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Best Island for Villa Rental and Small Kids

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Hi,
My husband & I would like to rent a villa in the carribean. We have a 3.5 year old and 4 month old. We are interested in a low-key "active vacation" where we can do more than spend our days at the beach. For example, ideally we can head inland for some hikes/exploration. We would like a villa location that is within walking distance to town. We'd like our meals attended to (i.e. toss pre-made meal in boiling water to cook, or stocked fridge or chef, or????) if walking to town isn't an easy 5 min walk. Easy flight access from the US is important. Definitely interested in not being in an AI resort type bubble. Require beaches we visit to be toddler safe- i.e. long distance of shallow water, no tide/current/etc. Budget is not so much an issue.... would prefer an "eco-friendly" style experience in tents but likely a modest villa is more readily available. Luxury level isn't out but really not our cup of tea - unless they have some sort of magnificent (no electronics used) toddler care program. I'd LOVE to be able to hear the surf/ocean at night but realize that doesn't fit the "toddler safe" objective.

Anyways, these are a few of my favorite thoughts :) I would greatly appreciate any ideas folks might have on either a) carribean island or b) specific area within a particular island for us to visit. I just don't know the islands well enough. My husband and I have traveled extensively around the world as independent travelers from hostels to best small boutique hotels/resorts of the world. Now we're on a new journey as a family - and that changes EVERYTHING ;) We hope to maintain some of our independence while being sensitive to our needs as a family.

Thanks in advance!

Regards,
Melissa

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    Well, it's doubtful you'll find any place with a children's program that accepts 4 month olds so no matter where you go be prepared to be the sole source of "entertainment" for that child.

    If you want an Eco-tent environment check out Cinnamon Bay campgrounds on St. John. There's also Maho Bay campgrounds on St. John but that will be closing for good in early 2013.

    If you'd like to stay in a beach front condo check out the many family oriented condo resorts on Providenciales's Grace Bay in the Turks & Caicos.

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    Hi RoamsAround,
    THanks for the comments. Actually a children's program is not of particular interest. Specifically any program that uses electronics of any sort is an instant turn off. And the 4 month old will certainly be with us at all times!
    Carrying our infant is expected. In fact, for my first we didn't purchase a stroller until he was well over a year old! It's good exercise :)
    I checked out your suggestions on St. John's.... i guess i'm thinking a lot more upscale at this point. Definitely a villa, oceanside, fenced, with children's toys and amenities. I've also figured out we'd prefer an island that has a carribean culture with it. From reading the boards T&C tends to be a bit more sterile with a strong focus on water water water! I'm willing to sacrifice the perfect beach in exchange for some inland/non water low-key activities we can do 2-3 times during our week vacation.
    Thanks!
    Melissa

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    I've been to tons of islands, actually around the world.

    Here's the thing, sounds like you want more off the beaten path. The problem with that and having a 4 month old is a contradiction. The less "sterile" the island, the less amenities for a baby. Just finding milk at the type of island I think you're looking for can be challenging. So can medical if you have an emergency.

    The islands that have more to do and are less "beach" are also harder to navigate with a baby. Most islands tend to be smaller, hard to get around, transportation has no baby seats, if medic happens need helicopter transport, etc.

    The larger islands that have inland activites you have to travel a distance to do them.

    The closest to what I think you're looking for might be Puerto Rico. (and most of it feels "American" which sounds like you're trying to avoid). You might want to consider Jamaica, but be warned, long distances to different "activities" such as hiking or even waterfall climbing.

    I have traveled extensively around the world, alone, and then with a child. I can promise you kids change everything. You will have to make adjustments to take kids, and quite frankly think of their safety. Lugging babies around Europe for example, is completely different than lugging kids around the Caribbean.

    The islands in general that offering inland activities don't have kid friendly beaches, they tend to slope and get deep quickly.

    Most islands, either are close to a town (many don't even have towns, just a cluster of houses and a small grocery store) or closer to beach. Either way you'll need transportation in one way or another.

    So really it comes down to, do you want a beach or just activities? You won't find both.

    And as much as you can try to kid yourself, with a 4 month old you'll be hard pressed to do any activities. Many places have minimum ages, so then one of you can't do activities because you have to babysit.

    The closest would be Mexico, they have a little bit of everything. costa Rica might work for you too. Consider Manuel Antonio area, has beach, you can hike for animals, you'd have to travel quite a bit for volcano.

    For someone who has traveled extensively, I'm amazed you would consider active with a 4 month old. Sometimes the just getting tocsome of these places will wipe you out. And then getting medical attention if needed can be almost impossible.

    If you don't mind the flights, then Bali might work for you too.

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    Honestly, it's going to be extremely difficult for you to find a rental villa "with children's toys and amenities" as they really don't exist. Rental villas are all privately owned and reflect the individual tastes of the owners. While some beachfront villas have a few "adult toys" like kayaks, sunfish, water floats, etc. the vast majority simply won't have "children's toys" unless the owners happen to have young children and that's a rarity simply because very few people young enough to have toddlers can afford multi-million dollar beachfront villas in the Caribbean (and believe me you'd be hard pressed to find beachfront villas that are under $1 million.

