Trip Review: Beaches in Turks & Caicos (Part 2 – The Activities)

A stay at Beaches in Turks & Caicos guarantees that you will never hear your kids utter the words, “I’m bored.”  This resort truly caters to kids of all ages with an incredible array of activities.  Each night, while preparing the turn-down service, housekeeping dropped off an itinerary with all of the special activities planned for the next day.  We used this information along with the weekly schedule for the Sesame Street character activities to plan each day in advance.  Inevitably, we were a little too ambitious with our plans and would run out of time to do everything, but we were never left wondering what to do next.  Finnegan and Declan slept well and turned in early most nights because they were exhausted from all of the fun by the end of the day.

The activities that we didn’t get to try were the ones geared towards older kids and adults.  One of the most impressive inclusions is free scuba diving for certified divers.  They also offer free snorkeling, paddleboarding, Hobie Cat sailboats, hydrobikes (which we wanted to try, but there is a minimum age of four so Declan wasn’t old enough), an X-Box Play Lounge, and a ‘night club’ for teenagers.

Listed below are of some of the resort activities that we did try.

Pools

There are at least nine pools (even though the Beaches website only lists six) and we tried almost all of them.  We even tried the adults-only pool that was located right next to our room before we knew that it was adults-only.  Oops.

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There are two kiddie pools attached to the main pools in both the French Village and Italian Village.  Because Declan doesn’t like wearing a floatie, these pools were a lifesaver because it was easy to keep an eye on both of them.  There are lifeguards at most of the pools, but they were not particularly attentive so I wasn’t comfortable relying on them.  In the back of each kiddie pool, the water was deep enough for Finnegan to practice his underwater swimming, which he did until his eyes were bloodshot.

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As an added bonus, there are swim up bars in both the Italian pool and French pool so you can easily grab drinks throughout the day to keep your kids hydrated.  If you don’t feel like going into the pool, you can also walk around to the back of the bar to order drinks.

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Water Park

We spent a lot of time during our first two days at the Pirates Island Water Park.  The pirate ship and water slides were perfect for Finnegan and Declan.  They loved running around this area with the other kids and going down the ‘big’ water slide.  Even Declan at 2.5 years old could go down all of the slides by himself.  They loved the pirate theme and Declan was impressed that ‘Captain Hook was all the way up in the scarecrow nest!’

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There is also a sprinkler area for the young kids and a tiny crab water slide for small toddlers to play on.

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We were also able to go on the lazy river a few times using the double tubes.  I sat on one side of the tube with Declan on my lap while Finnegan sat on the other side.  It was really relaxing and Declan started falling asleep both times.  I needed help to get both boys out of the tube, but it was never a problem finding someone willing to help.

Finnegan wanted to try the other water slides in the park, but he wasn’t tall enough to meet the 42” height requirement.  There is also a surf simulator for older kids that looked like it would be a blast.  If you’re not quite up for the challenge of surfing, you can also body board instead.

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Bobby Dee’s restaurant is located in the waterpark area and it’s shaped like a ship.  We didn’t eat any meals at this restaurant (which serves fare of the hot dog and French fry variety), but the boys had daily ice cream cones here as well as popcorn and cotton candy.

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Sesame Street Characters

We live very close to Sesame Place so Finnegan and Declan have had many opportunities in the past to meet the characters.  However, they’ve never had as much interaction with the characters as they did at Beaches.  There are signs posted around the resort with the list of weekly Sesame Street activities, including five different things each day.  From walkabouts with specific characters to science experiments with Grover to bird watching with Big Bird, the options were seemingly endless.  During our vacation, the boys decided to exercise with Elmo, go on a treasure hunt with Abby, and bake cookies with Cookie Monster.

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Baking with Cookie Monster was absolutely adorable and I would highly recommend it if you go to Beaches.

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You can also have pictures taken with all of the characters at the French Pool on specific days.  You can buy the professional photos for $50 each, which benefit a local charity, or snap your own.

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Declan with Elmo and Abby

There are other activities that you can do with the Sesame Street characters that have an additional fee, such as a breakfast with the entire crew, a nightly tuck-in with a character of your choice, or a morning cruise with Elmo and Abby.  We wanted to go on the cruise, but it is only offered one morning per week so it didn’t coincide with our stay.  I think it would have been a nice way to see more of the surrounding area.  The cost if I remember correctly (but we all know what happens to your memory after having kids) is $60/adult and ~$30/child.

Nightly Activities

Each night there is a different theme or activity that the resort hosts.  There is typically a show or activity for the kids and then one for adults.  We went to at least one every night during our stay and were not disappointed in any of them.

