The World's Greatest Travel Destinations for Families
From vibrant cities to tropical islands, these are the best places for a family vacation
Lounging on the beach with the kids, taking a ride on a heritage railway, swinging your way through tropical jungle… there’s nothing quite like making memories on a fun-packed family holiday. It’s also a great excuse for you to act like a kid again. But when it comes to planning a trip with kids, we all know it can get a little stressful. Luckily, you’re in good hands with us here at Plum Guide. We have all you need to know about travel, so if you’ve been wondering what the best holiday destination for families truly is, then look no further than our expert guide. Whether you’re after a cultural city break or want to spend time in nature, we've got you covered. These are our top picks for a fun-filled family holiday.
With its warm, subtropical climate and remarkable natural landscapes, Madeira is rightly high on our list of the best family holiday destinations. If it gets a little too warm, you may want to hit the beaches - make your way to Praia do Porto do Seixal Beach, Calheta Beach, or Machico Bay Beach. The natural swimming pools in Doca do Cavacas and Porto Moniz are also fantastic spots with clear waters. One of the top activities for families in Madeira is taking a cable car ride in Funchal. Enjoy the views as you travel up the mountain - the Monte Gardens at the top are a great spot for a picnic. The traditional way to come down is via an exhilarating toboggan ride, which the kids are bound to enjoy. Speaking of exhilarating, a must-do when in Madeira is a visit to the São Vicente Caves. Formed thousands of years ago, you can now take a walk deep underground through the passageways, learning about the caves’ history at the museum.
Located in the state of Bahia, the city of Salvador is known for its Portuguese colonial architecture, rich Afro-Brazilian culture, and delicious food. It’s one of the best family holiday destinations if you’re looking to immerse your kids in some fascinating history and culture. They can get hands on at a Capoeira and drums class, or dance to their heart’s content in one of the many street festivals. Right outside the city you’ll find a picturesque coastline, stretching hundreds of kilometres. There are plenty of dreamy beaches lined with coconut trees, all of them offering traditional family-friendly activities such as swimming, rock pooling, and horse riding. The fishing village of Praia do Forte is home to the Tamar Project, where kids can meet sea turtles and learn about the importance of protecting them.
San Diego, USA
When it comes to the best family holiday destinations, it's difficult to look past San Diego. With around 70 miles of coastline, the beaches are irresistible. La Jolla Shores Beach is one of the best family-friendly beaches in the city, with flat sands, lifeguards, a playground, and an easy walk to the shops. Mission Bay Beaches are another popular family spot, as you can rent water sports equipment, as well as bikes to hit the paved path around the bay. If you want a little variety away from the sand, San Diego is also home to some of the best amusement parks in California, such as Legoland and Belmont Park (your kids probably already mentioned this). We highly recommend visiting Balboa Park, a sprawling urban oasis home to 17 museums, dazzling gardens, and a variety of restaurants - there’s something to keep everyone entertained. Looking for unique activities? Head to La Jolla to spot seals and sea lions, or take a behind the scenes tour of the Petco Park baseball stadium.
Tokyo is a wonderland for kids and adults of all ages. There are theme parks of all sorts, from Hanayashiki (believed to be the oldest theme park in Japan) to Sanrio Puroland, where you’ll find everything Hello Kitty related. If the kids are into Studio Ghibli films, a visit to the Ghibli Museum is a must. They can get creative at the Legoland Discovery Center, or get up close and personal with dinosaurs at Kodomo no Mori Park. Fancy visiting a museum but don’t want bored kids dragging their feet around sulking? The National Museum of Nature and Science, the Tokyo National Museum, and the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation all offer fun and educational experiences for younger visitors. If you need a breather from the hustle and bustle, Mount Takao is a great place to unwind in nature. It’s a relatively short and easy hike to the top, but there are also chairlifts if the kids aren’t entertaining the idea of exercise.
Cornwall, England, UK
Cornwall is a big hit with families, as it offers something for everyone. Naturally, spending time at the beach is a must when in Cornwall. There are many family-friendly beaches, but Porthcurno, Perranporth, Trevone, and Gyllyngvase are our top picks. Aside from swimming and building sandcastles, kids can also go rock pooling or try out water sports. Want to explore the coast by bike instead? The Camel Trail is a scenic, flat cycling route which takes you 18 miles alongside the Camel estuary and river. For train enthusiasts, perhaps a ride on a heritage railway is calling your name? The Bodmin and Wenford Railway has steam locomotives which chug along for 13 miles through the scenic Cornish countryside. When it comes to attractions, Cornwall offers a variety of fun days out. The Eden Project is a must-visit, where you can walk amongst exotic plants from around the world housed in tropical biomes. The Lost Gardens of Heligan is another great spot for kids to roam around - there’s even a jungle area with a rope bridge and mysterious woodland earth sculptures.
