Best Family Beach Hotels
Nothing says ‘ohana quite like the Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa on Oahu, where kids get sand-sculpting lessons by day and don leis for a mele celebration on the beach at sunset. And the whole gang can pile into a traditional hand-built canoe for a scenic coastal sail.
Such creative offerings helped Aulani earn the title of No. 1 family beach resort, as voted by T+L readers in the annual World’s Best Awards survey. Convenience is also a factor: Aulani has two-seat casabella beach loungers and snorkel rentals at the ready and, back in the rooms, bassinets and baby-proofed balconies. Other winning properties across the U.S., the Caribbean, and Mexico follow suit, catering to families with a mix of the practical and the delightful.
At the bamboo-furnished Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo—in a protected area of lush forest and pristine beaches—the complimentary Kids for All Seasons program features hermit-crab hunts and bird-watching.
Collecting pink seashells and learning to surf are on the agenda at Florida’s Hammock Beach Resort, which also caters to kids with a 91,000-square-foot water park, complete with a lazy river and water flume.
In short, no need to worry about riptide, sunburns, childcare—no need to worry at all. From sheltered saltwater lagoons to shaded chaises, these top-ranking beach resorts have families covered.
No. 1 Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa, Kapolei, HI
Hawaii is a favorite family destination, and with its Disney pedigree, the Aulani knows just how to surprise and delight kids of all ages. On Oahu’s western shore, the resort occupies a crescent stretch of pristine Ko Olina beach, where families gather for sand-sculpting contests, treasure hunts, and sunset mele celebrations. For a more traditional take on Oahu water sports, your brood can board a hand-built Hawaiian sailing canoe to explore the coastline and learn the history of the islands.
No. 2 Beaches Turks & Caicos Resort Villages & Spa
From Miami, flight time is less than two hours to Providenciales, where this easy-breezy, all-inclusive resort is ready to welcome families. Many head straight for the 45,000-square-foot water park. There’s also a surfing simulator and a DJ academy. Accommodations are spread across four enclaves styled in the distinct architectures of the Caribbean, Italy, Key West, and France—and on 12 miles of white-sand beach that are blissfully tropical. Beach valets offer fresh towels and refreshing mist sprays after your plunge into the turquoise waters on the introductory scuba diving program.
No. 3 Sanctuary at Kiawah Island Golf Resort, SC
Sanctuary combines the appeal of a beachfront location with elegant antebellum mansion–like architecture. Beyond the golf courses, spa, and three pools, it caters to families with a comprehensive kids’ program, including glassmaking, tie-dying, fly-fishing, and archery. For more adventures, set out from the resort by bike or hike into the maritime forests and marshes.
No. 4 Cloister at Sea Island, GA
This 1928 Mediterranean-style hotel offers access to five miles of private barrier island beach, complete with shaded cabanas for rent. Hobie Cat sailing, stand-up paddleboarding, and surfing lessons are all offered through the resort’s Beachfront Water Sports Center. Beach Club Suites each have a kitchen, a fireplace, and a balcony—plus a prime location close to three pools, an ice cream parlor, a movie theater, and the children’s center.
No. 5 (tie) Four Seasons Resort Hualalai, HI
Between the white-sand beach and the resort’s luxurious villas on the Big Island’s North Kona Coast lies a surf-protected ocean pool carved from coastal lava rock—providing a sheltered swimming spot well-suited to kids. (Parents will also appreciate practical considerations like baby-proofed rooms and a teens’ lounge.) On-property “ocean ambassadors,” known as the Alaka’i Nalu, lead authentically Polynesian aquatic excursions by 28-foot Ribcraft and outrigger canoe on the crystal-clear waters.
No. 5 (tie) Hammock Beach Resort, Palm Coast, FL
Search for pink shells along the beach at this pastel-colored resort near St. Augustine. Then give in to the kids’ eagerness to splash around the 91,000-square-foot water park, with its lazy river, water flume, and multilevel pool complex. There’s a kids’ club on site and plenty to do in the surrounding area, from taking surf lessons to renting beach cruisers for an afternoon ride and picnic (the concierge desk can supply a bountiful basket).
No. 7 Disney’s Vero Beach Resort, FL
Families come to unwind at Vero Beach Resort after a trip to Disney World in Orlando (about two hours away). This stretch of the Atlantic is also popular with nesting loggerhead sea turtles. Guests can rent WaveRunners, boogie boards, and banana boats steps from their beach chairs or simply enjoy the natural beauty of the well-preserved coastline on a sunset stroll. Kids can join a treasure hunt or a cooking class on the beach, or get more quality time with Disney characters like Goofy.
