Europe’s Best Ski Resorts

Whether you’re a newcomer or a veteran on the slopes, skiing can be the perfect winter getaway when you want a vacation with an exciting edge. Ski resorts offer travellers the ideal place to ski through the day and relax and be pampered in the evening, and Europe is full of beautiful resorts for you to choose from.

Alpe d’Huez

This stunning snowy village in the Alps has been in operation since 1936, making it one of Europe’s most historic and beautiful spot to ski. The plateau is south facing at an altitude of 1,860 metres, and the summit, Pic Blanc, towers at 3,330 metres. The views from the peaks are unbeatable- you can take in a panorama view of one fifth of the French territory before you race down the slopes. There are several beautiful resorts to choose from around the peaks, all of which use the Alpe d’Huez Grand Domaine Ski area as their central skiing base.

La Plagne

If you’re hoping to take the whole family on a fun skiing vacation, La Plagne is your best bet. This resort is all about family fun, with slopes to suit every skiing skill level and 225 kilometres of runs. The resort also has bobsleigh slopes, gentle slopes for beginners and steep drops that will thrill more advanced skiers. The village has several different accommodation options from rustic atmospheres to more luxurious offerings, so you can tailor your ski break to suit your budget and taste.

The Ski Circus Saalbach Hinterglemm Leogang

This Austrian resort has 55 cable cars, 200 kilometres of pistes and tons of fun activities for the whole family to enjoy. The resort offers exciting ‘wave runs’ at the Asitz Run and Sport Run Asitzkogel 2000, as well as a glamorous SkiMovie run and the super-fast Speed Run. The atmosphere is relaxed and comfortable, the food is delicious and the resort’s wellness hotels will keep you feeling energized and ready for your next slope. It’s not all about skiing either- the resort offers speed tubing, snowmobiling, tobogganing and ice go-karting to ensure that no family ever gets bored.

Val d’Isère

Val d’Isère is one of the world’s most popular ski resorts, and for good reason. The massive Espace Killy ski area stretches across 300 kilometres of pistes and has 94 lifts, with top quality slopes available from the most novice skiers up to expert sportsmen. The resort is host to a range of exciting winter sports events every year, including the famous Critérium de la Première Neige. The town itself is charming and quaint, and the resort offers attractive decor, good food and professional instruction to help your family feel comfortable out in the snow.

Verbier

This Swiss resort is at the center of Europe’s ski culture, attracting a young and vibrant clientele from all across the continent that bring an exciting, fun atmosphere to the slopes. The scope of the Verbier resort is huge: there are over 400 kilometres of runs with almost 100 lifts, and the scenery and views are unmatched across Switzerland. The peaks of the ski area at Mont Fort stand tall at 3,330 metres, giving skiers incredible views all across Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn. The resort also has a great selection of restaurants, bars and stores to shop at, so families and couples can enjoy the vacation of a lifetime alongside their skiing.

Courchevel

Courchevel is located in the Trois Vallées of France, and its north-facing slopes make for the some of the best snow in Europe. With a lovely woodland setting and beautiful views of the surrounding mountains, this is definitely one of the most picturesque ski resorts in France. There are plenty of luxurious upmarket hotels as well as lower budget options, five restaurants with two Michelin stars, and tons of great activities outside of the ski slopes.

Images: “The Alps – Courchevel, France – January 2008” by David Hamill on Flickr.

Africa’s Best Safari Vacations

Africa may not seem like the ideal vacation destination, but the continent is packed with beautiful game reserves and amazing opportunities to view wildlife up close. There are plenty of different safari spots to choose from, some luxurious and decadent and some better suited to those on a budget. We’ve picked out some of the best to get your safari planning started.

Madikwe Safari, South Africa

Many travellers are concerned about the possibility of contracting Malaria when travelling to Africa for a safari vacation. Madikwe is a great option for anxious travellers- it’s in a completely malaria-free region just a few hours drive away from the bustling metropolis of Johannesburg. This private game reserve has all of the Big Five animals roaming free, as well as the increasingly rare African wild dog. The safari offers comfortable family-friendly lodges, enthusiastic tour guides and exciting night drives by spotlight.

