15 Fantastic Beaches for Families

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1. China Beach, Vietnam

The boys playing in the ocean on China Beach, Vietnam.
The area just south of Danang – past the big resorts and near Magic Mountain – is our favorite in Vietnam and one of the best in Southeast Asia. (Both the sand and sea are cleaner here than at the more popular beach towns of Nha Trang and Mui Ne.) Seafood, cold drinks, and ice cream can be bought at the small beach shacks but water fun is the main attraction here. Stay at the super fun and relaxed – and very cheap – Hoa’s Place if you’re able to.

2. Elafonisi, Crete, Greece

Elafonisi beach in southwest Crete.
Elafonisi is the best beach in Greece and is the type of idyllic beach you conjure up in your dreams. Stunning shallow water that’s perfect for kids, fantastic sand, a small island you can wade out to and explore. There are some nice dropoffs that allow you to run along the sand and then jump into water that’s 4 or 5 feet deep.

3. Sayulita, Mexico

Sayulita Beach in Mexico.
This is one of the most kid-friendly beach towns in Mexico. The beach is great and the town has a fun and relaxed vibe. Hotels are much cheaper than in Puerto Vallarta. The water has some good surf that’s perfect for beginners or boogie boarding. There’s a kids camp right on the beach that can be signed up for by the day or week. Sayulita is an hour north of Puerta Vallarta.

4. Phra Nang Beach Railay, Thailand

Railay Beach in Krabi, Thailand.
This is an absolutely stunning stretch of sand – and my favorite beach in Thailand. It’s a 20 minute walk from the main “town” on Railay, but the path is fun and easy – a shaded mini-adventure, with caves to peek into along the way. More caves are found at the beach but these are accessed through the water and are fun for older kids to explore.

5. Coronado Island, San Diego

Coronado beach in San Diego, California.
More a vacation destination than just a beach, the stretch of sand near the Coronado Hotel is incredibly kid friendly. Unlike most San Diego beaches no alcohol is permitted here and bike paths extend 15 miles down the coast making it an ideal destination for families. Get here by ferry to make it a perfect day for most kids. Along with Santa Barbara this is one of California’s best city beaches.

6. Bophut Beach, Koh Samui, Thailand

Bophut Beach in Koh Samui, Thailand
Bophut, just 10 miles north of Koh Samui’s main town Chaweng, is perfect for families. The water is calm and shallow. The sand is beautiful with a touch of coarseness that makes cleaning-off super easy. Nearby Fisherman’s Village is filled with restaurants and small shops. Koh Samui has so many beautiful beaches it’s hard to pick the best and some will say that Choeng Mon or Chaweng are just as good for families – both are a short taxi ride away.

7. Naxos Island, Greece

Plaka beach in the Cycladic island of Naxos, Greece.
The beaches of Naxos are some of the most kid-friendly in all of Greece. Most of the beaches are shallow and calm. The best beaches on the island (including the one pictured, Plaka Beach) are found on the island’s southwest coast and thus protected from the often intense winds (called the meltemi) that blow from the north in July and August. St Georgios Beach is another favorite of ours and is an easy walk from the charismatic main town of Hora where you’ll find the bulk of the island’s hotels and restaurants.

8. Palolem, Goa, India

Palolem Beach in Goa, India.
Unlike some of Goa’s other popular beaches at Benaulim, Colva, Calangute and Anjuna this beach is protected inside a small bay and thus provides a calm and gentle lagoon that rivals any beach from Kerala up to Mumbai. The wonderful sand, rustic setting, and simple hotels and restaurants along the beach are very kid-friendly.

9. Playa Norte, Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Playa Norte on Isla Mujeres across from Cancun.
Facing northwest and away from the Caribbean winds, the shallow gentle water here is perfect for kids of all ages. Leave the big hotels of Cancun behind and check out the stunning white sand and walkable downtown of this relaxed island.

10. Cattolica, Rimini, Italy

Cattolica Beach in eastern Italy.
The Adriatic beaches of Italy have never been regarded as top beach vacation spots, but that attitude is slowly changing. Cattolica is a wonderful beach regardless. Clean water, a gentle sloping shelf, and lots to do for the kids along the shore and in the town. If the phrase Cheap Italian Beach Vacation isn’t something you say too often then check out Cattolica.

