Family island vacations promise toes-in-sand adventures, restorative quality time, and fun in the sun. Fortunately, the Caribbean has over 700 delightful islands to choose from.
What family-friendly activities can you do in the Caribbean? Absolutely anything. The collection of islands in this region offers countless opportunities to absorb local culture, dive into underwater playgrounds, meet the local wildlife, or take to soaring heights during thrill-seeking adventures through mountains and cloud forests. If you contrastingly wish to turn down the tempo, kick back and relax, there’s no shortage of beautiful shorelines to splash about with the whole family in tow.
Better still, many of the islands that make up this part of the world are just a few hours flying time away from much of the U.S. Depending on where you live, you could catch an early flight and be relaxing on a tropical beach in the Caribbean by noon, and often with less travel stress (and money spent) than you think. From flamingo-filled fortresses to plane-spotting beaches that will have kids believing in the magic of travel, here are 15 of the best Caribbean islands for families.
Thanks to the plethora of all-inclusive options flanking the entire island of Jamaica, families flock to destinations like Ocho Rios, Negril, and Montego Bay in droves. These beach towns offer stretches of white sand and aquamarine waters that are perfect for swimming. As one of the warmest Caribbean islands, Jamaica is particularly ideal for families that adore unlimited water time.
Parents can grab some downtime at one of Jamaica’s many resorts with kid’s clubs and childminder services like Beaches Resorts and Hyatt Ziva. Some properties like Iberostar Selection Rose Hall Suites Montego Bay go even further with dedicated family suites that have gaming consoles thrown in for good measure.
Families may find that one visit to Puerto Rico simply isn’t enough. The “Island of Enchantment” is one of the best family vacation spots in the Caribbean and as a United States territory, passports aren’t required for U.S. citizens. Puerto Rico actually consists of three islands and on Vieques—which is located six miles off the mainland—travelers young and old are left awestruck by the glowing creatures at Mosquito Bay, which Guinness World Records has certified as the world’s brightest bioluminescence bay.
On mainland Puerto Rico, you’ll find a myriad of cultural activities and natural wonders like the famous El Yunque rainforest or Old San Juan with its unique architecture, brightly-painted buildings, and historic fortresses. Puerto Rico is also surrounded by gorgeous tropical beaches, the most beautiful of which are near the eastern village of Fajardo.
While travel to Anguilla usually requires a flight into St. Maarten and an extra ferry ride, the additional steps you’ll take to get there are worth it. This island paradise is home to the most beautiful beaches in the entire Caribbean, including world-famous Rendezvous Bay and Shoal Bay East. The island is insanely safe but also small, meaning that you can rent a car and drive the kids all over without worrying about crime or getting lost.
Escaping to Anguilla is one of the best tropical vacations for families that wish to avoid hefty tourist crowds. Casinos, large cruise ships, and high-rise hotels are outlawed, and accommodations range from grand mansions you can book for privacy like Quintessence Hotel to luxe-to-the-max, star-studded hotels like Cap Juluca, Zemi Beach House, and Malliouhana, An Auberge Resort. While hotels in Anguilla are on the higher side, the scenery and relaxation that this island offers are well worth it.
Providenciales, Turks and Caicos
Providenciales, Turks and Caicos is yet another island that’s perfect for families due to its crowning glory—Grace Bay Beach. This three-mile stretch of sand is some of the whitest and softest in the Caribbean while the waters that grace its shores are some of the clearest.
Due to the lack of waves and the clarity of the water here, there are few beaches in the world better for family swims and beach fun. Ocean Club Resorts, two all-suite beachfront resorts in Providenciales, has a Kids Seafari program for young ones to learn about their handsome surroundings while the iconic Grace Bay Resorts runs Kids Town, an enrichment-focused experiential program for kids of all ages.
While Aruba is known for its high-rise hotels, nightlife, and casinos, this Dutch island has a great deal available for families. Travelers can traverse mysterious rock formations, see monarchs fluttering at The Butterfly Farm, rest under arched divi-divi trees, and mingle with leggy bright pink flamingos on the privately-owned Renaissance Island.
The pristine shores along Eagle Beach and Palm Beach are dotted with a wide range of family-friendly hotels and resorts with many all-inclusive options available. Baby Beach on the south of the island is popular with families with young children owing to the shallow waters of this half-moon lagoon. Aruba offers plenty of fun for the kids, but the island is so spectacular that the adults will love it, too.
Cayman Islands (Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac, and Little Cayman) is a three-island chain south of Cuba. Grand Cayman is the most popular of the trio and the entire island is stunning though the stretch of waterfront known as Seven Mile Beach undeniably takes the cake. This white sand paradise features barely-lapping waters that are perfect for swimming, floating, or snorkeling with local sea turtles or tropical fish. Plenty of hotels and resorts line the coast, and the dining options are superb, albeit pricey.
Grand Cayman is another island that’s so safe that you can go anywhere without a care in the world. Pack up the kids to see the collection of rocks lovingly known as Hell or embark on a snorkeling journey to Stingray City—a stunning sandbar where giant stingrays become your friends. Adults and kids may also enjoy swimming with turtles at the Cayman Turtle Centre.
While Antigua (pronounced an-tee-ga) has become a hotspot for wealthy and well-connected travelers like Oprah Winfrey and Mariah Carey, this tropical paradise offers a surprising number of all-inclusive resorts and affordable family hotels.
The clear waters of Antigua and the general safety of the island make this destination one you won’t want to miss. It’s also one of the best Caribbean destinations for families with beach-loving members. After all, the island boasts a whopping 365 gorgeous sandy stretches.
