You’ve got the whole family in tow, and you’re looking for a vacation island for the whole family to enjoy. You want it to be fun; you want it to be safe, and you don’t want anyone to get bored on one of your island vacations. To help, we’ve rounded up seven islands in the U.S. and the Caribbean that are total crowd-pleasers, featuring swimming beaches, animal encounters and all-ages activities — and ice cream; lots of ice cream.
Travel to renowned destinations like Hawaii or the Bahamas for ultimate beach vacations for the family. Feeling something a little less typical? Visit Anna Maria Island in Florida, and try their famous ice cream and donut stores. Want to indulge yourself in nature? Take to Aruba, and visit its butterfly and ostrich farms and its donkey sanctuary, and go on an underwater voyage for one of your next tropical family vacations.
From island aquariums and tropical zoos to sweet-tooth heaven, read on for our list of the best tropical family vacations.
Kauai, Hawaii’s fourth-largest island, hosts many family island vacations with its beautiful beaches, natural wonders and Old Hawaii feel. Poipu Beach on the south shore is tops, thanks to its calm water, plentiful tropical fish and lazy monk seals napping on the sand. Families can hike in Waimea Canyon, nicknamed the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, or marvel at the 4,000-foot Napali Cliffs on a catamaran tour with Captain Andy’s.
All ages get into the aloha spirit at the Grand Hyatt Kauai Luau. Kids who stay at the resort can also get excited for free activities like lei-making classes, koi fish feedings and photo ops with the resident parrot in a destination for one of the best tropical vacations for families.
Paradise Island, Bahamas
Home to Atlantis, the grande dame of family hotels, Nassau is a no-brainer for your tribe. The immense resort features several kids clubs, a water park and the largest open-air aquarium in the world one of the best islands for kids.
Over on Cable Beach, the new Grand Hyatt Baha Mar flaunts its own fair share of animal encounters, including green sea turtles, stingrays, nurse shark and 50-plus species of tropical fish. Beyond your resort gate, other discoveries await, from souvenir shopping in the Straw Market to pink flamingos at Ardastra Gardens, Zoo & Conservation Centre.
Anna Maria Island, Florida
From a golf-cart ride to get ice cream at Two Scoops to indulging at the Donut Experiment and enjoying the Friday-night fish fry at Anna Maria Island Beach Café, simple pleasures rule in sleepy Anna Maria. Kids will get a kick out of eating high over the water at the Rod and Reel Pier before applauding the sunset ahead of digging into yummy seafood at the Beach House Restaurant.
For the convenience of a full kitchen and multiple bedrooms, book a vacation home through Island Real Estate or Duncan Real Estate. Of course, most of your time will be spent on Anna Maria Island’s soft, white-sand beaches, building sand castles, hunting for shells and keeping your eyes peeled for dolphins swimming in the Gulf.
Providenciales, Turks and Caicos
Turks and Caicos is a natural playground of thriving reefs, mangrove jungles and sugar-sand beaches. A regular on best-beaches lists, Providenciales’ 12-mile Grace Bay is a magnet for families, who can find homey comforts like full kitchens, separate living rooms and washers/dryers at the Venetian and the Tuscany.
Grab a sweet treat at Island Scoop before stocking up with basic grocery items at the Graceway Gourmet upscale supermarket. Little ones will love seeing indigenous, wild rock iguanas on Little Water Cay. They’ll also get a glimpse below the ocean’s surface on a glass-bottom-boat tour during one of the best family island vacations you can have.
Aruba is famous for its white sand and blue skies (almost 300 sunny days a year, to be precise), but One Happy Island also boasts a surprising amount of animal attractions. Kids can interact with butterflies (Aruba Butterfly Farm), ostriches (Aruba Ostrich Farm), donkeys (Donkey Sanctuary Aruba) and more.
Other fun activities include De Palm Tours’ water park and Atlantis Submarines’ underwater voyages. Full-service resorts (Hyatt, Hilton, Holiday Inn) fringe Palm Beach, but plan to also spend a day on Baby Beach, a family favorite because of its shallow, gentle water.
Coronado Island, California
We admit: Coronado Island is technically a peninsula, but this all-American beach-vacation destination is so family-focused that it would be irresponsible not to include it in this list. Older kids can kayak in San Diego Bay for downtown views, and the whole crew can take advantage of Coronado’s 15 miles of bike paths (rentals range from beach cruisers to fringed surreys).
Beach days are a given. Try Glorietta Bay for extra amenities like a playground and restrooms. Or consider Silver Strand State Beach for shady picnic spots. Of course, San Diego’s popular attractions like SeaWorld and the San Diego Zoo are a short drive away. Bonus: Even if you don’t stay at Coronado’s famous Hotel del Coronado, you can still enjoy some of the family-friendly features, such as the MooTime Creamery and movie nights on the sand.
Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands
Combine the familiarity of Florida with quintessentially Caribbean white sand and turquoise water: That’s Grand Cayman. Families can’t go wrong on Seven Mile Beach, lined with well-known resort brands like Marriott.
Go for all-inclusive convenience at Wyndham Reef Resort on the East End. Kid-centric fun ranges from a dose of island history at Pedro St. James to feeding the hungry tarpon at Grand Old House restaurant. Don’t miss encounters with sea turtles and other wildlife at the Cayman Turtle Centre on one of the best islands for family vacations.