Caribbean Family Travel Guide
Taking a family vacation to the Caribbean is a wonderful choice, yet can also be a complicated one. The Caribbean region is made up of hundreds of islands, and it is sometimes hard to know which one will best suit your family.
The key to creating the perfect Caribbean vacation is to choose which amenity is most important to you and your family. There are islands perfect for budget-conscious families, for those seeking luxury and quiet, and for those are looking to lose themselves in the wild outdoors. Here is just a sample of the more than twenty island groupings to discover on a Caribbean family vacation:
The British Virgin Islands
There are over fifty islands in this British overseas territory, but the most famous and popular with family travelers is Tortola. The green fronded Mount Sage dominates the middle of the island, and white sand beaches reach all around. Family vacationers who choose Tortola as their Caribbean Island destination rave about the quality of accommodation, the variety of delicious cuisine, as well as the many activities present there. Cane Garden Bay is the most popular beach in Tortola, both for its swimming and amazing surfing. Divers will love leaving Tortola for Dead Chest Island, which is an uninhabited National Park with three dive sites that can only be reached by dinghy.
Although Grenada is the name of one large island, it is actually composed of many small islands, some still uninhabited. Referred to as The Spice Isle, Grenada is a leading producer of many spices, most especially nutmeg. Grenada offers white sand beaches and multiple water activities ranging from parasailing to diving. The beaches in Grenada are exceptionally unique in the Caribbean. Because of the mountainous nature of the island of Grenada, the coastline is jagged, causing small, calm bays and inlets to occur. Discover these, or just head to Grand Anse, which is the most popular beach on Grenada. Grenada is currently growing in fame for its superb eco-tourism. Experience a genuine, protected rainforest at the Grand Etang National Park and Forest Reserve, which offers hiking and promises of spectacular views. Be sure to keep your eyes out for frogs, lizards and the occasional mongoose and Mona monkey!
The Honduran Caribbean islands are lesser known than it’s more famous neighbors, but offer something very important to family vacationers: budget friendly accommodation and activities. The beaches, flora and fauna are as beautiful as anywhere else in the Caribbean, but the price tag is still family friendly. Roatan is the largest of the Honduran islands, and thanks to a native Caribe influence, English is the dominant language spoken. Book a trip to Roatan if you enjoy diving; Roatan is a world class scuba diving destination. In West End, you will find restaurants, shops, internet cafes and book stores. Next, head to the West Bay of Roatan to experience one of the most spectacular beaches in the entire world. Here you will find resorts that offer affordable day passes to use their pools, showers and amenities while you enjoy your time on the beach. Utila is another popular Honduran Caribbean island. Utila is still finding its footing as a Caribbean destination, but here you will find the best bargains and scenery that cannot be beat.
Jamaica is no stranger to tourism. Jamaica is, in many ways, the most popular island in the Caribbean. This both works for and against planning a Jamaica family vacation: flights come and go frequently; making it a less expensive island to get to, however, the activities and accommodations can be pricey. The largest island in the Jamaican chain is Jamaica itself. Home to the Blue Mountains, Jamaica offers a wealth of water and inland activities. The culture in Jamaica belies its size. Its musical offerings, including reggae and ska can be heard all over the world. Expect every Jamaican street corner to be filled with music. There are many towns and beach side resort areas to explore on a Jamaican family vacation: one of the more popular is Negril. Here you will find beaches that offer lots of family activities and family friendly eateries. However, do not neglect the interior of the island on your Jamaican family vacation: Jungle River Tubing, exploring limestone caves, Jeep safaris and bamboo rafting are just a few of the many activities offered on the lush green slopes of Jamaica.
Martinique is an overseas region of France, and because of this direct link and its current status as a member of the European Union, European influences abound on this island chain. Martinique is also protected by a coral reef, which makes the waters warm and calm, just perfect for swimming. Travel along the south side of the island to enjoy this lagoon like water feel, or travel north to see black sand beaches near the charming towns of Le Carbet and Le Precheur. Martinique is also a popular destination for Carnival festivities. Bleachers are set up for tourists enjoy the many parades or shows, but families are also encouraged to take to the streets and participate in the festivities. Try the local specialty, curried crab, which is plentiful and especially delicious during the Carnival festival. After Lent, enjoy a traditional Easter Monday beach picnic with the friendly locals.
