Three families, two islands, one month… If you’ve ever thought you can’t go to the Caribbean because you have kids, the Elite Island Family Blogathon took pre-schoolers to teens to two different islands to test whether you can enjoy the islands and take advantage of all they have to offer even if the honeymoon days are a distant memory.
Of the three families, we asked for their highlights from Antigua and St. Lucia and staying at Elite Island Resorts, which sponsored the project along with Virgin Holidays and the Antigua and Barbuda tourist board. Elite Island Resorts have an all-inclusive option, which means no nickel-and-diming at the swim-up bar or when deciding whether to order ice cream at dinner, yet they demonstrate all-inclusive can come with a touch of class. Our bloggers’ travel, resort stays and some excursions were covered; all opinions are their own.
Our #Eliteislandfamilies flew with Virgin Holidays from London to either Antigua or St Lucia, so we could explore three different Elite Island resorts and find out just what the islands have to offer families.
The family travellers
Antigua highlights at Verandah Resort – MummyTravels.com
It’s not hard to have a good time on holiday when you’re visiting somewhere like Antigua – but a few highlights really stood out from our trip.
- Swimming with stingrays Although I’ve done this before, it’s such an incredible experience I was determined to try again…even if I wasn’t sure how a three-year-old might react. In the end, it was perfect: She got to take it slowly, watching with me from the jetty and by the end she was in the water with me. Touching one of the fish was outside her comfort zone, but I got to feed and hold them. We’ve now got a stuffed stingray toy which she adores!
- Hitting the beach — There were two beaches to choose from at Verandah Resort and we headed down almost every day. With sand toys to borrow and lots of palm trees to shade us from the sun, it was perfect for lounging and making sandcastles, plus the water was very calm. And as the watersports were all-inclusive, we could hop into a kayak for half an hour or go sailing with one of the instructors without any hassle.
- Child-friendly “snorkelling” — My daughter is fascinated by fish and the underwater world but she won’t even wear goggles, let alone a snorkel and mask. But in Antigua, the sea is so clear and some of the rocks and reefs are very close to shore so in Long Bay, very near our resort, I could carry her out to watch the shoals swimming around without having to go under.
- Drinking endless Strawberry Crushes — I discovered the resort’s strawberry crush drink on about day two and very quickly became addicted to the fruity iced drinks, as did my daughter, who insisted I share nicely! My mouth is practically watering at the memory of it, which is like a strawberry daiquiri without the rum (the actual daiquiris were pretty good too).
Antigua highlights at St James’s Club & Villas – AModernMother.com
Susanna’s top suggestions:
- Getting hair wraps — If for no other reason than to show your friends when you get back to school! Watch our video below.
- Hanging out on D-Boat — My girl’s loved this water amusement center built on a 140-foot refurbished oil tanker, which was decommissioned in 1972. The boat is permanently moored near Maiden Island and offers stunning views of the exclusive Jumby Bay.
- Ziplining — Thrill seekers and Tarzan-wannabes can get an adrenaline high riding the zip-lines above the Antigua rainforest. There are four courses to choose from, which include 12 zip-lines, 4 suspension bridges, 2 Leaps of Faith and a challenge course. Kids as young as 4 can participate in the fun. It’s a bit cooler high up in the forest, but prepare to get hot and sweaty. Mosquitoes come out at night, but you should be OK during the day.
- Taking in the history — Sugar plantations provided livelihood for generations of Antiguans. Slaves (imported from Africa) had to work from 6 am to 5 pm in West Indies heat, and were eventually emancipated in 1834, but many stayed on as a low-paid workforce. My 11-year-old daughter was fascinated by a replica of a 1769 advertisement for a new shipment of 94 “prime, healthy” Negros, which had 39 men, 15 boys, 24 women and 16 girls, poignantly illustrating the attitude at the time that slaves were merely cargo to be sold as profit. It’s fascinating, and an important part of Antigua’s history.
- Learning the lingo — You won’t hear it from the very friendly and professional staff, but if you insist they may let you in on Antiguan English dialect. Ask “Wa Guan?” (what’s going on?) and you might get the response “Mi kool” or the rastafarian “Me irie”. Wha you sayin? Chek you latah! Ya man.
St Lucia highlights at St James’s Club Morgan Bay – Jenography.net
St Lucia combines sandy beaches, dense rainforest, the two striking Pitons that rise up to 2,619 feet and distractions to satisfy even the most jaded tweens and teens. Savvy visitors will combine excursions with “downtime” at the resort, which consists of taking part in just about every sport going. Our highlights include:
Doing watersports — These are included in your stay at St James’s Club Morgan Bay. You just turn up each morning to sign up for free rentals or classes. For our excitement-hungry kids, that meant we had a banquet of activities spread out before us: sailing a Hobie, waterskiing, kayaking, powering a peddle boat, banana boating and stand-up paddleboarding. Because you’re not paying by the hour, you can try them all and go back to the ones you love. Sailing became a firm favourite with the boys in our family, while the girls excelled at waterskiing.
- Joining in organised fun with the staff — Typically I think of activities organised by a hotel or resort to be footnotes to the real action. Here though, they were popular, well-attended and a big part of the fun. Water aerobics in the pool (is this the ’80s?) was always busy, the Wednesday dining event on the beach was a spectacle and once we discovered the high-energy beach volleyball game, we went every afternoon.
- Taking a boat ride to Soufrière — The resort’s Calypso Cat pulls right up the beach, you wade out, then you’re off an a tour of island highlights — the Morne Coubaril Estate to learn about the old plantation system, the “Drive-In” volcano and mud baths, the Toraille Waterfall, a zip ’round the swish Marigot Bay and snorkeling. You’re delivered back around 4pm with drinks, music and a party atmosphere.
- Making our own chocolate at Hotel Chocolat — The boutique chain’s Rabot Estate is a jewel set in the jungle. The Tree-to-Bar experience is an enlightening journey describing how chocolate gets made…then you’re given a mortar and pestle to pound out nibs to make your own bar. Afterward, we ate lunch at the hotel’s Boucan restaurant, with its magnificent close-up view of the Petit Piton.
- Drinking mocktails and cocktails — You could get your five-a-day here by drinking it at the swim-up bar. The kids loved the St James’s Club Special, made with half a banana and fruit syrup, I had a grown-up version topped with rum, and my husband tried everything from the Dirty Banana, the yellow-green-and-red Bob Marley and the locally produced Piton lager. From your lounger on the beach, just raise your red flag and a staff member will come take your order. Bliss!
Look out for more posts coming in January from A Modern Mother, Jenography and Mummy Travels. We even have a giveaway coming up – where you can win a stay at an Elite Island Caribbean resort!