If you and your clan were stranded on a not-quite deserted island... which would it be? Your answers to our annual hotel survey came in by the boatload. Here, your 10 favorite places to play castaway.

By Meeghan Truelove and Meg Lukens Noonan
July 25, 2012
Cedric Angeles
| Credit: Cedric Angeles

1. Las Casitas Village & Golden Door Spa 84.52

Las Croabas, Puerto Rico

Direct Flights Per Week From North America: 44
Number of Rooms/Units with Kitchens: 453/1
Kids’ Club Rate: Free
Number of Pools: 6

Forgive the regulars at this enclave of 167 villas for feeling a tad smug. Though their Spanish-style cobblestoned "village" is part of the blufftop El Conquistador Resort, a fixture on the island’s northeastern coast since 1962, it’s wonderfully removed from the bustle around the centerpiece hotel and casino. Casitas guests have full run of the Conquistador’s 500 acres—including the spa and an 18-hole golf course that runs family clinics. But they also get an exclusive crescent-shaped edgeless pool that seems to slosh directly into the ocean 300 feet below, not to mention personal butlers who will draw baths (sprinkled with rose petals, if you wish) and keep the fridge stocked with mangoes and Coco Lopez. Soft sand is a hop away by ­water taxi, on palmy Palomino Island, a private retreat where there are horses to ride, jet skis to rev, and beach-roaming waiters to flag down. The resort’s Camp Coqui, for kids 4 to 12, uses the island for hikes and snorkeling. Back on the mainland, mud-­loving families can slip-slide on trails and get sprayed by a waterfall in 28,000-acre El Yunque, the only tropical rain forest in the U.S. National Forest System. Save a moonless night to join a group kayak excursion into the beautiful bioluminescent bay in Las Croabas, where you’ll get to see—and swim in—an underwater light show, courtesy of clouds of tiny, glowing sea creatures. Doubles from $269.

2. Beaches Turks & Caicos Resort & Spa 83.82

Providenciales, Turks and Caicos islands

Direct Flights Per Week From North America: 44
Number of Rooms/Units with Kitchens: 453/1
Kids’ Club Rate: Free
Number of Pools: 6

This all-inclusive on beach-blessed Providenciales (the most populated of the 40 Turks and Caicos islands, located just a 100-minute flight from Miami) is full of gleeful parents who can’t quite believe that they’re on vacation with their kids and things are going great. That’s because Beaches, the well-oiled, family-oriented link in the Sandals chain, manages to be all things to all age groups: newborns are cared for by certified nannies; younger children get treated to conniption-inducing appearances by costumed Sesame Street characters at a supervised activities center; and older kids have a pool with slides and a swim-up juice bar, plus unlimited use of Xbox stations (no quarters required, and, no, you are not alone in finding this both appalling and hugely appealing). Besides kayaking, waterskiing, windsurfing, and sailing, the resort, by the translucent blue waters of 12-mile-long Grace Bay Beach, has a superb scuba operation: certified divers get two free outings daily on a reef where visibility is often close to 200 feet. (Introductory diving lessons are also available.) There’s water excitement closer to home, too—home being 453 rooms distributed among 78 pink, green, and blue villas. The one- to three-bedroom units in the French Village have private concierge service. Opening by year’s end: 168 new family suites (with bunk beds and game consoles), and a massive water park with a surf simulator, lazy river, and tweens-only pool featuring—OMG!—spray guns and water cannons. Daily rates from $410 per adult, children 2-16 $95, all-inclusive.

3. Four Seasons Great Exuma at Emerald Bay 83.75


Direct Flights Per Week From North America: 448
Number of Rooms/Units with Kitchens: 195/12
Kids’ Club Rate: Free
Number of Pools: 2

Yes, it’s a Four Seasons—with all the marble bathrooms, precision-raked sand, and crack service (chilled Evian spritz, anyone?) that this implies. But the 195-room, new-in-2003 resort, on the largest of the mostly uninhabited islands in the Bahamas’ Exuma archipelago, has a decidedly informal air. Are you ready to loll?Beachfront rooms have walk-out terraces that put you directly on the ivory sand bordering the warm, jewel-clear shallows of Emerald Bay (similar quarters in Bay Houses 2 and 3, though farther from the shore, cost hundreds less and overlook the kids’ club and pool). And the residences—perfect for multi-generational groups—come with full kitchens and optional private chefs. Though there’s a complimentary kid’s program that keeps 5- to 12-year-olds busy with Bahamian crafts, hair-braiding, and kite-flying, plus a new teen center, the resort promotes togetherness: expect family volleyball matches, kayak relays, mother-daughter watercolor classes, and parent-child golf and tennis clinics. As tempting as it is to stay put, the whole clan may want to take a boat ride to Stocking Island, a layover spot for yachties that has walking trails and open-air restaurants, or wander into nearby George Town, where local artisans weave hats and hand bags at the daily Straw Market. If all that sounds like just a little too much work, try the Castaway Getaway—a boat will drop you off for the day on an uninhabited island with a picnic, snorkeling gear, beach umbrellas, and a full complement of lounge chairs. Doubles from $495.

