The Best Family-Friendly Beach Getaways for Spring Break
If your spring break calls for surfing, taco stands, and spectacular Southern California vistas, head to San Diego. Here, you’ll find more than 70 miles of beaches, myriad water activities, and a bounty of fresh new restaurants to sample.
The iconic Hotel del Coronado, across the San Diego Bay from downtown, is a Victorian-era grande dame with an intriguing history and family-friendly accomodations. Head to Del Watersports, where the hotel offers surf lessons and stocks a stash of boards, SUPs, kayaks, and wetsuits for rent. There are a bevvy of on-land activities too, from clambakes to painting by the sea classes, and even a Mermaid Fitness class. Parents can sign kids up for the DelVenture program, which offers one- and three-hour evening adventures, allowing parents time to sneak away for dinner or resort pool time.
North along the rugged, pine-tree lined coast is the upscale community of La Jolla and La Jolla Shores Hotel, a laid-back Spanish-style beach resort. Outside the resort, meander palm tree-studded streets dotted with surf shops, restaurants, coffee shops, and boutiques. You can sign up for surf, paddle board, and scuba lessons, kayak tours of nearby caves, or head to nearby Torrey Pines Golf Course for a round or lessons.
Puerto Rico is making a comeback following the devastation caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Flight prices from East Coast hubs are at record lows. The territory’s beautiful beaches, from Isla Verde near San Juan to those that ring the islands of Vieques and Culebra, welcome swimmers, surfers, and sunbathers. Hotels and resorts are re-opening their doors every month, many having just completed large-scale renovations.
El San Juan Hotel, a Curio Collection by Hilton hotel, underwent a $65 million renovation pre-hurricane, and since the storms it is now freshly restored with 388 rooms, two miles of sandy beach, 16 bars and restaurants, four pools, a nightclub, and a spa. Returning guests will revel in the property’s grand historic design, and newcomers will be blown away by the hotel’s richness of history (it’s been a San Juan staple since 1958), design, and amenities.
Florida’s Grapefruit League Towns
A dozen Florida beach towns host Major League Baseball spring-training camps. Known collectively as the “Grapefruit League,” these small cities welcome spring breakers with open arms—as do the stadiums where big-name ball players can be seen up close and personal before the season starts in late March. Here are two fantastic Grapefruit League beach escapes:
In Clearwater, watch the Philadelphia Phillies (and new star Bryce Harper) in Spectrum Field. Spend your off-hours at the city’s world-class aquarium, swimming at Sand Key Park and Beach, or Captain Memo’s Pirate Cruise , a two-hour excursion on a bright-red pirate ship that embarks from Clearwater Beach Marina. The Hyatt Regency Clearwater Beach Resort & Spa is a luxurious stay with 280-plus suites overlooking the Clearwater Beach and a brief walk from Pier 60 Park. Camp Hyatt keeps kids, ages 3 to 12, busy while parents relax in climate-controlled poolside cabanas.
Down the Gulf Coast in Fort Myers, the Boston Red Sox and Minnesota Twins post up for their winter home. Hop between the two stadiums to watch warm-ups, drills, and games. When the innings have wrapped, make your way to the barrier islands of Fort Myers, to great beaches like Bowditch Point Regional Park or Lovers Key State Park for a day of sunbathing and sand castles. Find old-school Florida charm at the Sanibel Harbour Marriott Resort and Spa. Kids and adults who love Florida’s natural beauty will enjoy walking in the private preserve or watching the sunset in the resort’s drive-up harbor.
Spring is shoulder season on Oahu, which means hotel prices are typically lower—great news for families or groups of families who use their yearly winter thaw-out as a reason to get away together. Pair that news with Southwest’s recent entry into the Hawaiian flights market—flights start as low as $49—and visiting a Hawaiian island for spring break may be as affordable as ever.
While on the Oahu, Waikiki’s Halekulani is an upscale resort that’s dedicated to creating memorable experiences for the whole family. You can take advantage of the For You, Everything program, which gives every guest complimentary access to some of Oahu’s best cultural spots, including The Bishop Museum, Doris Duke’s Shangri-La, Honolulu Museum of Art, and Iolani Palace. They’ll also arrange any number of sports or activities you’d like to do while on the island.
Disney’s Aulani Resort, on the west side of the island, offers an array of on-property activities for families, including storytelling around a firepit, nature walks, ukulele lessons, and of course photo ops with beloved Disney characters. Parents can unwind in the resort’s whirlpool spas with sunset views or in the 18-and-older pool while kids are busy with their own spring break agenda.
Captiva and Sanibel Islands, Florida
These laid-back Florida islands sit at the southern end of the state’s Gulf Coast—about 20 miles from Fort Myers—but a three-mile causeway puts a lot of space between your family and the rest of the world.
