Yes, you can whisk the whole clan to an easy-going Caribbean island where resorts could, really, be anywhere hot and tropical. Or you can shake things up and book a trip to Puerto Rico for classic Caribbean charm, pastel-hued old-world architecture, and heaps of regional variety to keep all family members happy. Boricuas, as the Puerto Rican people are known, are warm and joyful, welcoming guests with their distinct cultural mosaic and deep sense of history. Families can enjoy a variety of activities: surfing in Rincón, ziplining in the mountains, exploring natural pools in Manatí, and tasting fresh seafood tacos maybe for the first time. It’s an Island that can easily shift gears between high-energy rainforest adventure and reggaetón tapas lunches to lazy beach afternoons curled up under a cabana or parting the still water with an oar from a paddleboard. So, forget the monotonous, soulless resorts occupying vast chunks of other Caribbean island coastline, and instead expose your family to this sun-doused isle’s cultural vibrancy and staggering array of landscapes – here are 5 reasons Puerto Rico is the ultimate holiday destination for families.
Ask any parents well-versed in en masse family holidays how they balance out itineraries, and they’ll invariably lament the rubix cube effort needed to ensure everyone’s satisfied. Puerto Rico stands out as a Caribbean island for its authenticity, not solely focused on tourism, but Boricuas go about their every day and invite visitors to share in their richly cultured, vitamin-D-blasted lifestyles. What’s more, the sheer variety of the Island’s landscape and topography serves up a raft of activities that will satiate many types of travellers. In the Metro region, families will find San Juan’s historic charm (founded in the 14th century) along with its buzzy neighbourhoods and thriving art scene – all within easy reach of the airport. They can head north to its pristine beaches (Mar Chiquita is a real knockout) and its natural wonders, such as Río Camuy Cave Park, and tropical rainforest hikes past waterfalls glittering in the Caribbean sunlight. History buffs can head south for Ponce’s string of museums (don’t miss the impressive European and Puerto Rican art collections at Museo de Arte de Ponce) as well as its coffee haciendas and Castillo Serrallés (a buttermilk-hued castle owned by a famous rum-making family). A stay or journey to the east of the Island can involve hiking through dripping El Yunque National Forest – the only tropical rainforest in the US, with children gawping at Puerto Rico’s fauna and flora, kayaking through surreal mangroves or hopping on a catamaran for a sun-drenched day trip to Culebra island. Families set on water activities can head west (known for its surfing and striking sunsets), particularly to Rincón for surfing, where María’s beach and Domes are ideal for children’s surfing lessons. Any excessive downtime on the beach can be offset by epic trips inland to the Central Mountains, where Toro Verde Nature Adventure Park’s zip wires and climbing towers await.
Along with this dizzying array of family-friendly activities are ample places to stay without the pin-drop silence and honeymooner-lined pool. Dorado Beach, A Ritz Carlton Reserve, is a seriously luxe resort option for families – a little gated, but the Island’s treasures are all an easy drive away. Older children will squeal with delight at the scrumptious menus and lagoon-style infinity pools that submerge with sea and sky beyond it. The expansive Hyatt Regency Grand Reserve in Río Grande (just half an hour outside San Juan) occupies its own private and achingly pretty peninsula. It’s ideal for younger children, with its beach’s calm shallows and a stellar Kid’s Club making the most of the exotic location near El Yunque rainforest. Those with babies and toddlers should consider Caribe Hilton for its splash parks, playgrounds, and fun tot activities along the beach (while deserving parents snatch forty winks or a piña colada on the beach nearby). A firm favourite for all ages is El Conquistador Resort, fanning out along the Island’s eastern coastline, with its bonkers Coquí waterpark featuring the lazy rivers and fast-paced waterslides of childhood reverie. The list goes on, with families quickly learning that, unlike other Caribbean destinations, Puerto Rico’s appeal for the whole gang goes beyond the Kids’ Clubs.
Outdoorsy family activities
Puerto Rico’s ravishingly varied landscape serves up some truly epic outdoorsy activities, pulling children away from their screens and into the fresh, salty air. These trips tend to be laced with educational elements, such as marvelling at the reef’s marine life in the crystal clear waters of Cayo Aurora (part of Puerto Rico’s Guánica Forest Biosphere Reserve), or traipsing through the El Yunque National Forest, gazing up at its rich green canopies for native wildlife – nature reserves across the Island, also including Cambalache State Forest, are criss-crossed with various trails for intrepid hikes or bike rides en famille. Puerto Rico’s bioluminescent bays (three of only five in the world) are an ethereal experience for children and parents alike, with the water glowing an otherworldly bright blue. Waterborne activities are Puerto Rico’s bread and butter, with waterskiing, surfing, paddle boarding, and jet skiing all part of Island life – as are snorkelling and diving (Las Cabezas de San Juan nature Reserve is an ideal spot for both). And while they may be man-made, Puerto Rico’s waterparks are second to none, with surf simulators, lazy rivers, and fun waterslides an easy way for children to cool off while working up an appetite.
Cultural trips for children
Puerto Rico simply has more to it than most Caribbean islands. The Island’s history runs deep, and its various layers (some incredibly important for the next generation to learn about and understand) are manifested in the architecture, food, rituals, and art. An easy place to start (with the airport also based in Carolina) is Museo del Niño de Carolina (The Carolina Children’s Museum), for the full spread of indoor playgrounds, a pocket-sized zoo, a fun boat for tots to hop on, and clever, engaging exhibitions that will certainly not elicit any sights of ‘I’m bored.’ The working coffee plantation, Hacienda Muñoz in San Lorenzo, keeps children entertained after a whistle-stop-tour of the Island’s coffee-making heritage with farm animals and roaming peacocks. Ponce’s Parque de Bombas is a Gothic, black and red building with a museum inside honouring heroic firefighters that made history saving the town. Pacing through Old San Juan is like walking through a museum in itself – with brightly coloured colonial facades peering down over cobbled streets, and 16th century fortresses (such as Castillo San Felipe del Morro), built to protect this walled maritime city. Warm, Puerto Rican spices and jazz music drift through the streets, and beyond the museums and galleries, children can behold the rhythms and rituals of a different, dynamic culture as locals pull up stools for strong coffees, putting the world to rights.
Delicious and varied food
With a mix of Spanish, African, and indigenous Taíno, the Island’s cultural melting pot is incredibly unique and something locals take great pride in. It’s manifested vibrantly in the Island’s culinary identity, and is a great way for children to explore and learn about it. What’s more, family-friendly joints are two-a-penny, thanks to Puerto Rico’s warm, laid-back approach to children. Take ChocoBar Cortés in Old San Juan – a café-cum-restaurant where chocolate takes centre stage, in all forms, from chocolate pancakes to chocolate-infused sauces that ooze over savoury options. Then there are authentic joints like El Jibarito, where broods can sample the Island’s culinary tapestry and local flavours (think traditional comida criolla with home-made batches of deep-fried plantain and chillo frito – fried red snapper). For a real glimpse inside the Puerto Rican soul, families can stop off at Lechonera Los Pinos in Guavate, known as the Pork highway, for table servings as theatrical as the Salsa dancing and live music that keeps this multi-generational Island stalwart bopping well into the evening. Sabor Y Rumba in Ponce has a similar salsa energy and locally-led menu, with children tempted by the moreish pork and steak options. Tacos and Tequila on Condado is always a resounding hit with the entire clan, while fussy eaters are well catered to in all the smart family-friendly resorts and hotels, where the failsafe burger-pizza-nugget menus use top-drawer ingredients (and go easy on the spices).
To learn more/book your family holiday to Puerto Rico, visit: discoverpuertorico.com
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