25 Top Budget Caribbean Family Vacations
By Nancy Schretter, Editor
Families can easily enjoy some of the Caribbean's best beaches without breaking the bank. In fact, a number of family friendly resorts throughout the Caribbean regularly offer affordable vacation values and family oriented amenities. The Family Travel Network staff has researched the market and surveyed travel agents, family travel experts, readers, and others to come up with our list of 25 of the best budget Caribbean resorts and vacation options for families. We've also uncovered other options for finding cheap Caribbean family vacation deals.
Families can get the best deals and rates during the off-season months (generally from late April or early May through mid-December), but some resorts also offer family-oriented specials at other times. During the summer months, "kids stay and eat free" deals are quite common at resorts in the Caribbean and Mexico. In addition, some vacation package marketers such asBookIt.com (www.bookit.com), CheapCaribbean.com (www.cheapcaribbean.com), Funjet (www.funjet.com), Fare Deals (www.faredeals.com), USA3000 Vacations (www.usa3000.com) and others offer deals and specials during the fall and in prime winter months. When bargain shopping, always make sure to compare these deals with those that you can obtain on your own to make sure you're getting the best deal. Websites such as TravelZoo (www.travelzoo.com) and the Hot Deals area of the Family Travel Network can also be good sources for Caribbean vacation bargains.
Vacation home and villa rentals can be another good source for reasonably priced Caribbean family getaways in the off-season, especially if you have a large family or are traveling with a multigenerational group. These properties provide families with room to spread out and generally come with kitchen facilities, which can save money on meals. Villa rental agents are particularly helpful in matching family needs and budgetary considerations with island properties. Companies such as Villas of Distinction (www.VillasofDistinction.com) Villas Caribe (www.villascaribe.com), and WIMCO (www.wimco.com) have listings throughout the Caribbean, while agencies such as Jamaica Villas by Linda Smith (www.jamaicavillas.com) specialize in one island. Websites such as www.homeaway.com, www.vrbo.com, and www.redweek.com also provide good deals directly from the owner.
If you're dreaming of some fun in the Caribbean sun, here are 25 budget-oriented resorts and vacation options that are good choices for an affordable family getaway. You won't find five-star rooms, gourmet restaurants and amenities at these places, but you won't be spending a fortune, either. These destinations deliver a good value for families who want to stretch their vacation dollars.
1. Bayaleau Point Cottages, Grenada: These four colorful cottages on Carriacou, a tiny island in the Grenadines, are perfect for escapist families who want to get away from it all and relax. Owner Dave Goldhill goes out of his way to make parents and children very welcome here. What's Special: These four cottages can be rented separately or for a large family vacation. "Mostly Harmless," a 28-foot launch, is available to take families on day excursions to the Tobago Cays for snorkeling and other excursions in the Grenadines. Three of the cottages are perfect for families and one - the Little Blue Cottage - has a separate Baby Blue Cottage that's perfect for families with teens. Hiking, kayaking, sailing, and donkey treks are available. There is no television or air conditioning in the units. To get the most out of your stay here, a rental car is advised. www.carriacoucottages.com
2. Bay Gardens Beach Resort, St. Lucia: Bay Gardens Beach Resort occupies an enviable location on beautiful two-mile long Reduit Beach. What's Special: This resort's winning combination of beachfront location, excellent service and value-oriented rates makes it popular with repeat guests. Families like the hotel's expansive rooms and suites, most of which can be combined into two-bedroom accommodations, as well as the large lagoon pool. Guests will enjoy the resort's onsite restaurants, watersports and dive center, and the La Mer full service spa. Babysitting, laundry services, and free Wi-Fi are available. www.baygardensbeachresort.com
