Once we get that hint of sunny weather in the springtime, it becomes official: we get the beach bug. Nothing ushers in warmer temperatures (at least in our minds) like frolicking in the sand, and a trip to the shore can be the perfect way to get the family together. We've told you about the best beaches for diving, surfing, and even going topless, so this time around we're giving you the low-down on the best beaches for families; if you have babies in tow or water-winged toddlers, these seven U.S. beaches are our top picks for a family-friendly visit.
An upscale seaside sanctuary, La Jolla attracts families with its pristine downtown area, quiet neighborhoods, and stunning natural surroundings. While the town boasts plenty of surfer-friendly beaches, La Jolla Cove is ideal for tourists traveling with little ones; this small cove of clear water is part of the La Jolla Underwater Park Ecological Reserve, and swimmers and divers have free range (surfing is not allowed). Lifeguards patrol the calm surf year-round, and the beach boasts clean public restrooms and showers, as well as designated picnic spots.
Where to Stay: Estancia La Jolla Hotel & Spa
A budget-friendly destination, Virginia Beach attracts plenty of families during the summer months. The oceanfront is lined by a long boardwalk with spots for both walkers and bikers, and in turn, the boardwalk is lined by plenty of kid-friendly seafood joints (don't worry, they also serve burgers and chicken nuggets) and ice cream shops. Every year, the city hosts a surfing competition as well as a sand sculpture exhibit, and there are free weekly concerts.
Where to Stay: Comfort Inn & Suites Oceanfront
On the southeast shore of Oahu, Lanikai is arguably one of the most beautiful beaches in Hawaii (although, in a state with gorgeous beaches by the hundreds, it has plenty of worthy competitors). Families flock to Lanikai's soft sands and calm, clear waters, which can be hard to come by in this surfers' haven.
Where to Stay: The Kahala Hotel and Resort
Coast Guard Beach is a picturesque stretch of sand in an equally picturesque town. Set along nature-filled marches, the beach features a long bike path and walking trails; during the spring and summer, children love to spot the nesting birds, while seals bask on the sand during the winter. Parents will appreciate the lifeguards on duty throughout peak season, and even though parking is not directly on the beach, the fee includes a tram ride from the lot to the shore.
Where to Stay: A Little Inn on Pleasant Bay
Magens Bay Beach is not only one of the most popular beaches in St. Thomas, but in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and it is not surprising. With aqua-blue waters ringed by two peninsulas, it is absolutely gorgeous. The half-mile stretch of sand is frequented by all types -- locals and tourists alike -- and it is particularly popular among families; the jutting peninsulas that make it so beautiful also act to protect it, meaning calm waters year-round.
Where to Stay: Sugar Bay Resort and Spa
Florida is certainly not lacking in family-friendly beaches; even party-centric South Beach has spots of sand that kids will love. But Delray Beach, just an hour north of Miami, is our pick for the most kid-friendly beach in the state. Two miles long, at the end of the town's shop and restaurant-lined "Avenue," Delray Beach boasts chair and umbrella rentals, volleyball courts, and plenty of space for setting up a family picnic.
Where to Stay: Delray Beach Marriott
The Hamptons has a reputation for being a refined, classy destination and Southampton exudes this sophisticated vibe even more so than its neighboring hamlets. But that doesn't mean that children aren't welcome; in fact, families often prefer Southampton to more party-heavy destinations like Montauk. It doesn't hurt that Southampton is home to a particularly kid-friendly beach; flanked by gorgeous historic mansions on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other, Coopers Beach features lifeguards, a snack bar, and free summer concerts.
Where to Stay: Capri Southampton