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The thought of a beach vacation, for most people, evokes images of white sand, warm sun, waves slapping across the beach, and most of all the tranquility. For some though, beach vacations bring to mind parties, drinking bouts, beach volley ball and other games. Travelers with families may look for a laid-back setting with shallow water and calm surf, whereas a newlywed couple is likely looking for a romantic getaway where they can enjoy the beach in seclusion. And for those who like to be a little more risqué when they travel, nude beaches and hedonistic party beaches are the biggest attractions.

Virginia and the Carolinas

If your preference is for a family-friendly beach, the beautiful shores of Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina are great options. The long stretches of sand on the East Coast are budget-friendly with a wide range of accommodation, and they do not tend to get as packed as popular international beach destinations such as the French Riviera, the Mayan Riviera, and other, less family-friendly beaches. Here, children can play in the sand while looking for birds and other wildlife in an unhurried, laid-back locale, and the water is calm enough to be safe for swimming.

Hawaii

If you’re looking for great surf, you’ll want to head to Hawaii during the winter, as some of the largest waves in the world break here during the surf competition season, with one of the best-known spots being the Banzai Pipeline at Ehukai Beach on Oahu. During the summer, the beaches of Hawaii are a great place for families with gentle swells, calm lagoons, and warm water.

California

Southern California is also an excellent place to look for surf-friendly beaches, although at popular beaches such as Venice Beach, you’ll have to share the waves with others. Further up the coast, Pismo Beach on the Central Coast is the only beach in the state where you can drive on the sand dunes, have a bonfire on the beach, and camp by the waves.

French Riviera

For those searching for beach parties, there is no shortage of beaches to meet your every desire. Pay a visit to the beaches of St Tropez and the French Riviera, and you’ll find an abundance of nightclubs and bars, as well as crowds of the rich and famous.

Miami Beach

The Miami Beach/South Beach area in Florida is a top destination for the urban party beach scene, with South Beach attracting millions of visitors a year to its nightclubs and beach parties.  Miami’s beaches also have soft white sand, plenty of water sports for the actively-inclined, and a host of glamorous hotels and other amenities. The rest of the state’s coast, both on the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico, is packed with great beaches. Florida is consistently at the top of beach lists, and along with Miami, other popular destinations include Fort Lauderdale, Daytona Beach, Pensacola, and the Florida Keys.

Rio de Janeiro

Alternatively, you may wish to check out some of the sexiest beachgoers in the world at Ipanema and Copacabana, both near Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  These world-famous urban beaches may be crowded, but they showcase the best of Brazilian beach culture, from beach volleyball and beach football, to street dancing and live music.

Caribbean

Of course, there are plenty of people who prefer not to do much other than to lie on the sand on their beach vacations. For those who want the ultimate in rest and relaxation, the quiet beaches of the Bahamas and the resorts of the Dominican Republic have the soft white sand, turquoise water, and warm breezes you’re looking for. Book a week at a resort and be pampered with spa treatments, massages, and dinners on the beach.

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