Beach Party

We arrived on Friday, which is Beach Party night.  The party started ~6:30PM with a Sesame Street show about Big Bird’s fear of the water.  The kids sat in front of the stage in the sand where they were encouraged to sing along during the show.  Declan was wiped out from playing in the sun all afternoon so he fell asleep during the show, but Finnegan enjoyed it.  They also had a woman making balloon animals, a bounce house and face painting.  Finnegan waited in line for a balloon sword and was thrilled to jab at everything in sight for the rest of the night.  There was also a buffet dinner set-up at the beach party, but we decided to try one of the restaurants instead.

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Movie Night

I learned that there is nothing more adorable than watching Despicable Me 2 outside with dozens of kids belly laughing.  Once a week, Beaches hosts an outdoor family movie night and serves fresh popcorn.  The movie didn’t start until 8PM, but Finnegan and Declan both took long naps during the day so they managed to stay awake and laugh through the entire movie.  Earlier that night, Beaches also had an Oscar Sesame Street Show, a Kid’s Dance Party and a movie trivia contest.

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Chocolate Party

Finnegan began counting down the minutes to the start of the chocolate party as soon as I read him the list of Sunday activities.  I think he was a little disappointed with the actual event because it wasn’t quite what he expected (think candy bars everywhere, chocolate statues and a chocolate fountain).  In reality, there were several buffet tables set-up with mostly chocolate desserts that were probably a little too rich for most kids.  I’m sure chocolate loving adults appreciated it more than the kids.  Notwithstanding, they each picked out two desserts to sample before calling it a night.

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Sesame Street Parade

Tuesday night is the parade and it’s another must-do with young kids.  In addition to the characters, there were drummers, a stilt walker, and pirates in the parade.  It is relatively short, but very interactive.  The characters stop to pose for pictures and generously hand out high fives.

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Kids Club

When we go on vacation, we prefer to spend as much time as possible with our kids since we both work full-time.  This time was no different so I never actually dropped the boys off at the Kids Club, but we did stop in on two occasions to participate in some of the activities with the Sesame Street characters.  I think it’s great that the characters are brought into the kids club several times a day to entertain the kids and lead the activities.  I also appreciated that the nannies didn’t mind whether the parents dropped off their kids or stayed in the room to watch.

I thought the Kids Club for the 2-5 year olds was crowded at times and there was always at least one kid that was really upset about being dropped off.  In comparison, the infant center looked amazing.  It was brand new and practically empty with a much better staff ratio.  The Kids Club is open from 9AM-9PM every day and there is no extra cost.

Train

There is a cute (and very slow) train that you can also ride.  It only takes about 10 minutes and is worth doing just for the pictures.  It is not a very exciting ride since it just goes out and back (very slowly) along the main entrance to the resort.

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There are many more activities at the resort that we didn’t have time to try and many excursions off the resort are also available.  In addition to the typical tours exploring nearby uninhabited islands and sunset cruises, there is a Sandals Foundation reading trip that’s offered on Thursdays.  I didn’t ask whether kids can go on this trip, but I think it would be a great experience for them.  You are paired up with a volunteer and will go to a local school to read and interact with kids between the ages of 3-10.  You are encouraged to bring a new or gently used book so something to think about if you’re planning a trip to Turks & Caicos.  One of the best parts about traveling is meeting new people and gaining an appreciation for what life is really like in the country.  This would be a great opportunity to get away from the resort and get a flavor for the local schools and teachers.

What activities would you look forward to the most at this resort?

Trip Review: Beaches in Turks & Caicos (Part 1 – The Resort)

Smiling faces and extra hands greeted us everywhere we turned during our recent stay at Beaches in Turks and Caicos.  It is hard for me to imagine an easier place to travel as a single parent with two young kids in tow. I brought Finnegan and Declan to Turks & Caicos without Russ and I was nervous that I was going to be stressed out the whole time and regret my decision to book the plane tickets all together. The reality was much happier. This wasn’t our typical trip exploring a new country or learning about a different culture, but it was a vacation. And it really did feel like a vacation – even for me.

Beaches is the family friendly version of Sandals. There are two Beaches resorts in Jamaica and one in Turks & Caicos. The resort in Turks & Caicos is the largest and it is absolutely enormous. There are four different ‘villages’ within the resort and it’s easy to walk between them.

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The Caribbean Village is the oldest part of the resort, but is centrally located and the rooms are close to the ocean and kid’s club. The Italian Village has the largest pool and is close to everything, including the beach. The one thing that I didn’t like about the Italian Village was the tower design for the rooms. Some of the towers were six stories high, which would have been inconvenient with two small kids.

