Top 10 beaches for kids

You want to find the perfect beach for your whole family. To help you get started, we've compiled this list of the ten best beaches for little and big kids, along with what makes them great. We think you'll find a beachy paradise that's both safe and adventurous for the young and the young at heart.

  1. Coronado Beach, San Diego, CA

    Coronado Beach—Best Beaches for Kids

    Best ages: Preschool, school age, tweens.
    Kid-friendly fun: Boogie boarding, beach volleyball courts, and a chance to glimpse Navy Seals training.

    Coronado Central Beach's weather is excellent throughout the year. The water is warm for swimming in the summer, while the softly sloping beach makes it easy for little kids to run in the waves. The vigilant lifeguards and gentle surf make it safe for younger kids, though there are still enough waves for older kids to boogie board, body surf or surf. Sandcastle building and beach volleyball courts provide fun out of the water. When the afternoon heats up you can pop into the historic and cool Hotel Del Coronado for an ice cream from MooTime Creamery. On Coronado Island, you'll likely see military aircraft flying overhead from the nearby base, and, if you're lucky, you might even get to see the elite Navy Seals training on the beach.

  2. Hanalei Bay Beach, Kauai

    Hanalei Beach—Best Beaches for Kids

    Best ages: School age, tweens, teens.
    Kid-friendly fun: Learning to surf where the pros ride the waves.

    Located on the north shore of Kauai, Hanalei Beach offers calmer surf than other Hawaii beaches, especially during the summer months, making it easier for young surfers to learn and better for swimming. The pier is the calmest part of the water since it is more sheltered, and you can catch bigger waves farther down the beach. The pier also has the least crowded parking and is great for family photos. Lifeguards here can read the ocean well, so check with them about the current conditions before you go in the water. Every Tuesday, the quiet beach town of Hanalei has a great farmers’ market—don’t miss the key lime lemonade for a cool drink on a hot day.

  3. Kiawah Beachwalker Park, Kiawah Island, SC

    Kiawah Island—Best Beaches for Kids

    Best ages: Babies, toddlers, preschool, school age.
    Kid-friendly fun: Kids love to chase the birds by the shore.

    The only public beach access anywhere on privately owned Kiawah Island, Kiawah Beachwalker Park is a quiet beach, ideal for families with young children. You won’t find partying college kids here. The sand is soft and clean, the water is warm, and a barrier reef keeps it calm at the shoreline, so younger kids won’t be knocked over by waves. Everything you need is nearby, including chair rentals for parents and umbrellas to keep sensitive young skin protected. The kids will have a blast chasing after all the birds on the shoreline, and afterwards you can learn all about them at the Heron Park Nature Center. Although the park has the only public access, all of the beaches are technically public, so you can stroll as far as you want to find a peaceful spot to relax.

  4. Siesta Beach, Siesta Key, FL

    Siesta Key—Best Beaches for Kids

    Best ages: Babies, toddler, preschool, school age, tweens.
    Kid-friendly fun: Warm-water with soft sand, plus a snack bar and playground in a perfect beach town.

    The sand here is the major attraction—it may well be the softest in the country and rivals the best sand in the world. Siesta Beach's cleanliness makes it one of the ten best beaches for kids. Smoking is not allowed, which keeps the air fresh and that soft sand free of cigarette butts, and the equally clean, clear blue water is very warm for swimming. There’s also a playground for younger kids and beach volleyball courts on the sand for the older kids to enjoy. Shaded picnic areas and the quintessential beach-town life on Siesta Key bring everything full (family) circle. Be sure to stop by Big Olaf’s Creamery for a cone or a float on a hot day.

  5. Luquillo Beach, Puerto Rico

    Luquillo Puerto Rico—Best Beaches for Kids

    Best ages: School age, tweens, teens.
    Kid-friendly fun: Buy fresh ice cream on the beach from roving helado vendors.

    If you’re looking for a tropical paradise that’s also kid friendly, it’s hard to beat Luquillo Beach in Puerto Rico. The sand is baby-powder soft, and the water is shallow, warm, and so clear you can see the bottom—even when up to your waist. Kiosks lining the beach sell all kinds of delicious treats, but keep an eye out for the “helado man” canvassing the beach with fresh coconut or pineapple ice cream for the kids. Lifeguards are on duty, and it's quieter in Luquillo than at many other Puerto Rico beaches. Arrive early in the day if you want a shady spot under one of the palm trees.

