Planning a tropical family vacation can come with challenges — particularly finding a hotel that will keep kids and teens entertained while providing adults with opportunities for some fun of their own. To make your search easier, we visited nearly one thousand hotels throughout the Caribbean in person to find the ones with the best pools, rooms, beaches, and kid-friendly activities and dining options. From Aruba and Antigua to St. Lucia and Turks and Caicos, here are the best resorts for families in the Caribbean.
With 1,790 rooms, 13 pools, 13 restaurants, and the Dominican Republic’s largest casino, “huge” doesn’t begin to describe the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Punta Cana. But the Hard Rock isn’t all about size -- the massive luxury property also happens to be one of the nicest all-inclusives in Punta Cana. And despite its party-oriented rock-n-roll theme, the Hard Rock has a lot of nice amenities for families with kids. The Little Big Club, the Hard Rock’s on-site kids' club, has toys and a schedule of live shows and daily activities (things like Spanish lessons, face painting, and cooking classes). For older kids, the arcade room is right next door to the kids' club. Other amenities include a large children’s pool, which features two waterslides and a lazy river, a mini-golf course, and a 16-foot rock-climbing wall.
Designed for families with kids and teens, Beaches Negril Resort & Spa is a beautiful property with a wide variety of activities, classes, and events. With a water park, kids' camp, teen hangouts and specialty activities, children have plenty to keep them busy, and adults can enjoy the spa or candlelit dining for two. Contemporary rooms have ocean views and the biggest one sleeps up to 12 people. The location, right on Negril’s Seven Mile Beach, puts the resort a short drive away from the town center and a number of shops, boutiques, and craft markets, as well as restaurants and bars. Since the majority of guests are families, the resort can get noisy, but the hotel is so large that it's possible to find quiet.
In addition to one of the most expansive pools in the D.R., Dreams offers extensive child- and teen-oriented amenities. The Explorers' club offers a full schedule of activities for young children, such as nature tours and "Looking for Shells and Snails." The kids' club has large indoor and outdoor play areas and also offers childcare. For teens, the resort staff hosts organized sporting events, and there's even a "teen disco" at night. There's also an active lifeguard on duty on the beach.
With six pools, a sprawling water park, a shopping center, a spa complex, and more restaurants than you can shake a breadstick at, the family-friendly Beaches is clearly the Turks and Caicos resort with the most features. But many of the rooms could use an update and the romance factor is virtually non-existent. Still, an all-inclusive resort with this many amenities is enticing -- unless it's peace and quiet you’re after.
With the "Lazy River "-- a long, slow-flowing pool that carries half-dozing rafters from one side of the property to the other -- ping pong tables by the pool, and a Nintendo Wii Lounge for 12- to 17-year-olds, the Marriott Surf Club has "family-style" figured out. At the Natural Pool, screeching kids wearing floaties shoot down the on-site waterslide again and again.
This modern, luxurious condo-hotel with nearly 500 residential-style units is located on the far edge of the enormous Atlantis complex. The big studios, one-, and two-bedroom suites (many with views) are well-suited to families, and have pull-out sofas and fully equipped kitchens or kitchenettes. It's one of the priciest Atlantis options (though not quite as expensive as Cove), but families will likely appreciate being able to cook to save money, as Atlantis' 19 bars and 21 restaurants are notoriously expensive. The property has a nice stretch of beach and a large family pool that is exclusive to Reef and Cove guests, and major Atlantis highlights such as Aquaventure are within walking distance. A Starbucks and a convenience store are available in the lobby, or guests can walk or take a shuttle to the resort hub for more selection.
The all-inclusive 223-room Beaches Ocho Rios Resort & Golf Club is one of the most kid-friendly hotels in Jamaica, offering an XBOX garage for teens and tweens, as well as Camp Sesame (where Sesame Street characters can be found), a water park, a private beach, and babysitting services. There are activities for adults too, with golf and scuba lessons, the Red Lane Spa, and an adults-only piano bar. Since the majority of guests are families, the resort can be noisy.
This family-friendly all-inclusive resort with 658 suites has an attractive setting, affordable prices, a charismatic animation team, and a compact layout (no shuttle) that puts everyone within walking distance to the beach. It's a popular place for Americans, and the resort can sometimes feel overrun by destination wedding groups. Food is not the highlight here (and reservations can be frustrating); the beach is the biggest draw, and there is also a large and lengthy pool area that runs the length of the resort. Rooms have classic style and marble bathrooms with jetted tubs (indoor or outdoor), but do show some wear and tear.
This 319-room, mid-range all-inclusive property is the family-friendliest of the three Iberostar resorts on Montego Bay’ northern shore. The rooms are large enough to share with the kids, and the resort offers an awesome kids' club with a water park, as well as a lazy river and an activities pool. Numerous features range from an expansive spa and Pilates studio to a casino and nightclub. All-inclusive rates cover meals and drinks at the property's six restaurants and six bars -- but the reservation process for the a la carte dining options is a pain.
