If you’re looking for an all-around vacation crowd-pleaser for vacationers both big and small, a beach getaway is probably the safest bet you can make on a fun-filled family adventure. After all, who doesn’t love soaking up the sun and frolicking in the surf?
From the ultimate tropical getaways in the Caribbean to cultured shores and historic ports in the Mediterranean, these beach picks span some of the finest strips on the planet. But these locales are more than just sun, sea, and sand. The best family beach vacations in the world have lots to offer on land, too, with a wide range of activities and attractions that are fun for kids and grown-ups alike.
Book a trip to one of these seaside spots and the only work you’ll have left to do to ensure a good time is to pack up those swimsuits and sunscreen.
Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands
The largest of three sun-drenched islands that make up the Cayman Islands chain, families are especially drawn to well-to-do Grand Cayman for its incredible beaches (the swimming, snorkeling, and scuba diving here are superlative), myriad attractions, and distinctive British flavor.
Resort-lined Seven Mile Beach ranks tops among Caribbean beaches, with its wide swaths of white sands, crystal-clear-waters, and palm-fringed shores that stretch out for five and a half miles. OK, it’s not exactly seven miles long, but, trust us, you won’t leave feeling shortchanged. There are plenty of shaded loungers for hire to set up a comfortable base, and watersports rentals aplenty.
Once you’re ready to change pace, any families with kids who love animals should head straight for Stingray City, where visitors can encounter five-feet-wide stingrays up close, while snorkeling with them in waist-deep water on a shallow sand bar.
Alternatively, the conservation-minded Cayman Turtle Centre offers opportunities to swim or snorkel with massive green sea turtles in a saltwater lagoon; there’s also an aviary, nature trail, and crocodile habitat on site.
Another worthwhile stop on the island is the colorful gardens at Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park. Kids will love exploring the lake, trails, iguana habitat, and multiple gardens here.
The island of Cozumel, just about 40 miles south of Cancún, easily ranks as one of the best family beach vacations in the world.
Families flock here for Cozumel’s exceptional beaches, with fine white sands, turquoise Caribbean seas, and easy access to some of the planet’s finest reefs, where spectacular seascapes are a special lure for divers and snorkelers. Not to mention opportunities for immersion into Mexican culture and plenty of access to wild jungle preserves, too.
Kids and adults alike will appreciate diving into the warm and welcoming waters to sneak a peek at the otherworldly scenery, with tropical fish, loggerhead turtles, eagle rays, and coral that await just below the surface.
Luckily, there are plenty of shallow waters on Cozumel’s coasts where kids can easily take up snorkeling. Playa Mia Grand Beach Park is one good option, where white-sand beaches are paired with attractions like massive water slides, water trampolines, and a swim-up pool bar.
Many of Cozumel’s land-based treasures, meanwhile, can be enjoyed in designated eco-parks. Try the activity-packed Xcaret Natural Adventure Park, which comes loaded with more than 50 natural and cultural attractions, including swimmable underground rivers, a butterfly pavilion, aquarium, aviary, and more. Chankanaab Beach Adventure Park is another quality eco-park, with beaches primed for snorkel and scuba dive adventures.
Read: Best Scuba Diving Spots in the World
Or, head to Cozumel National Marine Park, a protected area that’s known for its standout snorkeling, as it provides a haven for over a hundred types of coral and an astonishing 262 species of fish.
Read: Cancun Vs. Cabo: Which One Is Best for Your Next Vacation?
All it takes is one look at Navagio, or Shipwreck Beach, on the pages of a glossy travel magazine, and the whole family will be packing their bags, making a beeline for this beautiful beach, known as one of the best places to swim in the world.
Located on the Greek island of Zakynthos, this stunning cove is marked by powdery white sands, impossibly blue seas, and imposing limestone cliffs, but what really sets the beach apart are the remains of a smugglers’ shipwreck that atmospherically sits just offshore. The vessel crashed ashore back in 1983, where it’s remained till this day. Navagio Beach can only be reached by boat, which makes getting there part of the fun.
But there’s more to this verdant island in the Ionian Sea than just one beach. Families will love an outing to the National Marine Park of Zakynthos, where visitors can learn more about conservation efforts for the biodiversity-rich marine and coastal areas; notably, the park serves as an important nesting ground for loggerhead sea turtles.
Nature-loving families will also appreciate spots like Askos Stone Park, an animal sanctuary and nature preserve, or the Blue Caves rock formations over the sea, which can be visited via organized boat tours, including more intimate explorations via sea kayak or canoe.
Nassau, on New Providence Island, is the lively capital of the Bahamas and also one of the island nation’s most popular destinations for families, thanks to its consistently pleasant temperatures, colorful colonial buildings, restaurants galore, standout shopping, lush gardens, and assorted attractions oozing multigenerational appeal.
