Families will have no trouble finding things to do together in the Caribbean – every one of the islands is a playground of beaches, guided tours, snorkeling trips and hiking trails. Pet and feed the stingrays in Stingray City in the Cayman Islands, stand on an ostrich egg at the Ostrich Farm in Curacao or take a camel ride through the estate at Prospect Plantation in Jamaica. If animals just aren’t your family’s go-to, you can zip-line through the canopy in Jamaica, or put on a dive helmet and explore a reef fifteen feet below the surface on a Sea Trek in St. Thomas. Family-friendly memories are easily within reach anywhere you go in the Caribbean.
Many of the Caribbean’s finest water parks are connected with a resort, which puts non-resort guests at a disadvantage. Happily, Jamaica’s Kool Runnings in Negril is freestanding. The water park is easy to access with convenient parking, which isn’t always the case for resort-based water parks.
The five-acre park has 10 water slides (the largest is 40-feet high), with colorful names like Duppy Conqueror and Kick Puppalick. There’s also a play area for the tiny tots and a lazy river with waterfalls. Kool Runnings also has a juice bar, sports bar and three restaurants. Try the Sweet Potato Grill, where guests can dine on Jamaican jerk chicken. Visitors to Kool Runnings can get a special price when they combine their ticket with the adjacent and affiliated Adventure Zone, where they can indulge in paintball battles, laser tag and go-kart races.
GET ACTIVE: Top family-friendly attractions in the Caribbean
Over the last decade or so Beaches Turks & Caicos has been setting the bar for family vacations. Little kids stop in their tracks when they encounter life-size Sesame Street characters, while teens peel off to disappear in the resort’s xBox lounge.
One place they all come together is the resort’s 45,000-square-foot Pirate’s Island water park. There are lots of exciting features that will keep kids on their toes, including ten water slides, water cannons, and spray features. Those looking for a gentler diversion can float down the park’s 650-foot Lazy River and there’s a zero-entry pool for the littlest ones just learning to walk, let alone swim. The park also a waterfall pool and a tweens-only pool. The Sky Slide is 42 feet high, making it the highest waterslide in Turks & Caicos. The “wow” factor attraction at Pirate’s Island is the Surf-Simulator, which allows surfers of all experience levels a chance to hang ten on a variety of recreated wave conditions.
Beaches Turks & Caicos is an all-inclusive resort, which means all of the water park activities are included. This also applies to food and drink. Kids love having their own swim-up bar and 50s style diner and ice cream parlor, all within the waterpark. Those who want to take a break from the water-filled action can head over to Pirate Island’s Rainforest Gameroom.
Atlantis Paradise Island is a destination unto itself. Visitors approach the resort via the Paradise Island Bridge, Nassau, The Bahamas. Once they reach the other side, they’re in another world. The sprawling resort complex contains the 141-acre Aquaventure, a huge water park playground of 12 pools and nine waterslides. There are even water escalators for kids who want to save all their energy for the twists and turns of the water slides.
Additional features at the Mayan-themed water park include a snorkeling lagoon, a mile-long lazy river, and a kids-themed water fort. Friendly competition can be had on the Challenger Slide, where two people can race each other down the twin slides and then see who was fastest by comparing speeds on the slide’s time clock.
The pièce de résistance at the park is the Leap of Faith slide, featuring a 60-foot drop into a clear acrylic tunnel where you can watch sharks swim in a lagoon on the other side of the acrylic wall.
A change of pace can be had on Aquaventure’s Paradise Island’s Climber’s Rush, a rock climbing wall with a variety of surfaces presenting different levels of difficulty. There’s also an adults-only pool for those who need to bring the action down a notch, complete with daybeds and DJs.
Admission to Aquaventure is complimentary for guests staying at Atlantis; day passes are on sale for those not staying at the resort but availability is sometimes limited. Those under 18 years old must be accompanied by an adult.