From Aruba to USVI, we’ve handpicked five hotels we know deliver a family vacation to remember.
SETTING: The Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort and Casino (aruba.hyatt.com or hyatttravelagents.com), located in Palm Beach along a sugary white sand beach and shimmering Caribbean Sea, is a water playground with its tri-level, 8,000-sq.-ft. pool complex complete with water slide and a handful of waterfalls, as well as all the Red Sail Sports action offering sailing cruises, snorkeling, and diving, plus catamaran and deep-sea fishing charters. On dry land, meanwhile, families can enjoy the kids’ playground, the newly opened ZoiA Spa and karaoke on the pier, or, they can head offsite to explore the area’s Butterfly Farm, gold mines and caves, or take an ATV tour.
FAMILY-FRIENDLY ACCOMMODATIONS: Oceanview family suites.
KID FUN: Camp Hyatt Watapana offers programs for children 3-12 that focus on environmental
awareness and Aruba’s culture and geography. Activities include nature walks, Papiamento lessons, beach soccer, smoothie-making lessons, sea shell hunting, balloon contests and tennis.
EXTRAS: Babysitting services, a Babies Travel Lite program—diapers, formula, food and more delivered to the room—and a new “for kids by kids” menu featuring healthy foods.
BOOK IT: With the Family Plan, good thru Dec. 21, clients can save up to 50 percent on a second room for kids 18 years and under. Rack rates start at $595 during high season; at $335 during low season.
GETTING THERE: Queen Beatrix International Airport (AUA) in Oranjestad is served by American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Spirit and United from various cities in the U.S.
SETTING: Nestled amidst a coconut palm tree-lined white-sand beach and a coconut grove lagoon in the D.R.’s easternmost tip, the all-inclusive Club Med Punta Cana (clubmed.us or clubmedta.com) puts on quite a show for families with a bevy of activities—from archery and sailing to offsite cultural explorations and horseback riding. The resort features five pools, including one infinity pool, a spa, waterfront dining, and nightly entertainment.
FAMILY-FRIENDLY ACCOMMODATIONS: Oceanfront family suites—part of TIARA, the five trident luxury space within the resort; club family rooms and deluxe family rooms.
KID FUN: A chance to soar through the air on a flying trapeze…need we say more? Club Med really does offer up the quintessential kids’ clubs for ages 4 months to 17 years with a baby gym; playground activities; water splash park; cooking classes; Petit Tennis; and the Passworld teen hangout—with dancing lessons, video editing, DJ lessons and theater.
EXTRAS: Baby Welcome Program with high chairs; bottle warmers; bathtubs and more.
Nighttime Pyjama Club, during which kids are entertained while parents can enjoy a late dinner.
BOOK IT: There’s an early booking bonus with kids under 4 staying free starting in summer 2013 vacations; 7-night packages start at $799 pp. Book by Oct. 29 for travel April 27-Oct. 26, 2013.
GETTING THERE: The Punta Cana Airport (PUJ)—served by American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, JetBlue and US Airways—is a 10-minute drive from the resort.
SETTING: Touting itself as the Caribbean’s “most complete resort,” Casa de Campo (casadecampo.com.do or casadecampo.com.do/contact/travel-agents) in La Romana in southeastern D.R., is an idyllic 7,000-acre resort/community where every whim of a family looking for a high-style vacation is catered to. There are pottery workshops; sand sculpture contests and treasure hunts on Minitas Beach; merengue dance lessons; cave explorations; five-star dining at Beach Club by Le Cirque; horseback riding, donkey rides, polo lessons and donkey polo lessons at Polo & Equestrian Center; a spa; three Pete Dye golf courses (including famed Teeth of the Dog); family beach Olympics; a 370-slip Marina & Yacht Club; skeet/trap shooting at the 245-acre shooting center (for kids 12 and older); kayaking on Chavon River; and tennis lessons.
FAMILY-FRIENDLY ACCOMMODATIONS: Recommend the Villas.
KID FUN: In case kids don’t have enough things to do with all of the aforementioned, there’s an endless supply of action at the various kids’ programs. There are puppet shows, mural painting and playground time for the Toddlers’N Casa; water aerobics, kickball and relay races for Kidz’N Casa; kayak rides, body painting and taekwondo lessons for Casa Tweens; and for teens, there’s the Bonche4Teens Club with movies, music and other age-appropriate activities.
