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Best Family Beach Hotels (PHOTOS)

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.
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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.

--By Helen Zook

No. 1 Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa, Kapolei, HI
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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.

Photo: © The Walt Disney Company
No. 2 Beaches Turks & Caicos Resort Villages & Spa
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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.

Photo: Beaches Turks & Caicos Resort Villages & Spa
No. 3 Sanctuary at Kiawah Island Golf Resort, SC
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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.

Photo courtesy of Sanctuary at Kiawah Island
No. 4 Cloister at Sea Island, GA
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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.

Photo courtesy of Sea Island
No. 5 (tie) Four Seasons Resort Hualalai, HI
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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.

Photo: Don Riddle/Courtesy of Four Seasons Resort Hualalai
No. 5 (tie) Hammock Beach Resort, Palm Coast, FL
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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).

Photo: Hammock Beach Resort
No. 7 Disney’s Vero Beach Resort, FL
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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.

Photo: The Walt Disney Corporation