3. Bohio Dive Resort, Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos: Divers and non-divers alike will enjoy their stay at Bohio Dive Resort, a boutique hotel nestled on 4-acres of pristine white sand beachfront. What's Special: Bohio's on-site PADI dive shop allows guests to explore the area's world-class diving opportunities and learn to dive courses and instruction are available. Children ages 16 and under sharing a room with parents stay free and babysitting is available. Families will enjoy the resort's pool, snorkeling off Bohio's beach and free kayaks, bikes and high-speed Internet access. Horseback riding, yoga classes and excursions to other cays are also available. The nearby Grand Turk Cruise Centre opens its doors on selected days when cruise ships are in port, providing access to duty-free shopping and boutiques. The hotel's Guanahani Restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. www.bohioresort.com
4. Breezes Curacao Resort Spa & Casino, Curacao: Breezes Curacao offers families the value and ease of an all-inclusive vacation with Dutch island flair. What's Special: Families will enjoy the watersports and the 1500-foot white sand beach. The resort has constructed a breakwater right offshore, creating a large protected area where children can easily swim amidst tropical fish. The resort is also adjacent to the lovely Undersea National Park as well as the Sea Aquarium. Fully-staffed kids programs at Camp Breezes are included and are available for babies, school-age children and teens. SuperNannies and babysitters are available for an additional charge. If you go, make reservations for dinner at Pastafari and Munasan, the resort's Japanese tapanyaki restaurant, and try out the trapeze and trampoline clinics. Families with children ages 14 and older should check out Breezes Bahamas and the recently renovated Breezes Runaway Bay, two additional value-oriented Breezes properties that work particularly well for families with teens. www.breezes.com
5. Carimar Beach Club, Anguilla: Anguilla has some of the most spectacular beaches in the Caribbean, but many of the island's resorts are posh five-star luxury properties. Located right on the water on stunning Mead's Bay, Carimar Beach Club provides the perfect alternative for value-oriented families who want to experience Anguilla's unspoiled charms without breaking the bank. What's Special: Carimar's beachfront and beachview one- and two-bedroom villas give families room to spread out on their vacation. Each villa comes with a full kitchen, allowing families to save money on food expenses. High speed Internet service is available in all rooms and laundry facilities and a television are located in the resort's recreation room. Although there are televisions in the villas, the beach is the main draw here. For families with children ages 2-12, Carimar guests can use the facilities of the Children's Place at the upscale Malliouhana Hotel & Spa next door for $25 per day. This supervised outdoor playground on the beach includes a 26-foot pirate ship, a variety of pools, and a 60-foot water slide. www.carimar.com.
6. Chenay Bay Beach Resort, St. Croix, US Virgin Islands: If you're seeking a reasonably priced beach cottage with resort amenities in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Chenay Bay may be just the place for you and your family. What's Special:The resort's cottages have private front porches and kitchenettes so families can enjoy snacks or meals whenever they wish. Family cottages can sleep up to 8 adults. The resort has a lovely sand beach which is protected by Green Cay National Wildlife Preserve, a small island located just off the coast. Since the resort is located in the U.S. Virgin Islands, no passports are required. www.chenaybay.com.
7. Cinnamon Bay Campground, St. John, US Virgin Islands: This lovely campground and cottage compound is an excellent choice for budget-oriented families looking for affordable accommodations on the idyllic island paradise of St. John. Over 30 "bring your own tent" bare sites, 55 durable pre-erected tents and 40 screen-lined rustic cottages - some beachfront and beachview - are available here. What's Special: Cinnamon Bay's cottages and other accommodations are located just steps away from the National Park's longest stretch of sand, Cinnamon Bay Beach. This property is a haven for campers and families who love the beach and are looking for a good bargain on St. John. Cottages have electricity and all accommodations have easy access to the campground's central bathhouses with lavatories and cool water showers. The on-site Tree Lizards Restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner daily and the General Store carries a variety of grocery items and toiletries. The property's U.S. Virgin Islands location means no passports are necessary. If you go, bring some mosquito repellent and consider renting a jeep to buy groceries and explore the island.www.cinnamonbay.com.