Samara Private Game Reserve, South Africa

If you’re hoping to avoid the most popular and busy safari spots in South Africa and find something slightly more secluded, Samara is a wonderful option. This beautiful lodge in the Karoo region is small and chic, with luxurious bedrooms, delicious food and relaxing spa facilities. The wildlife is, of course, the highlight, and there’s no shortage of fascinating animals to encounter at the lodge. You’ll be able to come face to face with South Africa’s famous zebra, rhino, antelope and cheetah, and the reserve is just a short drive away from the Addo National Elephant Park for visitors who want to come up close and personal with the magnificent elephant.

Okonjima Main Camp, Namibian Central Highlands

Namibia is a beautiful country filled with mountainous regions, deserts, expansive savannahs and friendly, welcoming locals. Okonjima is a family-owned nature reserve with several farms and camps available to explore. The focus of the conservation efforts at this reserve is big cats, so visitors who are interested in learning more about cheetah and leopards will get plenty of opportunities to encounter these beautiful creatures. The main camp has 16 lovely bedrooms on offer for guests with beautiful African furnishings, and visitors can travel out every day by car to take a look at the wildlife and scenery of the park. Okonjima Main Camp is also highly affordable when compared with other African safaris, making it a great option for travellers on a budget.

Vumbura Plains Camp, Botswana

Travellers looking to experience the magic of a safari vacation combined with luxury and comfort will get their fill of both at Vumbura Plains Camp in Botswana, an eco-retreat with no shortage of style. Sleep in comfort in your luxurious suite, and enjoy your own private lounge, patio and plunge pool. You can view an amazing range of wildlife, from wild dogs to lions, and take in the incredible scenic views from the comfort of the dining area and deck. The food is top quality and the service is impeccable, guaranteeing visitors a pleasant and memorable experience as well as the opportunity to be surrounded by Africa’s natural beauty.

Masai Mara, Kenya

Masai Mara is Kenya’s most famous safari and game reserve for a reason. This huge park has an abundance of wildlife, including the two million animals that travel through the plains during the Great Migration. There are plenty of different camps to choose from if you want to explore this stunning region with your family, including luxury hotels like Batleur Camp where you’ll have your own private butler waiting on you hand and food. Many of the camps offer tented accommodation with beautiful furnishings and far more comfort than you’d expect, as well as reasonable prices and all inclusive package deals.

The Best Beach Resorts On A Budget

Most people think of a beach resort vacation and automatically panic about the amount of money that could be spent. For many of us, a luxury resort just doesn’t fit our budget. That doesn’t mean that a relaxing beach getaway is an impossible dream! There are plenty of great resorts around the world that offer sun, sea and fun at discount rates. Here are our favorite budget beach resorts for your family to visit this year.

Mancora Marina Hotel, Peru

Peru isn’t all about trekking up mountains and visiting ancient ruins. There’s plenty of sunbathing and relaxation to be had at the country’s beautiful beach resorts. Mancora Marina Hotel is a stunning modern resort with a 90-foot infinity pool, private yachts and gorgeous beach views. Watch out for dolphins and whales in the water and enjoy the luxury amenities, all at a surprisingly affordable rate.

El Sitio Hotel, Panama

If you like your beach vacations with a side order of surfing, you can’t do much better than the sandy Pacific shores of Panama. Located in a beautiful rustic village, the fashionable El Sitio Hotel has a great range of accommodation options to suit every budget. You can opt for a stunning suite with a balcony overlooking the ocean or stick to a tighter budget with a bunkbed room for the whole family. The furnishings are rustic but sophisticated, and there are tons of fun aquatic activities available at the beach, from surfing to snorkelling.