11. Villefranche-sur-Mer, The French Riviera

The beach at Villefranche-sur-Mer on the French Riviera.
So many beaches dot the Côte d’Azur it’s hard to choose but this one is a great choice for families. A kid friendly atmosphere pervades this stretch of sand – not a certainty for all beaches in the South of France – and calm shallow waters make it a great pick. The town itself is a magical little spot that is both family-friendly and plagued by large crowds. And Nice is just 10 minutes away by bus or train. Plages des Graniers near Antibes and Beaulieu-Sur-Mer are other good beaches for kids along the coast.

12. Kuta, Bali

Kuta Beach in Bali, Indonesia.
Kuta gets a bad rap from some travelers for not being the “real Bali”. But the beach here is one of the best on the island and its great place for older kids to take surfing lessons. There’s a waterpark in center of town and many hotels have good-quality kids clubs. Most of the rest of Bali is within a day trip of Kuta. Head a little north to the towns of Seminyak or Legian if you want a quieter stretch of beach.

13. Tulum, Mexico

Tulum Beach near the ruins of Tulum.
Looking for peace and solitude – but still want good restaurants and nice hotels? Then Tulum is it. The town is connected to the beach hotel zone with a bike path. The sea is calm, the sand is brilliant, and there are lots of kid-friendly attraction within a short drive (including cenotes and adventure parks). Lots of restaurants on the beach or rent a bike and ride into town for super-cheap Mexican food.

14. Oludeniz, Turkey

Oludeniz on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey.
Oludeniz’s blue lagoon is protected from the winds and surf of the ocean. Lots to do here and a perfect vibe for a family vacation.

15. Kitsilano Beach, Vancouver, BC

Kitsilano Beach in downtown Vancouver.
Kitsilano beach is in the center of the city with lots of great stuff nearby (including the Granville Island markets and several kid-friendly museums). The beach area has basketball and tennis courts, a large playground, an Olympic sized public swimming pool, and sits right on the Seawall bike and pedestrian path that connects with downtown Vancouver and Stanley Park.

16. And one more … Negril, Jamaica

The cliffs of Negril.
The sand along Negril’s famed 7 Mile Beach is wonderful but what makes the area truly unique are the cliffs that start just west of the town. Hotels like the Rockhouse Hotel (pictured) sit right along the cliffs. Most hotels offer free shuttles to the nearby beaches.

Beaches by Destination

Best Beaches for Kids in Thailand

  • Kata Beach, Phuket – One of the most beautiful beaches on Phuket. (The ocean along Phuket’s west coast can get rough – especially during the monsoon season from June to October – so care should be taken.)
  • Nai Thon, Phuket – Semi-protected and one of Phuket’s calmest beaches.
  • Bophut, Koh Samui – Bophut calm water in a family-friendly setting.
  • Choeng Mon, Koh Samui – A beautiful and laid-back setting.
  • Chaweng, Koh Samui – An active and beautiful setting. Lots of restaurants and shopping within steps of the beach.
  • Haad Salad, Koh Phangan – Maybe Koh Phangan’s nicest beach. Great for kids.
  • Bottle Beach, Koh Phangan – Secluded and family-friendly setting.
  • Jomtien (near Pattaya) – Not perfect, but much nicer and more kid-friendly than nearby Pattaya.
  • Khao Lak – Near to Phuket but quieter and very kid-friendly.
  • Koh Lanta – Very family-friendly island with great beaches.
  • Hua Hin – Lots of kid-friendly attractions just a few hours from Bangkok. Great beach.

Best Beaches for Kids in Bali

  • Kuta – Busy and a little frenetic but a great beach, near tons of shopping and great restaurants (and lousy ones too).
  • Sanur – The calmest beach on Bali. Great for young kids as it’s protected by a reef.
  • Nusa Dua – Where you’ll find the best resorts with kids clubs and a family-holiday vibe.
  • Padangbai – Away from the crowds with several great beaches nearby (though they can get some heavy surf).
  • Lovina – Black sand beaches protected by a reef in the far north of the island.