Curaçao is another Dutch island that is especially ideal for families with kids. Not only will you find resplendent beaches similar to those in Aruba, but you’ll find amazing coral reefs and a bustling scuba and snorkeling trade.
The “C” in the ABC Islands, Curaçao is the best Caribbean island for family time that’s centered around history, cultural exploration, and impressive architecture with much to please the budding photographer. The capital, Willemstad, resembles a European city uprooted and dropped in the Caribbean and splashed with candy-colored Dutch gable-roofed buildings. You can also try classic Dutch snacks like bitterballen (Dutch meat-based balls) and poffertjes (mini fluffy pancakes) with your children and feel like you’re showing them more than one part of the world.
While Barbados is one of the farthest islands from the U.S. and well known as a popular spot for British travelers, this Garden of Eden for beach lovers is also perfect for families. The island’s Platinum Coast features some of the most beautiful beaches and turquoise waters in all of the Caribbean, and the snorkeling is superb thanks to the plethora of sea life that calls the local waters home.
Barbados isn’t overly expensive, but it’s certainly not the most affordable Caribbean island for families. Still, the beaches and quiet vibe make the extra flight time and cost worth it.
The Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic—a non-island that shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti—is a popular beach destination that offers too many all-inclusive resorts to count in regions like La Romana and Punta Cana. The latter is one of the most popular destinations in the Caribbean with hundreds of weekly flights touching down to whisk eager families to their paradise adventures, particularly during high season.
Traveling with kids will be a breeze at a family-friendly all-inclusive hotel like those within the Bahia Principe Hotels & Resorts group which have amenities such as water parks, mini clubs, and children’s entertainment at their glittering properties that are sprinkled throughout the country.
Dominica might just be the best Caribbean island for families that love nature and birding. Avitourists can seek out the protected Sisserou Parrot which can only be found there. This national bird hides high in the mountains but is visible on many Dominican emblems like the coat of arms and the national flag. Hummingbirds soar above the waterfalls and 365-odd rivers, soldier fish dwell in Dominica’s coral-filled waters, and the national parks beckon with hot springs and gentle hiking trails.
Not to be mistaken for the Dominican Republic, Dominica is dubbed the “Nature Island” and it has some notable eco-friendly hotels for sustainability-minded families, including Coulibri Ridge, a Beyond Green ultra-sustainable resort that was 20 years in the making.
Multi-generational families have a ball of a time in Bonaire, which is a protected marine park in its entirety. This conservation-mindedness has resulted in some incredibly healthy reefs that make Bonaire one of the world’s top shore diving and snorkeling destinations. It’s also a great place for young ones to take their first windsurfing lessons thanks to the calm, shallow, warm waters at Lac Bay. They can even receive training from champion windsurfing brothers Taty and Tonky Frans who learned to windsurf there as youngsters before taking the international windsurfing world by storm. Whizzing past towering cacti while landsailing on blokarts—compact three-wheeled land yachts—is also sure to create cherishable memories for all.
Bonaire is one of the safest Caribbean islands for families. The capital Kralendijk is petite and pedestrian-friendly with an array of international restaurants facing the blue Caribbean Sea and along the main street, Kaya Grandi.
Treat your nearest and dearest to two cultural vacations in one with a trip to St. Martin. The dual-governed island is French (Saint Martin) in the north and Dutch (Sint Maarten) on the island’s south and traveling between both sides is fuss-free. Families will feel at home in either region, although the Netherlands’ territory has what’s arguably the most thrilling experience on the island. Maho Beach is one of the world’s most unique places to lay footprints in the sand due to its location across from Princess Juliana International Airport. Big and little kids get a kick out of the low-flying planes that stream past the beach and feel almost close enough to touch.
Hiking trails, beautiful beaches, and European cuisine that will please even the pickiest of eaters are available for devouring. For lodging, families enjoy their leisure time together at Sonesta Maho Beach Resort, Casino & Spa which has an aqua park, kid’s club, and several dining venues.
English-speaking Roatan is one of Honduras’ three Bay Islands. Though land lubbers can find bliss touring the sloth sanctuary, feasting on Garifuna cuisine at local restaurants, strolling along the 40-acre Carambola Botanical Gardens, or getting an adrenaline rush at the Guambalimba eco-adventure park, some of the best things to do in Roatan are on the water. The whole gang can scuba dive or snorkel at the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the world’s second-largest coral reef after the Great Barrier Reef in Australia or take in the colors and creatures of the water from a semi-sub glass bottom boat.
In laidback Roatan, adults won’t believe their luck with some of the hotel deals to be found compared to other Caribbean destinations. For holidaymakers that want to gift their families a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience, there are entire private islands off the coast of Roatan that can be rented for as little as $200 a night.
St. Lucia is the best Caribbean island for families that want it all—and then some: a selection of four waterfalls to gaze at and play in, sparkling turquoise bays, nautical adventures on 18th Century pirate ships, beachside water parks, aerial gondola rides over verdant rainforests, family-friend accommodations to suit all budgets, and even a “drive-in” volcano.
A trip to St. Lucia is both fun and educational with appeal for all ages. Teenagers may relish high-octane canopy adventures, tours of ruins, beach horseback rides, or scaling one of the Pitons, the UNESCO-protected volcanic peaks that grace the island’s skyline. Young travelers will rejoice while building sand castles on golden sand beaches or spotting dolphins and whales, and adults won’t be left behind with a promising array of top-notch spas for pampering, riveting nightlife, and history-rich rum tours.