Akaryn Samui, Koh Samui, Thailand

Thailand is a great holiday destination for those looking to catch some rays and experience a different culture without breaking the bank. Akaryn Samui has beautiful villas with huge four-poster beds, complete with their own private pools and gardens. Visitors can keep their bodies and minds feeling fresh with twice-daily yoga classes, and make time to visit the calming holistic spa. The prices are far more reasonable than you’d expect, and well worth it for such a luxurious, relaxing experience.

Stokkoya Sjosenter, Norway

Not everyone is looking for a sweltering hot beach vacation. If you’re after a slightly different destination, Norway could be your ideal spot. The beautifully windswept coasts of Norway are a great summer getaway, and the Stokkoya Sjosenter is the perfect place to take in the scenery. Lay back and soak in the hotels’ huge wood-heated hot tubs, and savor the incredible fresh seafood at the hotel’s restaurant every evening. This refined and elegant hotel is truly one of a kind.

Amarya Shamiyana, Goa, India

Take in the incredible exotic sights of India at the luxurious Amarya Shamiyana, a luxury resort that’s full of bright colors and designer interiors. The hotel is made up of huge tents, providing the perfect atmosphere to get into the beach spirit. The room are comfortable but chic, providing the perfect balance of relaxation and style. If you somehow tire of sunbathing and exploring the beauty of India’s beaches, stroll down the beach to sit down at La Plage, a world famous restaurant serving up scrumptious French cuisine.

Avani Bentota Resort and Spa, Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is unfortunately overlooked by many as a potential vacation destination, which is a shame with resorts like Avani Bentota on the scene. This hotel was fully renovated in 2011, and now has huge modern rooms with their own private patios and personal rain showers. You’ll have great views of the glistening blue Indian Ocean from your patio, and the service is consistently impeccable. This little piece of paradise really is the perfect place to lay back and let the everyday stresses of the real world drift away.

 Images:  Stokkoya Sjosenter by Darijus Strasunskas on Flickr.

 

The UK’s Best City Breaks

Despite its relatively diminutive size, the United Kingdom has plenty of great cities that make wonderful vacation destinations. If you’re looking to escape on a cosmopolitan getaway but don’t know where to start, try out some of these awesome cities. Just make sure you bring an umbrella.

Liverpool

Experience one of northern England’s most impressively revitalized cities by visiting Liverpool for a city break. This once-dreary city is now a cultural capital of the UK, with tons of interesting things to see and do. Music fans cannot miss the Beatles Story museum, packed full of fascinating memorabilia from the early days of the world’s most famous pop band. Take in some modern art at the Take Liverpool and then head to the Albert Dock for a drink and a taste of Liverpool’s thriving culinary scene.

Manchester

Whether you’re a football fanatic or mad about music, there’s something for you in Manchester. This is one of the UK’s most exciting and lively cities, with a buzzing music scene and no shortage of art and culture. Manchester is also one of the UK’s top shopping destinations, with massive shopping centers offering all of the latest trends in huge brand name department stores while small arty boutiques sell quirky vintage pieces. Visit Manchester any time of the year for an awesome experience, but expect the unexpected when it comes to the weather.

Edinburgh

Scotland’s majestic capital city is nestled into the Scottish countryside, leaving visitors spoiled for choice between rural beauty and cosmopolitan fun. The best time to plan your Scottish city break is late summer, when the Edinburgh Festival and Edinburgh Fringe spring to life, offering a huge range of comedy, theatre and art for the world to come and see. The city center is surprisingly small, making it easy to explore by foot, and there are plenty of invigorating nature walks around the city surrounding some of its best known landmarks. After you’re worn out from a day of sightseeing, dine in one of Edinburgh’s Michelin Star restaurants and watch the city light up.

Oxford

Although it may be small, Oxford is a city in its own right, and a wonderful destination for a cultural getaway. Just an hour’s drive from London, this historic city has plenty of interesting sights to see. Visit the famous university and see the dining halls and winding passageways that stood in as Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films. Visit the mummies and unique ancient treasures at the Ashmolean Museum and then take meander down the River Thames on a traditional punt boat. Oxford is small enough to wander around freely without paying for public transport, and makes for a fascinating and picturesque day trip out of London.

