Family travel bucket list: Caribbean edition

January 6, 2022

Caribbean Travel

 

Let’s get one thing straight: I’m not wild about the term “family travel bucket list.”  It treats travel experiences like something to check off a list, I guess before you “kick the bucket?” One of my missions with Mango Tree travel is to encourage us to think of unique travel with our kids as something that can be a regular part of life, not an extravagance. 

That said, “bucket list travel” has come to mean the kinds of travel experiences we get super excited about.  It bring to mind images of the remote locations we might only visit once. Those definitely are the kinds of trips I want to encourage.  I hope this post will help you see that the Caribbean is a great place to find them.  

It’s easy to associate the Caribbean with beautiful, all-inclusive resorts.  Obviously, there are plenty of those. But this amazing region offers so much more than just resorts and sandy beaches. The islands have some of the top family travel “bucket list” destinations around.

Caribbean remote island
The remote islands of the Caribbean - worth a spot on any family bucket list.

Why Now Is The Time To Add Caribbean Islands To Your Family Travel Bucket List 

Many of us are itching for an exciting family trip after nearly two years of staying close to home. The Caribbean is close enough to feel manageable, but far and exotic enough to feel like an escape — and with enough to offer outdoors that it feels a little safer than travel to major urban areas.  

The very nature of a Caribbean trip – with attractive beaches and hiking and outdoor dining – makes this region a good place to dip your toes back into family travel.  And a number of Caribbean countries have had excellent COVID protocols in place throughout the pandemic, keeping cases at a minimum, so you can feel safe when you get there.  

Many airlines have recently increased their service to the Caribbean, adding lots of direct flights, including to some islands, like Dominica, that you could only get to before now by transferring through another island. 

And, finally, these countries need support! These island nations have economies that are heavily dependent on tourism.  They are eager to welcome us back.  

Dominica - Caribbean hidden gem
Dominica - called the Nature Island because of its untouched natural beauty - is quickly rising to the top of my bucket list family travel ideas.

These reasons make the Caribbean a perfect 2022 family destination. But here are seven more reasons why – no matter when you’re considering traveling with your family, the countries in this region deserve a place on your family bucket list.

Gorgeous – and kid-friendly – beaches

To state the obvious, the beautiful beaches and crystal clear waters of the Caribbean Sea are the main draw to the region. What might be less obvious, though, is that the type of sandy beach matters when you’re traveling with children, and varies depending on your kids’ age.   

Small children will have more fun – and thus be able to spend more time safely on the beach – with a shallow, gradual slope into the ocean. Older kids may want bigger waves for watersports or surfing.  The Caribbean has both – making it a great choice for any family travel bucket list. Take Saint Martin as a prime example of an island with dozens of kid-friendly beaches to explore. 

Each country’s landscape is different but, generally speaking, the sandy beaches facing the Caribbean Sea slope gently into the ocean with fewer crashing waves – great for toddlers and younger school-aged kids. The beaches facing the Atlantic will often offer bigger waves, an attraction for older kids with an eye towards water sports. And all of these gorgeous beaches have something to offer the parents who want to catch a breather from the daily grind. 

Caribbean beach vacation

watersports (surfing, scuba diving, kayaking, snorkeling)

As kids get older and learn to swim, a whole new world opens up for them (and us) on beach vacations. Suddenly, the ocean itself becomes a playground. As I’ve written elsewhere, taking my daughter snorkeling for the first time was a highlight of our last family holiday. I already dream of being part of her first scuba diving experience. 

Whatever Caribbean country you choose, it will have something exciting to offer on the water.  You might choose your island based on the water sport your kids want to learn.  For example, Barbados is well-known for its surfing. The Caribbean also has countless options for kayaking, including bioluminescent bays in Costa Rica and Puerto Rico, or among mangroves in Bonaire.

As for diving, it would be hard to pinpoint a “best” Caribbean destination, which is definitely a matter of opinion.  I have been diving in half-a-dozen Caribbean destinations, and each had something unique and beautiful to offer – from bright, colorful coral in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, to fascinating wrecks in Grenada, to reef sharks in Jamaica.

Water sports in the Caribbean include snorkeling, kayaking, and diving

Secluded getaways

Nothing encourages family bonding like really getting away from it all.  Many family travel “bucket list” ideas focus on travel to New York City and other major urban destinations. But a visit to a remote island that’s truly off the beaten path should be at the top any beach bucket list. 

