Caribbean's Most Charming Cities
Caribbean with kids By James Holland
San Juan, Puerto Rico (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
When someone dreams of the Caribbean, they often dream about lounging on a beach in front of a resort while their children build sand castles and body surf. A family-friendly vacation to the Caribbean can be that, but it can be so much more. One of the beautiful things about the Caribbean is the spellbinding appeal that’s imbued in some of its most treasured destinations.
When vacationing with little ones, there’s also an opportunity to feed their minds and hearts; and these Caribbean towns offer up a lasting charm that will stay in you forever.
The Puerto Rican capital’s heart starts in cobblestoned Old San Juan. Stroll down the narrow streets here flanked by brightly colored colonial buildings, stop in at a café for what’s increasingly farm-to-table coffee, and indulge in comfort food like Mofongo or Pasteles. Stay in Old San Juan at the Hotel El Convento, a converted convent that keeps its old world charm, or stay at the Caribe Hilton Hotel, which has such family-friendly amenities as a private beach, outdoor activities and babysitting available.
Willemstad, Curacao (Credit: Curaçao Tourism Board)
The largest city of the Netherlands Antilles, Willemstad, with its beautiful multi-colored pastel Dutch architecture, is a Caribbean wonderland. Take the family on a trolley train tour of downtown Willemstad to get the lay of the land before visiting the floating market. Since Curacao is not ideal for farming, boats float in from Venezuela to sell fresh fruit and fish. The little ones might enjoy a visit Serena’s Art Factory where they can indulge their creativity and created their own work of art. Klein Curacao is a must see detour – an uninhabited island with an immaculate white sands beach. Uninhabited that is except for the turtles that call this home.
Havana, Cuba (Flickr: vxla)
A city populated by 1950’s Chevy’s and Soviet era Ladas, Havana may seem from another time. And Havana Vieja might be starting to crumble. But from the colorful oceanside road Male?on to almost every restaurant and hotel hosting house bands for non-stop music, laid-back Havana is bustling with character. Get in line for ice cream at Coppelia Ice Cream Parlour for a peso, 4 cents a scoop, or visit car-free Calle Obispo to people-watch and shop for buy local arts & crafts. The Parque Central makes the perfect base camp and keeps that same charm that Hemingway must have experienced when he walked the streets of Havana with its marble interior. If you need a break, let the family splash about in the two connected pools or use the babysitting service the hotel offers (at a fee).
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic (Credit: Go Dominican Republic)
The capital of the Dominican Republic and oldest continuously inhabited European city in the world, Santo Domingo is a relatively unspoiled tourist destination. The colonial zone, in particular, beckons travelers. Grab coffee and a croissant at one of the myriad cafes in the colonial zone; shop for art or walk the Calle El Conde to see the more local culture and grab papaya juice at Café Grands; and don’t forget to take a carriage ride down the Malecon. Calle Las Damas, the first paved street in the Americas, warrants a stroll. For a modern take, stay at the Billini Hotel in the colonial zone where you can overlook the city from its rooftop terrace and pool deck.
Roseau, Dominica (Credit: Discover Dominica)
One of the best ways to describe Roseau is quaint. The speed of life is slow and pleasurably so. You won’t find big chain resorts and hotels—the most notable hotel being the local Fort Young Hotel (notice the old cannons flanking the front door), which hosts the Palisades restaurant where you can dine overlooking the sea. Backed by mountains and overlooking the Caribbean Sea, this town is multi-faceted. Whether hiking up Mount Bruce or snorkeling in the ocean, there’s plenty for the family to do. Visit the Saturday morning market where the Roseau River meets the sea for snacks, fresh fruits, and handmade arts and crafts. Linger among the wooden, balconied buildings of the French quarter. And take a short trip to The Emerald Pool to relax in the naturally made pond and waterfall or visit Champagne, a mild natural spring that will keep your family occupied for hours.