The 31 Best Beach Vacations

Whether you want to stroll for seashells, ride waves, or build sand castles, our list of amazing beaches will guide you to your new favorite coastal playground.

Writer Steve Millburg

Family Fun
Ocean City, New Jersey

It has all the ingredients for a rousing good time: eight miles of wide, lifeguard-staffed beach, a boardwalk lined with souvenir shops and snack bars, an amusement park, and a water park. It’s also free of any rowdiness because it’s free of alcohol.

Stay: The unpretentious Forum Motor Inn (609/399-8700 or offers large, clean, well-stocked rooms for much less than you’d pay a block away on the boardwalk. Rates range from $72 to $194 for double occupancy. To see available vacation rentals, visit

Eat: Serving everything from scallops to grilled cheese, the Café Beach Club (609/398-7700 or is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with tables on the boardwalk. Everybody loves the saltwater taffy at Shriver’s (877/668-2339 or

Shop: Leave the boys in the arcade while the girls visit Hello Dollies (609/399-2800 or, a doll shop across from the Music Pier.

Local secret: Breakfast on homemade doughnuts at the open-air Oves restaurant (609/398-3712 or—which also rents bikes for working off the calories.

More Kid-Approved Beaches

Long Beach Peninsula, Washington: Kites reign; there’s a kite festival in August and a kite museum, plus a sand castle competition in July (800/451-2542 or

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 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

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

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