Travel through a Kid's Eye

Beach and Island Vacations: Family Fun in the Sun

Heading to the beach for vacation is pretty much a no-brainer—and for families, the reason are even more convincing. Kids entertain themselves all day long building sand castles, collecting shells, chasing waves, and burying themselves in the sand while the parents get a chance to get some hard-earned relaxation.
There are many ideal family resorts in the States and the Caribbean with plenty of children's activities. While the kids strike up new friendships, you can rekindle an old one. A growing number of exciting beach destinations combine sun and surf with eco-adventure. With individualized programs for children and adults, its even possible to take the kids on your next dive trip.

Full-fledged resort options like Club Med offer such parental distractions as pools, playing golf, water skiing, windsurfing, kayaking, snorkeling, and sailing, while children can participate in various age-specific "kid clubs," featuring circus activities, water sports, arts, crafts, and drama.
In Belize, kids and their parents can learn about Mayan culture from a naturalist guide, and then experience the idyllic islands of this stunning country, just two hours by air from Miami or Houston. Snorkeling on the world's second largest barrier reef is combined with a jungle river nature trip.
For a really special eco-adventure that combines an exposure to the fragile ecosystem with the more traditional beach-side pursuits, consider a trip to Costa Rica. A safe, stable country with an excellent infrastructure (good transportation system, health clinics, and tourist facilities), Costa Rica pioneered the concept of eco-tourism. Children thrill at the sight of monkeys, sloths, macaws, colorful frogs, and giant iguanas. Most eco tours are led by anthropologists, naturalists, biologists and geologists and many trip leaders have advanced degrees, Ph.D or equivalent training appropriate for the particular expedition.
Practically Speaking
When choosing a beach destination, check that the beaches don't have strong currents, dangerous undertow, or jellyfish at the time you plan to travel. And of course avoid hurricane seasons. Make sure that your beach resort of choice provides well-trained lifeguards, multiple recreational options, and a quality child-care program.
To select an environmental vacation, determine if an eco-adventure or a nature retreat is best for your family. The former is suited for families that want to rough it whereas the latter is for families that seek creature comforts. If you opt for an eco-adventure trip, make sure it is designed for families with children. To children, the wilderness is a big, wonderful, outdoor playground. You don't want to spoil their inherent affinity for nature by placing them in a crowd of fitness fanatics on an outdoor endurance course.

Paul McMenamin is the author, editor, and photo director of the original Ultimate Adventure Sourcebook.

Published: 16 Mar 2001 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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