Saint Barts and Saint Martin
There are many islands in the “Saint” chain. These islands are generally considered the most luxurious and most high-end in the Caribbean. A family vacation to these islands should always include luxurious spa visits, sea side massages and delicious drinks served with little umbrellas. St. Barts has long been considered a playground for the rich and famous, but the island is family friendly as well, with its miles of beautiful beaches and enticing activities such as parasailing and scuba diving. One of the best beaches on St. Barts for families is Anse des Flamands, which has calm, warm water and soft sand. The most popular stretch of beach is the Baie de St. Jean, which hosts some of the top hotels on the island as well as nightclubs, shopping and dining. Just across the Saint-Barthelemy Channel is from St. Barts is St. Martin. St. Martin is a fun island to choose for your family vacation because of its dual sided nature: one side is Dutch and the other is French. The bed and breakfast guest will want to head to the Dutch side of the island for activities, shops and restaurants. The French side is where you should go for calm and relaxation; the French side offers less crowds and more serenity. Renting a car and driving between the two sides can often feel like you are getting two vacations in one!
Trinidad and Tobago
Trinidad and Tobago are the largest two islands of an archipelagic island chain in the south Caribbean. Trinidad was the first island Christopher Columbus set foot on in 1498. Because of the vast cultural and religious diversity on the islands of Trinidad and Tobago, the islands host many different religious festivals each year, ranging from the Muslim festival of Hosay to the Indian festival of Divali. Like Martinique, Trinidad and Tobago also come alive during the season of Carnival. And, of course, there are miles of fabulous beaches, some secluded, some busy, and all with glittering, turquoise water that reaches as far as the eye can see. Inland on Trinidad and Tobago is a wealth of tropical savannah, rainforest, woodlands and mangrove swamp. Bird watching is a popular hobby here, as is turtle watching along the sand beaches on the northeast coast of Trinidad. More than five species of turtle make their next on the sandy beaches of Trinidad, including the leatherback turtles, whose adults range from 600 to 2000 pounds.
Turks and Caicos Islands
Turks and Caicos are two neighboring islands that are both protectorates of the British crown. Many of the islands in both the Caicos chain and the Turks chain are uninhabited. In the Caicos islands, the island of Providenciales is the most populated and offers a lot of reasonable accommodation rates. The resorts are on the islands of Dellis Cay, Pine Cay, and Parrot Cay are more elite, but offer a more secluded experience. In the Turk islands, tourists flock to Salt Cay. Turks and Caicos is home to the best beach in the world, according to the 2007 World Travel Awards. Grace Bay Beach is a white and turquoise wonder, where the water is always calm and clear and the sand is always soft and warm. The entire island system of Turks and Caicos is ringed by a coral reef system that offers world-class snorkeling and superb diving opportunities. Families favor Long Bay Beach, also on Providenciales, because the waters are calm and shallow and the beach relatively uncrowded. Long Bay Beach is also the home of the Provo Ponies, a beach horseback riding outfit. This is very popular with children and adults alike.
United States Virgin Islands
The main islands that compose the U.S. Virgin Islands are Saint Croix, Saint John and Saint Thomas. Originally named after Saint Ursula and her virgin lovers by Christopher Columbus, the U.S. Virgin Islands became part of the U.S. territory in 1927. The beaches most tourist on flock to on the U.S. Virgin Islands are Magens Bay and Trunk Bay, both of which are ideal for water sports and swimming. Most of the islands are volcanic, with the highest point being Crown Mountain, which rises majestically above the islands at 1, 555 feet. Eco tours are available on all three islands, and as eco tourism becomes more popular, more reputable outfits are cropping up. Jeep safaris through the dense rainforest, as well as days long backpacking trips are available. On St. John is the Virgin Islands National Park, which is composed of more than 7,000 acres and includes historical ruins, pristine beaches and deep valleys. All of the Caribbean is beautiful and the people are very friendly. Whatever island you choose for your Caribbean family vacation will be wonderful. Relax, soak up a little sun, dig your feet in the sand and take a big, deep breath. That is the Caribbean way...
- Main tourism website for the British Virgin Islands
- Information about Dead Chest Island
- Official site of Grenada tourism
- Information about the Grand Etang National Park and Forest Reserve
- Website for the Honduran Bay Islands
- Website for Roatan tourism
- The official website of the Jamaican tourism board
- Official website for the Martinique Tourism Authority
- Official tourism website for St. Barts
- Website for St. Martin
- The official travel and tourism site for Trinidad and Tobago
- The official tourism website for the islands of Turks and Caicos
- The official website for the U.S. Virgin Islands
- The Virgin Islands National Park
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