When Baywatch becomes baby watch, you need to think of beaches that are safe for kids, clean as a whistle, and in the ‘not-to’ list of party-goers. This is our secret list of family-friendly beaches that fit that category.

Family Friendly beaches.
Meet African penguins on Boulders Beach.

Copacabana beach is one of the greatest vacation getaways in the world. It’s a breathtaking 2.5-mile stretch of bright sand that’s filled with people luxuriating in the sun and soaking up the atmosphere. Lying on the borderline of a tropical refuge and the vivid world metropolis of Rio de Janeiro, no other beach in the world compares–so my apologies to Maui, South Beach, and Santa Monica, this one’s just got you beat.

Travelling to Africa usually conjures visions of safari. But this Cape Town beach is unmissable—it combines wildlife and sand. Typically in Cape Town, you could find beaches that range from secluded bays to long, open stretches of sand and surf. The west side of the Cape Peninsula, on the Atlantic Ocean, is where the more fashionable set go to see and be seen. The east side of the peninsula, on the warmer Indian Ocean, is generally more laid-back and not as frenetic as the Atlantic coastline. But for a different seaside experience, Boulders Beach forms part of a conservation area that is home to the African penguin, and wooden walkways have been constructed to view the penguins in their natural habitat.

Santorini has long been called the diamond of the Greek Islands. Its white sculptured villages are nestled atop steep volcanic cliffs that fall sharply to the deep blue Aegean Sea. The most famous beach here is Red Beach because of the slabs of red and black volcanic rocks. Most people just come to admire the steep cliffs and never make it down to the hot sand. Those who do are treated to a picturesque ambience of sunbathers and natural beauty rarely seen anywhere else in the world.

Lesser known (and less expensive) than its sister island Bora Bora, Moorea is just as beautiful with as many (or as little) activities as you can jam into a day. Although the best thing to do is sit back, relax, and enjoy the gentle breeze, beautiful sunsets, and island hospitality!

New Zealand’s smallest national park certainly packs a punch. Abel Tasman curves along the north coast of the South Island, peppered with golden sand beaches and steep cliffs that fall away to crystal-blue waters. There are many options for exploring the park—by water taxi and boat, kayak, walking, or a combination of all three. Normally taking four to five days to hike the whole coastal track, you can split up the journey at many of the campsites, cabins, or even boat hostels along the way. One of the most interesting features of Abel Tasman is the high and low tide extremes, which affect the paths you take on the hike. Sometimes at low tide you might be able to cross a long beach while at high tide you have to go the long way around, making your exploration of this national park much more exciting.

If you’re looking for an unspoiled and exotic beach vacation destination, La Digue is one of the most popular islands in the Seychelles, and Anse Source d’Argent is the reason why. This amazingly beautiful beach features giant boulders on its shores. Dark granite boulders on a white sand beach is the most dramatic vision you could imagine for a tropical setting! The pathway to the beach runs through an old coconut plantation, which is fascinating in and of itself.

family friendly beaches
Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica has beautiful beaches. Courtesy of Getty Images

A stunning national park on the Pacific coast, Manuel Antonio has it all: non-stop beautiful beaches, lush tropical rainforest, and oh, the wildlife and flowers, everywhere you look. Monkeys abound on these beaches, and they are not timid around people. The Viewpoint Trail hike is an uphill climb to this lookout (mirador) with outstanding views of the coastline.

Located on the Atlantic side of St Thomas is a protected white-sand beach that stretches for nearly three quarters of a mile. Often cited as one of the best beaches in the world thanks to its pristine sand and calm waters, visitors can spend the day at Magens Bay for just US$4 per person. Legend also has it that Sir Francis Drake used Magens Bay as an anchorage site while waiting for ships to plunder.

There are lots of little inlets along the SoCal (South California) coast, some specifically geared towards surfing and lacking in the sandy beach element, and some with plenty of sand for the non-surfers to sit and admire the people slicing through the waves. Driving up the Pacific Coast Highway, you just pull off into the shoulder to park, walk down to the beach (sometimes there are pathways, other times you have to navigate down the rocks), and just sit and enjoy.

family friendly beaches
Railay Beach feels like an island. Photograph by John S Lander/LightRocket; Getty Images

Not only is Krabi home to the beautiful town of Ao Nang, just south is the small peninsula known as Railay Beach, a dazzling stretch of sand surrounded by towering limestone cliffs on both sides. Its isolation from the mainland combined with the complete absence of cars and roads make Railay feel like an island all its own. Adventurers can explore a ragged jungle path from the beach to discover a hidden lagoon with the most beautiful emerald-green waters. It’s worth hanging around at Railay after the sun has gone down and you’ve tucked your kids in, with lively reggae-style bars that stay open late. You might even catch one of the area’s notorious fire shows.