• Napili Beach, Kapalua, Hawaii: The compact size and crescent shape of this northwest Maui beach keep kids always in view, and the swimming, boogie boarding, bodysurfing, and snorkeling keep them happy. “Low-key” sums up the Napili Kai Beach Resort (808/669-6271 or napilikai.com) and other quiet condo resorts that perch above the sand. Bonuses: great sunsets and a cove full of turtles.
• Sanibel Island, Florida: Absolutely the best shell-gathering anywhere; try quiet Bowman’s Beach (800/237-6444 or fortmyerssanibel.com).
• Santa Monica Beach, Santa Monica, California: Wide beach with volleyball and surfing, plus an amusement park at the Santa Monica Pier (800/544-5319 or santamonica.com)