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Beach Vacations: Where To Go

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Avalon Reef Club. Photo ©  Teresa Plowright.

Palapa: vital ingredient in a beach vacation.

Photo © Teresa Plowright.

Beach vacations come in many types: from renting a condo or vacation home, to affordable all inclusive resorts, to luxury five-star properties... Below are some popular places to go.

Caribbean
Families flock to Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, and several other islands for the all inclusive resorts that offer watersports, family activities, elaborate pools and even on-site water parks. At some resorts, kids' programs are outstanding, with separate activities for many different age groups, plus teen programs and nurseries.

Noteworthy choices include Franklyn D. Resort, where each family has their own vacation nanny during their stay. Meanwhile, Club Med Punta Cana offers amazing kids' programs for many different ages, and Beaches Resorts offer extensive kids' programs plus infant care.

Mexico
Many families visiting Mexico these days prefer the conveniences and amenities of all inclusive resorts, which can be found in several popular beach vacation areas.

Cancun is Mexico's tourist powerhouse, and its 25 kilometers of double waterfront (lagoon and ocean side) are lined with resorts. Many visitors come to Cancun for nightlife and dining-out, but a number of properties welcome families. Meanwhile, the Mayan Riviera south of Cancun has the second largest barrier reef in the world, Mayan ruins, cenotes, an eco-theme park, and more to explore. Families can take tours, rent a car or hire a taxi, or even try one of the public buses that run along the highway between Cancun and Tulum.

Los Cabos and the Riviera Nayarit (north of Puerto Vallarta) are other prominent areas in Mexico for beach vacations.

Hawaii Beach Resorts
Don't expect to find all inclusives in the Aloha state!

Hawaii is known for luxury beach resorts, such as the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa, or the Hilton Waikoloa Village on the Big Island. Kids' programs are definitely part of the picture at Hawaii resorts, but typically entail a (daily or half-day) charge. An exception is Disney's Aulani Resort on Oahu, which has a huge Aunty's Beach House kids center with free programs.

For affordable options in Hawaii, the busy Waikiki Beach area offers lots of fun for families and many lodging options. Also check out the Ka'anapali Beach Hotel, which prides itself on being Maui's "Most Hawaiian Hotel" and features Hawaiian activities. Condo and vacation-home rentals are also very popular for family beach vacations in Hawaii.

• See more Hawaii Resorts

Florida
The Sunshine State has so many different areas for beach vacations.

  • Amelia Island, in the northeast, has a family-friendly Ritz-Carlton, and giant Amelia Island Plantation Resort
  • The Space Coast offers long stretches of great sand to walk on, and also estuaries and nature reserves to explore
  • The Treasure Coast, in the southeast, is home to Disney's Vero Beach Resort
  • Sanibel and Captiva Islands are known for pristine shores, and shelling
  • Clearwater Beach/St. Pete on the Gulf Coast have beautiful shores and affordable prices
  • In northwest Florida, on the Emerald Coast, the giant Sandestin resort has sugar-white sand, bay-side activities such as sailing, and a popular "village"
See Florida Destinations

Southeast US
In the Carolinas and Georgia, some beach resorts have the stature of an annual tradition as places where families return, for generations, year after year.

Meanwhile, in South Carolina, Myrtle Beach has 60 miles of shore, plus attractions such as amusement and water parks, MagiQuest, dinner shows such as Medieval Times, etc.

In Alabama, not far from Sandestin in northwest Florida, Gulf Shores Alabama has sugar-white beaches on the Gulf of Mexico, and reasonable prices. And in Texas, Corpus Christi is near beautiful beaches on both the mainland and island sides. Mustang Island State Park and Padre Island National Seashore are highlights here. The Outer Banks in North Carolina is another well-known beach area.

California
Note that in northern California the sea is too cold for more than a quick dip, even in summer-time!

For those seeking a resort, the luxury-level Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay -- on scenic bluffs north of San Francisco -- has a Ritz Kids Club.

South of SF, Santa Cruz has 29 miles of beaches and a classic Boardwalk amusement park. Big Sur State Park has a stunning coast; visitors can camp or stay in cabins, motels, luxury hotels, or a luxury yurt. See Big Sur Lodgings at About's California for Visitors site.

In Southern California, Huntingdon Beach bills itself as "Surf City USA", and offers beach hotels, surfing lessons, and proximity to Disneyland. Huntington Beach is in Orange County; see Orange County Beach Hotels. Upscale Newport Beach is a good area for surfing, and has an amusement park and a notable Christmas Boat Parade.

Further south, La Jolla is pricey but nice for families, with tidepools to explore and the Scripps Aquarium. San Diego has fun attractions and a bunch of beach hotels.

Finally, "thinking out of the box", an interesting option is the Santa Barbara Family Vacation Center, which offers low-cost beach-side lodgings plus many activities on a college campus during summer. Santa Barbara is just north of LA.

New England Ideas
It goes without saying that these are summer-season ideas!

  • About's Guide for New England has many ideas for Cape Cod, including several family-friendly resorts
  • In Maine, Acadia National Park is a much-loved park, with 48,000 acres including ocean shoreline
  • Hampton Beach, NH is another popular beach vacation area for families, with many lodging options
Related Video
Plan a Romantic Beach Escape

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