Was the Caribbean your go-to for spring break with the kids? Fear not — despite the epic hurricane season that wreaked havoc on several islands, there are still plenty of pristine sandy shores to provide respite from winter’s chill. Each offers up its own singular adventuring, luxury level and price point, and several have direct flights!
If ecological marvels are your thing, then Punta Cana’s got an abundance of riches worth exploring. Check out the Westin Puntacana Resort & Club, whose Puntacana Ecological Foundation was founded in 1994. Families can enjoy a guided of the cultural and natural history of the island of Hispaniola, which kicks off at the Dominican Ranch and Petting Zoo. The Indigenous Eyes Ecological Park and Reserve includes a sugar cane exhibit (most of it is still harvested by hand with machetes and oxen), and innovative worm compost and beekeeping projects. Families end the trail at the lagoon of Guama for a refreshing plunge. The Westin also includes championship golf courses, scuba diving, a kids club and a full-service marina.
Ever heard of this little island? Many people were only familiar with its larger cousins, neighboring Aruba and Curacao, until some cruise ships diverted here. But don’t worry — it’s still maintained much of its charm as a municipality of the Netherlands and its rich marine life earns it a spot as one of the top diving destinations in the world. Extra bonus points for booking a trip if you got a GoPro for Christmas — you’re virtually guaranteed to take good pictures in the unspoiled ecosystems of these clear waters. There are more than 100 dive sites and 470 fish species on the island. Newbies and kids can even take intro to diving lessons arranged by Courtyard by Marriott Bonaire, just minutes away from one of the island’s best beaches.
The colorful buildings of the Dutch islands are enhanced during the flair of Carnival, and Curacao holds one of the Caribbean’s largest Feb. 11–13. Apart from adult activities, Carnival festivities include special entertainment for the youngest of travelers. During two children’s parades, local kids present their own version of Carnival with special dance performances and their Queen and King of the festivities.
It’s easy to be Kitts at heart with a plethora of adventure activities, lush landscapes dotted with volcanoes and cool British accents. If sitting on the beach isn’t all you want to do for a week, rent a car and spend a day exploring the Georgian architecture of Basseterre, marvel at the scenery aboard the coastline-hugging St. Kitts Scenic Railway, swim with dolphins, take a ziplining tour or hike to 2,800 feet above sea level.
Families don’t have to leave the resort to experience the archipelago’s top highlights. Atlantis Paradise Island features the world’s largest open-air marine habitat; a 141-acre water park with the iconic Mayan Temple’s Leap of Faith slide; 11 pools; four miles of beaches; a Tom Weiskopf-designed oceanfront golf course; dining for all budgets and tastes; and a casino.
The Caribbean’s colonial history is fascinating, but perhaps no place more so than Santo Domingo, which hosts the oldest European settlement in the Americas. The Colonial Zone has more than 300 historic sites to visit, but perhaps it will be easiest to choose from among them on a city tour organized by the concierge at JW Marriott. The hotel can also reserve exclusive catamaran trips to visit a pristine ecological reserve.
Who needs the ocean when you’ve got a lazy river? Get out your rafts, tubes and noodles for The Ritz-Carlton Aruba’s on-site joy, or the resort’s other outdoor pool. The property also has its own Kids Club for ages 4 to 12 featuring bingo, movie nights, immersive cooking lessons and more. There’s a game room with foosball, pool and air hockey, and basketball courts for teens. Parents can sit back and take in views of the Palm Beach coastline at several spacious villas.