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By Eileen Ogintz
Caribbean in Summer
Finally, a Caribbean beach that's everything a Caribbean beach should be -- quaint, with hammocks strung from palm trees, crystal-clear water perfect for snorkeling, white sand, a first-rate beach bar and enough water toys to keep the kids happy (banana boat ride anybody?). Welcome to Rum Point on Grand Cayman's North Side.
It's a Sunday favorite with locals (www.caymanislands.ky ), but tourists in the know like it too. "Don't tell anyone about this place," jokes Marshall Bonds, who rented a condo nearby with his family.
There's also plenty beyond the beach for the kids to do on the Cayman Islands, like the chance to learn new tricks at the Black Pearl Skate Park, the second-largest skate park in the world (http://www.blackpearl.ky/index.php), visit the Blue Iguana Recovery Center (www.blueiguana.ky); (yes they really are blue and were nearly extinct just three decades ago) or tickle green sea turtles at the
This summer, take the kids to free
The best part: You might even snare a bargain this summer -- with island-wide family deals like Cayman Summer Splash (www.caymansummersplash.com), which includes a free night when you pay for four, 30 percent off on kids (under 12), flights on
Despite high airfares (which incidentally will be no bargain whether you fly to California or the Caribbean), the Caymans aren't the only islands trying to lure families to their beaches. St. Lucia (www.stlucianow.com) has launched a family "Go Bananas" package that includes free meals for kids under 17, a complimentary room upgrade, a complimentary excursion, a Kids Education day at Pigeon Island National Landmark to learn about St. Lucia's legends, an island-wide discount card and -- my favorite -- a complimentary night of babysitting. St. Kitts has "fall in love with St. Kitts & Nevis" (www.stkittstourism.kn) with free night offers and special kids' discounts.
"If people are willing to shell out for airfare, there are great hotel deals in the Caribbean this summer," says Jaime Samuels, publisher of Travelzoo.com's Newsflash. Samuels suggests looking for packages from Miami that include airfare. To get the most bang for your buck, it may be cheaper, she suggests, to grab a flight to Florida and let the deal guide where you go from there.
"Getting there, is the main challenge," says Mike Thiel, founder of www.hideaways.com. "Airfares continue to stay higher than in past years as planes fly full every day." The good news, he adds, is that once you find a flight, you will have your pick of deals -- as much as 40 percent off on villas, for example -- with plenty of extras at resorts. (Free massage? Golf lessons?)
Look for packages that include free nights at reduced summer rates (pay for two and get two free at the Viceroy Anguilla), free diving for kids and teens (Captain Don's Habitat in Bonaire, www.habitatbonaire.com), free excursions to the Maya Ruins and Rainforest (The Inn at Robert's Grove in Belize, www.robertsgrove.com/) and more. TripAdvisor data suggests that hotel prices are as much as 30 percent lower than they were this past February and March. (Check out TripAdvisor's new Trip Friends feature, www.tripadvisor.com/TripFriends, for advice on locales from
If kids are traveling with you, you will probably save the most at all-inclusives, says
Troll for deals on online travel auction sites like www.familygetaway.com or www.jetsetter.com. Become friends or fans of favorite resorts on Twitter and
Fun in the water doesn't necessarily end when the sun sets either. On our last night in the Cayman Islands, we kayak after dark -- on a luminescent bay (www.caymankayaks.com). When our paddles hit the bay it's as if we're writing on the water with glow-in-the-dark crayons, as minnows glow around us. Water dripping through our fingers glistens and the water appears to sparkle, mesmerizing the teens ... for a while at least. I lean back in my kayak and smile. Even in paradise, you don't get too many picture-perfect moments -- not when you take kids along.
© Eileen Ogintz
Travel | Taking the Kids To the Caribbean in Summer