As a parent of two little ones, I often wish there was a way to press the “slow-mo” button on the movie that is their childhood. As the saying goes “the days are long…but the years are short.” Where does the time go? You blink and suddenly they’re all grown up. Since the manipulation of the time isn’t an option yet, I turn to travel. Traveling with your children is one of the best ways to get one-on-one time, reconnect and build lasting memories as a family. Travel now, before the kids are all grown up and ready to leave the nest.
If you’re looking for a family vacation that’s easy to plan and immersive, with inventive programs the kids will love, consider staying at an all-inclusive resort. From mega all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean, to luxury all-inclusive dude ranches in Colorado there are many styles to choose from.
Here are my Top All-Inclusive Resorts For Kids. This story was originally published for Family Vacation Critic a great resource for all things family travel.
Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa in Ko Olina, Hawaii
How about whisking your own little princess off to fairyland? The exotic Polynesian paradise at Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa in Ko Olina, just a 20-minute drive from Honolulu airport on the island of Oahu might be just what your fairy godmother ordered.
Beyond the beautiful location and perfect cove for splashing around in the Pacific Ocean, one of the things that really sets Aulani apart from the rest, is their robust kids club. Aunty’s Beach House, a 5,200-square-foot, state-of-the-art mecca for young Disney fans, offers a dizzying array of complimentary activities for guests age 3-12. The space is beautifully designed with a huge outdoor play space, a room for Hawaiian arts and crafts, a costume closet for dress up fun, and a movie screening room with Disney classics. Other activities immerse the kids in Hawaiian culture traditions: From free hula lessons to playing the ‘ukulele, local live music performances to learning sand-sculpting techniques and traditional storytelling by the Mo‘olelo Fire Pit.
Let’s not forget this is a Disney branded hotel. Throughout the resort, little ones are sure to spot some of their favorite Disney Characters, from Mickey Mouse to Moana, many of whom also perform daily in the “Shaka Shaka Pool Party.”
On the subject of pools, Aulani has eight areas to explore, including: a lazy river, waterslides, an interactive splash zone called Menehune Bridge and another called Keiki Cove, specifically designed for kids ages five and under.
For newbie snorkelers, Rainbow Reef is a man-made lagoon stocked with tropical fish. It’s an extra fee of $25 for adults, $20 per child, but it’s worth the underwater experience and is especially great for beginners.
While a stay at Aulani has many all-inclusive vacation elements (among them, accommodations, complimentary kids camp activities at Aunty’s Beach House, water park access and Disney character appearances) food and beverage is not included in the resort price. This gives families the freedom to experience local restaurants off-property, sample traditional Hawaiian cuisine from food trucks, or even cook their own meals. If you stay in one of Aulani’s villas, each room comes with separate living room areas, laundry facilities and full kitchens so you can prepare meals and snacks from the comfort of your villa. Rates start from $494 for a standard hotel room.
C Lazy U Ranch, Colorado
Unleash your child’s inner cowboy with a visit to a dude ranch. C Lazy U Ranch sits on a sprawling 8,500-acre estate in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, just a two-hour drive west of Denver. This 100- year-old with its 40 private cabins, is one of Colorado’s premier luxury guest ranch getaways. With fine-dining, an award-winning wine program, uniquely decorated private cabins and a wide array of outdoor activities for the kids, C Lazy U Ranch promises a high end, all-inclusive American West dude ranch experience for the whole family.
Specially trained counselors keep the kids entertained daily with activities such as horseback riding, archery, yoga, fly fishing, golf, mountain biking, tennis and a variety of ropes courses and ziplines. A visit here, gets your kids outside in nature, learning the art of horsemanship, against one of the most beautiful backdrops in the country.
Children aged three to five years can participate in the resort’s “Cowpokes” program, where they will spend their days riding small ponies, panning for gold and hiking on trails looking for local wildlife. For older children, aged six-12, the “Mustang” program offers horseback riding, scavenger hunts, trail adventures, cookouts and Western-themed games.
As any good cowgirl knows, a full day of ranching can really work up an appetite. In the Main Lodge, kids and adults dine, family-style, on regional specialties such as Rocky Mountain Trout and Rosemary Rack of Lamb. The atmosphere of relaxed luxury and camaraderie, as you meet and mingle with other families staying at the lodge.
Off-season pricing is about $366 per person per night. High-season summer rates range from $375–$550 per person per night and include all lodging, food, ranch activities and counselors for the children’s programing.