South Seas Island Resort, set within a 330-acre wildlife preserve with 2.5 miles of white sand beaches on Captiva Island, is a great place to call home during your stay. The resort has abundant activities for kids: arts, crafts, and games for ages 3 - 11 at Camp Skullywags; and guided bird walks, shell walks, and Day Camp for ages 6 – 13 with Sanibel Sea Schools. For parents and older kids, the Offshore Sailing School, led by renowned sailor and competitor Steve Colgate and his wife, Doris, will have you emerging with a real set of sea legs.
If small coastal inns are more your speed, consider resting your head at Sanibel Island’s Island Inn. You’ll instantly feel that Old Florida charm, whether you’re staying in the property’s guest rooms or beach cottages. Everything you need for a fantastic stay is here—pool, beach, restaurant, and on-site kayak and paddleboard rentals. They even have a shell-washing station so you can rinse your keepsakes.
Just a few miles from the cosmopolitan hum of Miami, quiet and secluded Key Biscayne has miles of pristine beaches and a small-town feel. Set up your Spring Break retreat at Ritz-Carlton, Key Biscayne. Their Ritz Kids program welcomes youngsters to explore the beach and property for a one-of-a-kind nature walk. Parents can relax at the family pool when their kids want to splash, or head to the adults-only pool when they’re kid-free. Your resort fee covers activities like kayaks and beach chairs.
From Key Biscayne, consider excursions like spending a day at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, hopping into the city for a visit to the kid-friendly Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science, or walking down historic Ocean Drive in buzzy South Beach.
Alabama Gulf Coast
Alabama’s Gulf Coast State Park hosts everything a family could want in a spring break destination: two miles of sugar-sand beaches, a 28-mile Backcountry Trail for bikes or Segways, fishing, and classes at the Sand Castle University, a family-friendly session for learning the best beach architecture.
Nearby Orange Beach, Perdido Key, and Gulf Shores boast condos and rental homes, but for the newest and coolest way to experience this unique beach destination, stay in the Lodge at Gulf Shores State Park. The newly-opened property has 350 Gulf-front and park-view rooms, and you’re a short drive from a lot of low-key restaurants and seafood dives on the Alabama-Florida line.
Los Cabos, Mexico
At the southern tip of Baja California, Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo (collectively, Los Cabos) offer tawny, beautiful beaches, golf courses, and townscapes with great restaurants and historic buildings, not to mention vistas of the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Cortez. In full recovery mode after the ravages of Hurricane Odile in 2014, this favorite of celebrities is a fun and culturally rich spring break destination.
Set up home base at the ultra-luxe The Resort at Pedregal in Cabo San Lucas. The secluded resort offers a fantastic spring break package deal, or you can piece together a stellar time yourself with a la carte activities, like a Teen Guide program for big kids and a Tortuguitas ("Little Turtles") Kids Club for the youngsters. Parents can enjoy the pools and spa or explore the nearby towns.
If you’re looking for something a bit more low-key, head to Royal Solaris Los Cabos in San Jose del Cabo. The all-inclusive resort offers a value package for families in their 390-room property. You’ll have access to five restaurants, a kid’s water park, day and evening programs, as well as kids’ club facilities and four swimming pools. You’re also just steps away from the area’s golden beaches.
North Carolina’s Outer Banks and Barrier Islands
North Carolina’s Outer Banks call to spring breakers from near and far. The 200 miles of barrier islands are typically warm and sunny during the day in spring, while the evening air is chilly enough for a campfire—s’mores optional.
On the northern end of the stretch, just two hours south of Virginia Beach, is the quaint town of Duck. The gray-shingled Sanderling Resort, a nostalgic favorite with vacationers, has recently completed a redesign of all its guest rooms. At the Beach House building, find board games, comfy couches, and cozy window seats, perfect for whiling away after-dinner hours and rainy days.
North Carolina’s beautiful beaches continue southward, from the turquoise waters of Emerald Isle to the quiet barrier islands just north of the South Carolina border. Ocean Isle Beach is one of these gems and is both an hour’s drive north of Myrtle Beach and southwest of Wilmington. The small seaside town is perfect for families who are ready to dig their does in the sand and catch a wave or two on a boogie board.
The Winds Resort is an ideal crash pad for families, with free bikes, communal games like shuffleboard and corn hole, and a daily breakfast buffet that’s included in your stay. Plus, the resort partners with the island’s sea turtle protection group, so guests can learn about these very special locals.
Florida’s Highway 30A
Picturesque beach communities dot Florida’s coastal highway 30A, which skirts the Gulf Coast in South Walton County. The towns of Grayton Beach, WaterColor, Seaside, Seagrove, Alys Beach, and Rosemary Beach each have their own look and feel, and are all charming, walkable, and best of all—front row to a glorious stretch of flour-soft sand and sparkling water. You’ll find beach house rentals, boutique hotels, bike paths, and a host of water sports and activities to keep kids of all ages occupied and thrilled.
The town of WaterColor is anchored by the luxurious WaterColor Inn & Resort, which features pools, bike, kayak, canoe, and paddleboard rentals, and beach chair and umbrella set-up. Smaller inns and B&Bs trickle the length of the highway, and weekly beach house rentals are available throughout the communities.