8. Coconut Beach Resort, St. Lucia: Set on 85 lush acres near the tip of St. Lucia, all-inclusive Coconut Bay Resort is close to all of St. Lucia's top attractions and just minutes away from Hewanorra International Airport. This resort won aTripAdvisor.com Travelers' Choice Award in the "Best for Families - Caribbean" category. What's Special: CocoLand water park, complete with pools, water slides and a Lazy River, is a true kid-pleaser. The resort's well-supervised kids programs for children ages 3-14 include The Clubhouse for preteens and Coco Kidz for toddlers and school-age children. The resort's location is close to many of St. Lucia's prime attractions, and the resort's tour desk offers rainforest canopy tours, trips to the world's only drive-in active volcano, boat trips along the St. Lucia coast, and a wide variety of other excursions. www.coconutbayresortandspa.com
9. Comfort Suites Paradise Island, Bahamas: This Comfort Suites delivers more than meets the eye for families. The resort's added benefits make it a true family favorite, so make sure to take advantage of them for as long as they last.What's Special: Located across from Atlantis Paradise Island, families staying at Comfort Suites Paradise Island can enjoy the full use of the Atlantis facilities, including the pools, water slides, Lazy River ride, private beach, spa and Kids Camp, at a small fraction of the Atlantis price. Guests at Comfort Suites Paradise Island also have full signing privileges at Atlantis Paradise Island restaurants and lounges. In addition, Comfort Suites guests also receive a free deluxe continental breakfast and refrigerators are available in the hotel's rooms. Deluxe rooms can accommodate larger families with two double beds and a living room area complete with a double sofa bed. www.ComfortSuites.ChoiceHotels.com
10. Grand Pineapple Beach Negril, Jamaica: The laid-back all-inclusive Grand Pineapple Beach Negril is now owned by Sandals/Beaches Resorts, a favorite with family travelers. Beaches operates another value-oriented family oriented all-inclusive nearby, Beaches Sandy Bay, which is also a good (but more expensive) choice for budget oriented families. What's Special: This small resort is located on one of the widest sections of spectacular Negril Beach, providing 7-miles of white sand bliss for beach lovers. Beach side rooms are located right on Negril Beach, while less expensive garden side rooms are located across the boulevard. Watersports here are excellent and most public areas of the hotel (as well as some of the rooms) have Wi-Fi coverage. Great deals are often offered on the resort's website, so make sure to check there before booking. www.GrandPineapple.com
11. Guavaberry Spring Bay Vacation Homes, Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands: The unique Guavaberry Spring Bayresort is a collection of individual tree house-style villas. Each one, two or three bedroom home comes with a fully equipped kitchen, a living/dining area, covered decks and beautiful views. What's Special: Location, location, location. These villas are situated just a short walk from beautiful Spring Bay Beach, Devil's Bay, fantastic snorkeling at The Baths, and "The Crawl," a National Park featuring a natural swimming pool enclosed by giant boulders. The spacious villas give families room to spread out and the full kitchens in each cottage allow families to save on meals. In addition, the resort's commissary is conveniently well stocked with groceries and other supplies. The helpful staff at GuavaberrySpring Bay are also available to help with restaurant reservations, setting up excursions and arranging car rentals. Villas do not have air conditioning or televisions, but the tradewinds and surrounding activities can easily compensate for both.www.guavaberryspringbay.com
12. Holiday Inn SunSpree Resort, Jamaica: The Holiday Inn SunSpree Resort in Jamaica won TripAdvisor.com's Travelers' Choice Award in the "Best for Families - Caribbean" category in previous years. What's Special: This all-inclusive resort's multi-million dollar renovation added significant improvements to the rooms as well as to the beach, swimming and sunning areas. Special family-oriented KidSuites are available. The resort is located only 7 miles from SangsterInternational Airport, making it a great choice for long weekend family getaways. The resort also offers a free children's program for kids ages 6 months to 12 years, watersports, and one bedroom suites for larger families. Check for "Kids Stay, Play and Eat Free" deals for children 12 and under. www.sunspreeresorts.com
13. Hotel Akumal Caribe, Akumal, Mexico: This laid-back snorkelers' and divers' paradise in the Riviera Maya region is a family favorite, with its lovely white sand beach, spacious bungalows and villas, and charming rustic feel. What's Special: For years, the Hotel Akumal Caribe has delivered an excellent vacation value for budget-conscious families. Accommodations are available in the low-rise hotel (families with little ones should request first floor units), or in the resort's bungalows, condos and villas. A wide variety of watersports are available at the property and the beach is lined with palapas and palm trees for shade. All rates include an American breakfast and free Internet. The resort's Lol-Ha restaurant is a good choice for dinner and a number of Mayan ruins are located within easy driving range. Babysitters can be arranged with adequate notice. If you go, make sure to take a cab or get in your rental car and go to nearby Yal Ku Lagoon for snorkeling. www.hotelakumalcaribe.com