Best Beaches for Kids in Vietnam

  • China Beach (near Danang) – Awesome beach with very calm waters (most of the time).
  • Hoi An Beach – An extension of China Beach and very close to the awesome town of Hoi An.
  • Nha Trang – A touch on the seedy side but lots of kid-oriented attractions in the area (including a water park and amusement park).
  • Mae Nam – A quiet and secluded beach that you can have to yourself. The beach is very narrow in spots.
  • Phu Quoc Island – Some of Vietnam’s best beaches are here. The perfect place to spend several weeks or month unwinding.

Best Beaches for Kids in Malaysia

  • Perhentian Islands – The best beaches in Malaysia scattered across to gorgeous islands.
  • Pantai Cenang, Langkawi – Langkawi has many great beaches, and this is probably the nicest.
  • Redang Island – Great beaches and a family-friendly vibe.
  • Tanjung Bungah – The nicest beach near Penang but if you’re looking for crystal clear water head to Langkawi (3 hours from Penang).
  • Tioman Island – Great beaches and the best spot in Malaysia for diving and snorkeling.

Best Beaches for Kids in India

  • Palolem, Goa – There are many great beaches along India’s west coast but many can have strong currents. Palolem is in a protective bay and is one of the calmest.
  • Cavelossim, Goa – More protected than other Goan beaches but care should still be taken.
  • Kovalam, Kerala – Beautiful but can have strong currents. Great for strong swimmers who like surf and boogie boarding.

So what makes a great kids beach?

Shallow calm water. This is a big one. Kids love beaches with a gradual slope. It allows them to do more and feel more confident and in control. Water games are usually funner when you can touch and move around easily. It doesn’t take much water to put a toddler in over his head.

Warm water. Who doesn’t like warm water? It’s one surprise for many who visit the Mediterannean — the water never really gets warm. On the other hand, the water in the Gulf of Thailand strikes some as too warm and lacking the refreshing feel dipping into the water usually affords.

Nice sand. Most kids (and adults) prefer really fine grained “mushy” sand. It’s good for making sand castles too. One caveat, the coarser the sand the easier it is to clean off and head for a restaurant or hop in the car. But who’s at the beach to stay clean?

Not too busy – but not too quiet either. This might be where parents and kids differ the most. Parents gravitate to a deserted peaceful beach and often suspect that their kids prefer the same. But I don’t think so. If your first consideration is your kids, I’d err on the side of a busier more active setting than a quiet one.

Further Reading:

38 questions and comments

  1. Janet

    Good list. Makes me want to travel. But surprised there aren’t more Caribbean beaches on your top 10. Aruba, Bermuda, Jamaica. The Gold Coast of Barbados. You could make a long list of great family beaches out of the Caribbean Islands. Been to spain and portugal too, but those beaches didn’t compare. J.

    Reply
    1. David Post author

      Point taken. The Caribbean is loaded with great beaches. I loved seven mile beach in Negril, Jamaica. That could definitely be on the list. I remember the sand. Maybe not the most family friendly. Good for singles, couples, honeymooners. (The first half of our honeymoon was 2 weeks in Jamaica. Stayed at the Rock House that sits in the cliffs above Negril. Explored the inland of island a bit – very nice waterfalls. A few days in Montego Bay – not so great.)

      Trunk Bay on St John’s in the U.S. Virgin Islands looks amazing. I could go for a few days there of snorkeling and swimming.

      All the best.

      Reply
    1. David Post author

      Thanks for the tip Eliza. Just read a little about Clifton Beach. Sounds great. Little coves protected from the wind, family friendly, rentals of all sorts. Good luck with your Soccer World Cup!

      Reply
  2. Jacke

    The best beach holiday: get a house rental right on the beach. 1 week, 2 weeks, a month if you can swing your holidays that long. The location doesn’t matter that much. Hell, even the weather doesn’t matter that much. I’ve had great “beach” holidays with weather in the mid-60s.

    I imagine you mean something else, sunny weahter, warm water. Don’t mean to change the parameters. but there’s something to be said for just being at the beach, exploring, getting to know the locals. And renting a house (not a condo though, condo rentals just attract other tourists – usually well removed from the local community) is the way to do it.