London

If it’s the big buzzing metropolis that you’re after, there’s no place like London. England’s capital city is world famous for its shopping, theatre, culture and nightlife, and you could easily take years discovering everything that London has to offer. If you’re planning to visit London for a city break this year, don’t miss the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace and a proper traditional high tea at the Savoy Hotel. You can catch a theatre performance in the West End and take in world famous art at the National Gallery. Make sure you save a little extra cash for some high end shopping on Oxford Street- Selfridges is a must see.

Cardiff

When discovering the best city breaks of the UK, don’t neglect Wales. Cardiff has become a cultural hub in recent years, with plenty of world-class entertainment, museums and sightseeing. Visit the beautiful and historic Cardiff Castle for a lesson in Welsh history, then wander around the city’s expansive central area to take in all of the amazing shopping on offer. Sports fans can’t miss an international rugby match at the very impressive Millennium Stadium.

Image: “Oxford snow scene” by Jun on Flickr.

The Best Cruise Ships For Foodies

There’s more to cruising than sunbathing and relaxation- a cruise ship can be the perfect place to dine on delicious cuisine, as long as you pick the right liner. While some cruises offer fairly run of the mill buffets and restaurants, others stand out thanks to their carefully considered menus and top quality chefs. If you’re a real foodie who likes fine dining and interesting cuisine, opt for one of these luxury cruise ships.

Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas

The Oasis of the Seas excels in most areas- it’s the world’s largest cruise ship, so it certainly doesn’t cut corners when it comes to quality and diversity of choice. Travellers setting sail on the Oasis of the Seas can choose from a range of delicious food options, from the luxurious and sophisticated NYC-style Central Park to a more casual dining experience at the Mexican-themed Rita’s Cantina. There are as many as 25 different dining options available on the Oasis of the Seas, so foodies are absolutely spoiled for choice.

Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Epic

Norwegian Epic has a fun and vibrant Vegas atmosphere with a ton of different restaurants and a delicious variety of cuisines. If you’re a carnivore who can’t resist a great rare steak, visit the Moderno Churrascaria onboard, where you’ll feast on sumptuous barbequed meat carved up at your table. For those that like to watch their food be prepared by expert chefs before their eyes, Teppanyaki is a wonderful Japanese dining experience where guests can sit at the Hibachi grill and watch the cooking process in action.

Silversea Cruises’ Silver Spirit

The Silver Spirit is one of the most luxurious high class cruise liners at sea, so it’s no surprise that the food is top notch. Wine aficianados can taste some of the world’s best champagne at Le Champagne after enjoying delicate fresh sushi and exciting Asian fusion recipes at the Seshin Restaurant. If you like to enjoy a little entertainment while you dine, the Stars Supper Club offers a fun and retro dinner experience with small plate specialties.

Princess Cruises’ Royal Princess

The latest in Princess Cruises’ line of luxury cruise ships was christened by Kate Middleton herself, so guests can expect a vacation experience fit for royalty. The food on this ship is, unsurprisingly, top notch. Fans of Italian cuisine can dine on fresh, delicious seafood and authentic Tuscan dishes at Sabatini’s, while huge, delicious steaks are on offer at Crown Grill. Guests can also enjoy theatrical performances while enjoying their meal at Crown Grill, making for an all round enjoyable dining experience at sea.

Oceania Cruises’ Oceania Marina

Famed chef Jacques Pepin heads up the culinary program at Oceania Cruises, and his expertise and hard work is apparent in the fantastic food on offer on this cruise ship. The main dining room serves amazing multi-course meals every evening to a well-dressed crowd of travellers, and the smaller La Reserve will treat you to a carefully crafted menu where each dish is paired up with its perfect wine. You won’t find better French cuisine on any other cruise liner.

Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Silhouette

Foodies who like to have a little fun with their dinner will have a great time on Celebrity Silhouette, the best of Celebrity Cruises’ line for discerning diners. The ship’s most innovative restaurant, Qsine, has an interactive iPad menu and a selection of unique and creative dishes. If you’re looking for a slightly more traditional dining experience, you can savor the delicious menu in the ship’s main dining room, or enjoy an alfresco steak at the Lawn Club Grill.

