April 16, 2014

Kid-Friendly Caribbean Resorts

These tropical destinations have it all when it comes to a
fun family getaway

By Katie Solan

Vacations Magazine: Kid-Friendly Caribbean Resorts
Atlantis Paradise Island
Going on vacation with the family is tricky. The question of "Where will we go?" is often less important than the question of "What will the kids do?" Between teen-agers who want to stay as far from Mom and Dad as possible, the younger set who want to run and play by the pool all day, and babies and toddlers who need constant care, finding one spot that suits all of the family's interests and needs is often a challenge.

A resort vacation is a great place to start. Increasingly, many resorts cater to vacationing families by offering daytime programming for children of all ages, from tots to teenagers, and even personal child care for your littlest ones. Resorts also provide a safe home base while on vacation, and, because they are chock-full of amenities, there's often no need to ever leave the property during your stay.

We've taken the guesswork -- and stress -- out of choosing a family-friendly resort by profiling some of your best bets. Located in beachside spots in the Bahamas and the Caribbean, these resorts also answer other parental concerns:

* "Will my picky eaters be able to eat what they like?" All offer a variety of dining options, from buffets to kids-only venues.

* "Can my kids have fun while I stay within my budget?" Five of the below resorts are all-inclusive, which means that lodging, all meals, alcoholic and nonalcoholic drinks, gratuities, entertainment, activities and nonmotorized land and water sports are bundled into one flat rate that's paid upfront.

* And, "Will I be able to do what I like to do?" In addition to extensive children's programming, these resorts offer something for grown-ups as well, such as full-service spas, fitness centers, golf courses, adults-only dining and nightclubs and bars.

For your next family vacation, look into some of the resorts below. To view a complete list of family-friendly resorts or to book a stay, visit Vacations To Go or call (800) 998-6925.

FDR Pebbles and Franklyn D. Resort

Jamaica

These sister resorts are located on the scenic northern coast of Jamaica -- Franklyn D. at Runaway Bay, and FDR Pebbles about 20 miles away in Falmouth. As a special service, both resorts assign a personal "vacation nanny" to guests with small children. Adults can steal away for a spa session or go for a worry-free workout while the nanny watches over the children. Nanny service is complimentary during the day, with a $4 per hour charge after 4:40 p.m.

The FDR resorts are all-inclusive and offer a variety of venues and activities to keep kids entertained. The Yellow Bird Kids' Club, for youngsters ages 3 to 11, hosts daily games and activities such as snorkeling lessons, seashell hunts, glass-bottom boat rides, reggae dance classes, T-shirt painting and pool "Olympics." Teens and tweens have their own spaces and activities, such as a video-gaming room, a site for camping and bonfire beach parties, bicycle tours, water sports and sports clinics. Both resorts feature playgrounds, pools, sport courts and game rooms.

After a day of activity, a nightly kids' buffet is sure to please, and children and parents alike can dance the night away at the family disco.

The 96-room FDR Pebbles and the 76-room Franklyn D. Resort both have a 3.5-star rating.

Atlantis

Paradise Island, Bahamas

A top-selling resort, the five-star, 2,300-room Atlantis offers a magical getaway for families on Paradise Island. Comprised of three soaring towers on a white-sand beach, the Atlantis property boasts a 34-acre waterscape known as the world's largest outdoor aquarium. Kids will be drawn to its 11 exhibit lagoons with more than 250 species of sea animals (including barracudas and stingrays). There's also an underwater maze of rooms and corridors to explore, representing the 11,000-year-old "lost city" of Atlantis.

There are various ways for kids to make a splash here: snorkel in the seven-acre Paradise Lagoon, play in two freshwater children's pools, hop on a tube and ride the "lazy river," sail down one of five waterslides at the six-story "Mayan temple," or get drenched by a 320-gallon bucket of water at the Splashers water-play area.

The Atlantis Kids Club is a spot for daily fun and games for 3- to 12-year-olds, while Discovery Kids Adventure hosts educational expeditions and activities for youngsters ages 6 to 12. Other kid havens include the Gamer's Reef arcade and Club Rush, a disco and lounge for teens and preteens.

Although the resort is not all-inclusive, families can sample 18 different dining options, some with kid-friendly themes such the "circus" buffet at Seagrapes, complete with clowns, balloon artists and face painters, and the Lagoon Bar and Grill, where you can watch sharks swim by while you dine.

Beaches Turks and Caicos Resort and Spa

Providenciales, Turks and Caicos

Set on a 12-mile stretch of pristine beach in Providenciales, Turks and Caicos, Beaches Turks and Caicos Resort and Spa, a 453-room, all-inclusive resort, offers a well-rounded package of land and water delights for families. Children's activities are centered at Pirates Island, where there's a pool with two giant waterslides, a whirlpool, waterfalls and swim-up soda bar; a rain forest-themed game room; and a '50s-style diner serving burgers and root beer floats. At night, Pirates Island hosts a teen disco, and the Xbox Game Oasis also is here, where kids can challenge parents, siblings or friends in the latest video games.