No. 8 Disney’s Beach Club Resort, Lake Buena Vista, FL
The Beach Club Resort has a variety of water features—lagoons, lakes, tricked-out swimming pools, and a killer waterslide that starts from the crow’s nest of a ship’s mast—designed to make pint-size visitors squeal with delight. It’s a few minutes’ walk from the Epcot side entrance and has a marina with ferries bound for Disney’s Hollywood Studios. After dark, bring the kids down to Crescent Lake Beach for a night of campfire songs, s’mores, and Disney movie screenings under the stars.
No. 9 LaPlaya Beach & Golf Resort, Naples, FL
Ten minutes’ north of downtown, this oceanfront boutique resort delivers access to one of Naples’s few secluded beaches. With a Kids Aquatic Camp running activities like shell collecting and lifeguard games, grown-ups can settle into a blue cabana and enjoy peace of mind along with refreshing afternoon sorbet and cold towel service. Suites come with ocean views, ceiling fans, Wi-Fi, and HDTV.
No. 10 (tie) Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea, HI
The angled windows at the Four Seasons Maui give almost every suite an ocean-facing sunrise view. And even the standard rooms are spacious at 600 square feet. Guests can enlist in free yoga, snorkel, and scuba lessons, or just lounge on Wailea Beach. Whale sightings are not uncommon, though for a better vantage point, take the kids along on a luxury sailing catamaran in search of humpbacks.
No. 10 (tie) Sandpearl Resort, Clearwater Beach, FL
At Sandpearl Resort’s Camp Ridley, kids can join sand-castle-building contests and stargaze through solar scopes. Beachgoers enjoy 700 feet of Gulf Coast sand, with chair and water sport rentals and daily enrichment programs that range from kayaking to sailing to cooking. Accommodations are sophisticated and sustainable—this is Florida’s first LEED-certified resort—with your choice of citrus-hued rooms or suites with full kitchens and deep soaking tubs.
No. 10 (tie) WaterColor Inn & Resort, Santa Rosa Beach, FL
The David Rockwell–designed WaterColor Inn & Resort has an enviable setting on nearly 500 acres of white-sand beaches and secluded pine forests. Its 60 cottage-chic rooms are fresh off a renovation; first-floor units have outdoor showers. Guests can rent YOLO Boards, kayaks, and canoes at the BoatHouse to paddle along the nearby coastal dune lake. Beach bonfire services and big-screen movie nights are held after hours.
No. 13 Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita, Mexico
Northwest of Puerto Vallarta, on the Riviera Nayarit, this beachside resort enchants with sweeping views of the Pacific and a mix of high- and low-tech fun. Kids are treated to miniature robes and milk and cookies on arrival. Some will want to make a beeline for the renovated game center, while others suit up for tubing down the lazy river. There’s an ocean-side infinity pool and, for the more ambitious, yacht charters for snorkeling among the Marieta Islands.
No. 14 Grand Wailea, A Waldorf Astoria Resort, HI
Keep your eyes peeled while snorkeling among the lava rock formations off the resort’s beach on the southwest coast of Maui. You just may spy a turtle. Masks and flipper rentals are available at the beach shack, though you may be tempted to lounge in a Casabella chair instead—especially at sunset. The Grand Wailea also counts a 2,000-foot lazy-river pool, a sizable spa, and a club for kids and teens (with offerings like lei making, hula lessons, and a Lego wall) among its charms.
No. 15 Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa, HI
Each of the 602 rooms at the Grand Hyatt on Kauai’s southern coast comes with a private lanai, some overlooking the ocean. You can float along the saltwater lagoon, take a dip in the freshwater pool, or barrel down the 150-foot-long waterslide. Nene geese and black swans flit around the 50-acre property, which has plenty to keep guests occupied, including camp activities for kids. Come sunset, join the locals at nearby Shipwreck Public Beach.
No. 16 Ritz-Carlton, Key Biscayne, FL
Just south of the South Beach crowds, the tropical-inspired Ritz counts two heated swimming pools, four restaurants, and a wealth of water recreation activities on Biscayne Bay. This is the Miami area’s best full-service resort, complete with tropical gardens, a tennis center, a 20,000-square-foot spa, kids’ programs, and a pristine beach. And this is prime family-vacation territory, with two fantastic wading and play areas—Crandon Park and Bill Baggs State Park—within a short walk from the hotel.
No. 17 Beaches Negril Resort & Spa, Jamaica
With 200-foot waterslides, a teen disco, and water placid enough for young ones, this all-inclusive resort is a sure-to-please choice for families. It also has a prime location along Seven Mile Beach, close to Pirates Island, a water park known for twisting slides, a 650-foot lazy river, and a SurfStream wave simulator. Sign up for the included water sports lessons, and keep an eye out for wildlife—including Elmo and Big Bird. Beaches Resorts’ partnership with Sesame Workshop means Sesame Street character interactions are regular occurrences, whether at a puppet-making class or glow-band beach party.
