9 reasons to visit Beaches Turks & Caicos with kids
I defy anyone not to perk up at the phrase ‘luxury all-inclusive in the Caribbean’. Even better ‘family-friendly luxury all-inclusive in the Caribbean’. You’re picturing it right now, aren’t you?
Honestly, I only really ‘got’ the idea of all-inclusives after my daughter was born – before that, I was usually heading off the beaten track somewhere and couldn’t imagine the idea of spending a week in one resort (especially as my only experience had been one of the less enticing versions). Foolish foolish past me.
Because mixing a gorgeous location with plenty to do, plenty of indulgence included and a great welcome for families is tricky to beat when it’s done well, as we discovered during our frankly blissful stay at Beaches Turks & Caicos on Providenciales last month. Tempted? Here are my nine reasons to visit Beaches Turks & Caicos with kids.
1. The huge choice
One size rarely fits all. One size definitely doesn’t fit all if you have kids – I’ve looked for very different things travelling with a baby to a four-year-old and I’m pretty certain that’s going to change by the time she’s five or 10 years older too. But with four different ‘villages’ in the resort, each with its own atmosphere and facilities, there would be few people who won’t find something to keep them happy.
We stayed in the Italian village, one of three on the beachfront along with Key West and the Caribbean villages – the French village is set back slightly – and perhaps the most family-friendly of them all. Everything was in easy walking distance, even with a mildly jetlagged four-year-old, including more than 30 different places to eat and drink, 43 different room categories, 10 pools, watersports including unlimited diving for certified divers, entertainment, sports facilities… really too much to list in one blog post (fortunately all listed on the Beaches Turks & Caicos website so I don’t have to!)
2. The idyllic beach
This is not just any beach – this is Grace Bay, regularly voted the world’s best beach. And for a good reason. The Caribbean isn’t short of powdery white sand, ludicrously clear turquoise water and places to lounge under a palm tree and enjoy it, but this is that picture postcard idyll turned up to 11. Maybe even 12.
Apt, as there are 12 miles of it which run alongside the resort. We very happily found a couple of perfect corners and sat gazing out at the waves, and making the most of the sand toys we’d borrowed.
3. The endless pools
With pools in each of the four villages, when we weren’t at the beach (or eating or sleeping), there was a very good chance you’d find us in one of the pools. And when we weren’t in one of the pools, we were at the water park, where Minnie loved the Pirate Ship splash zone with its small slides and the water spray area on the other side of the lazy river. She also loved the lazy river until I accidentally steered our tube under one of the waterfalls.
I loved the rest of the water slides, seizing a sneaky half hour to whizz down as many as I could and discovering that I went a LOT faster on the ones which didn’t require you to sit in a rubber ring. And the fact that all of the areas have plenty of clean warm towels nearby when you’ve been repeatedly dunked as a result.
With shallow areas for kids to play in, swim-up bars at all of them, an adults-only pool in Key West, floats to borrow (or buy in the resort shop), masses of space to splash around and plenty of loungers even when the resort was at 80% capacity (at least), not even the occasional tropical shower could persuade Minnie out. I don’t think my swimsuit got chance to dry.
4. The fabulous food
Ah, the food. Too often, all-inclusive means boring buffets trotted out night after night or a supplement to pay for a bit of variety. Not here. We did our best to eat at most places but still missed out the new Taste of India restaurant, patisserie at Cafe de Paris, French food at Le Petit Chateau, Neptunes’ seafood, sushi at Soy (kicking myself there) and adults-only Sapodilla’s. Oh, and the British pub.
But we did acquit ourselves pretty well. Purely in the name of research. And greed.
Fresh fish at Barefoot by the Sea, where your feet really are in the sand, Tex-Mex at Arizona’s, fantastic spiced traditional dishes at the Jerk Shack (also on the beach), a wonderful mix of flavours at the buffet at Bayside with its great sea views (one of my favourites), pizza at Bella Napoli and hotdogs plus ice cream at Bobby D’s, the fantastic entertainment-meets-dinner at Kimono’s teppanyaki (make sure you reserve), buffet breakfast or Italian at Mario’s and the fabulous breakfast at Sky with a trio of pancakes including chocolate chip and mandarin, plus the most deliciously berry-filled jammy squidgy French toast. I can’t help feeling I’ve forgotten somewhere as well…
The drinks are just as good: hand-poured strawberry daiquiris strong enough to make you relax instantly – and virgin versions which were just as refreshing and less lethal – plus champagne and a choice of wines kept me very happy throughout.
