Family Fun in the Sun on a Caribbean Vacation

Here are some of the family-friendly places and activities you should visit during your next Caribbean vacation.

All-Inclusive Resorts that Label Themselves as Kid-Friendly
These are generally packed with families and children because they are perceived as a hassle-free way to have some fun in the sun. An all-inclusive resort will quote you a fee that will theoretically cover all of your lodging, activities, dining and entertainment. Some resorts stick to this ideal better than others, but if you shop carefully, you shouldn't have too many surprise charges on your tab at checkout time.

The most family-friendly all-inclusive resorts allow children year-round, have special kids' activities or even day camps for children of all ages, have pools and waterslides just for kids and have special food selections that can be custom-tailored to kids' preferences or dietary requirements. Most will offer relatively affordable in-room babysitting as well.

Popular kid-friendly, all-inclusive Caribbean resorts include Beaches Turqs and Caicos and the Franklyn D. Resort in Jamaica.

What Could Be More Fun than Water that Glows in the Dark?
Bioluminescent bays, such as the ones at Isla de Vieques, Puerto Rico, Andros Island, Bahamas, and Luminous Lagoon, Jamaica, are great fun to boat or swim in at night. The light is produced by microscopic sea creatures called dinoflagellates that glow (similar to the way fireflies glow) when the water they are in is disturbed. The water in bioluminescent bays lights up when something relatively large, such as a fish, a boat or a swimmer, moves through it and makes the moving object look like it is coated in glowing fairy dust. Obviously, kids and adults alike will be fascinated by these "glow in the dark" bays.

Additional Puerto Rico activities that the whole family can enjoy include touring the forts, castles and other structures of old San Juan and playing on the white sands and in the gentle waters of the Luquillo beach.

Puerto Rico doesn't have nearly as many all-inclusive resorts as some other Caribbean destinations, so families tend to stay in the plentiful Hyatts, Hiltons and Marriotts on the island.

As an added bonus, passports are not required for US citizens traveling to Puerto Rico, since it is a Commonweath Territory of the United States.

Tropical Encounters with Nature
It's no secret that most kids love animals, and the Caribbean is flush with opportunities for them to have animal encounters that are beyond their wildest dreams in controlled settings that will help to put parents' minds at ease. There are too many interactive dolphin-, stingray- and shark-encounter programs in the Caribbean to count. Suffice it to say that almost any popular destination will have one and that advance reservations are always a good idea, considering the popularity of these activities.

Adventurous parents may enjoy taking their children on hikes in the many parks that dot Caribbean isles. The Caribbean boasts an abundance of rainforests, canyons and waterfalls that are populated with colorful birds, butterflies and other creatures which are a real treat for outdoorsy families to see.

Lost City no More
Atlantis is a super kid-friendly destination mega-resort on Paradise Island, Bahamas. It has a casino, a conference center, a golf course, a marina, several hotels and an extensive array of activities for children from ages 3 to 17. Infants and young toddlers aren't left out either: Atlantis has more than 100 certified babysitters on site, all of them trained in CPR and in Atlantis Resort's Gentle Travel methods, which were developed in partnership with Johnson's (of baby shampoo fame) to help infants adjust well to the new experience of travel. To top it off, Atlantis has a high-speed, 24-hour room service hotline that parents of infants can call to have items such as bottle warmers, extra crib sheets and baby bathtubs delivered to their rooms within minutes of their call.

Meanwhile, children and teens can enjoy the many pools (two of them just for small children), playgrounds, waterslides, video arcades, nature and other camp-like activities, 'tween and teen nightclubs and youth-focused dining options that Atlantis offers.

Ride the Waves
Snorkeling, sailing and other water activities are available at every coastal Caribbean destination. Some resorts, such as the Bitter End Yacht Club on Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands, have a youth watersports camp that teaches sailing, snorkeling, windsurfing and other watersport skills to children who are about six or seven years of age (depending on their swimming skills) or older.

Younger children often have more fun and a higher comfort level practicing their snorkeling and swimming skills in a swimming pool rather than in open water, although some parents have reported that their four- or five-year-olds were so eager to see the colorful Caribbean fish up-close that they were able to set aside their fears and snorkel quite well. However, it's a good idea for your little ones to be well-equipped with personal floatation devices (life jackets) when they are snorkeling or swimming in open water.

The Caribbean is a beautiful and fun-filled place that has plenty of accommodations and activities that are suitable for the whole family. So next time you crave some fun in the sun, go ahead and bring the kids along.

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