Taking the kids on their first-ever boat ride, building sandcastles, wandering rainforest trails or meeting local children – it’s simple adventures like these that make the Caribbean such a great region for families, with islands offering attractions and facilities to cater from tinies to teenagers.
Best Regions for Kids
Plenty of family-friendly resorts with great beaches and soft waves, with lots of organised activities and water sports.
Head to the south and west for the best beaches and resorts; the east-coast surf is too powerful for novice swimmers of any age.
- Cayman Islands
Seven Mile Beach is ideal for families, as it's lined with resorts offering child-friendly activities, and the water is calm.
- Puerto Rico
An island hosting brilliant resorts, while its old colonial forts and historic parks bring out the inner pirate.
- US Virgin Islands
The islands offer a mix of kid-friendly beaches, shallow water, minimal waves and water-sports centres, plus a host of old cannon-clad forts.
Caribbean Islands for Kids
The Caribbean isn’t just a huge playground for adults, it’s one for kids too. Like any playground some parts are more fun than others. Islands dedicated to adult pursuits, such as diving or hiking, might leave little ones out of the action, but plenty more islands have myriad activities for children. Islands with large beach resorts may seem positively designed for kids – at least to the younger mind.
Best Islands for Kids
The following islands all offer something for children. Kids will never want to leave islands rated 1, while those rated 2 have some interesting diversions.
|Antigua & Barbuda||2||Good beaches for playing plus several fun activities: Antigua Rainforest Zip Line Tours, Antigua Donkey Sanctuary|
|Aruba||1||Large resorts with kids activities, excellent beaches, mostly calm seas & lots of adventure activities, including water sports|
|The Bahamas||1||Grand Bahama is clean & easy to get around, but the Abacos is laid-back, with endless beaches, reefs & activities by the bucketload|
|Barbados||2||Lots of family-friendly beaches in the south & west, & popular surfing lessons for kids, but few large resorts with kids programs|
|Bonaire||2||Good for older kids who want to learn how to dive & windsurf, but limited beaches|
|British Virgin Islands||2||Many islands have no special kiddie allure but at the Bitter End Yacht Club & Resort, on Virgin Gorda, youngsters learn to sail, windsurf, kayak & more|
|Cayman Islands||1||Seven Mile Beach is great for families; large resorts have kids programs; Stingray City is always a hit, as is spotting sea stars at Starfish Point, snorkeling with sea turtles at Spotts Beach & exploring Crystal Caves|
|Dominican Republic||2||The resorts of Punta Cana & Bávaro cater to kids, who can make friends with other young holidaymakers from around the world|
|Jamaica||2||Montego Bay & Ocho Rios have resorts good for families, but some resorts are aimed at adults-only partying. Dunn's River Falls is the stand-out family-friendly attraction|
|Puerto Rico||1||Old San Juan has resorts nearby that are good for kids; top attractions include the Museo del Niño de Carolina, amazing forts with pirate history & the Observatorio de Arecibo; Playa Flamenco in Culebra is one of the world’s best beaches & has lifeguards|
|St Lucia||2||Many resorts cater to families, plus there are lots of kid-friendly activities, such as zip-lining, hiking & horseback riding|
|St-Barthélemy||2||Water sports galore & gourmet children's menus|
|US Virgin Islands||1||One of the best destinations for kids; Highlights are abundant & include resort fun, tourist towns with child-friendly allure on all three islands, lifeguard-patrolled Magens Bay beach, & Maho Bay’s sea turtles|
- Antigua Rainforest Zip Line Tours Make like mini Tarzans and Janes while roaring on a wire through the treetops.
- Dunn's River Falls, Jamaica Popular child-friendly attraction that has you swimming and climbing up a series of beautiful waterfalls.
- Tanamá River Adventures, Puerto Rico Tubing and rapelling through caves on family-designed tours.
- Faro y Parque Histórico de Arecibo, Puerto Rico Capture young imaginations at this pirate-themed historical amusement park.
- Pirates of Nassau museum, Bahamas Explore a full-scale replica pirate ship at this brilliant interactive museum.
- Pirates Week, Grand Cayman Mock pirate invasions and more keep scurvy dogs entertained in this popular festival.
Where to Stay
Resorts offer scores of kid-friendly amenities, but some families prefer staying in simpler places closer to island life. Before booking any lodging, ask for details to assess its appropriateness. For example:
- Does it welcome kids or accept them grudgingly?
- If it’s a resort, what sort of kids activities does it offer?
- Does the room have a DVD player and wi-fi?
- Is there a kitchen or at least a refrigerator, so you can avoid the expense of always eating out?
- Are there safe places where kids can play?
- Even if the beach is nearby, is it across a heavily trafficked street?
- Does it provide cribs, change tables and other baby supplies?
- Does it offer on-site babysitting?
To help kids acclimatize to the Caribbean heat, take it easy at first and make sure they drink plenty of water. Children should wear a high-protection sunscreen and cover up whenever they’re outside to avoid sunburn and heatstroke.
Bring insect repellent formulated for children and whatever medication you normally use to treat insect bites.
What to Pack
Be prepared for lots of time in the sun and sea. Most lodgings provide beach towels, chairs and umbrellas. You can buy sand pails, snorkel masks and anything else you forget at beach shops in resort areas. Elsewhere you’ll need to bring what you want in the diversions department. Bring the following:
- snorkel gear (especially masks) that you’ve tested for leaks and proper fit
- water wings and other flotation devices
- pails and shovels
- sturdy reef shoes
- underwater camera
- car seat if driving a lot.
Need to Know
- Changing facilities, cots, high chairs, kids' menus and all the other niceties of family travel are best found at large international resorts. Look for ones with kids' clubs and the like.
- The larger islands will have complete health facilities. They will also have large supermarkets with diapers, familiar treats from home etc.