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Top 10 Island Destinations for Families

Top 10 Island Destinations for Families

Everyone has their version of an enchanted island vacation. Choosing an island to visit with kids might not fit your dreamy or romantic vision of an island vacation, however, exploring an island with kids can be magical! With less commercialized attractions, families have the ability to fill their time on the island exploring untouched ecosystems, roaming the coasts, touring historic towns or villages, and spending quality time with loved ones, creating memories to cherish forever. Read on to learn about our top 10 islands destinations for families.

1. San Juan Islands

Whale Watching Breach 02-21-13 22

Why Visit With Kids:

Take a trip to the real world of the sea with a visit to the San Juan Islands, part of the archipelago that has more than 450 islands just off the coast of Washington. The San Juan Islands are rich with history, but also known for splendid views, saltwater shores, quiet woodlands, and orca whales. Sample the beauty of the archipelago while on the Washington State Ferry from Anacortes. Lime Kiln Point State Park is located on the edge of San Juan Island and is known to be a great spot to try to see orca whales and other sea life from land. Educate the kids about these beautiful whales in their natural habitat and learn from knowledgeable marine naturalists on a memorable whale watching excursion. Rent bikes or go kayaking in Friday Harbor and explore the beauty of the coast. Visit the San Juan Islands National Historic Park and earn a Junior Ranger badge by heading out on a ranger-led activity or program or taking a hike in the park! This is one island you will never forget!

San Juan Islands Washington

Stay Here: With plenty of options to choose from, check out where we have stayed on the island and select a quaint B&B tucked away or a mid-town hotel or even a waterfront private cottage. The Lakedale Resort in Friday Harbor is a family friendly property with log cabins and lake activities on the property. You’ll definitely find the perfect place to relax with the family.

2. Kauai

Kauai North Shore Hawaii

Why Visit With Kids:

Kauai is called the ‘garden island’, but should also be known as the ‘outdoor playground’ for active families. For kids who would rather run, hike, and climb than relax on the beach, this is the island to call ‘home’ during a Hawaiian vacation. The best outdoor opportunities for kids center around North Shore, whereas snorkeling hot spots can be found on the South side and North Shore alike. Hike to a waterfall, find a rope swing over a creek, pick island fruit at farms, and definitely book a tubing excursion through sugar cane plantation irrigation canals (as fun and crazy as it sounds!). In Hanalei Bay, the waves are perfect for beginner surfing lessons, and the fabled Na Pali Coast awaits hikers where all roads end and a trail begins. Yes, even young kids can hike a portion of this tough trail, provided they’re outfitted in proper shoes and sun protection. Snorkel amid sea turtles at Anini Beach and Ke’e Beach on the North Shore, or at Poipu Beach on the south side of the island. Enjoy a luau to make this a perfect Hawaiian Island vacation!

Stay Here:

The Marriott Waiohai Beach Resort Club sits on the famous Poipu Beach which has a reef-protected ‘kiddie’ beach, snorkel area, boogie board area, and swimming area, all naturally made! Great beaches for families and plenty of amenities too!

3. Prince Edward Island

Prince Edward Island Canada

Why Visit With Kids:

Good things come in small packages. The smallest Canadian province, Prince Edward Island lies in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The ‘gentle island’ should be a contender for your next summer vacation as it is beautiful all around from May to early October. Stay in the Cavendish region along the island’s north shore to find a wide range of places to stay. Enter the world of Anne of Green Gables as you walk through the Cavendish Region. Ride a bike along the scenic waterside stretch between Morell and St. Peter’s Bay. The family will fall in love with this island and the will surly visit again. Playing on the red sand beaches of Prince Edward Island National Park or ride a bike along the scenic waterside stretch between Morell and St. Peter’s Bay. A daily serving of Cows Ice Cream is a must. Lobster suppers (generally served in community halls) are a PEI tradition as are the ceilidhs held in local churches or community halls (ceilidh is a Gaelic word – often described as a “kitchen party” – fiddle music, step dancing etc.). The July Lobster Carnival in Summerside is an event not to be missed.

