Winter Beach Getaways for the Family

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Few things are more satisfying than jumping on a plane during these colder days of winter and, just a few hours later, landing in paradise. For many, such conditions include tropical temperatures, sparkling sunshine, blue waters, palm trees and sandy beaches–perfect for building sand castles and catching up on a page-turning work of fiction or two.

For families, a beach can be the perfect outlet for occupying school-age children during winter break. Snorkeling, scuba diving, surfing, hiking and water sports are all abundant near the beach.

Florida is a popular destination for families with children, but Disney World is certainly not your only option. Try venturing out to one of the dozens of beaches along either coast, many of which have an island-like feel. St. Pete Beach, located on the Gulf coast, offers a blend of sugary white sand, frolicking dolphins, unique cafes, art and the iconic Don CeSar Hotel. A short distance inland, The Dali, on the Tampa Bay shoreline in downtown St. Pete, boasts the largest collection of Salvador Dali paintings in the U.S.

Three bridges leading into St. Pete Beach connect it to such popular areas as Treasure Island and Pass-a-Grille Beach; a short drive inland to Tampa takes you to Busch Gardens and the Florida Aquarium. Treasure Island is a four-mile expanse encompassing three beach neighborhoods, each boasting its own individual character. Mid-island is where you’ll find the majority of hotels, resorts and restaurants. It’s also where the .85-mile Treasure Island beach trail is located. The communities book-ended on either side are more residential but certainly worth exploring.

If you like to shop and dine out and are more inclined to explore nature than the inside of a novel, check out the Boynton Beach, West Palm Beach and Delray Beach areas on the Atlantic. Home to the National Wildlife Preserve, Boynton Beach is perfect for a long walk. West Palm is more upscale and an ideal place to take the family biking, even garnering the title Bicyclingest Town in the U.S.A. because of its flat terrain and paved streets. Delray Beach is filled with unique shops and, like the entire area, home to a variety of eclectic eateries and restaurants. Snorkelers won’t be disappointed, either. With tropical temperatures year-round, beachcombers will also find solace here.

With 13 miles of quiet beaches and palm-lined bike paths, Amelia Island is one of Florida’s hidden gems. Its historic beauty is unrivaled in this part of the country, with Fernandina Beach providing a peek 200 years back in time. This well-preserved town is rich with restaurants, shopping, carriage rides and boat and trolley tours. It’s one of the premier locations to capture the unique experience of turtle nesting and hatching. Golfers will appreciate the pristine greens dotted around this small island community. Located in the northernmost part of Florida, Amelia Island may be a preferred destination for the latter part of winter.

On the other side of the country, along the Pacific Coast, check out Coronado Beach in San Diego. With a sloping beachfront, gentle waves and attentive life guards, it’s perfect for the younger traveler. Older siblings will enjoy boogie boarding, body surfing and volleyball. The historic Hotel del Coronado, the backdrop of Marilyn Monroe’s comedy Some Like It Hot and fondly nicknamed The Del, and other upscale resorts dot the island. Coronado Island is also home to a military base, so if you hit it right, you might catch a glimpse of the elite Navy Seals training.

If you’re searching for an all-out tropical paradise and are willing to traverse the miles, Hawaii is a no-brainer. With eight islands to choose from, you’re bound to find one that satisfies the needs of everyone in your family. With its zip-lining, surfing, wind-surfing and snorkeling with sea turtles, Maui is for adventurers.

Oahu offers a more cosmopolitan experience. Home to Honolulu, Oahu also includes Waikiki, Pearl Harbor and North Shore. You may also enjoy a train ride through Dole Plantation’s pineapple fields or a hike up Diamond Head State Monument. Kaua’i is home to verdant cliffs and cascading waterfalls and the location of several movies, including Pirates of the Caribbean IV.

The largest of all of Hawaii’s islands, Big Island is a natural phenomenon and ideal vacation spot for witnessing science in action. Earth, wind, air and fire all occur naturally here, allowing you to literally watch the creation of the island as lava pours into the ocean near black rock cliffs and the wind howls overhead. From lava deserts to the emerald jungle to snow-capped mountains and coral forests, you will find eight of the world’s thirteen climate zones. Five volcanoes and miles of sandy beaches ranging in color from white to green to black attract tourists in search of a grand beauty like no other.

With so many destinations to choose from, bond with the family and expand your horizons by booking a vacation somewhere new this year! HLM

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