It’s a tale as old as the family vacation: parents want to laze beneath a palm tree with a beach read in hand, while little ones want nothing more than to run, jump and splash all day.
Many properties offer dedicated distractions — indoor spaces with books, board games and movies — but at these five hotels, kids’ programming is seriously fun business, full of outdoor activities and engaging experiences.
From South Carolina to Southeast Asia, here are some of our favorite hotel kids’ clubs.
The Maldives has long been a favorite of honeymooners, but as families flock more to the islands, luxury hotels are upping the kids’ club game.
Home to a dedicated children’s space and playground well-stocked with toys, books and art supplies, Play by COMO provides plenty of fun for kids ages four to 12. Every day promises something new — tots can dive into origami-folding, making (and munching on) edible art, yoga, marine biology lessons and more. (Of course, Play by COMO isn’t limited to this Indian Ocean escape; brand outposts in Turks and Caicos to Thailand have dreamt up wonderful itineraries for young travelers as well.)
For the more adventurous, the Maldives resort’s water sports center runs junior surf programs and dolphin cruises. Should none of those options pique their interest, there’s always kayaking, tubing and snorkeling in the warm, clear waters.
Casa de Campo Resort & Villas
On the eastern side of the Dominican Republic is where you’ll find this sprawling 7,000-acre Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star resort. In addition to a host of family-friendly experiences, half- and full-day kids’ programs run by the resort’s eager camp counselors are always on offer.
A roster of age-appropriate activities changes daily; under-threes might have a fashion show and ice cream party while the slightly older set kayaks and gets creative with arts and crafts.
The luxury hotel also hosts evening programs for tots with dinner followed by treasure hunts, mural painting, mini-Olympics and other fun-filled frolicking.
For those who require a little less supervision, the Bonche 4 Teens lounge provides billiards, air hockey and movie screenings. Organized gaming tournaments and parties are also regular occurrences.
The Sanctuary at Kiawah Island Golf Resort
This Five-Star resort outside Charleston takes its kids’ club outdoors with Kamp Kiawah in Night Heron Park. Half- and full-day programs run the gamut, from activities for tiny travelers (ages three to seven) to an Adventure Camp for junior thrill-seekers (ages eight to 15) that consists of archery, kayaking and tennis.
Have extra-active kiddos on your hands? Sign them up for the beachfront resort’s newest offering, Camp Xtreme, where they can tackle a ninja warrior course, go on scavenger hunts and perform fun (and educational) science experiments.
Many hotels cater to younger children, but Kiawah shines with its roster of teen activities so fun, a few adults may try to sneak in — think glow-in-the-dark capture the flag, nature scavenger hunts and bonfires backed with live music.
The Peninsula Manila
All Peninsula hotels worldwide offer Peninsula Academy, a series of educational programs that aim to immerse you in local culture. This elegant Makati outpost runs three kid-friendly offerings to keep small guests occupied while you head for the tranquil spa.
The tastiest option is a three-hour afternoon cooking class, Lutong Pinoy (“Filipino cooking”), where tiny toques (four and older) learn how to make traditional desserts like halo-halo, a pretty parfait of ice cream, shaved ice, egg custard, sliced fruit and unsweetened condensed milk.
If cooking isn’t quite your kids’ bag, the Manila hotel also delivers two fun craft programs: painting takta (papier-mâché people or animals) or a toy-making workshop. Led by local plush toy designer Apol Lejano Massebieau, this crafty class lets budding creatives customize blank cotton toys (in shapes like a sunburst or jeepney, the jeep-turned-bus found everywhere in the Philippines) to their heart’s content.
The Algarve (Sagres and Quinta) and Cascais locations have ultra-modern outdoor playgrounds with climbing equipment, swings, slides and even proper trampolines. Inside are more games, toys and books. The kids’ clubs are supervised by cheerful, experienced childcare minders.
For older children (and adults who want to goof off), Sagres and Quinta have the Blue Rooms, with board and video games, foosball, billiards and ping pong.
Even in dense Lisbon — where Martinhal is an apartment-style hotel in a 19th-century palazzo — the indoor children’s club fits in a rock-climbing wall, soft play area and games. The rooms are also kitted out for kids with bathroom step stools, milk and orange juice already stocked and no sharp corners.