10 Tropical Resorts for All Ages
These beach getaways boast abundant activities to please everyone in the family
By Michelle White
Atlantis Paradise Island
The following 10 tropical resorts feature abundant amenities to captivate adults and kids alike, and everything you could want in a fun family getaway is conveniently located on site. Each property has kid-friendly amenities and activities, as well as an array of dining options to please the pickiest eaters. Parents can enjoy such grown-up offerings as spa treatments, golf, scuba diving and romantic candlelight dinners (many resorts offer evening baby-sitting services, usually for an additional fee).
Nine of the resorts are all-inclusive, with accommodations, meals and drinks, taxes and gratuities, entertainment, and many land and water sports covered in a flat rate that you pay upfront. With all-inclusives, you'll know how much you'll be spending for your vacation, making them easy to budget.
Here are our favorite family resorts in the Caribbean, Bahamas, Mexico and Florida.
Runaway Bay, Jamaica
Nestled between peaceful mountains and the Caribbean Sea in Runaway Bay, the 3.5-star, all-inclusive FDR Pebbles boasts a staff-to-guest ratio of 1-to-1 and upholds environmentally friendly family adventure. Guests stay in well-appointed suites stretched along a 600-foot beach.
Upon arrival, families with small children are assigned a "vacation nanny," freeing parents during the day (with continued service available in the evening at a nominal cost). Children will find hours of fun at the Yellow Bird Kids' Club, full of educational computer games, a library, countless toys, and arts and crafts. Excursions for kids include bicycle trips, shell collecting, boat rides, picnics and adventure tours. Teens have their own club with various activities, designated hours at the family disco, game rooms, overnight camping at a supervised site, beach bonfires and a variety of land and water sports.
Adults can take advantage of the fitness center, Olympic-size pool and swim-up bar, myriad land and water sports including one of Jamaica's best-rated scuba programs, and nightly dancing and live entertainment at the piano bar. Three restaurants, all by the sea, offer wide-ranging palate-pleasers as well as Jamaican jerk chicken and other local specialties.
Franklyn D. Resort
Runaway Bay, Jamaica
Among tropical gardens and a white-sand beach stands the four-star boutique Franklyn D. Resort, known as FDR. The sister resort to FDR Pebbles, it features low-rise, Tuscan-style architecture, and every suite has a large balcony or a garden terrace. Upon arrival, families will be assigned a highly trained nanny. With the nanny caring for children during the day (and evenings, for a fee), parents can relax knowing their children are safe and having fun.
Children ages 2 to 11 have their own club activities, with arts and crafts, shell hunts on the beach, swimming lessons, talent contests and educational programs that focus on the Caribbean. Teens can take advantage of many supervised daily activities including bicycle tours, beach volleyball, fashion shows and treasure hunts. An extensive game room, computer center, family disco and water sports round out the amenities. One free scuba lesson for beginners or one daily dive for certified divers is included in FDR's all-inclusive rates.
After a full day of activities, visit the piano bar or enjoy a meal at one of three sumptuous seaside restaurants.
Sunset Beach Resort and Spa
Montego Bay, Jamaica
Surrounded by gorgeous white-sand beaches on its own private peninsula, the all-inclusive, 3.5-star Sunset Beach Resort and Spa offers both proximity to bustling Montego Bay and the seclusion of an island retreat. Most of the 430 rooms and suites feature private balconies with views of the Caribbean or the bay.
Kids will find endless fun in the sun at Pirate's Paradise Water Park, with large waterslides, a lazy river, fort and pirate ship for ages 2 to 12. Kids will also be at home at Club Mongoose, where older children can kick back in a huge Jacuzzi. Teenagers have pool tables, video and arcade games and nonstop reggae music at the Pirate's Cove Teen Center. Parents can hit the gym or tennis courts in the morning, take a Jamaican cooking course or partake in English teatime during the afternoon, and enjoy nightly beach parties, fashion shows and dancing at the Galaxy disco. Numerous nonmotorized water sports are also available.
