Want to explore tide pools and see the local marine life? Or are you looking for a more laid-back escape with a tropical flavor? Here are our top picks for you, whatever your taste.
By Kristi Marcelle
Dana Point, California (Flickr: Neil Kremer)
Endless days of sunshine, swimming in warmer waters and building sandcastles are the wonderful ingredients for a perfect family summer vacation. From coast to coast, families search for a stretch of sand where kids can play freely and adults can take a break from the daily schedule.
Here are a few suggestions to help you find your spot.
Dana Point, California
Why Go: Orange County’s 42 miles of coastline are filled with beaches, tide pools, piers and sleepy coves. Dana Point’s bougainvillea-studded cliffs look down upon a harbor filled with shops, restaurants and a few curious sea lions. Boogie board or take a surf lesson at Doheny State Beach or at Salt Creek Beach, the summer hangouts for locals. Dana Point’s famous neighbor, Laguna Beach, is a 10-minute drive on scenic Pacific Coast Highway. Don’t Miss: Whale watching trips with Captain Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Safari in search of the blue whales that call these waters home during summer.
San Juan Islands, Washington
San Juan Islands National Monument in Washington (Flickr: Bureau of Land Management Oregon and Washington)
Why Go: The San Juan Islands are the ultimate getaway for families that crave downtime. The hop-scotch islands located between the state of Washington and Victoria, British Columbia are an escape to the simple life. Transportation among islands is by boat or seaplane and activities are centered around the outdoors. Fishing, kayaking, biking, and searching for wildlife are the main events. Most tourist activities are on San Juan Island and nearby Lopez and Orcas Islands. Don’t Miss: A kayaking or boat tour to see the orcas.
Key Biscayne, Florida
Key Biscayne Beach near Miami (Flickr: Ines Hegedus-Garcia)
Why Go: Summer brings bath water temperatures to South Florida and value-oriented hotel pricing as tourists head north for cooler weather. If the heat and humidity isn’t a thought, head to Key Biscayne, an island connected to Miami by a causeway and home to Crandon Park beach. A mix of families, salsa music loving teens and everyone in between crowd this 3-mile strip of popular sand. Don’t Miss: A day-trip to Key Largo for snorkeling at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park.
Kauai, Hawaii (Flickr: Adam)
Why go: The oldest island in the Hawaiian chain, Kauai is a dream for adventurous families. The calm waters on the South Shore at Poipu Beach are excellent for younger children, beginning snorkelers and anyone hoping to catch a glimpse of the endangered monk seal. Take a hike at Waimea Canyon, dubbed the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” and then head to the North Shore to the Napali Coast for a walk on the cliffs or a stop along the way for a waterfall hike. Don’t Miss: Shave ice at JoJo’s Anuenue in Waimea.
Mount Desert Island, Maine
Why Go: The island off the coast of northern Maine has a family-friendly wild side that creates life-long fans. Small towns, the best known being Bar Harbor, dot the shoreline while Acadia National Park claims most of the interior of the island. Accommodations range from camping to rustic cabins at Woodland Park Cottages to full-service resorts. The area offers biking, boating, hiking, kayaking, lobster fishing and a regional favorite, lobster bakes. Don’t Miss: A puffin and whale watching tour with Bar Harbor Whale Watch Co.
The Outer Banks, North Carolina
Jennette’s Pier in Outer Banks, NC (Flickr: James Willamor)
Why go: There are acres of sand dunes to explore at Jockey’s Ridge State Park, miles of beach to play on, lighthouses to climb including Cape Hatteras, the tallest in the U.S., and fantastic seafood restaurants. The Outer Banks has one of the best supplies of custom built vacation homes for multi-generational families. Houses come with multiple bedrooms and bathrooms, media rooms, a pool and plenty of room to spread out. And the best part? Many are just a stroll to the beach. Don’t Miss: A lowcountry boil of shrimp, sausage and vegetables prepared at your vacation rental by a local caterer.