Best Caribbean Vacations for Families
Family-Friendly Ways to Unwind in the Islands
A beach vacation with the family always seems like a good idea until everyone gets sunburned, the toddlers start crying when they get seawater in their eyes, and the babies eat sand. So what’s a harried parent to do? We’ve rounded up some of the best places in the Caribbean where kids and their parents can have fun and relax.
The all-inclusive Club Med's instant-win button is the Baby Club Med, where children as young as 4 months old enjoy their own pool and play area and even perform (sort of) in the weekly show. Parents can actually relax on the spectacular adults-only beach, learn to windsurf and scuba dive, and even get a hot-stone massage, knowing their young ones are being well-cared-for by trained staff. Parents will also appreciate baby paraphernalia such as bottle warmers, baby bathtubs and strollers available for loan at no cost.
FDR is legendary among parents with babies and young children for its “vacation nannies,” which are part of the all-inclusive price. Many families return year after year and request the same nanny, who will play with any baby who travels and take them to the kids' club, playground or pool. They’ll also watch toddlers in the pool, tidy the room and restock the kitchen with snacks. Other programs for children include dress-up parties, donkey rides, basketball, tennis, water sports and scuba for kids ages 10 and up.
Video: The Atlantis HotelThe Atlantis is the biggest, baddest and hottest hotel in the Bahamas.
When this lavish property opened in 1998, it became an instant legend. Top celebrities such as Katy Perry and Jerry Seinfeld have performed at the outdoor amphitheater, several TV programs and movies have taped episodes on the property, and beauty pageants such as Miss Universe and Miss Teen USA have held competitions there. The complex includes a water park featuring the Leap of Faith waterslide, which shoots guests out of a faux Mayan temple, down a vertical drop and through a clear tunnel under a shark lagoon. The resort also has multiple pools, a white-sand beach and a lagoon for kayaking.
The upscale Beaches Resort in Turks and Caicos is the chain’s flagship family property. Sesame Street characters feature prominently in the resort’s kids' programs; preschoolers and grade-school kids can bake cookies with Cookie Monster and go bird-watching with Big Bird. Tweens and teens spin discs at the Scratch DJ Academy and play video games at the Xbox Play Lounge. The resort features scuba instruction geared toward each age range, from shallow underwater treasure hunts, designed to familiarize young kids with the gear, to reef-fish identification programs for teens and adults. Find 2 more Beaches family properties in Ocho Rios and Negril, Jamaica.
Another way to see the Caribbean with the kids is on a cruise ship. Disney ships’ facilities, dining and activities are geared toward families with kids in the 4 years to preteen age range. The kids’ clubs are divided into age categories spanning just a couple of years; there’s a nursery for the babies, as well as Vibe, a club for teens to hang out together. Castaway Cay, Disney's private Bahamian island, is one of the nicest in the cruise industry. Parents who want to plan ahead can use an online service to preorder baby supplies and have them delivered to their stateroom. Other good ships for family cruising: Royal Caribbean's Voyager-class ships and Carnival's Conquest- and Splendor-class ships.
Renting a vacation home can be a great way for families to save money and bring some of the comforts of home, such as a kitchen and multiple bathrooms, to a destination. Dozens of websites offer houses for rent around the world. HomeAway owns several of the sites, including VRBO (Vacation Rentals by Owner), which allows homeowners to list their own properties. If you’re looking for unique, luxury properties, try Caribbean Way. FlipKey, which is owned by TripAdvisor, does for vacation rentals what the mother site does for hotels, offering bookings and reviews by real travelers.