No. 18 St. Regis Punta Mita Resort, Mexico
Opened in 2010, St. Regis is a relative newcomer to Punta Mita, yet it’s made a big impression for above-and-beyond service. Case in point: guests can arrange snorkeling tours and other excursions with butlers while lounging in poolside sun beds. And while the Mediterranean-inspired property knows how to keep kids happy, it also feels more intimate and adult than some other resorts on this list, given its small scale (120 rooms). For a kid-friendly wildlife fix—whales, dolphins, blue-footed boobies—arrange a visit to the nearby Marieta Islands.
No. 19 Hilton Waikoloa Village, HI
This 62-acre resort on the Big Island’s Kohala coast features a saltwater lagoon sheltered from the Pacific surf. Filled with tropical fish and sea turtles, the ocean-fed water feature is ideal for snorkeling amateurs or those looking for a tranquil kayak outing. On the beach, personal cabanas with concierge service are available, as well as ocean sports equipment rentals. Just a short walk down the shore, the popular snorkeling spot Anaeho’omalu Bay is justifiably popular for its beautiful sunsets, clear snorkeling, and an ancient inland fishpond.
No. 20 Myrtle Beach Marriott Resort & Spa at Grande Dunes, SC
While Myrtle Beach has a reputation for hosting rowdy college kids each spring break, the oceanfront Marriott feels above the fray thanks to its private strip of sand and 405 luxurious suites. Guests get access to several golf clubs, a beachfront pool, and a European spa. The seasonal kids’ club coordinates on-site arts projects and scavenger hunts as well as visits to area attractions like Ripley’s Aquarium.
No. 21 The Fairmont Mayakoba, Riviera Maya, Mexico
The Fairmont is the most family-oriented of Mayakoba’s three properties and eco-minded, too: vehicles are left at the resort gate, leaving guests to navigate the network of water canals and mangrove forests by lancha (covered boat), golf cart, bike, or foot. Just beyond the sand dunes lies one of the world’s largest reefs, ideal for snorkeling and scuba diving. Each room gets a private balcony, and guests take their pick among five pools.
No. 22 Hawks Cay Resort, Duck Key, FL
Not far from Key West, this 60-acre playground caters to families with Camp Hawk, which will host your kids for an entire day of supervised activities, from fish feedings to snorkeling in the saltwater lagoon. There are special offerings for teens, too, including a lounge and game room and Teen Night Out events. Whatever the age, guests find it hard to resist the resort’s Dolphin Connection, a close encounter with trained bottlenose dolphins.
No. 23 Marco Beach Ocean Resort, Naples, FL
Step onto the balcony of your one- or two-bedroom suite at this boutique hotel for a view of the manicured garden terraces or the extensive Gulf of Mexico. Down below, attendants dot the four-mile expanse of white-sand beach, waiting to provide complimentary umbrella-shaded chairs and beverage services. As for aquatic activities, the concierge is always on hand to arrange anything from Jet Skiing to parasailing to deep-sea fishing.
No. 24 Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, FL
While the little ones learn about coral reefs and hunt for shark teeth with the Ritz Kids Program, adults can relax in a private pool cabana with butlers at the ready. For those who get restless, the lineup of daily activities includes guided nature walks and evening bonfires. The 446-room resort occupies a 13-mile stretch of dune-lined Center Beach—and the area has a rich history, namely for the Civil War garrison Fort Clinch and the shrimping industry hub of Fernandina Beach, both of which can be toured.
No. 25 (tie) Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo
The northwestern province of Guanacaste is largely protected, with pristine beaches and jungle ripe for exploring. Adding to the area’s appeal is this Four Seasons, a picturesque hilltop property that has a complimentary Kids for All Seasons program that will make a nature lover out of the most hardened city kid (prepare for hermit-crab hunts and bird-watching). The south side of the peninsula’s Playa Blanca brings big waves ideal for kayaking and surfing, while the north side’s Playa Virador suggests solitude—less water sports, more chaise lounges.
No. 25 (tie) Rosewood Mayakoba, Mexico
Each of the 128 suites at this gorgeous, high-design resort offers a private plunge pool, a rooftop sundeck, and an individual boat dock. Families can play beach volleyball and soccer on the sugar-soft sands, haul Hobie Cats and snorkeling gear out to sea, or enlist in kids’ club activities. (The concierge can also book guided excursions to a nearby Mayan Sacred Cenote or underwater cave.) Grown-ups will want to find time to slip away to Sense Spa, with its steam grottoes, treatment rooms, and pools.