Destination: Kauai, Hawaii
When it comes to beaches, Hawaii has more beauties than any one state deserves; truth to tell, the garden isle of Kauai on its own has more stunning beaches than any state deserves. With its tropical greenery, golden sand, ocean cliffs, and purposely low-key development -- no building may exceed the height of a coconut palm -- this island is a beach lover's dream.
Few can resist the temptation of hanging out at popular Hanalei Beach on the North Coast -- 2 miles long, with relatively placid waters good for swimming, and all the restrooms and other beachfront facilities that are necessary when you've got kids with you. Sure, it's popular, with tourists and locals alike -- you may have to walk a ways to find a spot to drop your towels -- but children like having other sunbathers around; making some new friends to help build sand forts is generally a plus.
Still, for the best family beach on Kauai, many votes go to Poipu Beach, on Kuaia's sun-soaked south shore. Developed but not overdeveloped, the whole Poipu resort area offers the requisite amenities, but you'll never feel crowded the way you might at Oahu's Waikiki Beach. Big, wide Poipu Beach Park is the place to hit the sand. Equipped with restrooms and showers, a picnic area and restaurant, the beach is incredibly versatile -- head to the left of the sandbar and you find a calm, child-friendly sandy-bottom pool protected by a lava-rock jetty; head to the right and you face an open bay of turquoise water that attracts swimmers, snorkelers, and surfers. The curling waves here are enough to hang ten, yet small enough to bodysurf or boogie-board. Poipu Beach is an excellent place to learn to surf; lessons are available from numerous local outfits, the oldest and best being Margo Oberg's School of Surfing, Nukumoi Surf Shop, across from Brennecke's Beach (tel. 808/742-8019; www.surfonkauai.com). Snorkelers can rent gear from Snorkel Bob's Kauai, 3236 Poipu Rd. (tel. 808/742-2206), which also rents boogie boards.
Information: Hoone Rd., Koloa (www.poipu-beach.org).
Nearest Airport: Lihue.
Accommodations: Grand Hyatt Regency Kauai Resort and Spa, 1571 Poipu Rd. (tel. 800/55-HYATT or 808/742-1234; www.kauai-hyatt.com). Kalaheo Inn, 4444 Papalina Rd. (tel. 888/332-6023 or 808/332-6023; www.kalaheoinn.com).