A kids' haven that's not quite directly on the beach, this 525-room all-inclusive resort has what it bills as the largest resort water park in all of the Caribbean. Rooms are upscale and some categories have big whirlpool tubs; Family Suites with bunk beds are available. Restaurant options include a buffet, three a la carte restaurants, and multiple bars, and guests also have access to some options at sister property next door, the Royalton Punta Cana.
Located on the D.R.’s softest and calmest stretch of beach, the highly active Iberostar Hacienda Dominicus is a pretty solid family option -- three clean pools, attentive service, and excellent scuba diving (though for a cost). There are non-stop activities for kids and adults alike -- bachata, water aerobics, water polo, beach volleyball, quiz games, you name it. This place is definitely fun, but it can be hard to relax with upbeat Dominican merengue music always playing somewhere in the distance.
Carlisle Bay offers understated luxury on Antigua's southern coast. The resort has dedicated sections for both families and couples, and successfully appeals to both with its lovely white-sand beach, calm ocean, free nonmotorized water sports, and impressive kids' club. The kids' club is for kids from six months to six years, and it's free for children over two. There are also free organized activities for kids seven to 12 and a teens' club for kids 13 and up, like raft building and starfish catching. The dedicated family side of the resort includes Beach Suites that have two bedrooms and can fit families of four, while Carlisle Suites have three bedrooms and can fit families of six.
The three-and-a-half-pearl Holiday Inn Resort is a massive, family-friendly beachfront property with several lovely pools, a casino, and four restaurants and bars. The 597 rooms are all pleasant, but some are more modern than others -- they include flat-screen TVs and small furnished balconies. There are a slew of organized activities to help entertain the American and European guests who stay here, though frequently long waits for a palapa on the hotel's beach can be a nuisance. The reasonable prices and prime spot right on Palm Beach make this a decent value, especially for families with young kids.
Kids under 16 eat and sleep for free at this classic luxury resort. Anancy Children's Village has a series of colorful cabins that house supervised activities like video games, arts and crafts, and stories with nap time. From a great playground to a mini-golf course to horseback riding stables to a private dolphin cove, Half Moon's 400-acre property offers ample resources for families, including full-time nannies. Rooms are large, and multi-room villas are also available.
As one of the few fully all-inclusive resorts on the small island of Curacao, Sunscape Resort is a popular pick. This large 341-room upper-middle-range resort is a great family-friendly option, with many games and activities available for teens and kids, from soccer and kayaking to movie nights and even a rock wall. Its rooms are colorful and updated rooms and the central location is close to shops and nightlife. The tradeoff for these features and convenience are the crowds, which often pack the beach and pool areas.
On the southeast shore of Grand Bahama near Freeport is one of the few all-inclusive resorts on the entire island with 274 rooms spread out over 26 acres. This Wyndham offers low prices for families on a budget. There are three restaurants, plus a snack bar, pizza joint, and a theater with nightly entertainment. Free trapeze (with instructors) and water sports (paddleboards, kayaks, and windsurfing) keep kids busy, but parents may want to invest in a good pair of headphones if looking for peace and quiet from the vendors and animation activities.
The Grand Bahia Principe Punta Cana is mid-range, family-friendly all-inclusive with more affordable prices than three of the four other resorts in the massive Bahia complex. The beach requires a walk or shuttle from most rooms, but it's easier to get a lounge chair here than at the pool, where chairs tend to get snatched during sunrise. Rooms are basic, clean, and spacious with pull-out sofas for families.
While the mid-range Jewel Runaway Bay Beach and Golf Resort gives plenty of opportunity for guests to laze about by its three freeform pools or on the beach, its real strength is in the sheer number of activities on offer, most of which are included in the rate. Kayaking, golfing, and weekly bonfires are all part of the entertainment. And families are attracted to the numerous kids' diversions like the on-site water park or laser tag. While the 266 rooms are simple in their decor, they do have furnished balconies, and suites have private plunge pools and butler service. The resort isn't really walking distance to any attractions, but with all the features included, most guests are content to stay put.
Located inside the Playa Dorada resort complex, a safe, mini-tourist city, the Gran Ventana is a relaxed, uncommonly friendly resort with clean rooms, excellent service, and a large though slightly crowded beach. Features like free bikes, a zero-entry pool, a kids’ club, and animated movie screenings make it great for families.
Morritt’s Tortuga Club & Resort is a massive resort on located on the remote East End of Grand Cayman. Morritt’s is almost a small city by itself, with 204 suites on three properties within the resort, a large beachfront, three pools, two restaurants, an on-site spa, fitness center, jewelry store, and dive shop, and even its own shopping center across the street. The one- to three-bedroom condos have full kitchens and range from dated to stylish. The resort offers numerous activities every day, both paid and unpaid. Barbecue dinners on the beach with live music and all-you-can-eat breakfasts are among the paid events. Other example activities include Name That Tune! at the Premiere Pool, beach volleyball, karaoke night, bingo, and line dancing.