Charlottetown is the provincial capital and worthy of a visit as well. In Charlottetown, kids enjoy the Harbour Hippo land and sea tours. Founder’s Hall is an interactive museum covering the history of Canada; the Charlottetown Conference held here in 1864 led to the formation of Canada in 1867. Visit Peake’s Wharf on the waterfront for shopping and boat tours.

The Great George Hotel Prince Edward Island Canada

Stay Here:

The Cavendish Region has a wide range of accommodations for families including family owned and operated inns, luxury, upscale hotels, and campgrounds as well. There is sure to be a perfect place to stay for your family.

4. St. John, US Virgin Islands

Cruz Bay St. John with kids

Why Visit With Kids:

St. John USVI is the ultimate Caribbean low-key island getaway right in the United States. No passport required. More than 2/3 of the island is dedicated to the Virgin Islands National Park. This is a place for snorkel lovers, nature enthusiasts, hikers, and historians. Add in tropical breezes, island music, and some adventure and you have a destination worthy of many repeat visits.

Imagine swimming with the sea turtles, racing the barracuda, or watching the Trumpet Fish puff up! Snorkel lovers young and old will love the underwater snorkel trail at Trunk Bay. With gently lapping waves and shallow entry this is a perfect snorkel learning spot. A 4-wheel drive vehicle will take visitors on an adventure to Lameshur bay for idyllic views and terrific snorkeling. Sign-up at the national park office for a ranger-led Reef Bay hike. Bring the snorkel gear! A see-thru kayak allows non-snorkelers to see the fish and the reefs without getting underwater.

Learn about plantation history and try out some tamarinds and dumb bread from the local docents at the Annaberg Sugar Plantation. Hike around the grounds of the plantation ruins and take in the views of the surrounding islands. Check out the Petroglyph hike, which leads to Taino Petroglyphs and abandoned plantations. When the family runs out of steam for adventure, relax at any of the beaches, Maho is our favorite, or have a night out at Cruz Bay. St. John is the perfect island getaway for families!

Stay Here:

You can rent a villa on the island from VRBO or book a room at the Estate Lindholm, a bed and breakfast, located on a hillside overlooking Cruz Bay Harbor, ideal for smaller families.

5. Captiva Island

Sunset on Captiva Island Florida

Why Visit With Kids:

Discover native Florida and the surrounding natural wildlife by exploring Captiva Island. This peaceful barrier island is just over the Sanibel Causeway from Fort Myers on the Gulf Coast. The beaches of Captiva Island are famous for shelling with over 250 kinds of seashells. Miles of paved, flat trails, make the island a wonderful place for families to explore by bicycle and golf cart. For the young nature lovers, another highlight of the island is Sanibel Sea School featuring year-round marine conservation classes for kids, tweens, and teens. The school’s Captiva campus is located at South Seas Island Resort and offers half-day and full-day programs that allow kids to explore the vibrant ecosystems of Captiva Island through a unique hands-on curriculum. Enjoy a perfect sunset over the clam warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

Stay Here:

Find the South Seas Island Resort on Captivia Island amid 300-acres of wildlife preserve with over two miles of beaches. Parasailing, paddle boarding, kayaking, fishing, sailing, or pool hopping (and even a water park for kids) will make this resort one the entire family will love.

6. Mackinac Island

Mackinaw Island Michigan

Why Visit With Kids:

On this historic island (the entire island is now a National Historic Landmark), just north of mainland Michigan, Mackinac Island has old-fashioned charm, natural beauty, and plenty of activities that will have families reminiscing of the simpler days of yester-year. No cars allowed on the island so horse-drawn carriages or bikes are a perfect means of transportation. Kids will love taking the ferry to the island under the impressive Mackinac Bridge and learn a little history about the area at the same time. Fort Mackinac is the Revolutionary-era fort on the island from 1780-1890. Fort tours, rifle, and canon demos along with a number of reenactments and “soldiers’ life” tours are now available. Don’t forget to try the famous Mackinac Island fudge! Slow down, relax, and soak in the beauty.

