1. 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 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
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
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
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, 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
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
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
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
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
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 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
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’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 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 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.