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The French village is very close to the water park, but it is set back away from the ocean. Finnegan liked the pool in the French Village the best. Their favorite restaurant (sushi of course) is also located in this village along with an amazing coffee shop.

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We stayed in the Key West Village, which is the newest part of the resort. Our room was in the East Village located at the very far end of the resort. We loved our room and after I rented a two-seater wagon from the Kid’s Club for $10 a day, I didn’t mind the long walk to other parts of the resort. I actually appreciated all of the walking because it was my only form of exercise during the trip. If you travel there with young kids, you should definitely plan to bring a stroller or wagon.

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Our room was the least expensive one available at the time that I made our reservation just a few weeks in advance of our stay and it was even nicer than I expected.  When we made our reservation, the rooms were 65% off the published rack rate.  We booked a one bedroom concierge villa and it included more space and amenities than we really needed. The villa included a living room, four-person dining room table, kitchen with industrial grade appliances, a fully stocked bar and refrigerator, washer and dryer, and bedroom with a king sized bed. There was even an Xbox set-up in the living room, but I’m too old and the boys are too young to play video games. The room was also very close to the beach and we could see the ocean from our front porch.  With all of the amenities that are included at this resort, it was surprising to learn that we had to pay for internet access. Since Skype was our only option for keeping in touch with Russ, I paid $42 to have internet access for the week.

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We spent very little time in our room outside of nap time and bed time (which is really the point of going to a tropical destination during a frigid Northeast winter, isn’t it?) so I would have been perfectly happy staying in the cheapest room at the resort. There are 44 different room categories from which to choose and they vary dramatically in terms of price.

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Everything that I read about Grace Bay beach before arriving was true. The ocean is a brilliant turquoise and the sand is as soft as powder. The area in front of Beaches is the most crowded strip of sand on Grace Bay beach, but it’s easy to take a short stroll to find a spot that you can have all to yourself. We only went to the beach once because Declan didn’t like the sand getting stuck to his hands or the sun glare. There were very few people on the beach when we went right after breakfast and the water was crystal clear and extremely calm. Finnegan was more interested in building sand castles than swimming so we didn’t test out the depth of the water, which is funny since it was one of my reasons for choosing Turks & Caicos as our destination.

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The best part about the resort was the friendliness of the staff. Everyone greeted us with a smile and made us feel like they were happy to help. Have you ever noticed how most bartenders in tropical locations seemed mildly (or outwardly) annoyed when you order a frozen drink? Not so, at this resort. They gladly made our strawberry daiquiris (non-alcoholic of course) and didn’t make us feel guilty that they had to clean the blender yet again.  As an added bonus, many of the other guests were extremely friendly as well.  One woman in particular was like my own personal angel.  I started calling her Saint Heather because she always seemed to magically appear any time I could use an extra hand.  On our first night at the resort, Finnegan had a blister on the bottom of his foot tear open and was having a hard time walking back to our room.  Declan was sound asleep in my arms so I couldn’t carry both of them.  (This was the reason that I raced over to the kid’s club in the morning to rent a wagon!).  Right on cue, Saint Heather walked by and offered to give Finnegan a piggy back ride all the way to the restaurant where we had dinner.  She even went back to her room and got a band-aid and antiseptic to clean his foot!  Another time, she walked by as the boys were complaining that they were hungry and she gave both of them animal crackers.  Thanks again Saint Heather from Ottawa!

On the downside, we did have a bit of a mix-up with our luggage when we arrived and it was ‘lost’ for 24 hours. Because of our short connection time in Atlanta, I packed strategically and we had everything that we needed for our first day except toothpaste and sunblock because I didn’t want to deal with having liquids in our carry-on. The manager at the front desk was extremely apologetic and personally delivered toothbrushes, toothpaste, a razor, and a stuffed Grover doll for the boys. He also told me that I could purchase sunblock in the resort gift shop and they would cover the cost, which they did at check-out – no questions asked. It’s not clear how or why the luggage was misplaced, but it was delivered to our room the next day with everything in order so it was only a minor inconvenience. Problems can easily arise during a hotel stay and it’s the manner in which they are resolved that really counts. I thought the staff at Beaches handled our situation perfectly and left us happy customers.  Just look at this smile.

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Overall, we thought the resort and the staff were amazing. We would gladly return for an easy and relaxing vacation that involves no planning.

Have you ever stayed at this resort or another Beaches? What did you think? If not, would you consider this type of all-inclusive vacation?

Next up will be a review of the activities at this resort. Hint: they are amazing!