Going places: Resorts near and far gear up for families seeking escape, memorable experiences

Karen Rubin
Mayan dancers at Xcaret, an archaeological theme park on Mexico’s Riviera Maya. Families who stay at the all-inclusive Hotel Xcaret resort have unlimited access to Xcaret parks: Xel-Ha, Xplor, Xplor Fuego, Xavage, Xoximilco, Xenses, and the Xenotes and Xichen tours. © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

by Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Domestic and international resorts are gearing up to provide secluded and unique getaways for families bursting to get out and be together in new and exciting locales after a year of enforced hibernation. From educational programming, plenty of outdoor activities, accommodations that are vigilantly health conscious, these resorts provide the settings for experiences that create lifelong memories in a much-needed change of scenery.

Many of the resort destinations are also providing flexibility in cancellations due to the current travel climate. Additionally, international resorts have begun implementing onsite testing for COVID-19 to meet reentry requirements to the U.S.

Family Fun in the USA

One of the best family experiences (a nonstop giggle) is on a dude ranch. New York State actually has several: Pine Ridge Dude Ranch, 90 miles from New York City in the foothills of the Catskills, continues the tradition of the former, Pinegrove Ranch that operated for 40 years as a premiere, “all-inclusive,” affordable, family vacation destination. All inclusive of meals, accommodations, facilities, activities and entertainment, one trail ride per person per stay (minimum age is 9 years old) or one free pony ride per day (8 & under); outdoor and indoor pools with water slides, rock wall, archery, petting zoo, paddle boats, tractor rides,fishing, tennis, basketball, entertainment. Special seasonal packages. (Pine Ridge dude Ranch, 30 Cherrytown Rd., Kerhonkson, NY 12446, 866-600-0859.

Other favorites: Rocking Horse Ranch Resort, Highland, Hudson Valley, (845-691-2927, www.rockinghorseranch.com), which has been delighting generations of families with its all-inclusive fun (meals, entertainment, activities and riding. Ridin’ Hy, an absolutely delightful guest ranch in the Adirondack State Park, near Lake George, Warrensburg, NY, Warrensburg, NY 12885, 518-494-2742, www.ridinhy.com.

Sebasco Harbor Resort, Mid-Coast, Maine, on 550 acrs of the “Pure Maine” coast, manages to be a delightful cross between fine resort and a camp, with plenty of opportunity to be outdoors, while still enjoying such refinements as golf, full-service waterfront Fairwinds Spa, plus activities like kayaking, boating. Check out specials. (Sebasco Harbor Resort, 29 Kenyon Rd., Sebasco Estates, ME, 04565, 877-389-1161, www.sebasco.com).

Hawks Cay Resort in Duck Key, Florida Keys, offers families an ideal location to spread out and find entertaining programming. The onsite Dolphin Connection offers families both in-water and dockside experiences. From the full-service marina, guests have access to snorkeling and fishing charters, as well as kayaking and standup paddleboarding. The resort has a wide variety of new COVID-conscious activities including an environmental education and astronomy. A variety of room categories include 177 hotel rooms and 250 two- and three-bedroom townhome-style villas that come equipped with full kitchen for guests who prefer dine in. The resort also offers a selection of dining outlets that offer both outdoor and grab and go options. (www.hawkscay.com)

Sand Valley, Nekoosa, Wisconsin, offers a back-to-nature getaway for families looking for a secluded and safe destination with a variety of outdoor activities, cozy, well-spaced lodging options, stunning views and a culinary experience to match. Outdoor adventures available include hiking, fat-tire biking, bird watching, fishing, yoga, star gazing. Most Sand Valley cottages are furnished with a full kitchen for cooking and dining; pre-packaged meal kits with local ingredients and recipes curated by Sand Valley chefs are available upon request. Guests can also arrange for a chef-curated meal in the comfort of their cottage or villa, private dining and in-home meals (www.sandvalley.com).

Grand Geneva Resort & Spa and Timber Ridge Lodge & Waterpark, located on a 1,300 acre resort campus in Wisconsin, offer a variety of lodging choices and family programming while maintaining the COVID safety precautions put into place when the resorts re-opened in June 2020. Outdoor offerings such as championship golf, hiking, biking, scooter rides, horseback rides. Grand Geneva features over 356 rooms and 29 private villas making it a great destination for group getaways and those who are looking for more space. Timber Ridge Lodge & Waterpark is an all-suite resort featuring 225 rooms with expansive living spaces plus an indoor waterpark, mini golf, and arcade for families. Both properties also include several family-friendly dining options. (www.grandgeneva.com, timberridgelodge.com).