Once you've worked up an appetite, head to Sunset Beach's restaurants and bars, with choices from buffets to international cuisine, and swim-up bars to English pubs.
Beaches Boscobel Resort and Golf Club
Ocho Rios, Jamaica
The five-star Beaches Boscobel Resort and Golf Club in Ocho Rios is Jamaica's only all-inclusive resort with golf for kids. Boasting free kids' clinics on the greens, a variety of sports, azure waters, and irresistible sunshine warming the white sands, Beaches Boscobel provides a slice of paradise everywhere you turn.
Accommodations range from spacious mountain-view rooms to luxurious family suites with private patios, panoramic views of the sparkling Caribbean and butler service. Kids can capitalize on colossal waterslides, Sesame Street-themed activities programs, a petting zoo, Xbox game center, teen disco and much more. Parents can rest easy -- and indulge in their own quality time -- knowing their children are in good hands at the Kid's Kamp, staffed by U.S.-certified, university-trained counselors.
Scuba diving is among the vast array of water sports included in the "Ultra-All-Inclusive Difference" at Beaches, while fun on land includes free greens fees and transportation to the nearby 18-hole Sandals Golf and Country Club. A swim-up bar and five specialty restaurants, including an elegant adults-only restaurant, round out the enticing options.
Melia Caribe Tropical
Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
Built on a lush, 500,000-square-meter complex in Punta Cana, the five-star Melia Caribe Tropical provides guests with a scenic oasis. This all-inclusive property offers 1,044 junior suites in two-story bungalows, while families seeking more amenities can reside in 144 "royal service" one-bedroom and master suites. High-end golf suites are located along the 27th hole of the adjacent golf course.
The Baby Club for children ages 4 months to 4 years and the Kids Club for ages 5 to 12 provide games, sports, crafts and excursions with a Flintstones theme. Baby-sitting services are available for an extra cost. Teenagers can play arcade and video games, while those looking for more action can explore the resort's eight tennis courts, seven pools or the white sands and crystal waters of Bavaro Beach. Sauna and gym facilities, some greens fees for golfers and nonmotorized water sports are included, though spa treatments, golf carts and equipment, and snorkeling and diving come at additional charges.
Adult diversions include a casino, nine bars and two live shows every night. Guests of all ages can sample cuisines from around the world at 11 restaurants.
Beaches Turks and Caicos Resort and Spa
Providenciales, Turks and Caicos
Set along 12 miles of impeccable seashoreon the tiny island of Providenciales, the 5.5-star Beaches Turks and Caicos Resort and Spa blends Caribbean charm with Old World elegance. Exquisite formal gardens, Parisian-style architecture and sidewalk bistros grace the French Village, where accommodations range from rooms overlooking the pool to three-bedroom suites with ocean views. Guests in penthouse suites have vistas of the grounds, pools and ocean from wraparound balconies and enjoy exclusive butler service.
Little ones at this all-inclusive resort will be well taken care of by U.S.-certified, university-trained experts. Pirate's Island offers kids a huge waterslide, kids-only pool with a swim-up soda bar, jungle-themed video game room, 1950s-style diner, teen disco, movie theater and more.
Parents can take advantage of the included scuba diving in one of the world's best diving destinations or choose from numerous other water and land sports. Nighttime brings even more options, as Beaches boasts 10 restaurants, six bars, late-night seafood and martini specials, and an open-air amphitheater for entertainment under the stars.
Crown Paradise Club Puerto Vallarta
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
The four-star Crown Paradise Club Puerto Vallarta in Puerto Vallarta sits upon a sun-drenched beach and faces sparkling Banderas Bay. The all-inclusive property has 31 family rooms with mountain views, private balconies and special kids' areas.
Child-care professionals entertain infants and toddlers with games, exercises and workshops at Baby Paradise, an included service day and evening. At Kids Paradise, activities include arts and crafts, sports, dancing, treasure hunts and sand castle-building contests. For kids up to age 12, the Aquapark features a pirate ship and a castle with nine waterslides. Teens can explore a variety of land and nonmotorized water sports.