  6. Playa Norte, Isla Mujeres, Mexico

    Isla Mujeres—Best Beaches for Kids

    Best ages: Babies, toddlers, preschool, school age, tweens.
    Kid-friendly fun: Soft sand and shallow, calm, crystal waters—within easy sight of relaxed parents.

    Soft white sand extends into shallow waters on this beautiful beach on Isla Mujeres. Adults can easily wade a hundred yards into the water and barely be at waist height, so kids can play safely in the water without fear of sudden drops. Many of the beach restaurants will provide you with free beach chairs and umbrellas if you make it known you plan spending the day there and purchasing food and drinks from them—not a bad way to enjoy the beach with a clear view of your kids building sandcastles and swimming in the warm clear water. This isn’t in the party-crowd part of Cancun either, making it a good bet for families.

  7. Coast Guard Beach, Cape Cod, MA

    Eastham Cape Cod—Best Beaches for Kids

    Best ages: Preschool, school age, tweens, teens.
    Kid-friendly fun: Biking along the beach, or eating food off a frisbee.

    This is the quintessential family beach in the quintessential family beach destination, Cape Cod. Coast Guard Beach is often quieter than other beaches, with wildlife to watch, something that crowds and development have driven away from some other Cape beaches. Young kids will think the tram ride from the parking lot to the beach is cool, and it’s included in the parking fee. The water is a bit cool compared to beaches farther south, though it's refreshing after some sun time, and the sand is perfect for castle building. Kids can ride miles of bike trails along the shore. The nearby town of Eastham has plenty of good eats, and kids will be amused when their meal is served on a Frisbee at local favorite Arnold’s Lobster and Clam Bar.

  8. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Empire, MI

    Empire Michigan—Best Beaches for Kids

    Best ages: Babies, toddlers, preschool, school age.
    Kid-friendly fun: Climbing the dunes and rolling down.

    It’s not the ocean, but Sleeping Bear Dunes will make you think you’re in Cape Cod when you see the miles of shifting sand dunes and glistening waters. The beach is pristine and quiet, and since it’s Lake Michigan, you don’t have to worry about riptides or heavy surf. Save the dune climb as a separate adventure and not an access point to the beach—there are easier places to reach the lakeshore, and you won’t want to lug your gear over those dunes. The kids will have a blast climbing and running up and over the dunes as well as playing in the water at the shore. On your way to the beach, take the 7.4-mile scenic drive in the National Lakeshore area for amazing views of Lake Michigan.

  9. Cannon Beach, OR

    Cannon Beach—Best Beaches for Kids

    Best ages: School age, tweens.
    Kid-friendly fun: Kite flying on miles of uncrowded sand.

    Although the Oregon coast is rugged, there is plenty of fun for kids at Cannon Beach, which sits in the shadow of Haystack Rock. The beach is sandy and rarely crowded, and you’ll find lots of space if you move just a bit away from the staircases. Cannon Beach is a favorite for kite flying and sandcastle building. Haystack Rock can be climbed when the tide is out, but only to the barnacle line, after which it’s protected for wildlife. If your beach vacation ideal is more exploring and less lying in the sun, Cannon Beach is a great pick. Arcades and ice cream parlors dot the friendly town. Go later in the summer when the weather is sunnier and warmer.

  10. Rehoboth Beach, DE

    Rehoboth Beach—Best Beaches for Kids

    Best ages: School age, tweens, teens.
    Kid-friendly fun: The boardwalk, with ice cream stands and arcades for classic beachfront fun.

    If a boardwalk with old-school arcades is a part of your dream of the perfect beach, Rehoboth Beach is your dream come true. The boardwalk is full of beach-town charm and family friendliness. The beach is clean and sandy, the lifeguards are attentive, and even the restrooms are impressively clean. Don’t miss Dolly’s Taffy on the boardwalk—it’s well worth the extra toothbrush time later. This is the beach vacation that nostalgic memories are made of.