The Whole Clan to the Caribbean
If villa-hiring isn't your family's style, consider a full-service resort. However, a kids' menu alone doesn't guarantee the perfect stay. You want to be in a place where there are other young playmates, in addition to planned entertainment. Word of advice: Ask in advance whether the children's program is included in the rate. Here, 16 family-oriented Caribbean resorts (rates are based on two adults and two children in a room with two double beds).
1. Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort & Casino Palm Beach; 800/233-1234 or 297-8/61234; from $219.
Camp Hyatt keeps kids ages 3 to 12 busy with treasure hunts, beach walks, and crafts projects. For everyone, there's a massive water park—the focal point of the 360-room resort—with a three-level pool and a spiraling 20-foot water slide.
BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS
2. Bitter End Yacht Club Virgin Gorda; 800/872-2392; from $800, including all meals.
Introductory sailing courses are included in the price at this 89-room nautical village, where guests have unlimited use of more than 100 boats. Nature trails and reggae parties make the Bitter End ideal for both the salty and landlubbing sets.
3. Little Dix Bay Virgin Gorda; 800/928-3000 or 284/495-5555; from $550.
Until 1994, Little Dix had a minimum guest age of eight. These days, younger children are not only accepted, but welcomed. The kids' program—featuring iguana sightings with a staff horticulturist—reflects the same appreciation of the environment that Laurance Rockefeller espoused when he founded the 98-room resort.
4. Casa Caribe Grand Cayman; 345/945-4287; from $325.
There's no children's program, but what Casa Caribe lacks in organized activities, it more than makes up for with its pristine beach and well-priced, kitchen-equipped accommodations. Two dozen two- and three-bedroom condo units mean more space, fewer sibling squabbles.
5. Casa de Campo La Romana; 800/877-3643 or 809/523-3333; from $468.
Sporty kids adore the 283-room Casa de Campo, which supplies instruction in tennis, golf, even skeet shooting. They can also learn to ride at the Dude Ranch, then join a donkey polo match.
6. Club Med Punta Cana 800/258-2633 or 809/687-2606; from $4,438 for seven nights, including all meals.
After a $35 million renovation, the 334-room village will reopen in mid-December with a new level of luxury. The Circus School (juggling, trapeze, trampolines) generates a lot of buzz, but there's also sailing and windsurfing for kids. The mini-club accepts children as young as two.
7. Boscobel Beach Resort Ocho Rios; 800/467-8737 or 876/975-7330; from $1,788 for seven nights, including all meals.
The petting zoo and reggae classes at the 207-room Boscobel will entertain the most finicky of children. If you crave time alone, "SuperNannies" are on the job from breakfast to bedtime. This being an all-inclusive resort geared toward families, children under 14 stay free.
8. Wyndham Rose Hall Resort & Country Club, Montego Bay; 800/996-3426 or 876/953-2650; from $215 .
In the land of big, glitzy all-inclusives, the 489-room Wyndham Rose Hall is a quiet alternative, with some of Jamaica's most attentive counselors. Not to mention the bartenders at the swim-up bar, who treat little girls like debs, serving them unlimited virgin piña coladas.
9. Four Seasons Resort Nevis 800/332-3442 or 869/469-1111; from $425.
This West Indies isle is still relatively undiscovered, but the 196-room Four Seasons—with its Evian-spritzing staff—is anything but primitive. Monkey-spotting excursions and trips to a sugar plantation help kids feel right at home at the elegant resort.
10. Hyatt Regency Cerromar Beach Resort & Casino, Dorado; 800/233-1234 or 787/796-1234; from $245.
You'll find the same sort of aquatic wonderland as at Hyatt's Aruba property, but this 506-room resort makes an even more impressive claim: the world's longest swimming pool. On the horizon is a new spa, with yoga classes for pint-size Zen seekers.
11. Jalousie Hilton Resort & Spa 800/445-8667 or 758/459-7666; from $375.
Through the new Learning Center at the 114-room Jalousie, kids ages four and up can learn about the rain forest and take a day trip to an extinct but still-smoking volcano. More adventurous sorts can scale St. Lucia's famed Twin Pitons with a guide.
12. Odyssey 800/777-1250 or 758/450-0551; from $326.
Indulgent touches at the 372-room Odyssey include a complimentary 15-minute aloe vera rub for each child (just what the doctor ordered for those sunburned shoulders). The air-conditioned nursery (with trained nannies) even accepts newborns.
TURKS AND CAICOS
13. Beaches Turks and Caicos Providenciales; 800/232-2437 or 649/946-8000; from $5,040 for seven nights, including all meals.
Pirate's Island, a new state-of-the-art kids' center and water park, is the draw at this 284-room all-inclusive resort. Adolescents may have a different kind of wild life in mind, so there's a teens-only disco and a Sega Center equipped with the latest arcade games.
U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS
14. Buccaneer Hotel St. Croix; 800/255-3881 or 340/773-2100; from $270.
On the grounds of an 18th-century sugar plantation, the 150-room Buccaneer has a lively atmosphere and a gentle terrain that invites exploration by foot or fins (note the underwater trail, which marks a teeming coral reef). Cottage suites are ideal for big broods.
15. Maho Bay Camps St. John; 800/392-9004 or 340/776-6240; from $70.
If you're a sport and your children are over four, Maho's 114 tent cottages on platforms are a good way to ease into the rustic life. Snorkeling is the main attraction, but just in case the kids get bored, there are puppet shows and screenings of family movies.
16. Westin Resort St. John 800/808-5020 or 340/693-8000; from $170.
The Kids Club provides the usual swim/sand formula, augmented with art classes and an archaeological dig. The resort's 48 villas come with their own pools or semi-private ones; there are also 285 rooms near the beach for sand worshipers.
Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort & Casino
On the shores of Palm Beach, the Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort has nine floors with 357 rooms, including special hypo-allergenic rooms for allergy sufferers. The hotel caters to conventioneers and families by offering land and water activities, a spa and fitness center, golf course, and the on-site, white sandy beach. Camp Hyatt Watapana entertains children age three through 12, while parents can try their luck at 260 slot machines and 21 casino gaming tables. There are 10 different eateries, including Pampered in Paradise, where guests can enjoy a four-course, beachfront meal with tiki torch lighting.