Parents can indulge in sunset libations at the Club Caribe Jacuzzi and Bar, catch a different stage show every night at Club Nitro, and for an extra cost, be pampered at the spa. The resort boasts five bars, while three fine dining restaurants, an international buffet and a beachside snack bar satisfy a variety of cravings.
Moon Palace Golf and Spa Resort
Situated between deep green foliage and dazzling white sands in Cancun, the five-star Moon Palace Golf and Spa Resort typifies tropical paradise. Most of the resort's 2,103 rooms feature ocean views, and all boast private balconies, marble bathrooms and double Jacuzzis. Golf suites provide views of the Jack Nicklaus signature course.
Families can go back and forth between the tranquil beach and two sprawling lagoon-style pools, with Jacuzzis, swim-up bars and children's areas. Vacationers ages 4 to 12 will have a blast at the on-site kids club, with preplanned activities such as creating piñatas, making cookies and playing pool games and various sports. Full fitness centers, nonmotorized water sports, a disco, lounge and nightly shows or theme parties are among the amenities at this all-inclusive resort. For an additional cost, indulge in spa treatments or enjoy a round of golf. Moon Palace guests can savor some of Mexico's best cuisine and decadent drinks at 12 restaurants and nine bars.
Atlantis Paradise Island
Paradise Island, Bahamas
With 34 acres on Paradise Island, 11 lagoons and some 50,000 sea creatures comprising more than 250 species, the five-star Atlantis Paradise Island is home to the world's largest open-air marine habitat. The singular waterscape and bountiful amenities make Atlantis a unique resort.
Guests can choose from a variety of accommodations, but the centrally located Coral Towers are recommended for families. In-room baby-sitting is available throughout the resort. The Atlantis Kids Club offers games, Bahamian arts and crafts, and even microscopes to study marine life. Hourly sessions to full-day experiences are available on Discovery Kids Adventures, where young guests can decode hieroglyphs, feed fish and swim in protected lagoons. For preteens and teenagers, Club Rush offers video games, movies and dancing.
Atlantis guests can arrange a helicopter tour of Paradise Island, dive into youth scuba and snorkeling programs, or tee off at the Ocean Club Golf Course. There are also multiple pools, a spa, pottery studio, library and shopping venues. On-site entertainment includes a comedy club, theater, nightclub and the expansive Atlantis Casino. Dining is no less varied, with an array of gourmet, casual and buffet restaurants, as well as bars and lounges. Atlantis is not all-inclusive, but travelers with children can take advantage of family-value meal pricing or flat-rate dining plans.
Club Med Sandpiper
Port St. Lucie, Florida
The three-star Sandpiper in Port St. Lucie is Club Med's only all-inclusive U.S. village open year-round. Rooms and suites offer views of lush gardens or the St. Lucie River. Children's programs feature safe, educational sports and leisure activities tailored to specific age groups. Baby Club Med (4 to 23 months) and Petit Club Med (2 to 3 years) come at an additional charge and provide engaging activities in stimulating environments. Mini Club Med (4 to 10 years) and Junior Club Med (11 to 17 years) are included and offer activities such as sports, games, science programs, arts and crafts, multilingual sing-alongs and dancing.
Parents can laze away the afternoon in sparkling pools. For an additional cost, hit the links or embark upon a deep-sea fishing expedition. Cultural and adventure tours explore nearby Palm Beach, Miami, Disney World and the mangrove stands of the St. Lucie River. The resort's restaurants and bars span the spectrum of dining, including unique lunch options from "wellness," "exotic," "energy" and "indulgence" menus.
Information: For more information on these and other terrific family-friendly resorts, visit Vacations To Go or call (800) 998-6925.
The information in this story was accurate at the time it was published in March/April 2006 . Please visit Vacations To Go or call (800) 998-6925 for current rates and details.