4. Atlantis Paradise Island 81.03

Paradise Island, Bahamas

Direct Flights Per Week From North America: 448
Number of Rooms/Units with Kitchens: 2317/0
Kids’ Club Rate: $40/Half-Day
Number of Pools: 11

Come frolic in a land of hyperbole: three colossal hotel towers; 97 acres of waterscape with Mayan-inspired slides; an 11-acre swim-with-the-dolphins habitat; a 24-hour casino; a 30,000-square-foot spa (whew!) are just some of the ways Atlantis makes a success of excess. Key Facts The mid-priced, central Coral Towers houses the Kids Club; floors 8 and up in the Ocean Wing have the best views. Doubles from $370.

5. Paradisus Puerto Rico Resort 80.44

Rio Grande, Puerto Rico

Direct Flights Per Week From North America: 585
Number of Rooms/Units with Kitchens: 486/0
Kids’ Club Rate: Free
Number of Pools: 3

This all-suite, all-inclusive Spanish-style complex has colonized 44 acres of the lush northeast coast. Golf carts shuttle guests from their bungalows to tennis/golf/merengue classes and Puerto Rico’s biggest pool. The family concierge can keep your fridge full and coordinate your troop’s movements via walkie-talkie. Key Facts Bungalow 16 is just three minutes from the pool; Ocean View suites come with two doubles or a king, plus a sofa bed. Adults from $406, kids 3-12 from $150, all-inclusive.

6. Four Seasons Resort Nevis 80.39

Charlestown, Nevis

Direct Flights Per Week From North America: 28
Number of Rooms/Units with Kitchens: 196/40
Kids’ Club Rate: Free
Number of Pools: 3

Guests of the tiny island’s biggest hotel stay in 12 cottage-style buildings fronting the sugary beach; the stellar Robert Trent Jones II-designed golf course is an emerald backyard. Kids can spot vervet monkeys and dwarf goats beneath cloud-shrouded Nevis Peak or look for sea turtles nesting on the beach at night. Key Facts First-floor rooms (king-size or two double beds, with sleeper sofa) have patios and private entrances—northside ones are closest to the kids’ pool. Villas with kitchens are a five-minute walk from the beach. Doubles from $655.

7. Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino 79.31

Palm Beach, Aruba

Direct Flights Per Week From North America: 95
Number of Rooms/Units with Kitchens: 413/0
Kids’ Club Rate: $25/Half-Day
Number of Pools: 1

This U-shaped high-rise resort elbowed its way into the best -spot on the beach. Tweens can play volleyball on a sand court close to the ocean as you snooze beneath a palapa. And while the littlest sculpt driftwood, you can sneak off to the casino for some low, low-stakes roulette—bets start at 50 cents. Key Facts All rooms with king-size beds or two doubles are 400 square feet—the island’s largest. Doubles from $450.

8. Round Hill Hotel & Villas 78.95

Montego Bay, Jamaica

Direct Flights Per Week From North America: 220
Number of Rooms/Units with Kitchens: 110/0
Kids’ Club Rate: Free
Number of Pools: 2

A former sugar plantation west of Montego Bay, Round Hill has exuded Grace Kelly chic since 1953 (daily afternoon tea, no TV’s, oodles of service), yet its 25 villas, each with a private pool, make it perfect for families. The Pineapple Club is base camp for T-shirt tie-dying and jungle explorations, and the shallow end of the dazzling new pool was designed with minnows in mind. Key Fact In addition to the villas, consider Pineapple House—it has connecting rooms. Doubles from $590.

9. Beaches Negril Resort & Spa 78.37

Negril, Jamaica

Direct Flights Per Week From North America: 220
Number of Rooms/Units with Kitchens: 210/0
Kids’ Club Rate: Free
Number of Pools: 3

An all-inclusive on Jamaica’s famed Seven Mile Beach, Beaches Negril has the well-honed distractions for which the chain is famous: accredited nannies, walk-around Sesame Street characters, and a water park with self-serve ice cream, not to mention snorkeling jaunts, Xbox challenges, and G-rated reggae parties. Key Fact The Savannah block is closest to the action. 800/232-2437;; adults from $370, kids 2-15 from $95, all-inclusive.

10. Westin St. John Resort & Villas 78.27

St. John, USVI

Direct Flights Per Week From North America: 100
Number of Rooms/Units with Kitchens: 174/92
Kids’ Club Rate: $30/Half-Day
Number of Pools: 1

The Westin’s palmy property slopes gently down to tranquil Great Cruz Bay, where kids bounce on giant water trampolines, splash in the pool’s waterfall, and go on iguana safaris. Try the on-site family activities (bingo, potato-sack races) or day-trip to the island’s spectacular snorkeling beaches. Key Facts First-floor Pool View doubles have their own patios. Secluded villas offer even more privacy—exactly what the Caribbean was made for. Doubles from $759.

As of January, all U.S. citizens—including kids—traveling by air outside the country or its territories are required to carry a passport (Canada or Turks and Caicos?Pack it. Puerto Rico or St. John?Leave it at home).

Look for land- and sea-travel regulations to follow suit by the beginning of next year. Passport applications require two photos, proof of citizenship, and valid ID, and processing takes 6 to 8 weeks. Documents issued for kids 15 and younger last just five years; those for everyone else expire after 10 years.

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