The Caribbean with kids
By Maribeth Pjosek-Durkin
Puerto Rico’s Vieques island is home to one of the few remaining bioluminescent bays in the world. (Flickr: James Byrum)
If your family is not the beach lounging type, you’re in luck. The Caribbean is home to some spectacular beaches, but it also boasts some incredibly adventurous and exciting alternatives.
Kayak in a glow-in-the-dark bay, saunter through a live volcano or drift through caves on an ancient river. These are just a few options that are sure to get your whole family’s adrenaline pulsing!
Mosquito Bioluminescent Bay, Vieques, Puerto Rico
Families can get their “glow on” at Mosquito Bay. This mysterious – and illuminating – bay is filled with tiny micro-organisms that radiate a bluish-green glow when disturbed. Families can sail into the bay by rowboat, motorboat, or kayak. As the boat glides through the water, kids will be amazed at the glowing trail of water that follows the boat. The glow only lasts a few seconds, but it is sure to spark awe and curiosity in kids of any age. Guided night-time kayaking is a very adventurous way for older kids to check out this natural wonder. Good to know: This is an outdoor, nighttime event. Families with kids who are afraid of the dark, or not competent swimmers may want to skip this one. Visit vieques.com for details.
Rosalie Beach, Dominica
Rosalie Bay, Dominica (Wikipedia: Postdlf)
From March to September, momma turtles journey to these beaches to lay their eggs. Months later, their newly hatched baby turtles make their dangerous dash to the sea. Guided turtle tours, led by eco-conscious, educated escorts, take families to the beaches to possibly catch a glimpse of these extraordinary feats of nature. The tours do not interact, touch or disturb the wild sea turtles or their hatchlings. In fact, there are a few important rules families must follow, including staying quiet, no lights and keeping your distance. Good to know: Patience truly is a virtue. Young, energetic children, and those who do not like dark environments, may not find this fun. Hotels can recommend licensed turtle watching tours that are safe for both families and turtles. For more information visit: domsetco.org.
Sulphur Springs Park, St. Lucia
Sulphur Springs Park in St. Lucia (Flickr: alh1)
Give the kids something to brag about. Go on a family friendly walk through an actual, active volcano. You won’t see glowing magma or fiery lava flows, but you will see plenty of bubbling hot springs, gurgling mud pots and hissing fumaroles, which is a fancy word for steam vents. Learn about the island’s geologic history at its visitor’s center. Take a dip in a natural hot spring pool, or search for its waterfalls. There is small picnic area too. Families that want to see it all should take a guided tour. The park is open daily from 9am to 5pm. There is a small entry fee. Good to know: Kids may turn up their noses at the strong, sulfur smell that envelopes the park and surrounding area. For more details, check out Sulphur Springs Park website.
Hato Caves, Curacao
Hato Caves in Curaçao (Flickr: Charles Hoffman)
Hidden below the sands of Curacao lies a series of caves just waiting for your family to discover. As you venture deep inside the earth, families can gaze into mirror-like, subterranean pools, stroll under towering limestone arches and spy fascinating formations, including stalactites and stalagmites. There is even an underworld waterfall. The paths through the caves are paved and well-lit, but there are stairs, so this excursion is best taken stroller free. Don’t be alarmed if kids hear screeches, those are just long nose fruit bats, the cave’s elusive resident. All tours are guided and last about 45 minutes. Open daily 10 am to 5pm. Good to know: Don’t expect to beat the heat as you descend into the caves. It is very warm and humid inside. Check curacaohatocaves.com for more information.
Cave Tubing, Belize
Glide through the ancient Mayan underworld in the comfort of a rafting tube. The Nohoch Che’en Caves Branch Archaeological Reserve is home to a series of river caves that welcome adventure seeking families. Jump in a tube and float the family down an underground river that winds through cathedral-like caverns, shadowy chambers and over mild rapids. Headlamps light up the dark, revealing ancient cave paintings, towering rock formations and unusual inhabitants, like the eyeless cave fish. Most tours include transportation, lifejacket, headlamp and a tour guide. Plan on a 30-minute hike to reach the caves. Some companies require guests to carry their tubes on the hike. Good to Know: Cave tubing is suitable for kids. Ask about child-sized tubes and other child-safety features when booking.
Maribeth Pjosek-Durkin contributed this to MiniTime.