Image: Jordan and Marisa Magnuson on Flickr.

America’s Best Dog-Friendly Beaches

If you can’t bear to go anywhere without your four-legged friend, you probably find it pretty tricky to head off on a beach vacation. Many beaches have strict rules around bringing animals along for the fun, leaving you stuck on the sidewalk while other families play in the sun. If your furry friend loves frolicking in the waves and you’re looking to catch a tan, head to one of these great dog-friendly beaches in the United States.

The Original Dog Beach- San Diego, California

San Diego is a great family-friendly vacation destination with tons of fun activities and things to see. If your dog is just as much a part of your family as your kids, rest assured that San Diego has more than enough beach space for him to roam along with you. The Original Dog Beach is located at the northern end of Ocean Beach, and it’s totally dog-friendly. Your dog can run around without a leash (provided they’re able to get along with the many other dogs who like to play there) and you can even visit the Dog Beach Dog Wash to clean them up at the end of the day.

Dog Beach- Key West, Florida

If you’re planning to visit the beautiful clear water and tranquil beaches of Key West anytime soon, make sure you bring your pup along for the ride. Dog Beach is a pebbly spot of the coast with plenty of space for your dog to roam around and explore the beach. There’s also a great little pet-friendly café by the beach where you can grab some lunch after your dog is tuckered out.

Brohard Paw Park- Venice, Floria

This beach has everything a dog could wish for, from doggy showers, leash posts, dog drinking fountains and special fenced off areas for smaller dogs to keep them save from intimidating larger pets. The area is totally separated from the rest of the beach to give your dog the chance to run around freely, and there’s plenty for humans to do too, including boardwalks, picnic benches and showers. Bring your dog along and soak up that Florida sun.

Oak Island Beaches- Wilmington, North Carolina

Located 30 miles south of Wilmington, Oak Island is a beautiful relaxing getaway with several beautiful pet-friendly beaches. Dogs do not have to be kept on a leash, and you’ll see all different breeds of furry friends playing together in the surf. The atmosphere at Oak Island is also perfect for families, with plenty of wide open spaces and a quiet, laid back atmosphere.

Bonita Beach Dog Park- Fort Myers, Florida

Let your doggy roam free at this beautiful beachfront dog park in Fort Myers. The whole beach is entirely off-leash and the owners of the beach even provide complimentary bags to help you clean up after your pup. This is more than just a dog park- it’s a stunning secluded beach with calm, shallow water and soft white sand. The beach always has a friendly, fun atmosphere and is a popular gathering point for dog lovers. You can even see tiny islands in the distance, creating a truly exotic vacation feel.

Fisherman’s Cove Conservation Area- Manasquan, New Jersey

For those located in the North East, there are still opportunities to take your dog on a nice beach walk without being kicked off the sand. The Fisherman’s Cove Conservation Area allows dogs on the beach as long as they’re on a leash. This beautiful Atlantic Ocean beach is great all year round for taking walks and letting your dog splash in the waves- just don’t forget your leash!

Image: “Brohard Paw Park: Venice, Florida” by T Sheppard on Flickr.

Top US City Breaks For Families

City breaks are perfect for busy families who are looking to take a few days out of their normal lives to experience a different city. The United States has so many buzzing, exciting cities that it can be difficult to choose just one for your family getaway. We’ve narrowed it down to the top cities for family vacations, so you can pick the ideal spot for your family trip.

Boston, Massachusetts

Boston is our top choice for families looking for a fun city break away from home. It’s got something for everyone- history lovers will go crazy for the revolution-era sightseeing and tours, while sports fans can get their fill of baseball history at the world famous Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox. Make time to walk the Freedom Trail and then enjoy a lazy afternoon picnicking in the Boston Public Garden. Kids who are into ships will get a real kick out of Boston Harbor, where they can take a look at several different historic boats and watch more modern varieties float by.