And then of course there are the wide swaths of powdery sand beaches, primed just as much for low-key R&R as all-out activity. Cable Beach is one of the most popular beaches near Nassau, lined for some two and a half miles with hotels and restaurants. Here, you’ll find family-friendly water sports rentals and plenty of space to spread out and splash around.
If you want something more laid-back and secluded for your brood, Nassau is well-situated as a jumping-off point for day trips to some nearby island oases. Hop a boat to Pearl Island, with its twin beaches, coral reef snorkeling, and scenic lighthouse.
Or, try Blue Lagoon Island (aka Salt Cay), where there are snorkeling excursions, a tucked-away lagoon, lush island vegetation, and the chance to interact with dolphins in their natural habitat.
The bustling Atlantis Resort, just across the bridge from Nassau on nearby Paradise Island, is a must for any family, with its prime beachfront setting and range of attractions that include a water park and massive marine habitat teeming with coral formations, dolphins, and more.
There’s plenty to bring history to life in the area, too. Among the historic attractions, the hilltop Fort Charlotte, dating to 1788, is among the most impressive, with commanding views out over the harbor; it comes filled with captivating features like a moat, dungeons, and cannons.
One half of a small, two-nation island, Dutch St. Maarten, counterpart to French St. Martin, wins big points with families for its laid-back island vibes and wide selection of white-sand beaches.
There are some three dozen beaches in St. Maarten to choose from across the island. Highlights on the St. Maarten side include Great Bay Beach, which fronts the busy little capital, Philipsburg. You’ll find plenty of beach bars, restaurants, and shops, right along the water’s edge here.
Quieter Mullet Bay is a fun spot for soaking up its surf culture. Maho Beach, aka “Airport Beach,” is a neat spot to watch the jets coming and going at the adjacent airport.
On just about any beach you choose, you’ll find ample opportunities for watersports, too, including outfitters offering diving and snorkeling, windsurfing, jet skiing, and sailing.
When you’re sufficiently beached out, head to the Loterie Farm, a high-thrills adventure playground where zipline runs and rope bridges penetrate the tropical forest canopy. Kids will love keeping an eye out for monkeys, iguanas, and mongoose here.
Think of Mykonos and you might conjure up images of international jet-setters participating in party-till-dawn revelry, alongside some mental scenes of some pretty gorgeous beaches. And while you wouldn’t be wrong—Mykonos is indeed revered for its legendary nightlife scene—the Greek island, in the Cyclades chain, is actually a spectacular setting for family vacations, too.
A huge part of the family appeal is Mykonos’ beaches, naturally. Stake out your patch on the sand at Kalafatis Beach, a favorite among European families thanks to its sugary white sands, clear seas, and water sports galore. This is an especially good spot to give windsurfing a try.
Other choices include Agios Ioannis Beach, with its excellent swimming and snorkeling, views over temple-speckled Delos island, and a prime perch for sunset. Relaxed Lia Beach is another good bet, with its crystal-clear waters that practically beg for snorkeling and scuba diving exploration.
Once you’ve dried off, take an atmospheric stroll among the pedestrianized maze of whitewashed Cycladic architecture in Mykonos Town, with its waterfront, 18th-century Little Venice district.
The area comes jam-packed with cafés and high-end boutiques, and photogenic attractions like white windmills, facing the sea. It all makes for some pretty incredible backdrops to your family photos on one of the best family beach vacations in the world.
St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands
St. Thomas is the busiest of the U.S. Virgin Islands, with plenty of diversions to cater to kids of all ages. There’s a bustling port, superb shopping, eclectic eateries, happening nightlife, and, of course, famous beaches, brimming with water sports for good measure.
One of the best things to do in St. Thomas for families who want some beach time is to visit Magens Bay, a gorgeous seaside setting complete with sparkling turquoise seas, powder-white sands, and water sports galore.
Sapphire Beach is a close second, with more white sands, water sports, and concessions aplenty to serve up a perfect family beach day. The 21-acre Smith Bay Park, meanwhile, combines coastal and land-based treasures, with access to the calm waters of photogenic Lindquist Beach.
For something more off-the-path, nearby Buck Island offers 45 acres of nature preserve, and is a must-visit for budding birders, with species like terns and red-billed tropicbirds, as well as frigate birds. There’s an abandoned lighthouse, and excellent snorkeling at the nearby coral reefs, too.
The French Riviera may get all of the glory for top beach vacations in France, but families with children looking for something a bit more scaled back should look to the French island of Corsica.
Ajaccio is the largest city on the island and oozes history. Founded in the late 15th century, it was the birthplace of Napoléon Bonaparte. Older kids will appreciate the pages of their history books coming to life at spots like the emperor’s family home.
True to this list, though, beach time in this seaside city gets top billing and ensures its status as one of the best family beach vacations in the world. The golden sands of St. Francois Beach are among the most welcoming beaches in Corsica, scoring big points with families for its central location, set just steps away from the city’s citadel, cathedral, and busy port.
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