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Novelist Marcel Proust once said, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” If that’s the case, then let’s look no further than through the eyes of the world’s youngest explorers: children.
For families looking for travel experiences that not only involve seeing and doing but also immersing, the Caribbean offers a wealth of programs aimed at connecting young travelers with local and native culture.
Here are four properties that are aiming to enrich our future leaders with an unforgettable cultural experience.
Atlantis, Paradise IslandPerhaps the best-known resort in the Caribbean, Atlantis, Paradise Island, puts its youngest travelers at the forefront of the island’s most popular cultural festival, Junkanoo. Celebrating life and freedom, Junkanoo culminates with a boisterous street parade filled with live musical performers, dancing and festive costumes. And who better to showcase the occasion than the Atlantis, a 141-acre Bahamian mega-property complete with an impressive collection of luxury boutiques and shops; a casino; and the largest conference center, meeting and convention facilities in the Caribbean.
As part of the Atlantis’ Junkanoo Fest & Feast program, kids have the opportunity to participate in the property’s own version of a parade, which includes designing their own costumes and a friendly dance competition. The private program encourages children to find self-expression in the form of costumes and dance — a paramount feature to Junkanoo; legend has it that ancestors created vibrant-colored garb as a way of expressing themselves, using materials found in their environment, including paper and feathers.
In addition, the program includes a dinner of local Bahamian cuisine and a history lesson from Junkanoo enthusiast and historian Arlene Nash Ferguson, culminating with the ever-exciting Junkanoo Rush Out, where performers and a parade hit the streets.
Curtain Bluff, AntiguaOne of the quieter countries in the Caribbean, the tiny island of Antigua is home to pristine beachfronts and a varied natural landscape. And there’s no better place to introduce future botanists to the island’s flora and fauna than at Curtain Bluff, a lushly landscaped 20-acre property on the southern coast.
The family-owned resort, which recently underwent a $13 million renovation, keeps family values high on its list of priorities. A favorite among parents looking for both family and adult time, Curtain Bluff features the Ceebee Kids Club. The free camp is headed by Ainsley Smith, a British-educated preschool teacher, who introduces young travelers to Antiguan culture, including collecting Caribbean flowers, making chocolate and creating Antiguan flags.
Capella Marigot Bay Resort and Marina, St. LuciaWith a history of human inhabitants that dates to A.D. 200, St. Lucia has a vibrant culture full of Indian and European influences. The 124-room Capella Marigot Bay Resort and Marina, located on an idyllic waterfront, showcases the island’s rich history through its Zando’s Kids Program. Borrowing the St. Lucian word for “lizard,” Zando is tailored to kids ages 4 to 12, providing them with complimentary access to an array of immersive experiences.
One such activity is its mixology classes, which instructs the children how to make drinks (nonalcoholic, of course) with St. Lucia’s local fruits. There’s also the Insider View of Marigot Bay program, led by the marina’s dock master. The session teaches kids about the history of Marigot Bay and yachting in St. Lucia. In addition, kids can make the popular shak-shak, or the Antillean version of maracas.
Wyndham Grand Rio Mar Puerto Rico Golf & Beach Resort, Puerto RicoLocated only 15 minutes away from the famed El Yunque National Rainforest, Wyndham Grand Rio Mar Puerto Rico Golf & Beach Resort has access to a beachfront that stretches more than 1 mile as well as 500 acres of on-site recreational activities, including hiking, biking and world-class tennis and golf facilities.
Noted for incorporating the property’s youngest travelers in all of its activities (instead of allocating kids-only programming), the Wyndham is focused on providing an integrated look at the spirited Borinquen culture. Kids are invited to join in with the adults to observe a truly family-friendly affair, from tours of Fajardo Bio Bay, the nearby bioluminescent bay (of which there are only five in the world; Puerto Rico is home to three of these magical bays) to the Puerto Rican favorite of salsa dancing.