There’s something about all-inclusive resorts that’s so convenient and enjoyable, especially for parents with kids in tow. There’s no need to pull out your wallet for every meal or think twice about getting an extra drink or ice cream, or taking out a kayak….it’s all included. Even the kids’ club! That’s what you get at Crystal Cove by Elegant Hotels on the gorgeous Caribbean island of Barbados. And not only do you have all the amenities at one resort, but you have reciprocal privileges at the six other Elegant Hotel sister properties on the island. (Note: some are child-free so they’re best for a parents’ night out.)
For travel tips with kids, read our post Ask Sally: Traveling With Your Young Kids & How Not to Hit the Skids!
Arriving at Crystal Cove, you are greeted with sweeping views of the turquoise sea, a stretch of sandy beach, multiple pools, verdant tropical foliage, and even a waterfall. There are more than enough Instagram-worthy shots at this charming Caribbean resort to fill your feed for days.
My ocean-view junior suite came complete with a downstairs sitting room with convertible couch (perfect for a kid or two), bar, and bathroom, and upstairs had another bathroom and master. The waves right outside my balcony, lulled me to sleep each night.
An easy direct flight on JetBlue from JFK, and less than a half-hour ride from the Bridgetown airport, rooms here start at $469 per night for two adults and two children with a minimum three-night stay. Kids under 5 stay for free. With 88 rooms and suites, this resort is a cozy little village unto itself. You won’t ever find lines at the breakfast buffet or have to reserve a beachfront lounge chair. Year-round weather is warm and sunny.
The ocean is calm, clear, and warm; great for introducing little ones to the gentle waves. Borrow a float or with bigger kids, hop on a banana boat for a wave-crashing ride. Just be sure to tell the driver if you want it super bumpy. Plus, there’s great shell and coral hunting; the island is made of the latter.
As you lie on the comfy lounges, you’ll be asked numerous times by the friendly beach ambassadors if you need anything. Be sure to try the Equinox, a fruity, alcohol-free drink. And by mid-afternoon, when the heat is getting to you, there’s sure to be an offer of a fruity, ice-cold popsicle…and it’s not a mirage.
Like everything else here, all watersports are complimentary, including water-skiing, sailing, and paddle boarding. Older kids can borrow snorkels to view the aquatic life below. And if you need some exercise, there are two tennis courts and a rigorous water aerobics class to get your heart pumping.
Since Barbados was once a British colony, you’ll still see touches of it everywhere, including right-side steering wheels and cars driving on the left-hand side of the road. In a nod to the island’s national sport, the resort offers cricket games (similar to baseball) on the beach for all ages most afternoons.
One of the best treats for parents at Crystal Cove is the Flying Fish Kids Club for ages 3-12. There’s no cost to leave your children, whether it’s for an afternoon, or just for a couple of hours so you can enjoy an adults-only dinner date. The kids will love the well-stocked room, filled with old-fashioned fun like ping pong, puzzles, and a reading nook, or modern amenities like video games. There are numerous creative art projects available, a small playground, and an electric train set. Kids are bound to find something to keep them happy and out of the sun for a while.
There are several restaurants serving food all day, a kids’ menu, and a lovely daily afternoon tea with lots of treats. You can also take advantage of the Dine Around Program, trying restaurants at the other properties (many at no extra charge) and accessible by free water taxi.
When you need a break from all the eating and relaxing, book a scenic jeep safari around the island. You’ll pass through what’s known as the Platinum Coast, where expensive luxury villas and hotels cater to the rich and famous, including singer Rihanna, one of the island’s most well-known natives. Head to the wilder Eastern side of the island with its amazing coastline views. Its rougher waves are a favorite among surfers.
You’ll drive past acres of sugar cane, verdant forests, and wild monkeys. You may even spot a zedonk. Kids will get a kick out of this unusual zebra-donkey mix (check out their black and white striped legs). We had to Google this to be sure it was for real. It is. You’ll see numerous gigantic stone formations, including Mushroom Rock, perfect for selfies.
Go for a glass bottom boat ride, or a tour of the vast array of caves and underground lakes.
For some local culture and cuisine, be sure to go to the fish fry Friday nights in Oistins, a local fishing village. There you’ll find stalls of local crafts for sale, including jewelry, pottery, wood carvings and paintings. Wander around to see what’s cooking at the dozens of stalls frying up delicious fish, lobster, and conch. We couldn’t decide which to try (some of them give a hard sell to get you to choose theirs) so we chose the one with the longest line. Pats (which we learned was one of the most popular and highly-rated spots) served up delectable grilled tuna, marlin, and shrimp.
A must-try is the local delicacy — macaroni pie. It’s a Bajan specialty and their version of mac and cheese. Perfect for kids who may not be in a fishy mood. Once your food is cooked, grab a seat at the numerous picnic tables and dig in. It’s rustic, communal, and very Barbados. Stay for a performance of a local band, or watch the kids and locals dance on the stage in this family-friendly atmosphere.
There are many special events on the island during the year, including sailing competitions, fishing tournaments, an annual marathon race each December, and food, rum, and reggae festivals.
For more information on what’s happening on the island, visit barbados.org
Our stay at Crystal Cove was complimentary but all thoughts and opinions are our own.