A few days ago, TripAdvisor named the 25 Best Beaches in America. I was shocked to learn that I had only been to fewer than half of them. Well, I’ve never been to Hawaii, and seven of the beaches are in Hawaii, so that’s one reason.
If you’re a beach-goer, I think you’ll find that all of the beaches are fantastic for families. If you’re not sure how to spend the day at any of these beaches (in case you need more to do than splash in the waves and build sand castles), see below for a few suggestions of what to do at the top-10 spots for sand and surf.
1. Siesta Beach
A consistently rated top beach, I took my girls to Siesta Beach for the day last April. On the Gulf Coast side of Florida, the sand is soft, the beach is huge, and you may even catch a sun halo. Fly a kite, hunt for sand dollars and listen to the Siesta Key Drum Circle on Sunday evenings an hour before sunset.
2. St. Pete Beach
Also on the Gulf Coast of Florida, St. Pete Beach boasts clear waters and white sandy beaches (as do pretty much all beaches on the Gulf Coast). Grab your fishing poles and sleeping bags for a camp out at Fort De Soto Park. Walk along the paved trails, grill up some hot dogs and explore the historic fort.
3. Ka’anapali Beach
Located near Maui, Ka’anapali Beach, little ones will love watching surfers catch waves and even take surf classes on their own (why should the surfers have all the fun?). Grab some snorkel gear and spend time seeking out colorful fish before taking a walk along the boardwalk.
4. Wai’anapanapa State Park
This state park in Hana boasts dramatic black sand beaches, swimming caves and spectacular green foliage. Plan to hike along the beach and climb into and out of lava tubes. Oh, and keep your eyes open for sea creatures swimming out in the ocean of Wai’anapanapa State Park.
5. Pensacola Beach
Yup, it’s another beach on the Gulf Coast of Florida, so look for sugar white sand and calm, relaxing waters. Pensacola Beach is shallow, so it’s perfect for small children. Walk along the boardwalk and enjoy the local restaurants. Older kids may want to rent a stand-up paddleboard and get out on the water.
6. La Jolla Cove
Located near San Diego, La Jolla is completely beautiful. On the beach, look for dolphins swimming off-shore and baby seals playing in the water. La Jolla Cove is a great spot for snorkeling and diving. Off the beach, look for boutiques and restaurants aplenty.
7. Kailua Beach Park
A favorite beach spot for many on Oahu, look for beautiful water, plenty of free parking and lots of water activities for the kids at Kailua Beach Park. As a bonus, Kalapawai Market is within walking distance, so pick up some fixins for a perfect afternoon picnic on the beach.
8. Clearwater Beach
Clearwater Beach in Florida is a great spot for shell-searching. Head to the bait shop on the pier to pick up what you need to do some ocean fishing with your kids. Get there early if you want a parking spot or come in the afternoon to enjoy one of the most beautiful sunsets around.
9. St. Augustine Beach
While few beaches in Florida allow you to bring your dogs, St. Augustine Beach is one that will provided your dog is on a leash. Little ones will also love the open-air market on Wednesdays. Enjoy the white sand, shells aplenty and restaurants within easy walking distance.
10. Panama City Beach
The white sandy beaches and emerald-colored waters of Panama City Beach in Florida are a favorite among beach-goers. Kid will love Pier Park, a family entertainment complex just off the beach. Or, simply enjoy water sports and taking in the sunsets.
Photo Credit: Matthew Paulson