Jambulani Safari, South Africa
From first-hand experience, I know that spotting lions, giraffes and other wildlife as they roam the African plains is an awe-inspiring experience. For the trip of a lifetime, take your kids to Jambulani, located in South Africa’s Kapama Game Reserve near Kruger National Park
A Relais & Chateaux luxury resort, Jambulani offers all-inclusive, family-friendly safari adventures that’s part five-star African lodge, part elephant sanctuary where fifteen rescued elephants now reside. Daily activities include private game drives in open 4 X 4 vehicles, unique elephant experiences, guided bush walks, and access to Team Tusker Kids, an excellent children’s program for safari-goers six years and older. Beyond the safaris, the resort offers a myriad of immersive activities for kids including lessons on everything from tracking to bug catching, bird watching and how to survive in the bush.
For a standard room, per person per night, prices start at $1,270 USD for adults, $845 USD (kids 6-11) and includes luxury accommodation, gourmet meals (with a customized kids’ menu), daily activities, all game drives and bush walks, Team Tusker activities, laundry service and transfers.
Beaches Negril, Jamaica
I can tell you how to get to Sesame street! Just fly to Beaches Negril in Jamaica for a Caribbean adventure with some of your child’s fave Sesame Street characters. Bake chocolate chip cookies with Cookie Monster, hunt for hidden treasure with Abby Cadabby, and make handmade telescopes for a nature bird walk with Big Bird. The resort hosts a nightly Sesame Street show for the kids and, once a week, a parade across the resort. Located on Negril’s famed 7-mile beach, this all-inclusive resort offers a ton of interactive experiences.
Beyond character meet and greets, one of the highlights of Beaches Negril is their 18,000 square foot pirate-themed waterpark, complete with waterslides, a misting pool, lazy river and swim up soda bars.
You’ll find supervised activities at Kids Camp, everything from face painting, sand castle building, magic shows, pizza making to reggae jam sessions. If you have a babe-in-arms, their infant program offers care for newborn to 24 months. All team members are trained to offer specialized services for families who have children with autism and other special needs. The Kids Camp is especially great if you want to drop your kids off for a few hours, while you experience the resort’s PADI certified scuba program. Yes, even the price of instruction and equipment is included. But the surprises don’t stop there. After an exhilarating day spent learning to sail, kayaking, building sandcastles and splashing around the waterpark, you can get a bedtime story and private tuck-in by your child’s favorite Sesame Street character! I imagine there’s nothing quite like a bedtime snuggle with Elmo before sailing off to dreamland.
A stay at Beaches Negril start at $288 per person, per night for adults, and $45 per person, per night for children. Prices include all meals at nine different restaurants, unlimited premium spirits, roundtrip airport transfers and all tips, taxes and gratuities.
Coconut Bay Beach Resort & Spa
Just five minutes from the international airport, Coconut Bay Beach Resort & Spa is an all-inclusive Caribbean resort that offers a wealth of wet and wild experiences for its young guests.
Stay at Splash, Coconut Bay’s family-friendly wing. There you’ll find CocoLand, St. Lucia’s largest water park. Spend the day zipping down waterslides like The Coconut Coaster, or floating down their 1,500 square foot lazy river.
The Kidz Klub offers a wide range of supervised indoor and outdoor activities for children grouped by ages 3 and under, 4-7 and 8-12. From March to November, when Saint Lucia’s beaches are nesting grounds for endangered sea turtles, Kidz Klub kids take guided beach walks to spot hatchlings and learn how to identify different turtle species. Your little animal lovers will also enjoy the on-site petting zoo, where they can feed rescued goats, ducks, sheep, donkeys and horses.
Thrill-seeking guests over eight years old can sign up for a free introductory kite surfing lesson. Or, for the 13 plus crowd, slip into a camo jumpsuit and run amuck across the 30,000 square foot paintball course. The Zone is the Caribbean’s first paintball facility and costs around $20 per a person to play.
Coconut Bay Beach Resort & Spa rates start at $841 USD a night. Their Premium All-Inclusive includes airport transfers, accommodations, unlimited a la carte and buffet dining across nine restaurants, nightly entertainment, access to the fitness center, tennis and basketball courts, waterpark and all Kidz Klub activities.
Grand Americana Coral Beach, Cancun, Mexico
Grand Americana Coral Beach is a great choice for families looking for a secluded, all-inclusive beach vacation in Mexico. The resort offers 602 oceanfront suites, each with their own private terrace overlooking Instagram-worthy turquoise waters.
One of the coolest kids play spaces anywhere, Coral KidZ Club offers supervised activities in zones broken down by ages three to 12. There’s a jungle-themed room, Mercado and construction zone for the younger set, and high-tech rooms with interactive video games and a light-up dance floor for the older kids. There are all-ages cooking classes, led by the resort’s Executive Chef, where kids don pint-sized aprons to whip up their own culinary creations.