5. The all-inclusive ethos
You could quite easily go to Beaches and never put your hand in your pocket once. Tipping is included (except for the spa and if you have your own butler…), all the restaurants are included, all the drinks, even the scuba diving as I mentioned. And that pretty much never happens.
As I was shown the mini bar in my room, complete with four full bottles of spirits (plus champagne, wine, beer, soft drinks, water, who knows what else tucked away), I was told in all seriousness that if I finished them all, they’d be replaced straight away. As I had about four days at the resort, I’m not sure I could even have attempted to finish one. But hey, it’s nice to know.
The best parts for me are that I’m not constantly trying to find loose change to buy another ice cream or refuse the request for another drink from Minnie – and that Beaches prides itself on ‘luxury included’ which means the wine is the kind you’d want to pick off a wine list and the spirits aren’t thinly disguised paint stripper. No corners are cut and the only small sighs were at running out of time to try everything and the fact my trousers felt unaccountably tight on the flight home.
6. The Sesame Street star-spotting
We have a Cookie Monster at home, a souvenir from a trip to America many years ago – now firmly appropriated by Minnie, it was her only real point of reference for Sesame Street until our visit. But as Beaches has a partnership with the show, there are plenty of experiences where you can meet the characters as well as a chance to spot them wandering around the resort.
We started our trip with the character breakfast where she danced with Bert, was fed cornflakes by Ernie, watched Cookie Monster throw some shapes and was generally mesmerised by all the others (except the Count, even after I reassured her he wasn’t really a scary vampire). By the end, she’d made cookies with Cookie, learned all the words for the letter and number of the day songs and lost her heart to Elmo. Who has joined Cookie at home with us. It was such a huge part of the trip for us, I’ve dedicated a whole post to Sesame Street at Beaches Turks and Caicos.
7. The kids’ facilities
Most big resorts have a kids’ club – but even if you discount the Sesame Street tie-in, it looked pretty special, with its own pool, different rooms for different ages and lots of activities. In the end, Minnie decided she didn’t fancy going so we skipped it, although we did arrange babysitting for a couple of nights through them which meant I got to enjoy that food I mentioned without a hyper/exhausted small girl.
And for older kids, there’s Pirate’s Island with different programmes from ages five-seven up to 15-17-year-olds, with a games room for tweens and teens, an X-Box lounge and all kinds of activities to join in. Last but not least (for Minnie) is the mini train which shuttles between the different areas. Perhaps not the most practical way to get around day in, day out (not that you need it) but a lot of fun.
8. The welcoming staff
From my previous visits to the Caribbean, I know how child-friendly it is – I’ve rarely had less than a warm welcome and that goes double for Minnie. And even with a short stay on a big resort, she was already on first-name terms with a few members of staff after a day or two and made such a fan of one of the Sesame Street team that he dropped off a pirate-themed gift to take home on our last day.
9. The trips
So with that, who wants to leave the resort? Actually, I bet some people don’t – but give me a chance to explore and I’ll always take it. Grace Bay has been named one of the 10 best scuba diving destinations in the world – and while I couldn’t combine that plus a four-year-old, I bumped into two well-travelled friends who were staying at the resort at the same time, and they had loved their scuba experience. You can also learn at the resort or try a mini version of the certificate (as well as kids’ versions) for a small cost.
Island Routes Caribbean Adventures has a string of trips and excursions which you can book online or at the resort, from a visit to a conch farm to fishing, shopping, kayaking and cruises galore. We hopped on the Sesame Sail Away Catamaran Cruise, 90 minutes sailing along the coast of Providenciales with Elmo and Zoe on board.
And if that was a definite highlight, perhaps the most interesting option is the Reading Road Trip, part of an initiative launched by the Sandals Foundation (Sandals is Beaches sister company) which lets guests visit a local school. As well as reading to the kids and chatting to them, we took out some school supplies to donate as well, from dictionaries to colouring and flash cards, all recommended by partner initiative Pack for a Purpose.
Because despite the many temptations of the resort itself, the final part of the picture (for me) is always the chance to see more of the world and introduce my daughter to it as well: real life as much as the holiday fun.
So who else is tempted?
PIN FOR LATER: REASONS TO VISIT BEACHES TURKS & CAICOS WITH KIDS
Disclosure: My stay and trips/activities were courtesy of Beaches Resorts and Island Routes. All opinions and enthusiastic water babies are my own.
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