First on any list of experiences for your family holiday in the Caribbean should be the Indigenous Eyes Ecological Park in the Punta Cana region of the Dominican Republic. This fascinating reserve includes over 1,500 acres of subtropical forest and freshwater lakes, and is home to over 100 tropical birds, including colourful parrots and pink flamingos, as well as thousands of iguanas bred on the park’s iguana farm. And when you need to cool down, three of the lakes are open for swimming, so don’t forget your costume.
Top ten family experiences to try in the Caribbean
A family holiday in the Caribbean will be a holiday none of you are likely to forget. But to make it truly memorable, we’ve gathered the top ten experiences from across the region, from flamingo-spotting in the Dominican Republic to travelling on a zip wire above the forest canopy in St Lucia.
The Morne Trois Pitons National Park in Dominica boasts hot springs, a ‘Valley of Desolation’, five volcanoes and some of the richest plant and animal life in the world. But if that’s not enough, it also features an aerial tram. The tram travels across the Titou Canyon and gives its riders some amazing views of the Breakfast River below, with a guide explaining everything you see. For more excitement, head to the ‘Boiling Lake’, which is the second-largest geyser in the world. Best not take a dip though – the water reaches temperatures of over 90oC.
No family holiday in the Caribbean would be complete without the experience of dolphin watching. There are a number of places across the Caribbean that will give you the chance to get up close to these beautiful creatures in their natural home, but the family resort of Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic is perhaps the best. Go in the late afternoon when the dolphins are at their most playful, performing tricks in the water close to your boat.
The Caribbean is so full of stunning freshwater waterfalls that you cannot visit without having the experience of swimming under one. One of the best-known is Dunn’s River Falls in Jamaica, which is one of the few waterfalls you can actually climb up. At 180 feet high and 600 feet long, the waterfall is immense, the rocks constantly being reshaped by the fast-flowing water to form a natural wonder, with small pools that you can relax in. While you’re there, visit the Green Grotto Caves, a striking system of caverns featuring a crystal-clear underground lake.
Famous throughout the world, Mosquito Bay in Vieques, just off the coast of Puerto Rico, is officially the brightest bioluminescent bay in the world. The bay is full of thousands of ‘Dinoflagellates’, tiny organisms than emit a blue light when agitated. So when visitors paddle a kayak or take a boat trip through the water at night, they are surrounded by an astonishing bright blue light. While there are other bioluminescent waters in other parts of the world, Mosquito Bay is the only one that’s bright all year round. Dip your hand in the water for a truly magical experience.
You may think that the Caribbean is paradise enough, but visiting Isla Saona will give you an experience you will treasure forever. The small island, located just off the south coast of the Dominican Republic, is a tropical paradise, with its white sand, turquoise waters and beach-side palm trees providing the setting for many movies. It’s also said to be the setting for the famous Bounty chocolate bar ad! The seas around the island are rich with tropical marine life and starfish, with natural sandbars bringing the depth down to a few metres, making it ideal for snorkelling.
The small Caribbean island of Nevis is a valuable nesting site for a number of different species of sea turtle, and between early July and mid-August a number of hotels organise vigils to watch the Hawksbills and Leatherbacks come out of the sea to bury their eggs in the sand. Held in conjunction with the Sea Turtle Conservancy, the vigils are held at night and often coincide with the conservation groups tagging the turtles to help safeguard their future. Seeing a female turtle slowly climbing the beach before digging a nest and laying her eggs is an awe-inspiring sight for all the family.
As one of the oldest cities in the Caribbean, Santo Domingo is a must-see for all families keen on art, history and culture. The capital of the Dominican Republic was founded over 500 years ago by Bartholomew Columbus, the younger brother of Christopher, and now attracts tourists in their thousands for its ancient architecture and vibrant street life. Head to the 16th-century Basilica Cathedral of Santa María la Menor, the oldest cathedral in the Americas, for its stunning vaulted ceiling, before taking some time to go round the National Zoo and its impressive collection of monkeys, tigers and snakes.
If you like a bit of terrifying treetop adventure to go with your paradise island, head to St Lucia and its zip lines that will find you hurtling across the top of the forest canopy. The Treetop Adventure Park has not one but 12 different zip lines that reach heights of 150 feet above the ground, so once you have done one you can dare yourself to do another. Being so high up gives you the chance to take in some amazing views, as well as the magnificent trees and plants – if you open your eyes, that is.
In an area famed for its tropical islands, Catalina Island stands head and shoulders above them all. Located 1.5 miles from the south-east coast of the Dominican Republic, Catalina Island is one of the best snorkelling spots in the Caribbean, with its unique coral reefs and marine life attracting snorkellers and divers from around the world, as well as avid bird watchers and beach lovers. But whatever you do, don’t forget the camera – this is one place that demands to be photographed.
For the best resorts for families in the Caribbean, take a look at Club Med’s range of all-inclusive resorts.