Miami, Florida

If you’re looking for a city break with an extra dose of sunshine and sea air, head all the way down south to Miami. The grownups can enjoy some top notch shopping on the promenades of South Beach while the kids enjoy some amazing sea life at SeaWorld. For an extra special treat, you can even swim with the dolphins at SeaWorld, creating a memory for the whole family that will last a lifetime. Enjoy delicious Cuban cuisine at one of Miami’s many high quality restaurants and get some quality tanning time on the beautiful beaches- there’s no city break more relaxing than Miami.

New York City, New York

New York City makes a fantastic Christmas city break- the city really lights up in the winter. Take the kids to ice skate at Rockefeller Center and then catch a matinee performance of the Rockettes at the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. They can also pick out a present from the humungous selection at FAO Schwartz and gaze at the beautiful window displays at Macys. Whatever you do, don’t forget to have a magical family horse and cart ride through Central Park while the sun goes down.

Savannah, Georgia

Savannah is a southern city steeped in cultural history, with plenty of fascinating museums and galleries to interest the whole family. Book onto one of the many walking tours and get a guided explanation of the city’s rich history, as well as the opportunity to see the many interesting sights on offer. The kids can also take part in some hands-on fun at the Savannah Science Museum, before heading over to the Savannah History Museum to see a real old-fashioned train up close. If your kids are old enough not to get too spooked up, walk along with the Hearse Ghost Tours to hear some ghoulish tales from Savannah’s past.

Washington D.C., District of Columbia

If your family hasn’t taken a road trip to Washington DC yet then make sure this is the year you visit our nation’s capital city. Washington DC has so much to see and do that it can be difficult to fit it all into one small city break, but you should definitely give it your best shot! There are over 100 different monuments and museums for your family to explore, from the towering Jefferson Memorial to the stunning Washington National Cathedral. A family-friendly favorite of ours is the Air and Space Museum, where kids can take a look around a real life space ship and see the Wright Brothers’ first plane.

Image: “Bay Street in Savannah” by Bruce Tuten in Flickr.

The World’s Best Hiking Trails

If you’re in decent shape and love to experience the great outdoors then a hiking holiday could be just the thing you need this year. Hiking is the perfect way to take a breather from everyday living, connect with the earth and grow as an individual. We’ve picked out some of the best hiking trails in the world to help you get inspired.

Hike The Grand Canyon of Arizona

The Grand Canyon is one of the most iconic natural spots in the United States. Its beauty is truly remarkable, and there’s no better way to experience it than on foot. You’ll be able to see the river and the rims in their entirety on any of the Canyon’s beautiful trails, and you’ll have plenty of time to sit back, relax and enjoy the views. Hiking the full course rim to rim takes around 4-6 days, so come prepared for a proper camping trip with plenty of sunscreen. We’d also recommend that you avoid the spring and early autumn seasons, as the trails are at their most crowded during these peak months.

Fitz Roy Trek, Patagonia, Argentina

South America is full of incredible hiking trails, but the Fitz Roy Trek is definitely one of the best. The trek will take you around a week and it’s certainly not for the faint hearted, but if you can brave the steep trails then you’ll have the treat of seeing the beautiful Los Glacieres National Park, filled with glaciers, huge waterfalls, granite monoliths and vast beech forests. Once you’ve made it to Camp Poincenot, make sure you hike up to Laguna de los Tres to watch the sun go up on the Fitz Roy Massif.

The Inca Trail, Peru

This legendary and historic hiking trail is truly incredible- laid by the Incas over 500 years ago, it will take you through mountain passes and past ancient ruins, giving you the opportunity to learn and discover the Incan culture while enjoying the beautiful scenery and fresh air. Most hikers walk the 4 day long trail to Machu Picchu, the historic ruin of an ancient city. If you plan to take some of the higher altitude trails, make sure that you’re well prepared for the physical impact of walking so far up.