    OK, I will get around to answering your question: Best beach? The ones around Cancun are pretty spectacular. Puerta Vallarta too. As for the Carib. I’ve only been to a couple of resorts on Dominican Republic and the Bahamas but both had great beaches. None of these places I mentioned though had anything in the way of interesting local culture – or even any good restaurants. I suppose I only have myself to blame for staying so close to the resort.

    Cheers – and happy travels

    Reply
    1. David Post author

      Thanks Jacke for the suggestion. I’ve never done a house rental on the beach. Sounds great. And I know what you mean about a beach holdiday without the sun. I’ve been on Koh Pha Ngan during the rainy season and it amounted to sitting on our cabin’s patio playing card games, eating pad thai, drinking some singha beer – and it was great. One thing to note, you don’t have to do the resorts and package deals to have a great time in the Caribbean. It’s very popular of course and some might argue very family friendly at the resorts but it’s not hard to get away from the tourist areas even on the most popular islands.

      Reply
  3. Henna

    Isla Mujeres is great for kids. Good choice. The beaches in Cancun are great too and Cancun has a lot more kid friendly activities and kid friendly resorts. The food on Cancun is much more diverse, you can anything you want there. Both places are very different but I’d be happy spending a week holidays on either. Ciao.

    Reply
  4. Jack

    Great list. We’re in the middle of planning a trip to Mexico and are great beach lovers.

    Any advice on finding hotels in Mexico? I having a hard time finding decent hotels at a reasonable prices.

    Thanks in advance.

    Reply
  5. R. coe from around Manchester

    Phuket has beaches beaches and more beaches. quiet ones, surf ones, party ones. Patong, Kata and Karon beaches are very popular, sure, but go in the rainy season – and get a nice day of weather – and even those places are great. Nai Thon and Nai Yang beaches are my favorites. Never been to Krabi or Samui.

    Reply
  6. Mai from London

    The best beaches I have seen have been on vacation in the Caribbean. The sand is perfect. The water is perfect. The one bad thing: Jellyfish. There seem to be a lot in the Caribbean sea. My favourites have been in Cancun, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Aruba. The best beach for kids would probably be Cancun. Plus lots of kids clubs and kid friendly resorts there.

    Reply
  7. Shain from L.A.

    Southern Cal has the BEST beaches in the world. I’ve been to Cancun (nice) and Hua Hin in Thailand and the east coast of Australia (Sydney up to Brisbane) and the best are right here! Cheers.

    Reply
  8. Megs from New York

    Florida has so many great beaches. I grew up there and we visit every summer and try to go to a new one ever year. July and August are obviously very buys but not so much that you can’t enjoy yourself. This year we’re going to Cape Florida State Park for our 3rd time in a row.

    Reply
  9. S.T.

    Spain has great beaches. I think Barelona’s beach is probably the best urban beach in the world. The Maldives is a notch above everywhere else. We’re doing a family vacation to Greece this year, so that’s our next destination.

    Reply
  10. Che from near Chicago

    Greece and the Caribbean have the best beaches and best swimming water that I’ve ever been to. For kids it’s more about the quality of the sand then the water. I might go with Cancun.

    Reply
  11. Che from near Chicago

    And Tulum. Forgot about that, less busy than Cancun and more sightseeing nearby. Very nice sand and water. Cheaper too, which is nice.

    Reply
  12. Going soon

    I guess I haven’t seen as many beaches as some people but the ones in Thailand are my favorites. Way better than anything in California. And deserted half the time too. Great food. Cheap. What else do you need on vacation?

    Reply
  13. Erin from Toronto

    Some of the islands off the east coast of Malaysia have remarkable beaches. Thailand. Greece. France and Spain. Great. But only one country and I’d say Malaysia.

    Reply
  14. AT from New York

    i love that you put Cattolica in here! Great little spot. Let’s keep it our secret ya? Corfu is nice too.

    Reply
  15. Agel

    The atlantic coast of france has some great beaches for kids. I vacationed there every summer when I was a kid. It’s really wonderful. Not as crowded as the cote d’azur. Having said that book hotels very early as it’s popular with french tourists and they book very early because they tend to go to the same beach resorts every year.

