Finally, a Caribbean beach that's everything a Caribbean beach should be -- quaint, with hammocks strung from palm trees, crystal-clear water perfect for snorkeling, white sand, a first-rate beach bar and enough water toys to keep the kids happy. Welcome to Rum Point on Grand Cayman's North Side.
It's a Sunday favorite with locals (www.caymanislands.ky), but tourists in the know like it, too.
There is plenty beyond the beach for the kids, like the chance to learn new tricks at the Black Pearl Skate Park, the second-largest skate park in the world (www.blackpearl.ky/index.php); visiting the Blue Iguana Recovery Center (www.blueiguana.ky), (they were nearly extinct just three decades ago); or tickling green sea turtles at the Cayman Turtle Farm (www.boatswainsbeach.ky) at Boatswain's Beach. (Kids admission is free per one paying adult.)
The best part: You might even snare a bargain this summer -- with island-wide family deals like Cayman Summer Splash (www.caymansummersplash.com), which includes a free night when you pay for four, 30 percent off on kids (under 12), flights on Cayman Airways, free entrance for children at many island attractions, free meals at restaurants, free diving rental gear for children up to 17 and half off on dives and free open water certification when kids are accompanied by an adult.
The Caymans aren't the only islands trying to lure families to their beaches. St. Lucia (www.stlucianow.com) has launched a family "Go Bananas" package that includes free meals for kids under 17, a complimentary room upgrade, a complimentary excursion, a Kids Education day at Pigeon Island National Landmark to learn about St. Lucia's legends, an island-wide discount card and -- my favorite -- a complimentary night of baby-sitting. St. Kitts has "fall in love with St. Kitts & Nevis" (www.stkittstourism.kn) with free night offers and special kids' discounts.
"If people are willing to shell out for airfare, there are great hotel deals in the Caribbean this summer," says Jaime Samuels, publisher of Travelzoo.com's Newsflash. Samuels suggests flying to Florida and looking for packages from Miami that include airfare.
"Getting there is the main challenge," says Mike Thiel, founder of www.hideaways.com. The good news, he adds, is that once you find a flight, you will have your pick of deals -- as much as 40 percent off on villas, for example -- with plenty of extras at resorts.
Look for packages that include free nights at reduced summer rates (pay for two and get two free at the Viceroy Anguilla), free diving for kids and teens (Captain Don's Habitat in Bonaire, www.habitatbonaire.com), free excursions to the Maya Ruins and Rainforest (The Inn at Robert's Grove in Belize, www.robertsgrove.com/) and more. TripAdvisor data suggests that hotel prices are as much as 30 percent lower than they were this past February and March.
If kids are traveling with you, you will probably save the most at all-inclusives, says Travelzoo's Samuels. For example, Antigua's Elite Island Resorts (www.eliteislandresorts.com) offers a "pay for one and bring up to four" deal that's a little more than $100 a night per person. Divi & Tamarijn Aruba (www.diviaruba.com, or www.tamarijnaruba.com) let two kids up to age 17 stay and eat free when accompanied by two adults. For single parents, the Occidental Grand Aruba (www.occidental.com) invites up to two kids 12 and under to stay free with one parent. The U.S. Virgin Islands' Wyndham Sugar Bay Resort (www.sugarbaywyndham.com) has just become St. Thomas' only all-inclusive -- with deals as much as 60 percent off.
Troll for deals on online travel auction sites like www.familygetaway.com or www.jetsetter.com. Of course, you'll save the most if you book a villa (www.wimco.com), www.hideaways.com) or condo (www.vrbo.com) where you can spread out, cook some of your meals and perhaps split costs with friends or extended family.
On our last night in the Cayman Islands, we kayak after dark -- on a luminescent bay (www.caymankayaks.com). The water appears to sparkle, mesmerizing the teens ... for a while at least. I savor it. Even in paradise, you don't get too many picture-perfect moments when you take kids along.