Best Caribbean islands and resorts for families with kids
There are many hundreds of family-friendly resorts in the Caribbean, but some islands and destinations are far better and cheaper than others. If you are looking for a family vacation where kids can have the time of their lives while the parents also have an amazing vacation, there are some areas that are far easier and better than others.
You may have seen lists of Caribbean islands that have good snorkeling or other things that kids enjoy. And it’s true that you can find decent resorts on almost every popular Caribbean island, but most of them are remote, expensive, and hard to reach. In the article below we will explain why there are only a few areas that you need to check in order to find the perfect resort for your family. Families with larger budgets might just skip straight to our new list of the 11 best luxury all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean, which does include several family-friendly resorts.
Why all-inclusive resorts are the best family option
For several key reasons, all-inclusive resorts are generally the best option for families with kids in the Caribbean. They are safer, cheaper, and can offer far more options for kids to enjoy themselves than typical a-la carte beach resorts. The larger resorts all have an impressive mix of activities and facilities for kids in many age ranges, as well as adult-friendly options for the parents once the kids are in bed for the night.
Safety at all-inclusive resorts
If you took your family to, say, Orlando or Myrtle Beach for a vacation, you might not be too worried if the kids went to a nearby mini-golf center or trampoline park because facilities in cities like this are usually safe and well supervised. But almost everywhere in the Caribbean, these sorts of independent attractions tend to be spread far apart and can be of dubious standards. Some are fine, but it’s nearly impossible to know if you haven’t been there yourself because standards can be low and the places might have just opened.
At larger Caribbean all-inclusive resorts on the other hand, the facilities are nearly all on the same property, which typically are gated and guarded from the outside. These resorts take full responsibility for quality and safety of pools, water slides, and everything else they offer. If kids are getting hurt with any regularity, it shows up in the form of 1-star reviews and possibly even lawsuits. For this reason, the resorts have a strong incentive to make sure everyone has a good and SAFE time while they are guests.
Better value at all-inclusive resorts
Especially in the Punta Cana area and the general Cancun area, you’ll find huge resort complexes that have multiple hotels within a single property. They often include one hotel that specifically caters to families with kids, and another hotel that is adults-only, and another that is more luxurious, and yet another where all the rooms overlook a gorgeous beach.
Guests can typically visit any of the hotels within the property on shuttles that can whisk you between them, so you get the best of all of it. And families with kids know they will be welcome with the young ones in the family hotel, which will have multiple pools, a Kids Club, sometimes social areas for teens, and sometimes even water slides.
Larger resorts offer more and better options for kids
The larger hotels of this type can have 500 rooms in the family-friendly hotel alone. As you’d imagine, nearly all of these rooms will be taken by families with kids, so making friends of other kids or parents tends to be much easier. And with that size, they can afford to offer excellent facilities at a reasonable price, including food options that are popular with young ones of all ages.
By contrast, a stand alone hotel with only 150 rooms might only have 20 or 30 other families staying at any given time, so they can’t offer many options and they also risk alienating other guests who might prefer a quiet pool or beach experience. Seriously, if you are bringing kids with you on your Caribbean vacation, the larger resorts that specifically cater to families are going to be your best options.
Best Caribbean islands for great prices and facilities
If you want to book a high-quality family-friendly beach resort at an affordable price in the Caribbean you’ve honestly got two main options: Punta Cana and Cancun. These two places each have hundreds of beach resorts including dozens of resorts that specifically cater to families with kids.
As discussed above, you can book your family at any resort that doesn’t specifically call itself “Adults Only” (and there are dozens of those as well), but you’ll feel most welcome and get the most for your money at a resort that specifically caters to families with kids. If you don’t mind constantly getting the evil eye from other guests who’d rather not have kids around, then book wherever you want. But if you want to feel totally welcome, book at a place that promotes itself as a “family-friendly resort.”
Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
Occupying the southeastern tip of the Dominican Republic, flights to Punta Cana are generally longer and a bit more expensive than flights to Cancun, but the resorts there tend to be larger and at least a bit cheaper as well.
As discussed above, many large hotel chains operate groups of hotels on one large property that can have well over 1,000 rooms in total. Each of these will have a specific kids-friendly hotel with multiple pools, a Kids Klub, social events for older kids, and often multiple water slides, all included in the moderate price.
Popular example: Bahia Principe Fantasia Punta Cana – All Inclusive
This 512-room hotel is part of a large complex and guests have access to all of it. The Bahia Principe Fantasia is the family-friendly hotel on the grounds that features 3 pools, free cabanas, a water slide, free bike rentals, a gorgeous beach, 4 restaurants, and loads of water sports and activities for the kids. Considering how much you get, the room rates are very reasonable starting at around US$300 per room in high season.