14. Iberostar Costa Dorada, Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic: The all-inclusive Iberostar Costa Dorada wonTripAdvisor.com's Travelers' Choice Award in the "Best Bargain - Caribbean" category in previous years. This property, as well as its many Iberostar sister properties throughout the Dominican Republic and the Riviera Maya area of Mexico, are consistent favorites with vacationing families. What's Special: Families rave about this resort's large pool, lovely grounds and attentive Star Friends staff. Lucy's Club entertains children ages 4-12 and an extensive variety of tours are offered. Spa treatments are excellent and extremely reasonably priced. Rooms in blocks 1,2,5,6 and 7 are further away from the disco and tend to be quieter. For more "if you go" tips, see this related article on The Family Travel Network. This property's sister resorts in Punta Cana, the Iberostar Bavaro and the Iberostar Dominicana, were named byTripAdvisor.com and Budget Travel magazine as best value Caribbean resorts. www.iberostar.com
15. Maho Bay Camps and Concordia Eco-Resort, St. John, US Virgin Islands: Located on one of the most beautiful and exclusive islands in the Caribbean, these Maho Bay properties are both eco-friendly and reasonably priced. What's Special: Maho Bay Camps have their own secluded white sand beach within the U.S. Virgin Islands National Park and are just a short drive away from some of St. John's most breathtaking beaches and attractions. Concordia Eco-Resort is located in one of the least populated areas of the island, so you won't be fighting the crowds here. The new studio units are lovely and this property's eco-tents offer private ensuite toilets, solar showers, and breathtaking vistas. On a clear night, views of the stars and Milky Way are outstanding. Don't miss dining at Cafe Concordia on property - the food is excellent. Environmentally sensitive families will particularly enjoy the combination of beautiful surroundings, comfort, convenience and intimacy with nature that these "green" resorts offer. Since these properties are located in the U.S. Virgin Islands, so no passports are required. www.maho.org
16. Neptune's Treasure, Anegada, British Virgin Islands: Anegada is a perfect choice for escapist families looking to get away from it all on an unspoiled island in the British Virgin Islands. What's Special: Mention Anegada to most travelers and you're likely to get a blank stare in return. Historically, the island hasn't been easy to reach so most vacationers don't know about it. Experienced Caribbean travelers, however, know Anegada is home to some of the region's most beautiful beaches, fabulous snorkeling and excellent fishing. You're even likely to see flamingos there. Neptune's Treasure offers comfortable, basic accommodations on the island at an extremely affordable price. You won't find pools and waterslides here and the beach is not right in front of the property - but great ones are close by and the management will get you there. The rooms and cottages are air-conditioned and sea kayaks are available for your use.www.neptunestreasure.com.
17. Pelican Bay at Lucaya, Grand Bahama Island, Bahamas: Grand Bahama Island is often a good choice for budget oriented families. Airfares to this island are often on sale through AirTran and other carriers and Pelican Bay at Lucayaprovides an excellent value for the vacation dollar. What's Special: This family friendly boutique hotel provides its guests with personalized attention, three outdoor swimming pools and complimentary continental breakfast. One-bedroom suites as well as individual guest rooms are available. The Beach access is across the road at the Our Lucaya resort area, approximately 300 yards away. Guests may use the beaches and restaurants at the Our Lucaya properties there, but not the pools. In addition, Taino Beach and its facilities are free for all Pelican Bay guests. If you go, consider taking an excursion to beautiful Gold Rock Beach and enjoying a meal at Sabor Restaurant. www.pelicanbayhotel.com
18. Sandos Playacar Beach Resort & Spa, Playa del Carmen, Mexico: This beach resort is very child friendly and a real family pleaser, winning TripAdvisor.com's Travelers' Choice Award in the "Best for Families - Caribbean" category.What's Special: Families come to the Sandos Playacar for the wide beach, the great kids club, the beautiful grounds, and the helpful staff. This all-inclusive hotel is an excellent choice for beach lovers, with one of the nicest beaches in the area. The resort is located about 5 minutes away from the town of Playa del Carmen for those who would like to shop or enjoy the nightlife. The resort offers a Baby Club for kids 2-3 years of age, a Kid's Club for 4-12 year olds, and a Teen's Club for 13-17 year olds. Seven swimming pools, two tennis courts, watersports facilities and a full service spa are available for guests' enjoyment. www.sandoshotels.com
19. Seaside Cabanas, Caye Caulker, Belize: The sandy streets and swaying palm trees on Caye Caulker give it an "oldCaribbean" feel and the prices on this island match its laid-back retro charm. With its beachfront location and lovely little pool, Seaside Cabanas is the best place for families to stay on the island. What's Special: The little island of Caye Caulker is the place to go when your family wants to relax and unwind in peace. There are no motorized vehicles on this island, only golf carts and bicycles, but it's quite easy to walk from one end of the island to the other. Seaside Cabanas has the only pool on the island, and its waterfront location and helpful hotel staff win big points with families. Use the money you save on lodging for excursions such as snorkeling and diving, cave tubing, and trips to the Mayan ruins. Regular water taxi service is available to Belize City and to nearby Ambergris Caye. www.seasidecabanas.com
20. Short Cruises, Bahamas and the Caribbean: Short cruises to the Bahamas and the Caribbean can also be an excellent choice for stretching family vacation dollars. These 3- to 5-night cruises depart from a wide variety of U.S. ports and are often very attractively priced. Rates for a 3- to 5-night cruise can be as low as $149 to $239 per adult. Kids sharing a cabin sail at a lower price, or sometimes even for free. In addition, cruises departing from nearby drive-to-port cities can eliminate the additional airfare costs. All meals are included, but soft drinks, alcoholic beverages, shore excursions and tips must be added to the base price. Check out sites such as www.vacationstogo.com and www.cruises.com, or talk with your favorite travel agent.