    You also asked for a "modest" villa - well, modest and beachfront don't usually go together. You see, beachfront property is very expensive (think in terms of $500K to over $1 million for a beachfront building lot on a decent island) so anyone owning such a property isn't going to build a modest home.

    Now, if you are willing to rent a hillside or interior villa you might find something that meets your definition of "modest" but for us to be of any real help you have to define what "modest" means to you. Sorry if this sounds a bit curt but you've given us mixed signals by first saying "budget is not so much and issue" then indicating you want a "modest villa" so we need to know how much you want to spend.

    Now for some practical help:

    St. John is loaded with rental villas, most of which are inland or up on the mountains but still only short drives from the islands many beaches. The island is 2/3's a National Park so you'll find plenty of hiking and other outdoor activities.

    You might also look a Nevis - there are quite a few rental villas almost all of which are "inland". It's a small island so you won't be far from the beach and there are numerous hiking trails, old ruins to explore and other typical island activities. You can also easily take a day trip to St. Kitts.

    Hint: Do a google search for "Rental Villas + Name of Island)" and you'll find plenty of links where you can research the villas that are available - all will have photos and complete descriptions of the amenities that you'll find at each villa.

    Lastly, to reiterate what I and blamona said in earlier posts - there's just not an awful lot of " children's activities" in the Caribbean, especially for children as young as yours. Some full service resorts do have "Children's Programs" that might be suitable for your 3.5 YO. The Four Seasons Resort on Nevis has one of the best in the Caribbean. It's a real "hands on program" with all types of activities such as hikes, nature walks, shell hunting, arts & crafts, and similar activities. The resort also has "on property" villas available for rent so it may be just what you are searching for.


    Good luck finding your place - I'm sure you will if you set your sights realistically.

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    RoamAround, makes some great points. For example, you also posted Barbados and there are some really nice and friendly off-the-beaten path accommodation options in Barbados, however along the east coast of the island which is a no no for swimming, no matter how old or young or great a swimmer, and these seaside villas aren't close to town or shopping or medical facilities. Though Barbados is a small island.

    The next area that comes to mind where there is family friendly, private accommodation on the beach is Fitts area in St. James . Some are understated in that the keep a colonial island feel without being overly luxurious. Perhaps visit the home away website to find these options, depending on the time of year you may find some great seaside deals. I remember stumbling across o lovely beach side cottage around June 2012, couldn't believe it !

    Good luck and all the best on your travel

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    What about Nail Bay, Virgin Gorda? We rent a villa there that is beach side and has a kiddie pool near the beach that has been made by large rocks / boulders. I don't think it has exactly what you are looking for, but Virgin Gorda might be the island for you. A flight into Puerto Rico and then a flight on a small plane directly to Virgin Gorda will be the easiest way. Not sure where you are flying from so that might be to many stops, as it's not a direct flight.

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    We are in a similar circumstance. we "were" adventourous travelers and now have a 17month old. Our son is a mini adult, and we don't want to go to the typical "family style" resorts. I found an awesome house rental on homeaway.com in the Provo area, the home owners had a young child, so there was a kids room, as well as tons of kid friendly toys etc right on a small stretch of beach. The actual town was too far away, though the house came with a jeep to use as needed, plus there was no hospital or medical facilities with in reach so we didn't think it would be a good fit. Right now were looking into booking a trip to the bvi's, it seems the most "authentic", while still being safe enough for a family.

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    Orient Bay has the colorful butterfly farm. Admire while walking through the park over forty different species of butterflies. St.Maarten villa rental will have everything you need for a carefree holiday with kids! Weekly rental rates can save ten to fifteen percent on the original price

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    I think St. John might be just what you are looking for. We took our now 22 and 28 year olds to Maho Bay when they were 4 and 10 and they LOVED it, as did we. It's a shame that Maho Bay is closing, but there are the Concordia Eco-tents on the Coral Bay side of the island and also many villas to rent. Look on HomeAway or VRBO and I'm sure you will be able to find a villa with accommodations (crib, toys) for kids. My husband and I are leaving next week for our fourth visit to St. Jean and we always see families with kids of all ages on the beaches while we are there. Even if your villa is not on the beach (not many are) there will be a safe beach just a short 10 or 15 minute drive away. It's easy to rent a jeep on St. Thomas and take it to St. John on the car barge. If you stay at Concordia, you can walk to Salt Pond Bay. Because much of St. John is National Park, there are lots of interesting hikes, as well as beaches that are more than sand and water. We always park ourselves in the shade of a tree (or two) and when we are not snorkeling, enjoy watching pelicans and egrets fish, spotting land crabs in the leaf litter, or watching for mongoose. Our kids were really taken with the animals on St. John - besides those already mentioned there were bananaquits, small lizards, sheep and goats, donkeys, and chickens. (Be careful driving - the donkeys, goats, and chickens assume they own the road.) St. John is beautiful and low key. There is a hospital/clinic on the island and grocery stores/delis where you can buy prepared food to take away when you don't feel like cooking. There is also quite a bit of history on St. John and some very interesting ruins. In my opinion, St. John is a really good island for kids. We did take our older son to Barbados when he was six months old, and that was a good trip, too, but we just can't seem to stay away from St. John.

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