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In a world where practically every beach resort promises its guests something to do with the kids, it’s hard to know which ones live up to their own hype. So you don’t get burned on your next vacation, Parents asked family travel agents and tourism boards to nominate resorts in the United States and the Caribbean that are right on the beach but light on the credit card.
Number 1: Atlantis
Paradise Island, Bahamas
It really is a kingdom. With 13 pools (three of them specifically for kids), a mind-blowing water park, a great strip of beach, an aquarium that rivals the best in the U.S., and a new camp for kids 3 and up that has more to do than most children’s museums, Atlantis is nonstop action. Your family won’t want to miss the daily fish feedings.
Number 2: The Franklyn D. Resort
Runaway Bay, Jamaica
You get a nanny. When you check into this all-inclusive resort, you’re assigned an experienced, CPR-trained sitter for your kids during the day at no charge. With or without you in tow, the nanny will take them to any of the dozens of activities, from crab races to tie-dyeing, soccer matches to cooking lessons, plus the shallow pools and beach.
While there’s snorkeling, tennis, and other lessons for school-age kids, Franklyn D. focuses on little ones. “About 80 percent of our families have kids 6 and under,” says Patrice Doyley, sales manager.
Number 3: South Seas Island Resort
Captiva Island, Florida
The beach rocks. Kids can fill up their bucket with perfect rippled or twisty seashells while basking in gentle waves, crystal-clear water, and powdery white sand. In fact, half of the resort is a nature preserve. “We have a naturalist who gives family kayak tours, where kids will likely see dolphins,” says Rick Hayduk, general manager. “He also leads family nature walks and gives tours of our nature center.”
Number 4: Loews Miami Beach Hotel
Kids aren’t just welcome here — they’re spoiled. It starts at check-in when they go to their own pint-size desk for a list of activities geared to kids 3 and up (outdoor movies, sand-castle contests, water balloon tosses!) plus a little gift. If they’re bored at one of the restaurants, the waiter will hand them a Magna Doodle. If they’re hot at the pool, frozen grapes and smoothie samples are theirs for the taking. They even have their own play area on the ultra-wide beach, with slides, pails, and all kinds of sand
Number 5: Beaches
Turks and Caicos
Location, location, location. All four Beaches resorts have the Sesame Street gang and a seemingly endless variety of crafts to entertain the kids, but this one is set on 12 miles of white sand in a preserved national park. “Just six feet off the shoreline, the snorkeling is amazing because we have coral reefs out there,” says Joel Ryan, entertainment manager. A new Italian Village with family suites and a water-park expansion opened last year. “Little kids love the new wading pool, plus they’re wild about the sprinklers and other pop-up water features they can run through,” says Ryan. “I’ve seen families spend hours floating down our new lazy-river ride.”
Number 6: Loews Coronado Bay
It’s as green as it gets. Your family can take part in a tour and mini cleanup of neighboring Silver Strand State Beach. “Rangers show kids rare plants, animals, and mud flats,” says Kathleen Cochran, general manager. The resort also has its own herb garden, offers trips to the farmers’ market, and buys most of its produce, meat, and fish locally. Even the kids’ menu at Mistral — the chic yet affordable restaurant — encourages young diners to “adopt a farmer” and gives them a packet of tomato seeds.