EXTRAS: The resort’s Nannies’N Casa provides childcare services, while the Kidz’ and Tweens Night Out allows parents to enjoy some alone time.
BOOK IT: The resort’s Festive Families package (with travel window Dec. 21 to Jan. 3) includes $250 resort credit for Elite hotel rooms (starting at $295 per night); $500 resort credit for Classic Villas (starting at $4,000 per night Dec. 20, 2012-Jan. 3, 2013); one child free with purchase of the Inclusive Supplement, which includes participation in kids’ clubs; and guaranteed connecting rooms. Maximum two children per booking (ages 12 and under); booking code HOL-FF.
GETTING THERE: La Romana International Airport (LRM) is five minutes from check-in and is serviced by American Airlines from Miami; helicopter service is available from Santo Domingo for those needing to transfer from D.R.’s capital.
SETTING: Embraced by a golden-sand beach, coconut palms and the Caribbean Sea, the AAA five-diamond Four Seasons Nevis (fourseasons.com/nevis) is heaven on Earth—families can go on an afternoon golf cart monkey spotting tour; hang out at the two family-friendly pools; go horseback riding; kayaking; play beach cricket; go tubing or even take a 2-day, 8-hour sailing class. Or they can spend a day at the beach while they make themselves at home in the 200-sq.-ft. beach house retreats, with special kids’ amenities such as sand castle tools, beach pail/bucket and toys plus snorkeling gear sized to fit for kids. There’s also the option of taking a catamaran day sail with picnicking and snorkeling at a secluded beach. Of course, there’s also golf, spa delights and herb hiking tours.
FAMILY-FRIENDLY ACCOMMODATIONS: Oceanview connecting rooms; 2- to 6-bedroom villas with private pools.
KID FUN: The Kids For All Seasons program for children 3 to 9 includes a variety of indoor and outdoor activities such as lizard hunts, beach Olympics, nature walks, crafts and vacation scrapbooks, treasure hunts, and Sea Turtle Camp (note that turtle sea nesting season on Nevis is June to October).
EXTRAS: A welcome amenity for the youngest guests; child-sized bathrobes; baby proofing of rooms; children’s menus in the restaurants and babysitting service.
BOOK IT: The resort offers a Stay Longer-Third Night Free promotion with every two consecutive paid nights. Starting rack rates for an oceanview room are $645 per room, per night.
GETTING THERE: American Airlines offers nonstop flights from JFK to St. Kitts Robert Llewellyn Bradshaw Airport (SKB) and daily flights from Miami. All guests are met by Four Seasons staff at the airport and transferred by private launch directly to the resort pier.
SETTING: Caneel Bay (rosewoodhotels.com/en/caneelbay) is nestled within the Virgin Islands National Park on St. John, with seven secluded beaches—including Scott, where the family can go turtle watching—all bordering 170 lush acres. The beauty is astounding, but what we love most about this resort is that there are no telephones or TVs in the individual guestrooms—how’s that for creating the perfect setting for quality family time. Because the resort is completely intertwined with nature, it’s not surprising to see donkeys, deer, mongoose and iguanas roaming the property. On site, families can enjoy kayaking, sailing, windsurfing, and paddle boarding, as well as play tennis, with new kid-sized courts, and they can go offsite to go exploring amidst the ruins of sugar mills and churches.
FAMILY-FRIENDLY ACCOMMODATIONS: Beachfront accommodations; rooms south of Cottage Point have been set aside for families with children 7 years of age and younger.
KID FUN: Rose Buds’ Turtle Town offers kids ages 3 to 12 an ideal way to explore the island as they identify new plants and animals and learn about the area’s ecosystem. Each day is a different theme, and children participate in pirate tales, make treasure maps and dance to Caribbean beats, and also get creative with arts and crafts. There’s also an artist in residence program that offers children’s art classes.
EXTRAS: Nannies and babysitting services; special items such as wireless baby monitors, in-room baby proofing, and changing tables.
BOOK IT: With the Greatest Generation Offer, you can book three rooms at full published rates (rates from Nov.1-Dec. 14 start at $450 per night) and receive a fourth room in same room category on a complimentary basis (or the lowest priced category where multiple categories are booked). This offer, available through Dec. 20, 2012, is valid when three generations of one family book and the eldest generation will then receive a complimentary room; additional charge for third person in room.
GETTING THERE: Flights are available to Cyril E. King Airport (STT) on St. Thomas via American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and others, and transportation to the resort is offered via ferry.