The rest of the 10 best
7. Kitty Hawk, North Carolina
Oceanfront Fun Part of the Outer Banks, Kitty Hawk boasts 3 miles of uncrowded beaches. Use the Kitty Hawk Bath House and Byrd Street beach entrances because they're nearest the restrooms and lifeguards.
Inland Hot Spots Spend a morning at the Outer Banks Children at Play Museum; kids can explore the teddy-bear hospital and lighthouse ($7 per person, kids age 1 and under are free). Then check out the Wright Brothers National Memorial in nearby Kill Devil Hills. There are kite-flying demos and Junior Ranger programs.
Castles in the Sand All rooms at the Hilton Garden Inn Outer Banks/Kitty Hawk have a balcony and ocean views. The resort supplies free beach chairs and umbrellas. (Rooms with two queen beds start at $199 per night; hiltongardeninnouterbanks.com.) Or book one of the hundreds of beach houses in the town; go to outerbanks.org for a list of rental companies.
8. Kamuela, Hawaii, The Big Island
Oceanfront Fun The 3 miles of shoreline at Hapuna Beach State Park are everything you envision when you think of Hawaii: turquoise water, clean white sand, and stunning views. Plus, the waves are generally calmer here than nearby. Go the southern end of the beach; there?s a cove made from black volcanic rock where kids will have no trouble spotting little fish.
Inland Hot Spots Catch a free Polynesian Hula on Monday and Thursday nights at The Shops at Mauna Lani. From 5 to 6 P.M. daily, the shops also offer free 4-D movies for families staying at nearby hotels. Don't leave without going to a luau. The Mauna Kea Beach Hotel has a great one for families, where kids can sit in front of the stage and even participate at the end of the show ($96 for adults, $48 for kids 5 to 12, children 4 and under are free).
Castles in the Sand The Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel offers stargazing with telescopes, a family-friendly pool, a club for children ages 5 to 12, and free or low-cost hula lessons, lei-making, and Hawaiian crafts. (Rooms with two queen beds start at $199 per night; princeresortshawaii .com.) Find local vacation rentals at hawaiioceanfront.com.
9. Gulf Shores, Alabama
Oceanfront Fun On Gulf State Park's guarded coastline, families can join in beanbag tosses or hula-hoop contests. "The beaches are clean and the sand is sugar-white," says Sarah Barnhill, a mom of a 3-year-old in nearby Adger, Alabama.
Inland Hot Spots The Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo is the perfect size for kids -- you can get a good view of its 300-plus creatures and drop in for its summertime animal shows during a three-hour visit ($10 for adults, $7 for kids 3 to 12, free for younger kids.) Drop by Fort Morgan, where kids can see real cannons and learn about Civil War history. ($7 for adults, $4 for kids ages 6 to 12, younger kids are free). End a great day with dinner at LuLu's at Homeport Marina, which has a food-allergy menu and a beach-sand area to occupy kids.
Castles in the Sand Vacation rentals are abundant in Gulf Shores. A great pick: a condo at The Beach Club Gulf Shores; all units have full kitchens, access to pools, and a fitness center. (One-bedroom condos that sleep four start at $231 per night; thebeachclub.spectrumresorts.com ) If you'd rather stay at a hotel, options a few miles from the beach include Staybridge Suites (rooms with two queen beds start at $139 per night; ihg.com) and Courtyard by Marriott Gulf Shores Craft Farms (rooms with two queen beds start at $89 per night; marriott.com).
10. Rehoboth Beach, Delaware
Oceanfront Fun Replenished with sand and beach grass, the 1½-mile stretch of guarded beach attracts a sea of families. But there's plenty of space to build sand castles and fly kites.
Inland Hot Spots On the boardwalk, kids can ride on the carousel, the Ferris wheel, and antique wooden boats. "My kids love the haunted mansion from the 1940s," says frequent visitor Christy Hume, a mom of four in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. "It's so cheesy, it's fun." But just a couple of blocks away, in this 1-square-mile town, there are more than 200 boutique shops.
Castles in the Sand Steps from the beach, the Avenue Inn & Spa recently finished a face-lift of its breakfast room and lobby, where you'll find free cookies for the kids and wine and cheese for you at nighttime. (Rooms with two queen beds start at $219 per night; avenueinn.com.) The Hotel Rehoboth offers free shuttle service to the beach, including chairs and towels, free breakfast, and a heated outdoor pool. (Rooms with two double beds start at $249 per night; hotelrehoboth.com.)
Originally published in the June 2013 issue of Parents magazine.
This piece was accurate at publication time, but all prices, offerings and availabilities are subject to change. Please contact each hotel and attraction for up-to-date rates and information before taking your trip.