Puerto Rico’s El Conquistador Resort offers a 2.4-acre aquatic park with water slides and an artificial river. // © 2014 El Conquistador Resort
Feature image (above): Other El Conquistador Resort amenities include numerous on-site boutiques and a private island accessible by catamaran. // © 2014 El Conquistador Resort
It might surprise you to discover which Caribbean island is becoming more popular as the destination of choice for family travel. Here’s a hint: You don’t need a passport to get there.
Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory since 1898, is seeing a surge of interest in family-focused travel along with increases in cruise traffic and hotel occupancies, said Ingrid Rivera Rocafort, executive director of the Puerto Rico Tourism Company.
“Over the past year, we’ve seen a growth of 60 percent in cruises coming to Puerto Rico,” Rivera Rocafort said.
Much of that increase, as well as the increase in family travel to Puerto Rico, are a result of Disney Cruise Line choosing Puerto Rico as a port during the months of September, October and November, she said.
Puerto Rico offers families an out-of-the-country, exotic experience without technically being out of the U.S. The island culture includes European, Caribbean and Taino Indian influences.
Despite its relatively small size (Puerto Rico’s maxes out at 110 miles long and 40 miles wide), the island is packed with family-friendly activities. There are nearly 300 beaches on this island, and seven of those have been designated Blue Flag beaches, a certification by the Foundation for Environmental Education that ensures the beaches have met specified standards for water quality, safety and environmental management and education.
“Puerto Rico is no longer just a destination for when it gets really cold,” Rivera Rocafort said. “It has become a year-round destination that every family member can enjoy.”
The island’s hospitality industry has taken note of the increase in families visiting Puerto Rico, and hotels have created more kid-centric programs and activities. El Conquistador Resort, A Waldorf Astoria property, has a state-of-the-art 2.4-acre aquatic park. Its Camp Coqui is geared toward children ages 4 to 12. The camp introduces the participants to various island activities, including watersports on the resort’s private island, Palomino Island, which is an approximately 10-minute boat ride from the main resort.
If parents are looking to spend quality time with their children, El Conquistador offers a Mommy or Daddy & Me Luxury Time in the property’s luxury spa. Parents have the chance to experience the spa with their children with packages designed to take place in the same suite. Also, there’s “Ki Spa,” a spa program designed specifically for children that features signature spa offerings and new kid-friendly products.
The Caribe Hilton hotel, located in San Juan, recently instituted the Very Important Children (VIC) Program, offering weekly activities situated around the hotel’s two swimming pools, 17-acre tropical park and private beach. In addition, children under the age of 5 receive free meals, while children ages 5 to 12 receive free breakfast and 50 percent off other meals with the presence of an adult.