Family Adventures in Mexico

Grand Residences, Puerto Morelos, Mexico is a secluded coastal resort located about half an hour outside of Cancun with a private beach. The resort offers an array of activities (Zumba class, Spanish lessons) and immersive experiences for guests of all ages. At the Kids Club, younger guests, ages 12 and under can learn about local culture and traditions through interactive games and art projects, like learning how to create and play an authentic Mexican game called La Lotería, creating Piñatas, masks and bracelets. All-inclusive and stay alone packages are available and children 12 and under stay free. Grand Residences provides complimentary antigen testing for guests.

Hotel Xcaret México, Quintana Roo, México is located by the azure blue Caribbean Sea and verdant Riviera Maya jungle. The premier all-inclusive resort has 900 spacious guest suites, 12 distinct dining destinations, multiple swimming pools, a world-class spa and wellness center. The resort’s exclusive All-Fun Inclusive concept provides guests with unlimited access to Xcaret parks: Xel-Ha, Xplor, Xplor Fuego, Xavage, Xoximilco, Xenses, and the Xenotes and Xichen tours. In addition to food and beverages, the resort offers transportation between parks and airport shuttle. Rates for the All-Fun Inclusive package range from $285–$358/night through April 30. Guests can cancel without any penalty up to seven days prior to arrival. Hotel Xcaret Mexico has implemented 360 Xafety COVID-19 testing at the company’s resort and parks: guests staying at the hotel have access to a complimentary COVID-19 antigen test, with results delivered the same day, or a PCR test for $140, with results delivered within 24 to 48 hours.

Caribbean and Central American Getaways

Buenaventura Golf & Beach Resort, Riviera Pacifica, Panama is a destination resort on the Pacific coast of Panama, a short flight from major US cities, offering a quick, yet exotic family getaway: miles of uncrowded beaches, rainforest experiences and plenty of activities while properly social distancing. The 118-room luxury resort has seven swimming pools, a complimentary Kid’s Club, Nicklaus designed 18-hole championship golf course, biking, tennis, a zoo, sports club. Families can take advantage of the resort’s Family Experiences package with rates starting at $249 that includes daily breakfast, complimentary stand-up paddle boards and kayak, daily activities in the Kids Club, a visit to the on-site Zoo, complimentary Wi-Fi and the use of tennis and volleyball courts (book through Dec. 8, 2021 using promotional code: MAJ). The resort offers guests the flexibility to change their reservations without any penalty. COVID-19 Testing available at n-site private clinic, Vidatec, which offer COVID-19 PRC tests ($95), quantitative antibody tests ($35), and antigen tests ($45); results emailed within 24 to 48 hours.

Ocean Club Resorts, Providenciales, Turks & Caicos: Located along the world-renowned Grace Bay Beach, Ocean Club Resorts consist of two all-suite properties that provide the ideal open-air setting and direct beach access. Suites feature kitchen, washer/dryer and enclosed private porch. Watersports, bike rentals, tennis courts, beachside activities and an interactive learning game for younger guests known as Seafari are included in each stay. Ocean Club Resorts now offers complimentary breakfast. The resorts have a flexible cancellation policy, discounted travel offers and a concierge service to assist with coordination of regulations in travel to the island, such as helping US travelers with testing on-island (www.oceanclubresorts.com).

Private Island Family Travel

Cayo Espanto, Belize: Located three miles off the coast of Belize, Cayo Espanto is a private island resort perfect for a luxe family getaway. Each of seven villas comes with a personal butler, private dock area and customized meals set by the on-island world-renowned chef. The resort tailors activities based on guest preferences: fishing lessons on a private dock, a tropical spa treatment, a movie under the stars. Strong WiFi and private docks attached to spacious villas, also allot for extended virtual work/school stays. To adhere to CDC travel guidelines, the resort has arranged for the island physician to administer COVID testing from the convenience of each guest’s villa. (aprivateisland.com/)

Coco Collection, Maldives, of two boutique island resorts, Coco Bodu Hithi and Coco Palm Dhuni Kohlhu, each create a unique Maldivian experience. The secluded resorts provide opportunities for families to learn about the local marine life through guided marine biologist adventures, see first-hand the progress of Coco Bodu Hithi’s coral nurseries initiative or explore underwater life through snorkeling. Guests of all ages also have the option to become immersed in Maldivian culture, spending an afternoon with locals on a neighboring island. In response to the new CDC regulation, Coco Collection has begun offering guests PCR testing at the resorts (cococollection.com/)
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