For younger tykes, there's the Caribbean Adventure with Sesame Street, a program featuring life-size versions of the series' beloved characters. Activities include story time with Elmo, baking with Cookie Monster and nature walks with Grover, as well as Sunday movies and character breakfasts and parades.

Families can enjoy various activities together, such as windsurfing, sailing and snorkeling in the Caribbean, and beach volleyball, board games and billiards on land. Ten restaurants offer international options from Southwestern to sushi, and for a romantic evening, two are adults-only.

Club Med Punta Cana

Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Occupying a lengthy ribbon of pink sand in Punta Cana on the eastern tip of the Dominican Republic, the three-star, all-inclusive Club Med Punta Cana is designed to accommodate -- and entertain -- children of all ages.

The 519-room resort is home to The Ramp, an exclusive area for tweens and teens ages 11 and up. No adults are allowed at this beachfront hangout, where young guests are free to relax on a high-hanging mega-hammock, test their wits on the giant chessboard or play a game of table football. A telescope offers observations of the beach and beyond, and nonmotorized catamarans provide seagoing adventures. Creative activities include music video production, sound mixing and classes in cinema, theater and dance.

For the younger set, Mini Club Med offers a full schedule of athletic, playful and artful pursuits for children ages 4 to 10. Activities include tennis lessons, in-line skating and science experiments, all in a clubhouse surrounded by an outdoor "funscape" of slides, trains and dollhouses. Club Med's Baby Welcome program makes bringing infants on vacation an easy option, providing cribs, changing tables, baby bathtubs and bottle warmers in guest rooms upon request. The Baby Zone offers complimentary baby food and the use of strollers and toys.

Active families can master the flying trapeze together at the resort's "circus school" or practice their backhand on one of 14 tennis courts. Other offerings include dance classes, rollerblading, archery and sailing.

Two restaurants include an international buffet to appease picky eaters, and adult getaways include a beachside nightclub and cocktail lounge.

Rio Mar Beach Resort and Spa

Rio Grande, Puerto Rico

Near Puerto Rico's El Yunque National Rainforest in Rio Grande, the 600-room Rio Mar Beach Resort and Spa occupies 500 acres on the island's northeastern coast. A 5.5-star resort, it offers a bevy of activities for young travelers.

Open evenings Wednesday through Saturday, the Rio Mar X-Perience provides an exciting club atmosphere for guests ages 11 to 17. Part game room, part cafe, the teen headquarters features plasma TVs, karaoke machines, pool and pingpong tables, Xbox consoles and sports equipment. A "bar" offers smoothies, sodas, light snacks and other refreshments, while planned activities include rain forest hikes, river kayaking, horseback riding, water sports lessons and dance parties.

For children ages 4 to 12 there's Club Iguana. Daytime activities include sand castle building, iguana feeding, coconut painting, sack races and tug-of-war, while nighttime fare includes limbo contests, talent shows, bingo, aerobic dancing and musical chairs.

Adults also can play during the day at one of two 18-hole golf courses, a casino, a 13-court tennis center and the Mandara Spa.

The activity pool offers a spot for parents and children to hang out together, and there also are separate adult and kiddie pools. Outdoor activities and amenities include a playground, basketball and volleyball courts and a water sports center with equipment for snorkeling, kayaking and parasailing.

On-site restaurants include the family-friendly setting of Marbella and Tex-Mex with a Caribbean twist at pool side Club Coqui. This resort is not all-inclusive.

Almond Beach Village

St. Peter, Barbados

This 395-room enclave is set in St. Peter on the "Platinum Coast" of Barbados, known for its sparkling white sands and warm Caribbean waters. A former sugar plantation, the 32-acre all-inclusive Almond Beach Villiage hosts activities for kids from tots to teens: There's a full-service nursery for babies under 2, a "mini club" for children ages 2 to 4, and a Kids Club with programming for those ages 3 to 12. Activities include pool games, arts and crafts, beach cricket, "junior chef" classes and lessons in local dance, music and culture.

Teenagers aren't forgotten either, with movies, water sports and their own disco night. While the kids are at play, adults can indulge in a treatment or massage (for an extra cost) at the resort's spa or a late-night dinner for two.

A four-star resort, Almond Beach boasts 10 freshwater pools for the enjoyment of adults and kids alike, as well as included land and water sports, such as Hobie Cat sailing, water skiing, kayaking, squash and nine holes of golf. Parents can shape up at the fitness center with a West Indian dance or aquacise class, or use its cardio and weight machines. And in the evening, families can come together for a meal in one of four restaurants that offer a mix of relaxed family fare and formal dining.

The information in this story was accurate at the time it was published in March/April 2007 . Please visit Vacations To Go or call (800) 998-6925 for current rates and details.


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