21. Sunset Jamaica Grande All Inclusive Resort, Ocho Rios, Jamaica: The Sunset Jamaica Grande Resort and its sister property in Montego Bay, the Sunset Beach Resort, keep families coming back for budget-stretching values, exciting waterscapes, and family-friendly amenities. What's Special: The waterpark and Lighthouse Waterslide at this all-inclusive 730-room beachfront resort are real family pleasers. The lighthouse gives guests a panoramic view of the entire resort complex and the Caribbean Sea before allowing them to twist and turn down their choice of two separate waterslides. The lower level of the lighthouse contains an air-conditioned games arcade. The resort's popular Club Mongoose Kids Club for kids ages 2-12 and the Jamstone 'tweens and teens center keep kids of all ages entertained.www.sunsetjamaicagrande.com
22. Tamarijn Aruba All Inclusive, Aruba: Families flock to Aruba for its relatively hurricane-free location, beautiful beaches and warm sun. The beachfront Tamarijn Aruba won Caribbean Travel & Life's "Best of the Caribbean" Readers' Choice Award. What's Special: Families rave about the lovely beach at the Tamarijn Aruba as well as the value the resort delivers for their vacation dollars. All guests at the Tamarijn Aruba have full use the features and facilities of the adjacent Divi Aruba All Inclusive Resort, giving them the choice of 8 dining options, 3 freshwater pools and the Divi WindsSports Center with a 30-foot rock climbing wall, fitness center and non-motorized watersports. A children's camp is available Monday through Friday for kids ages 5-12. If you go, make as many specialty restaurant reservations as you can upon arrival. www.tamarijnaruba.com
23. Timothy Beach Resort, St. Kitts: Inexpensive accommodations on this Caribbean island can be hard to find, butTimothy Beach Resort delivers lots of value for the family vacation dollar. The property's staff is friendly and accommodating, and Internet access is available in the resort's restaurant as well as in the office area. While the beach area available at the resort is primarily the large public beach next door, the resort does have its own private pool and restaurant. What's Special: The spacious one-bedroom condo units are well-priced and give families a full kitchen in addition to a private bedroom for parents. If you go, make sure to keep an eye out for green vervet monkeys that often come down from the hills to the resort early in the morning and between 4-5:30 p.m. in the afternoons. Families should be aware that there is loud music at the nearby beach shacks and bars on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights and that the wall air-conditioning units are quite loud. www.timothybeach.com.
24. Tortuga Lodge, Tortuguero, Costa Rica: Costa Rica's Tortuga Lodge is the place to go for wildlife. Sea turtles nest on the Caribbean beaches during the summer months, and the surrounding jungle is filled with three species of monkeys, sloths, toucans, parrots, and a wide variety of other creatures. Travel & Leisure Family named Tortuga Lodge as one of their "Family Favorite Resorts." What's Special: The comfortable accommodations and food at Tortuga Lodge are excellent, but nature is the real draw at this family friendly eco-resort. Situated on 50 acres of private land next to Tortuguero's slow-moving rivers, Tortuga Lodge wows families with its guided riverboat excursions through TortugueroNational Park, turtle hikes, and kayaking opportunities. Three meals are served daily, and a lovely saltwater pool is available for relaxing and sunbathing. If you go, make sure to visit the Caribbean Conservation Corporation's field station in Tortuguero to see the exhibitions and adopt a sea turtle. www.costaricaexpeditions.com/lodging/tortugalodge
25. Turtle Nest Inn, Grand Cayman: The Turtle Nest Inn offers an affordable place to stay on the generally pricey island ofGrand Cayman. What's Special: The inn's one- and two-bedroom apartments give families free Wi-Fi and lots of room to spread out. The snorkeling here is great. Washer/dryers and a dishwasher are available in the two-bedroom units. Although the beach here is narrow, the Turtle Nest Inn has a pool and gives guests free use of kayaks, rafts and snorkeling equipment. A rental car in needed for transportation here, but 7-night packages that include a rental car are available. www.turtlenestinn.net
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