At first blush you may not think that a trip to the Caribbean is the ideal place to take a family vacation but it’s actually a wonderful place because there is so much to do that appeals to everyone.
Your first decisions when planning a family trip to the Caribbean should be which island is right for you and your family. The islands are similar in that they’re surrounded by pristine ocean waters that offer a number of activities but they’re also each a little different and unique in their own way. But before we break down each island and what it has to offer for families let’s take a practical look at things and accept that traveling with a family can be difficult and long flights aren’t fun so finding one of the more popular islands that have direct flights is probably something you want to take into consideration. Your best bets are probably Jamaica, Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The island of Jamaica is about 146 miles long and 51 miles across at its widest point. It’s the third largest island in the Caribbean and a very popular destination for family vacations. The beaches are the sparkling jewels of Jamaica with its famed Seven Mile Beach in Negril leading the must visit beach destination lists. A lot of all inclusive vacations for families have cropped up in Jamaica, which is one reason this island is so popular. Two of the more popular hotels with loads of family options on Jamaica are Franklyn D Resort and FDR Pebbles. These smaller hotels feature an array of water activities for guests, a kids club, activities directed specifically at the hard to please teens and a personal nanny for each family for the duration of their visit. Could it get any better than that?
Puerto Rico is smaller than most people imagine, its only 110 miles long and 35 miles wide at the widest point but this small country has such a strong and sweeping culture that it’s a perfect destination for families looking to learn and explore this new culture with all of its influences including Spanish, African, Taino Indian and some American influences as well. Old San Juan is one of the oldest cities in the western hemisphere and the El Morro fortress with its hidden passages is an instant hit with all of its visitors. For a look past the culture and at the magnificent natural influences, El Yunque rainforest is a stunning revelation in Mother Nature’s awesome glory. Relaxing on the beach in Puerto Rico can also be turned into an interesting learning experience with just the right conditions for snorkeling for all ages and skill levels. And the wonder in your eyes will only be surpassed by that of your children at the Vieques Bioluminescent Bay. Take a nighttime swim or tour in this spectacular bay where microorganisms create a beautiful flow when disturbed. It’s a sight no one will ever forget.
The Bahamas has already earned a reputation as a wonderful place for families and it’s a well deserved reputation. A family oriented cruise is a great way to get to and from the Bahamas and many of the shore excursions give you some of the highlights of the island but the ultimate Bahamas vacation really includes a stay at Atlantis. This water themed resort hotel is so incredible it almost has to be seen to be believed. It’s a vacation in itself and offers little reason to leave and explore the rest of the island. There is Dolphin Cay which offers interactive encounters with dolphins and sea lions. A complete water park where you can actually zip through a shark enclosure or just lay back and enjoy the many pools. Water adventures let you explore snorkeling, scuba, snuba, shark adventures and some of the local beaches. And for nightlife there are a number of club options and entertainment. If you do feel like leaving the resort there are a large number of exciting activities that can be explored by all family members in the rest of the island.
The Dominican Republic is part of the second largest island in the Caribbean, it shares the island with Haiti but the two countries are vastly different. The Dominican Republic is largely stable with a government that has lasted for decades, the residents of the Dominican Republic tend to have financial stability and live in comfort while Haiti is quite impoverished and after the recent earthquake of 2010 the country is quite devastated. The Dominican Republic was originally claimed as a Spanish colony in 1492 by Christopher Columbus and it’s still mainly a Spanish speaking country with a combination of French and Spanish influences. The beaches are the country’s biggest draw to vacationers. There are some choppier seas on the North Coast which are actually perfect for surfing, windsurfing, boogie boarding and other activities which may appeal to older children. There are some historical venues worth visiting, the capital, Santo Domingo, is the oldest European settlement in the New World and offers a glimpse into the past and this country’s unique ancient history.
The U.S. Virgin Islands were settled by Ciboney, Carib and Arawaks but when Christopher Columbus found the place in 1493 he named it for Saint Ursula and her virgin followers. After this the country has bounced from different countries claiming ownership including Spain, United Kingdom, Netherlands, France, Denmark, Norway and the United States. The United States took possession in 1917 and citizenship was giving to the inhabitants in 1927. There are a series of islands that make up the Virgin Islands and all of them offer incredible white sandy beaches, snorkeling, national parks to explore alone or on a group tour, colonial towns fully of history, duty free shopping and unique experiences.
Whichever island in the Caribbean seems best suited to your family’s tastes and needs you’ll discover that there is way much more to see and do than listed above. The Caribbean is chock full of fabulous activities for families and will leave a lasting impression as one of the best family vacations you’ve ever taken.
photo credit: Flickr/ pennuja