For kids who like to splash, their Mayan-themed playground – complete with waterslides that snake through caves, giant dinosaur fossils, remote controlled toy vehicles and temples you can climb on – is 5,166 square feet of fun.
Beyond the beautiful location, fine-dining options and access to watersports like ocean kayaking and sightseeing by glass bottom boat, there’s also an amazing spa. Coral Beach Gem Spa, a 40,000-square-foot wellness center has kid-friendly services like the Tutti Fruitti Facial.
The resort has a new all-inclusive package called “U” offering unlimited dining at onsite restaurants, and premium brand drinks. A stay at Grand Americana Coral Beach with the “U” package starts at $500 per person, per night.
Nickelodeon Hotels & Resorts Punta Cana – Dominican Republic
This spot has it all. Sun, surf and, of course, slime! The Nickelodeon resort, just 25 miles north of Punta Cana Airport along the white sands of Uvero Alto Beach, is a kid’s dream vacation.
Meet your favorite Nickelodeon characters, everyone from SpongeBob SquarePants to Dora The Explorer, Paw Patrol and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle crew. Check out the Just Kiddin’ kids’ club, offering a ton of complimentary supervised activities for children ages 4-12.
For a unique experience young SpongeBob fans will love, you can actually stay overnight in a giant pineapple! This two-bedroom villa boasts a bikini-bottom-inspired design, that comes with an infinity pool and private butler.
The major draw is Aqua Nick’s water park and splash pad, complete with colorful water slides, a lazy river, water cannons, special foam parties, and…the best part…a daily afternoon Mass Sliming, where green-colored goo is dumped on your head! The kids will go wild.
Standard rates at Nickelodeon Hotels & Resorts Punta Cana begin at $260 per adult per night. Their all-inclusive food program called Gourmet Inclusive Experience, gives you access to ten restaurants (including Spacewalker, a futuristic eatery that offers wearable space helmet to their littlest diners), premium alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, full-service concierge, and 24-hour room service. For families traveling with infants or toddlers, the resort also provides amenities like baby food, strollers, cribs, kids’ spa robes and baby bottle warmers.
Severn Lodge, Ontario, Canada
Located 90 miles north of Toronto in “cottage country”, Severn Lodge is one of Ontario’ s premier lakeside resorts. In the heart of the Muskoka Georgian Bay lake district, this all-inclusive resort sits on 100 acres of waterfront property and has a wealth of supervised activities for children during the summer months. From water skiing and tubing on the lake, to mountain biking, a water trampoline, tennis, fishing, pedal boating and wooded hiking trails, families will love all the outdoor activities.
Severn Lodge has a toddler program (2-4), a junior program (5-8) and a youth program (9-12), with daily activities that include arts and crafts, fishing derbies, scavenger hunts, canoeing and beach bon fires.
Meals, all included in the price, are mostly served in the main lodge, a historic building originally built in the mid 1800s.During the summer months, suite rates for a couple average around $1,000 for two nights, and include luxury waterfront accommodations (some cottages have Jacuzzis and fireplaces), all meals, boating equipment and supervised activities for the kids and evening entertainment.
Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort, Resort Fiji
For a holiday that combines beach relaxation and cultural immersion, one of my faves is Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort in Fiji. A former coconut plantation on the island of Vanua Levu, this idyllic South Pacific resort was voted “Best Overseas Family Resort” by Luxury Travel Magazine last year, and it’s no wonder why.
On-property there are guided snorkeling trips with marine biologist, yoga classes, medicinal walks, hobie cats and kayak experiences. The resort also gives their youngest guests the chance to experience authentic Fijian culture. There is a junior chef farm-to-table program, where kids learn to prepare local-style meals featuring organic produce grown on the resort, and a “Connect with Kids” program takes visitors to the local school to meet up with local kids.
A complimentary award-winning children’s program called Bula Club is open daily from 8:00am to 9.00pm and offers a swimming pool with a waterslide, a toddlers’ pool, a jungle gym, zip-line, trampoline, sandbox, and arts and crafts center. Plus also incorporates child care so parents can, for instance, spend the day enjoying the island’s world-class diving, while the kids play with new friends. As part of the Bula Club, each child under six is assigned a dedicated nanny for the duration of their stay. Kids aged 6-12 years are placed in small groups of up to five children and get their own Fijian buddy to explore this private island.
Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort rates start at $830 USD a night and include: all meals, non-alcoholic beverages, private round-trip airport transfers, Bula Club for Kids, all activities and equipment rentals, wash and fold laundry services and select local.