Unspoiled, unplugged and unhurried: There are plenty of destinations that fit this description for adults-only travel. It's much harder for families trying to find a spot that counteracts our daily over-stimulated, over-connected, over-stressed life but still meets our kid-friendly travel needs. Basic things can easily trip you up, like short flights with little chance of delay, availability of plain, familiar foods like pasta and grilled cheese, and enough activities to children them from declaring they'd rather be home with the Wii.
We recently discovered a few places in and nearby the US that are close enough to get in under a few hours and pristine enough to feel like a true vacation, but which have the basic amenities and activities kids will enjoy.
Cat Island, Bahamas
It's hard to believe the island is just one short 45-minute flight away from Ft. Lauderdale or Nassau (Bahamas).
With no hospital, one bank that just opened in Dec 2007, an airport that could easily be mistaken for a small house, no big box stores, and an absolute absence of street signs, for adults Cat Island is the antidote to modern urban dwelling. It could also be great for kids, if they're with other playmates or accustomed to getting their kicks from outdoor activities like swimming, kayaking, scuba diving and snorkeling.
Since the place you stay is your vacation on this island, here are two top family options.
When most people fantasize about ditching it all to run some small B&B on a remote tropical island, they envision Fernandez Bay Village (tel. 800/940-1905 or 242/342-2018; www.fernandezbayvillage.com) on Cat Island. A small inn with about a dozen individual villas encircling the very calm waters of the eponymous bay, it has that rustic hammock-on-the-beach feel. However, the owners and staff (originally from Brooklyn and Ohio/Ft. Lauderdale) maintain standards they know American visitors will expect. Cottages with comfortable beds, regular toilets, sinks and showers, solid glass doors and palapa roofs keep out the bugs but keep in the sound of the ocean, a kid-friendly menu, honor bar, and for a treat: utterly delicious chocolate chip cookies.
At the other extreme is Sammy T's (tel. 242/354-6009; www.sammytbahamas.com). Sammy is a charismatic, stylish, welcoming Bahamian who infuses his eponymous resort with the infectious hospitality and pride only a local owner could do. With a wide smile and relaxed posture, he shows you to a room Martha Stewart might have designed. There is an impeccably clean swimming pool, a pristine white beach, billards, darts, volleyball and restaurant serving local food like conch fritters and pigeon peas and rice.
Whenever I speak to guests new to Kiawah (tel. 800/654-2924; www.kiawahresort.com, at first say they can't believe a beach resort this pristine still exists 20 minutes from Charleston, South Carolina.Then, they say they can't believe it took them this long to discover it. And that's just fine with visitors who have been coming back summer after summer for the past 20 years and would rather the secret didn't get out.
We've never found a vacation spot with all these benefits at such a great value. 10 miles of genuinely pristine beaches, rivers, bike paths, pools, 5 golf courses, food great in both variety (plenty of healthy options) and quality, and plenty of activities to keep the kids busy -- all without any billboards, crowds, traffic, music, or noise pollution. With villas starting at about $200/night in the summer, and even the very upscale Sanctuary going for less than $800, the price options make it easy for families on budget as well as those looking for a little luxury. Recently the resort even became one of the few owner-operated and managed to hold the coveted double rating of both Michelin 5 Star and AAA 5 diamond.
When most people think family and California vacation in the same sentence, it's usually associated with a large amusement park or a beach. Most people forget there are other towns in the state that have retained much of the original slow laidback lifestyle that attracted people to the state initially.
The two main town activities are visiting artist galleries, of which there are many, and getting back to nature. Trails by Potter (www.hikingojai.com) is a popular husband/wife company offering rock climbing and tennis instruction and bike and hiking tours that last a few hours. The tours show off Ojai's natural beauty by winding through Foster Park or landing on the beach. History and anecdotes told throughout keep the kids amused and engaged.
Talk with fellow Frommer's travelers on our Family Travel Message Boards today.