Costa Rica is the perfect destination for families who love the outdoors. It may be relatively small, but it offers an impressive choice of adventure - whether that’s exploring volcanoes and hot springs, or surfing and boogie boarding. One of the best ways to discover this tropical playground is by taking a tour of Costa Rica’s rainforests - while you can explore on foot, a zip-line through the canopies is a more fun mode of transport. For more adrenaline-filled fun, why not try river rafting? Younger kids don’t have to miss out, as they can also get involved on a gentler ‘safari float’. Make sure to take a cool dip in Costa Rica’s many waterfalls, such as Llanos de Cortés. If you have any David Attenborough wannabes in the family, a wildlife cruise is a must-do. Hop onto a boat tour at Caño Negro Wildlife Reserve, or float down the the canals in the Parque Nacional Tortuguero to keep an eye out for iguanas, monkeys, and sloths.
As the largest of the Greek islands, Crete is bursting with fun family activities. Known for its soft, golden sands and shallow waters, Crete has plenty of fabulous spots to spend the day swimming, building sandcastles, windsurfing, paddle-surfing, and kitesurfing. But Crete is more than just its picturesque beaches. Inland, you’ll find plenty of exciting adventures waiting, whether you’d like to hit the mountain bike trails, or hike through the Samaria Gorge. For even more thrill-seeking adventures, kids over 12 can venture underground to Dikteon Cave - an important habitat rich with fauna, stalagmites, and stalactites. Crete is full of fascinating history, offering kids the chance to learn about the past beyond the four walls of a classroom. The ancient Minoan palace in Knossos is the largest Bronze Age archaeological site on the island, and is dubbed Europe’s oldest city. Take a tour of the palace, and learn about the great tales and legends associated with it. Younger kids may be more interested in the Natural History Museum, where they can enjoy interactive exhibits, see fossils, and experience an earthquake simulator.
While Jordan might not be the first place that comes to mind when thinking about best travel destinations for families, you may be surprised by how much adventure it offers. Its capital, Amman, is a mix of old and new, with ancient ruins and modern buildings intermingling. For an immersive history lesson, head to the Roman Theatre. This impressive, well-preserved Roman amphitheatre is still used for theatre and entertainment today, so you may even catch a show. Nearby is the Amman Citadel, an archaeological site which offers panoramic views of the city. Back in the city centre, have your kids experience a new culture with a walk along Rainbow Street, popping into the many traditional markets and souks along the way. The Children’s Museum has plenty of hands-on activities, and the King Hussein Gardens are great for picnics and ball games.
Paphos is a coastal city on the southwest coast of Cyprus. Divided into Old Paphos and New Paphos, both of these areas offer a range of interesting things to do for the whole family. One of the best places for kids to run around is the Tombs of Kings, a UNESCO site where you can explore underground tombs dating back to the 4th century. If the kids still have energy, head down to the Paphos Lighthouse for a walk along the coast, ending at Paphos Castle - this walk is especially beautiful at sunset. If you prefer to just relax on the beach, there are plenty of family-friendly options such as Rikkos Beach, Kefalos Beach, and Coral Bay. Looking for something a bit different? Head to Paphos Harbour to join one of the many boat cruises. With on-board magicians, entertainers, and barbecues, it’s a good excuse to admire the coastline from the water.
Thailand’s largest island is one of the best places to travel with kids in Southeast Asia. Think large stretches of sand, warm shallow water, and an abundance of outdoor activities. If you and the kids want to try some water sports, there are plenty of options including kayaking, wakeboarding and snorkelling - you’ll find many companies offering boat tours, which take you to various snorkelling spots around nearby islands. Water parks are always a hit with the kids, and Blue Tree Phuket is the best on the island. If you have older kids, there’s also white water rafting and rock climbing for a little adrenaline rush. If you want to swap the sea for the jungle, make sure to visit Kathu’s Flying Hanuman treetop adventure course, where you can climb and swing your way through tropical jungle.