Again, guests here get access to all of the other hotels within this huge complex and you will be transported around by free shuttle buses that run all the time. The kids will be entertained in the family area and the parents can explore the nightlife in other parts of the resort in the evenings.
Cancun area, Mexico
As large as Punta Cana is, the Cancun area is even larger and its busy airport services the Hotel Zone, Downtown, Isla Mujeres, Playa del Carmen, Tulum, and the island of Cozumel. There are also large all-inclusive resorts up and down the whole coast, which goes by the name Mayan Riviera.
There are far fewer of the clusters of adjacent hotels that are so common in Punta Cana, but there are dozens of all-inclusive beach resorts in the area that specifically cater to families with kids. They tend to be at least a bit more expensive than similar resorts in Punta Cana, but still offer excellent value overall.
Popular example: Seadust Cancún All Inclusive Family Resort
While dozens of Cancun resorts promote themselves as “family friendly”, the Seadust is one of the few that promotes itself as a Family Resort, and there is a pretty big difference. This place has a waterslide, arcade room, kids pool, kids club, mini-golf, rock climbing, table tennis, actual tennis, zip-lining, and much more. Nearly all of the guests here will have kids with them so it’s a great place to make new friends and not feel like you might be making some other guests unhappy.
The Seadust Cancun Family Resort is located in a prime part of the Hotel Zone peninsula with the nicest beaches in Cancun. There are shopping areas and other restaurants not far away, although you should have everything you need within the resort itself.
Best family Caribbean resorts for larger budgets and best overall
While there are a handful of boutique all-inclusive resorts on various Caribbean islands where you can pay well over US$1,000 per night for even just a couple, the best of the all-inclusive chain resorts are Sandals, which operates 17 resorts throughout the Caribbean. You may not know that Sandals also operates 3 family-friendly resorts under the Beaches name, and it’s basically the same high-quality chain.
If you’ve been to a Sandals you know that they have luxury all-inclusive beach resorts perfected with large and professional staffs as well as premium options (water parks, amazing food, top-shelf drinks) all included in the basic room rate. There are many Spanish hotel chains that are also professional and can offer lower prices, but none that offer Sandals/Beaches quality at any price. As you’d expect, Beaches resorts aren’t exactly cheap, but promotions are usually available and prices are quite good considering what you get at the high standards.
Beaches Ocho Rios, Jamaica
The cheapest of the three Beaches resorts in the Caribbean, Beaches Ocho Rios has a small and stunning beach to go along with five pools, a dedicated scuba practice pool, a huge action-adventure water park, and free golf at the nearby Sandals Country Club.
Beaches Negril, Jamaica
The Negril Beaches is located on the widest stretch of 7-Mile Beach, so it might be a better choice if spending time on the sand is a priority. But it’s also got a variety of swimming pools, a waterpark, and even a lazy river to go along with a Kids Club and social activities for older kids.
Beaches Turks & Caicos
Beaches Turks & Caicos is much larger and more spread out than the two Jamaica locations, with an enormous beach that literally goes on for miles. It’s got 21 restaurants, a waterpark, and even Sesame Street stage shows. This is a bit more expensive than the Negril location, but still great value considering the facilities they offer.
Best family Caribbean destination for cheaper and shorter flights
As we discussed above, the enormous Cancun area is one of the two best areas for family-friendly all-inclusive beach resorts in the Caribbean, and for most people it’s the fastest and easiest to reach as well. Cancun has a large and efficient airport with direct flights from almost every major city in the United States and Canada, which means families can land there in 5 or less hours from their departure airport, and only 3 hours in some cases.
Punta Cana also has a large and efficient airport, but there are fewer direct flights from non-major airports, which means many families will have to change planes in Atlanta, Charlotte, Miami, or even New York. The extra flight and extra few hours can make a big difference when you’ve got kids with you. Needless to say, if you live in one of the larger cities on the east coast it’ll be worth also checking Punta Cana flights, but they will usually be more expensive as well.
Best family Caribbean destination for shorter trips
Paradise Island, Bahamas
Only 100 miles or so from Miami itself, Nassau, Bahamas is the closest Caribbean resort area to most people in the United States and Canada, and the airport has direct flights from most major cities in the east as well. If you are only going for a long weekend, you might not want to go through the hassle of long flights and changing planes, so Paradise Island (just across the bay from Nassau itself), is going to be your best option for a shorter trip.
By far the largest and most famous hotel complex on Paradise Island, the Atlantis Resort has six separate hotels within the complex and The Royal at Atlantis is the family-friendly one with the famous waterslide. The Royal tends to be booked well in advance and it’s NOT an all-inclusive resort, but it does have excellent facilities for kids and the famous water park is included in the room rate.
The Royal at Atlantis resort