Mount Kailash Pilgramage, Tibet

This hike is truly special- you can trek the 32 mile journey around Kailash, a mountain considered sacred in five different religions. No human has ever climbed the mountain itself as it is considered too holy to desecrate with human touch, but the Hindus believe that the god Shiva sits at its peak in meditation. If you’re looking for a mountain hike then this isn’t for you, but it’s a beautiful walk for those seeking tranquillity and the company of other pilgrims hoping to soak up the holy atmosphere. There are several tour companies that will help you get to the base of Mount Kailash, and you can then set off on foot. Once you’ve completed your trek, make sure that you take the time to dive into Lake Manasarovar, one of the highest altitude lakes on Earth and an important component of the pilgrimage.

Alps Walk Through Grindenwald

This hike gives you the chance to experience the beauty and majesty of the Swiss Alps on foot. Journey to Switzerland in the summer to ensure that the weather is warm enough for a comfortable hike- the latest you can walk this trail is September, as it closes in October. Grinendwald is one of the most scenic walks in the world, with incredible mountain views and sights. There are cable cars to help you along your way at certain points, and some beautiful hotels at the snowy peaks to stop for the night. Leave time to have lunch at Waldspitz before you head home, a stunning Swiss chalet with world famous rosti.

Images: “The Path, Inca Trail, Peru” by Daniel Antunes on Flickr.

The Top Family-Friendly Beaches In The USA

The United States has such a huge variety of exciting vacation destinations, it can be difficult to decide where to take your family for your annual getaway. If you’re after a sand and surf vacation, you’re in luck. There are tons of great beaches around the US that offer exciting activities and beautiful weather. Here are our picks of the best.

Wailea Beach, Maui, Hawaii

While it may not be on mainland United States, Maui is definitely one of the top vacation destinations in the country. Your kids can get a taste for the distinctive Hawaiian culture, learn all about this wonderful state’s fascinating history and enjoy the beautiful sandy beaches that line the island. Wailea Beach is one of the best on the island for families- it has water sports, easy access to shopping and dining, and plenty of clean, clear sand to built sandcastles in.

Santa Cruz Beach, California

California has some of the best beaches in the country, but Santa Cruz definitely tops the list when it comes to family-friendly fun. The beach has a huge boardwalk with rides, live music and arcades for the kids to enjoy, and the whole family can learn to surf in the blue Pacific waves. If you get a little tired of the sun and sand, catch the Roaring Camp Railways train from the Santa Cruz boardwalk and head up to the stunning Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park to see the awesome Redwoods standing tall.

Crane Beach, Ipswich, Massachusetts

You don’t have to head straight to Cape Cod for a great East Coast family vacation. Crane Beach is a wonderful getaway for families with kids of all ages. The beautiful tidal pools and calm waters are perfect for swimming and splashing around in the surf, and the surrounding hiking trails make for a great family walk, giving your kids the chance to collect shells, spot wildlife and climb over sand dunes. There are also plenty of great family-friendly restaurants around Ipswich, as well as a snack bar right on Crane Beach to keep the whole family feeling energized.

Lifeguard Beach, Ocracoke Island, North Carolina

Don’t just stick to the coastline when on vacation in North Carolina; jump on the ferry and visit the stunning and historic Ocracoke Island. The quiet, sandy beaches are perfect for playing and swimming, and there are tons of water sports available for your family to enjoy. The fun isn’t limited to the beach- the island also has plenty to offer in terms of family-friendly activities and education. Rent bicycles and explore the lovely village on two wheels, and make sure that you stop at Teach’s Hole, where the kids can learn all about the life and legend of Blackbeard. 

Siesta Beach, Siesta Key, Florida

The Florida Keys are a great vacation destination for families, with crystal clear water and gorgeous secluded beaches to relax and enjoy. Siesta Beach sets itself apart by its incredible sand- believe it or not, the sand is 99 percent quartz, giving it an extremely soft and powdery feel. Lay back and enjoy the ultra-soft sand while your kids enjoy the waves, the beach playground and the tennis courts. You may even catch sight of some of the Keys’ beautiful marine wildlife- visitors frequently spot pelicans, dolphins and manatees. There are also plenty of fantastic family-friendly restaurants nearby to grab a bite to eat after your day at the beach.

