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Ebony Escapes! to the best of the Caribbean

Lysa Allman-Badwin | 6/5/2014, 2:19 p.m.
Views like this in St. Thomas are among the delights waiting for families year-round when vacationing in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Believe it or not, the school year is fast coming to a close, and I don’t know about you, but after about 10 months of homework, science projects, soccer tournaments and everything in between, we’re all ready for a break. I really don’t care where—I just need to get outta here!

Luckily, the folks at Parents magazine have given me some food for thought with their “10 Best Caribbean Destinations for Families in 2014,” based upon affordability, safety, availability of flights, weather and activity options.

Jamaica

Family-centered culture, kid-friendly resorts and nonstop flights from many U.S. cities helped propel Jamaica to the No. 2 spot. For side trips, they recommended Dunn’s River Falls in Ocho Rios for its “collection of cascading waterfalls and small lagoons that most kids ages 8 and over should be able to climb with you.” They also note that kids between 5 and 8 can use a staircase that runs parallel to the falls.

Jamaica Tourist Board, www.visitjamaica.com

Saint Lucia

Who can resist a trip to the only drive-in volcano in the world? Located not far from Castries, the capital and largest city of Saint Lucia, it is St. Lucia Volcano (also called St. Lucia Sulphur Springs), which experienced its last minor eruption (can any eruption be called minor?) in the late 1700s. Parents also recommends lodging at two all-inclusive resorts: the St. James’s Club Morgan Bay Resort & Spa, with its secluded hilltop for adults, plus kids club with four pools and babysitting services, and the Windjammer Landing Resort, noted for its very calm waters.

St. Lucia Tourism, http://stlucianow.com

Dominican Republic

Located approximately three hours from New York City, the Dominican Republic is one of two nations occupying the island of Hispaniola. Of accommodations in Punta Cana, Parents says, “The newly renovated, all-inclusive Grand Palladium Bavaro Suites Resort and Spa … has the largest club in the Caribbean for kids ages 1 to 12, babysitting, meet-and-greets from ‘Raggs’ (of PBS fame) and plenty for you to do such as beach volleyball, sailing or water aerobics.”

They also note a worthwhile trip to Los Tres Ojos (Three Eyes) National Park, featuring three limestone caves, numerous stalactites and stalagmites and a wealth of beautiful grottoes and springs.

Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism, 809-221-4660, www.godominicanrepublic.com

Puerto Rico

For Puerto Rico, the smallest of the Greater Antilles also encompassing the islands of Culebra, Vieques and Mona, the magazine points to El Yunque National Forest for its picturesque walking trails accessible to visitors of all ages (even those in or on wheels), as well as lodging in the town of Fajardo at the Las Casitas Village. Despite being part of the pricey Waldorf-Astoria Resort portfolio, the magazine thinks the resort’s Coqui Water Park, a supervised camp for children ages 4 to 12, and other amenities make it worth it.

Puerto Rico Tourism Company, 800-866-7827, www.seepuertorico.com

Cayman Islands

Hands-on adventures at Cayman Turtle Farm, the largest land-based attraction in the Cayman Islands, propelled this Caribbean destination to No. 6 on the list. Modern roads, a low crime rate, primarily condo accommodations, pristine beaches and Rum Point, featuring shallow water out to about 25 feet, which is fun and safe for kids, were other notable attributes for a vacation here.