While some of the bigger Caribbean islands are major tourist destinations, there are plenty of smaller islands that remain secluded.  The island of Bequia, for example, offers unfussy Caribbean beach charm where you can really slow down. 

GQ once referred to Tobago to as the Caribbean’s “chillest” island and a great place to go for pristine and quiet beaches. 

Small islands like Saba and Dominica, which are not known for their gorgeous beaches, are often overlooked, despite having excellent diving and hiking.  

And while Nassau and Paradise Island in the Bahamas may, for some, conjure up images of the Atlantis mega-hotel, I am eager to visit some of the most secluded Bahama out-islands, like Andros

A secluded island paradise - Bequia
The quiet island of Bequia, in St. Vincent & the Grenadines, offers laid-back and relaxed Caribbean charm.

Colorful and charming cities

Although it can be tempting to spend most of a Caribbean trip at a resort or on the beach, the region’s charming cities and towns can be great places to explore with kids, The little ones will be drawn to the bright colors and vibrant atmospheres of Cartagena, Havana, Willemstad, San Juan, and others. 

Of course, these towns have plenty to offer parents as well – from luxury boutiques to art galleries to delicious local food.  For those of us hunting for a travel destination with a local connection, picking an island with a quaint and charming town is the way to go.  

Highlighting charming Caribbean towns
Stroll the colorful streets of Willemstad, Havana, or Cartagena.

Amazing food

Lots of people (myself included) put France at the top of the list of travel idea list because of the food.  But believe it or not, some of the best French cuisine I’ve had in last few years was in Saint Martin – a Caribbean island famous for its skilled chefs.  

That said, I also couldn’t get enough of the conch fritters in the Bahamas. 

And my first trip to Grenada’s colorful produce market in St. George’s – where I learned about breadfruit, starfruit, plantains, and nutmeg, and came home with an embarrassing amount jams, jellies, and spices – is still one of my all-time favorite travel moments. 

 Each Caribbean country has its own cuisine, and culinary story to be uncovered.

Grenada market
The kitchen table after our first shopping excursion to the colorful market in Grenada. We couldn't leave anything behind.

Beautiful and unique hotels

Some hotels are so special that they can become the highlight of your trip, or the reason you pick a particular location.  (That was the case for our family’s trip to Cartagena, on the South American coast of the Caribbean Sea. Our stays at Casa San Agustin and Hotel Las Islas were among the highlights of our overall experience.).  

Whether you are searching for a luxury travel experience, a treehouse, an overwater bungalow, camping on the beach, the ultimate beach resort, an eco-lodge in the rainforest, or simply a charming boutique hotel with friendly staff, you can find it in the Caribbean.   And our search filters — designed specifically with parents in mind — can help you find it! 

Luxury hotels in St. Lucia
A view of the Pitons from Jade Mountain resort in St. Lucia.

Once-in-a-lifetime experiences

No discussion of bucket list ideas, if we’re really going to use that term, would be complete without highlighting some “once-in-a-lifetime” experiences.  Here are just a few of the amazing things to do in the Caribbean, with links to articles and family travel tips from parents who shared these experience with their kids –  

 

Have you tried any of these epic adventures? What’s your opinion – are they worth it? Let us know in the comments.

Caribbean bucket list ideas
Stingray City in the Cayman Islands, swimming pigs in Jamaica, and the Blue Hole in Belize.

Pin for later, so you can come back when you’re looking for family destination inspiration – 

Family Travel Bucket List Ideas - Caribbean

14 Responses

  1. I came across your blog on TrovenTrip and I must say ..I am glad I did. I loved your blog and would definitely be a place to be added on my bucket list !

  2. We traveled every year to the Caribbean with our children. It was a great for them to explore different countries, hear different languages and experiences e different cultures.

    1. Yes! I know we think of the Caribbean as a place for big resorts, but there’s actually so much to see and learn on the different islands. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Exumas in the Bahamas was one of my favorite destinations! Swam with pigs, snorkeled in famous grotto, in wreckage, lizard island, friendly sharks, sand bars everywhere, fresh lobster at Staniel Cay.

    1. I can’t wait to get there, thanks for sharing! I showed my daughter a video of the swimming pigs in the Bahamas, and of course she now wants to go immediately (perhaps a mistake on my part….).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Parents often joke that we take “trips” with little kids, not “vacations.”

Not with Mango Tree. Everyone's on vacation with us.

Follow along for tips and tricks on family travel that’s actually fun for everyone.