North Beach, Fort de Soto Park, Florida

For those looking for a beach vacation that combines nature activities with sandcastle building, look no further than North Beach, Florida. Fort de Soto combines the fun of a country park with the excitement of the beach, and the water is cleaner than any other beach in the area. Kids can play in the natural lagoon created by the beach’s sandbar, spotting minnows as they splash and swim. The park also has a great playground with its very own pirate ship, and a pier just down the road that offers dolphin-sightings.

Image: “Santa Cruz Beach” by Donna Sutton on Flickr.

Fun Water Sports Resorts For Families

If you’re looking for a vacation that will keep your high-energy kids entertained while getting them out into nature, a getaway that incorporates water sports is your best bet. What better way to spend a summer vacation than splashing in the sea and riding the waves? We’ve narrowed down the options so you can choose from the very best water sports resorts in the world.

Loews Coronado Bay Resort, Coronado, California

Located at the bay in Coronado’s lovely Silver Strand Road near Silver Strand State Beach, Loews Coronado Bay Resort is a wonderful treat for energetic families seeking an adventurous vacation. You can wander down to the big beach to build sandcastles, splash in the waves or collect shells, or take part in a fun variety of water sports in the bay. The resort has facilities for water skiing, paddle boarding, surfing and wave running, so you’re sure to be entertained throughout your vacation. The resort has a relaxed, feel-good atmosphere that will have the whole family looking forward to the next visit.

The Bitter End Yacht Club, Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands

The stunning British Virgin Islands are the perfect place for your dream vacation. The Bitter End is all about sailing and water sports- you and your kids can transform from nervous land-lubbers to experienced saileos in no time under the careful professional tuition offered by the resort. The Bitter End is famously relaxed and laid back, so you don’t have to worry about dressing up or impressing anyone, although you may catch sight of neighbour Richard Branson while you explore the deep seas.

Casa Marina Resort, Key West, Florida

Casa Marina is the largest resort in the Florida Keys- it has a huge private beach, a large private swimming pool for its guests and tons of thrilling water sports for your family. You can dive deep into the sea with a snorkel to check out the coral and beautiful life underwater, or set out on a kayak or boat with the kids to get a feel for the waves. The resort will take you out parasailing, windsurfing and waverunning, and even offers dolphin encounters to get you up close and personal with some real life sea creatures.

Woodloch Pines, Hawley, Pennsylvania

Woodloch Pines is a beautiful lakeside retreat set in the scenic Pocono Mountains region, just three hours away from New York City. The resort is all-inclusive, comfortable and offers traditional family fun in the great outdoors. The resort’s lakeside location gives you the chance to try all sort of fun water sports, including boat rides, canoeing, fishing, swimming, bumper boating, waterskiing and kayaking. The VENTURE program caters especially for kids, with trained counsellors on site to teach them archery, take them out water white rafting and exploring the local nature trails.

Basin Harbor Club, Vergennes, Vermont

Your family can sleep comfortably in a historic cottage or guesthouse at Basin Harbor Club, a vast rustic resort overlooking Lake Champlain. Kids can get involved with all sorts of water sports and outdoor activities, and after a long day on the lake you can all sit down for a delicious five course dinner in the resort’s Main Dining Room. The resort also has a program available for teens, so every age group in the family is catered to.

Four Seasons Maui, Wailea, Hawaii

The Four Seasons Maui is one of the world’s best luxury family resorts, with beautiful accommodation, incredible views and top quality service from the resort’s staff. Relax in your own personal poolside Cabana or have some fun on the water with beach volleyball, scuba lessons, snorkelling, canoeing and paddle boarding. There’s no shortage of fun to be had at the Four Seasons Maui: you’ll just wish you’d booked a longer trip.

Image: Woodloch Pines Resort by Alex Berger on Flickr.