatt Regency Aruba is a World of Hyatt Category 7 property, and standard rooms start at $541 or 30,000 World of Hyatt points per night for off-peak dates.

The Ritz-Carlton, Aruba is a step up from the Hyatt Regency in the luxury department, but that also means higher prices. The resort houses six restaurants, a spa, a casino and rooms and suites that sleep up to four guests. Rates start at $700 or 82,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night.

The Ritz-Carlton, Aruba. RITZ-CARLTON

Aruba also has a number of wonderful all-inclusive resorts, some right on Palm Beach.

Where to eat

Bars and restaurants line Palm Beach, so you’ll never be too far from your next meal.

Eduardo’s Beach Shack is a beachfront spot with a menu stocked with smoothies, acai bowls, poke and vegan dishes, and the lively Lola Taqueria serves fresh tacos. Both are inviting for families (even ones with picky eaters).

Paradise Island, Bahamas

Paradise Island is a small island off Nassau (there are bridges connecting the two islands) dominated by large resorts. It may be the best beach spot for you and your family if you are fans of water parks, aquariums and the occasional casino visit for the adults in your party.

The small island is relatively flat, and where there isn’t sand, there are towering palm trees and lush foliage. Its tranquil turquoise water and soft white sand are also ideal for families. With so much to do, you won’t likely need to leave your resort during your stay on Paradise Island.

Paradise Island in the Bahamas. POLA DAMONTE/GETTY IMAGES

Where to stay

Atlantis Paradise Island isn’t so much a single hotel as it is a collection of five resorts built around a central activity area, including a 141-acre water park called Aquaventure. There are also on-property opportunities to swim with dolphins, charter a boat and swim in one of 11 pools. With multiple resorts from which to choose (and rooms as low as $369 per night), there’s a room type for any size family. If you have Marriott Bonvoy points to use, you can cover a night at The Coral, The Cove or The Royal Towers with your points.

Baha Mar is similar to Atlantis in that there are multiple hotel towers to choose from — including Rosewood Baha Mar, Grand Hyatt Baha Mar and SLS Baha Mar Hotel — and a massive water park. Grand Hyatt Baha Mar is available to book using World of Hyatt points. Rates start at $532 or 21,000 points per night during off-peak times.

If you don’t happen to be staying at Atlantis or Baha Mar, both offer day passes that allow access to their respective water parks.

Baha Bay water park in Nassau, Bahamas. BAHA MAR RESORT

Where to eat

Sun & Ice is a gelateria at Atlantis that serves gelato, ice cream and sorbet in unique flavors like allspice potato bread and coconut candy.

At Grand Hyatt Baha Mar, you’ll find a series of beachfront food trucks serving everything from Mexican fare to Afro Caribbean-inspired dishes. Of course, you could always cross the bridge to Nassau and visit The Poop Deck for fresh seafood and probably a giggle from the kids.

Bottom line

We probably could have added a dozen more beaches to the list (and maybe someday we will). However, this should give you a decent jumping-off point to find the next beach where you can hang 10 with your family.

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