• Carpinteria, California: Mild waves and no rip currents make it one of two claimants to the title of “world’s safest beach.” Great tide pooling, too (805/968-1033 or parks.ca.gov/?page_id=599).
• Fort Myers Beach, Florida: Also promoted as “world’s safest” because it lacks rip currents, this white-sand beach slopes very gradually; you can walk a long way out into the warm, green-blue Gulf of Mexico (800/237-6444 or fortmyerssanibel.com).
• Kiawah Beachwalker Park, Kiawah Island, South Carolina: The Charleston area’s best beach, with dressing areas, showers, and seasonal lifeguards (843/768-9166 or kiawahisland.org)
• Saona Island, Dominican Republic: Swim with the sea stars—hundreds of them—at this nature reserve off the southeastern Dominican mainland. You’ll share the shallow water with exotic wildlife and day-tripping tourists. Catalonia Gran Dominicus (888/774-0040 or cataloniagrandominicus.com) arranges excursions from nearby Bayahibe.