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Romance, adventure, and experiential travel have gotten plenty of attention in the Caribbean during the last few years. For 2018, the official focus is on wellness (see However, the unofficial focus in much of the Caribbean is still on families, so here’s a look at what’s new at family resorts in the islands. Rates for all are for a family of four, children ages 7 and 9, in August.

Beaches Turks and Caicos
This 4-village, 758-key resort, which already had 20-plus dining options, reopened in December with new culinary adventures scheduled for every night, such as a fish fry on Wednesday evenings and weekly beach parties with cuisines from around the world. Beaches Turks and Caicos has also added two popular food trucks at the waterpark: Mr. Mac, serving (of course) mac & cheese, and Curls ‘n’ Swirls, serving premium ice cream. For nighttime entertainment, Beaches is now partnering with Creativiva Caribbean Inc. to present Voila, a series of live shows such as “Alice in Wonderland,” “Treasure Island,” and “Dolce Vita.” Rates from $1,134 per night or $7,939 per week.

Margaritaville Beach Resort Grand Cayman
In 2017 the Margaritaville group opened its first full-service Caribbean resort with 285 rooms, a kids club, a zero-entry pool for children, and other family-friendly amenities. It’s not quite on Seven Mile Beach, but it’s no further than a city block. Although Margaritaville Beach Resort Grand Cayman was and is an EP property, this month it’s debuting an all-inclusive option called the Ultimate Escape. The package covers breakfast, lunch, a dinner at the Margaritaville Coffee Shop, License to Chill Lobby Bar, 5 o’Clock Somewhere, and Banana Wind Cafe. It also includes a $30 pp credit daily towards a meal at fusion-cuisine YARA or Spread. Rates from
$980 per night (including resort fee), or $6,860 per week.

The re-imagined kids club at Occidental Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic.
The re-imagined kids club at Occidental Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic.

Occidental Punta Cana
Near the end of 2017 the Barcelo Hotel Group’s Occidental Punta Cana completed a full renovation of its 800 or so guestrooms. BHG also renovated the restaurants and dining options (for example, adding a chef’s tasting menu in a private room), bars, a theater, and pools, including the kiddie pool. A sweeping re-imagining of the kids club has turned it into a jungle-like paradise with gaming consoles, a ball pit, life-size Connect Four games, and other games and activities. In short, says a Barcelo spokesperson, Occidental Punta Cana is “one of the most renovated Occidental Hotels & Resorts properties in our portfolio and the most refreshed property we have in Punta Cana.” Rates from $223 per night, or $1,562
per week.

Palladium Hotel Group
Kids (and adults) love surprises, so the Palladium Hotel Group has created Smile Services, an entire department dedicated to creating surprises at its resorts in the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, and Mexico. “The purpose of the Smile Services team is to organize surprises or special treats for guests during their stay, which is ideal for families looking to celebrate a birthday, anniversary, graduation, or other special event,” explains Felipe Martinez Verde, Palladium Hotels & Resorts’ director of operations for the Americas. “The aim is to put an unforgettable smile on the guests’ faces.” Balloons? Flowers? A surprise party or cake? Piece of cake.

Royalton Bavaro Resort & Spa
The resort debuted in mid-December with a quartet of firsts for the fast-growing Royalton brand. The 730-room resort on Bavaro beach has plenty of features, of course, that are common at Royalton All-in Luxury resorts: baths with rain showers and soaker tubs, DreamBed mattresses, Bluetooth audio stations, stocked mini-bars, 24-hour room service, a premium Diamond Club section, free WiFi, a spa and fitness center, new watersports equipment, terrific entertainment, nine restaurants with reservations-free dining, camps for kids and (important!) teens, and a 4-bedroom Diamond Club Chairman’s Building that’s good for extended families. So what’s new? (1) A lazy river (with a grotto bar) that meanders for 1,200 ft. (2) A FlowRider wave machine. (3) A 9-hole miniature golf course. (4) A beachfront Brazilian rodizio restaurant, the ultimate house of pleasure for carnivores. Rates from $475 per night, or $3,326 per week.

Turtle Beach Resort
Located on the south coast of Barbados, Turtle Beach Resort added complimentary golf a few months ago. The 161-room all-inclusive was already offering Bajan cultural activities, such as beach cricket and dialect lessons, so this addition provides yet another means for families to spend time together.

“The new golf inclusion is the perfect way for families of all ages (parents and kids, grandparents and grandchildren) to bond while staying at Turtle Beach,” says Gina Milani, associate director of marketing at Elegant Hotels Group.

The course is the 18-hole championship Barbados Golf Club, designed by renowned golf architect Ron Kirby. “It appeals to players of all skill sets, whether they’re first-timers or seasoned players” explains Milani. “Not only are the views great, but with complimentary tee time reservations, roundtrip transfers, and clubs included, it’s an amenity to take advantage of while vacationing in Barbados.” Rates from $429 per night; $3,003 per week.

Contact Information
Occidental Punta Cana:
Palladium Hotel Group:
RIU Palace Punta Cana: 
Royalton Bavaro Resort & Spa:
Turtle Beach Resort:

RIU Palace Punta Cana 
This spring the RIU Palace Punta Cana will close for renovations that will last into and perhaps through summer. The main building will be extended to accommodate additional rooms, and all guest rooms will be fitted with showers instead of bathrubs, and there will be three new pools, a Spanish restaurant in place of the Brazilian restaurant, a new Capuchino [sic] patisserie, and a new gym, sauna, and spa. Equally important to the many families who stay at Riu Palace, kids will get a larger children’s pool — with slides, too — and RiuLand, the kids club, will get a thorough makeover. From $344/nt., or $2,411/wk.