    Good food too. And wine. Lots of good beach activities. Really family friendly, much more so than the Mediterannean beaches.

    Reply
    1. David Post author

      Hi Steve. There’s a great family-friendly beach along the coast in Marin. It’s called Heart’s Desire Beach and it’s on Tomales Bay. It’s in a protected inlet and thus has warmer warmer and probably not the dangerous rogue waves or undertow either. Also some nice walks along the coast from it. Nice picnic area and bathrooms too. It’s a bit of a drive to get to from San Francisco, but not nearly as popular and busy as Stinson beach.

      As for Sonoma check out Healdsburg Memorial Beach. It’s on the Russian River and just a short distance from Healdsburg’s very kid-friendly downtown (lots of shops, restaurants, and a shaded plaza).

      Have fun!

      Reply
  16. Eric

    Cool list. Was just reading the National Geographic list of best beaches for families. You see it? Coronado beach was on it. Santa Cruz beach. Hanalei Bay beach in Hawaii. Siesta beach in Florida as well. I’ve been to all and all are great. They also did a best beaches in the world which included the Seychelles, Tahiti and more beaches in Hawaii.

    My two cents: the beaches on the Caribbean in Mexico. Cancun, Tulum, Cozumel.

    Also Thailand has a half dozen really spectacular, but quiet, beaches.

    Thanks, you’ve got me planning my next trip.

    Reply
  17. Cheryl

    We are planning of going to Bali for our next vacation in February 2013 with our girls, 3 and 4 years old, any suggestions ?

    Reply
    1. David Post author

      Hi Cheryl, my favorite place in Bali – like many people – is Ubud and the surrounding area. The cultural stuff is great and so over the top and colorful that kids often really intrigued by it. Also, most of the performances are outdoors so it’s easy to wander to the back of the seating area (or just leave for that matter) if your kids are getting antsy and losing interest. Most hotels there – outside of the budget category – have swimming pools so that’s a plus.

      As for beaches, Lovina, Sanur and Nusa Dua all have protective reefs just offshore so the water is quite calm there – or relatively so. Jimbaran beach can be a little rougher at times but is probably my favorite beach area in Bali – great restaurants with fresh seafood to eat dinner out on the sand. I didn’t like Kuta – very busy and westernised – but there is lots to do there if you’re looking for kid friendly entertainment: waterslides for example. I think getting away from the Kuta region will make your holiday much more relaxing and memorable – but to each their own.

      A bit of a rambling answer but I hope it helps.

      Reply
  18. Alex from Toronto

    And, check out Olympos in Turkey! Great beach, with the added bonuses of:

    - easy access and obscenely delicious food nearby
    - ancient ruins tucked under trees on one side of the beach – it feels like you discovered them yourselves for the first time (amazing for kids and parents)
    - if you time it right, nesting turtles that you can wake up early to view whilst watching the sun rise

    Heaven.

    Reply
    1. David Post author

      I’ve heard great things about Olympos. I’ll get there one day. The entire Mediterranean coast in Turkey has a lot to offer.

      Reply
  19. Philip Nurick

    I have to add two great South African beaches. Camps bay in Cape Town (near Clifton) is spectacular with table Mountain as its backdrop. And for kids, Nature’s Valley – a long, wide river leading to the beach means kids can spend the whole day moving from one to another and swimming in both.
    And Johnny cay, San Andres (Colombia) is just fantastic. Perfect Caribbean beach

    Reply
  20. Cris Caexeta

    Congratulations on the blog. I’ve just arrived and I’m really enjoying it. Have you ever been on the beaches of northeastern Brazil? Natal, Maceio, Maragogi, Joao Pessoa, Aracaju are wonderful options for children and adults: calm, clear and warm water…

    Reply
    1. David Post author

      I haven’t. Thanks for the tips Cris. I’d love to get to Brazil one day. The beaches up north certainly get lots of raves.

      Reply
  21. tarek majzoub

    I’m planning to go vacation with my wife and her sis and also with us 5 children all under 6 y by next april 2012, do u have any suggestions, for most calm waters and clear in the same time knowing that i need a destination with no visa requirements as we r of 3 nationalities in total,,, thanks for the help , and by the way its v lovely the commons and all here,,,

    Reply

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