5 Kid-Friendly Beach Resorts
These all-inclusive options cater to young guests
while keeping you within budget
By Michelle Chumbley
Thomas Hart Shelby/Hilton Rose Hall Resort and Spa
The following five tropical spots in the Caribbean, Mexico and Costa Rica offer child-friendly amenities like water parks, game centers and kids' clubs, and a couple even feature favorite TV characters. Adults will enjoy the swim-up bars, full-service spas, golf courses and nightly entertainment. Most have suites designed to accommodate large broods and a variety of restaurants that offer diverse dining styles, from beachside snack stations to sophisticated settings.
The best part: All of the fun is rounded up in one price that includes accommodations, meals and drinks, land and water sports, entertainment and kids' programs.
For more information on these and other family-friendly hotels, contact Vacations to Go online or call (800) 998-6925.
Beaches Turks and Caicos
Turks and Caicos
Clear water and 12 miles of white-sand shoreline set the scene at Beaches Turks and Caicos Resort Villages and Spa. It's on the island of Providenciales in the Turks and Caicos, a British territory that lies southeast of the Bahamas. Guests choose to stay in one of four charming sections with Italian, French, Caribbean and Key West themes. One- to four-bedroom lodging is available to accommodate every clan, and family suites in the Italian Village add special touches like bunk beds and game consoles.
Kids can spend their vacation with Elmo, Big Bird and Cookie Monster. "Sesame Street" characters sing and dance in a show, lead a lively weekly parade and participate in themed activities. For an additional fee, families can book a photo session or breakfast with their favorite personalities or have a Sesame Street friend read a bedtime story.
Supervised care is available at Kids Camp, which includes an infant program for the tiniest guests. Toddlers go on treasure hunts, build sandcastles and play dress-up, while older kids make pizza, have snorkeling adventures and participate in reggae jam sessions. Teens can join others their age in water sports and tennis clinics or head inside to the Xbox Play Lounge.
The whole family will enjoy the slides, surf simulator, "lazy river" and water cannons at the 45,000-square-foot Pirates Island Waterpark. An ice cream machine and swim-up soda bar add kid appeal.
After working up an appetite, sit down for a meal at one of 18 eateries that range from a colorful diner with burgers and fries to a Tuscan-style restaurant with a medieval-themed children's area.
Melia Caribe Tropical
Young beachgoers can say "yabba dabba doo" when they spot Fred Flintstone at Melia Caribe Tropical. Nestled on Bavaro Beach in Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic, which occupies the eastern two-thirds of the Caribbean isle of Hispaniola, the resort brings the Stone Age to the modern age with a Flintstones adventure park that features a zip line, rock climbing wall and trampolines. Family suites are not prehistoric, though: Kiddie comforts include a PlayStation, bubble bath and tub toy.
Tots will enjoy educational games, art and puzzles in the Baby Rock Club (ages 8 months to 4 years old). The Bamm-Bamm Club (ages 5 to 8) presents diversions like T-shirt painting, water polo and a mini Flintstones disco, while the older set (ages 9 to 14) plays pool games and sports with the Cool Club.
Game rooms, 10 pools, canoes and weekly theme parties provide plenty of family-friendly fun. Baby-sitting service is available for an extra fee when parents want to participate in a cocktail mixology workshop or enjoy the casino, Yhi Spa or evening shows.
The family can dine with Dino at Betty's Kitchen or check out a dozen other buffet and a la carte restaurants with Italian, Thai, Tex-Mex, Dominican, Mediterranean and French menus.
Azul Fives Hotel
Lush vegetation surrounds Azul Fives, just outside Playa del Carmen on Mexico's Yucatan coast, and an inviting pool runs alongside the scattered buildings. One- to three-bedroom units accommodate every family size; for a special upgrade, consider a third-floor penthouse suite with a rooftop living space that boasts an elevated whirlpool tub, lounge area, grill and magnificent views of Caribbean waters.
Parents can pack light when bringing their little ones. The resort offers freshly pureed food, strollers, playpens, bottle warmers and sterilizers, baby monitors and even miniature plush robes. Kids 5 and under can join a playgroup at Azulitos Play House or borrow their favorite Fisher-Price games through the toy-lending program. The older bunch might participate in daily beach games, splash around in their own pool and visit the arts and crafts room.
Teens have their own space in the Breeze Club, which includes a dance area and virtual DJ, movie screens, a social media spot, a nonalcoholic drink bar and an outdoor fire pit. Adults learn the local flavor with salsa dance lessons and cooking classes or relax with a beachside massage.
Restaurants on the property provide menus with Mexican and international influences. Floor-to-ceiling glass windows frame verdant jungle views at the family-friendly Flavours, where breakfast dishes include comfort foods like waffles and French toast and Mexican specialties like chilaquiles verdes (crispy tortilla strips cooked with chicken and green salsa) and cochinita pibil (pork slow roasted in banana leaves).
The Westin Golf Resort and Spa, Playa Conchal
Westin Playa Conchal sits on 2,400 acres on Costa Rica's Pacific coast, in the northern Guanacaste province, surrounded by the spectacular landscapes of several national parks. When booking a family junior suite, guests enjoy special perks like private check-in, a dedicated concierge, access to the Family Club Lounge and a welcome package for the kids. Suites come equipped with pint-size bathrobes and slippers and a minibar stocked with child-appropriate snacks and drinks.
At the Westin Kids Club, youngsters ages 4 to 12 play video and board games, watch movies, make arts and crafts and enjoy an outdoor amusement area with swings and slides. A recreation team organizes outings and educational activities for the group like beach trips, Spanish lessons and eco-hikes to look for flora and fauna.
Parents can drop off their kids and then play a round at the 18-hole golf course, get a couples massage or relax in the Jacuzzi. Two dining options by the lagoon-style pool cater to families -- Caracola offers Latin fare and the Spirula Pizza Bar serves up slices from the wood-fired oven. Five other restaurants include Asian fusion, Italian and Mediterranean cuisines.
Hilton Rose Hall Resort and Spa
Conveniently located just 8 miles from Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay, Hilton Rose Hall Resort and Spa sits on 400 acres between Jamaica's green peaks and the aquamarine waves of the Caribbean Sea. The property once was an 18th-century sugar plantation but now holds 489 rooms with private balconies, a championship golf course and a wellness spa that incorporates island elements.
In the supervised Kidz Klub, young vacationers learn pirate lingo, make and fly a kite, build a superhero costume, take reggae dance lessons and much more. For 13- to 17-year-olds, the Teen Zone provides a place to chill out on beanbags and play games on a Wii, PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360. At the on-site Sugar Mill Falls Water Park, one of the largest in the Caribbean, guests can plunge down a 280-foot slide, relax on the lazy river or venture through the jungle garden children's area. Live music and daily family games round out the water fun.
Mangoes, a casual poolside diner, offers sloppy joes, hot dogs and grilled cheese sandwiches, while other restaurants in the resort have children's menus with special versions of their cuisine, like pizza Napoletana at the Italian eatery and small fillets of beef at a fine dining establishment.
The information in this story was accurate at the time it was published in March/April 2014. Please visit Vacations To Go or call (800) 998-6925 for current rates and details.