Monte Carlo

All ages
Destination: Monaco

The French Riviera can be baffling to children -- you call these beaches? Many of the most famous strands aren't even sandy, but covered in pebbly rocks or gravel. And for American parents, sitting among topless sunbathers can be disconcerting. Still, this fabled year-round resort seacoast is a lovely sight to see, and an essential reference point for all other beach resorts.

The French Riviera vibe ranges from hedonism (the Brigitte Bardot image of St-Tropez) to celebrity spotting (the film-star glitz of Cannes) to old-money snobbery (the F. Scott Fitzgerald aura of Cap d'Antibes). The best place to show children what the Riviera is all about is in Monaco. With its hilltop panoramas, tropical landscaping, and moneyed elegance, this tiny independent principality offers real sand beaches; the sand is trucked in, but who cares?

The big free-of-charge public beach is Plage de Larvotto (tel. 04-93-30-63-84), off avenue Princesse-Grace, fronting the blue Mediterranean waters just around a curve of coast from the yacht-filled Monte Carlo harbor. However, the chic option lies farther east, just over the border in France, where the luxe Monte-Carlo Beach Hôtel adjoins the long-established Monte Carlo Beach Club, 22 av. Princesse-Grace (tel. 04-93- 28-66-66). As is customary along the Riviera, there's a charge to use this beach, in this case a huge fee (comparable to a day at Disneyland), but you'll get amenities like changing rooms, toilets, a restaurant, use of a mattress for sunbathing, and two large pools, one of them designed for children.

Information: Tourist office, 2A bd. des Moulins (tel. 92-16-61-66;

Nearest Airport: Nice, 20km (12 miles).

Accommodations: Le Monte Carlo Grand Hotel, 12 av. des Spélugues (tel. 93-50-65-00;