Stay Here:

Many possibilities on the island with unique boutique hotels, quaint bed and breakfasts, or even condo rentals (with full kitchens).

Check out our Tips for a Fun Weekend on Mackinac Island with Kids!

7. Isle of Capri

Isle of Capri Italy

Why Visit With Kids:

Taking in Italy with kids is wonderful in itself! If you have the opportunity to be near the Amalfi Coast (one of the Italy’s most scenic stretch of coastline), take the ferry from Naples or Sorrento to paradise. Even if you do not stay on the island you must visit for a least a full day. The family will forever remember the views which makes this visit worth every penny. Get an early start with kids. Take a ferry over and immediately hop on the funicular (it’s like an amusement ride in itself) up to The City of Capri. Take a chair lift to Ana Capri where the views of the Bay of Naples are simply stunning. Explore the Blue Grotto or Augustus Garden. Rent a private boat for a coastal tour (more people means it might even out for the price of a public boat tour) and take in the breathtaking views of turquoise water for miles and miles.

8. Coronado Island


Why Visit With Kids:

Only 30 minutes from Downtown San Diego and situated in between the Pacific Ocean and the San Diego Bay, Coronado Island is the perfect place for families who love to be active and be outdoors on vacation. Coronado Beach just might be Southern California’s best beach for young kids, with it’s fine white sand, gentle waters, and tide pools for the curious. Enjoy the famed brunch or stay for a few days and play at the swanky, yet historic, Hotel Del Coronado. With its iconic red-shingled roof, this glamorous vintage hotel is where you’ll feel like a movie star as soon as you walk in. The panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean are worth the visit! Explore the bike trail along Glorietta Bay. At the Ferry Landing Market Place in Coronado, there are plenty of places to grab a bite to eat for an impromptu picnic on the Bayside Beach while enjoying the San Diego skyline. Soak up the warm California sunshine while you window shop along Orange Avenue, and stop in at the Fabrison’s French Creperie Cafe for an authentic french crepe in a charming European cafe setting.

Stay Here:

The historic Hotel Del Coronado would be the ideal place to stay for a true visit to Coronado Island. Or give your kids a taste of staying in an old Spanish village at the boutique El Cordova Hotel located just across the street. This private residence turned hotel once belonged to the visionary Elisha Babcock, the man who made Coronado Island what it is today. No two rooms are alike, but families will love the one- and two-bedroom suites with full kitchen facilities.

9. Block Island

Block Island

Why Visit With Kids:

A short 12 miles off the coast of Rhode Island, cry ‘Land ho!’ as you spot Block Island and venture to explore this island and it’s 17 miles of beaches, spectacular bluffs, and picturesque lighthouse that help protect the shore. The Nature Conservancy has named Block Island one of the ‘Last Great Places in the Western Hemisphere,’ while many know this island as ‘Bermuda of the North.’ Families will enjoy the pristine beaches, cycling flat roads filled with other cycling families, calm-water kayaking, fishing off the beaches, clamming in the salt-water ponds, and walking trails through dunes past nests of many dozens of fledgling seagulls. The island has a wonderfully relaxed, island vibe that parents with children in tow will love. Take a bike tour on the island with Great Freedom Adventures where guides will personally take you to Southeast Island Lighthouse, kayaking in the Great Salt Pond, on a sunset sail, nature walks, or to check out the local picks for great food like Finn’s Seafood at the Old Harbor. Plan a beach day at Crescent Beach where the sand is smooth and the waves are gentle. And, in the winter, the island becomes a winter wonderland, right out of a movie.

Stay Here:

Find simple relaxation here on the island in every hotel, bed and breakfast or cottage. Choose from many historic Victorian hotels that have breathtaking views and iconic front porches where you’ll marvel at the views of the ocean for hours. New England history is well-preserved in these family owned and operated establishments.

10. Puerto Rico

Fajardo Puerto Rico

Why Visit With Kids:

Puerto Rico is known as La Isla de Encantada or ‘enchanted island’ and indeed it is for families and visitors alike. A short flight from the U.S. mainland will have families in this U.S. territory and quickly onto a lush tropical beach in no time. An island only as large as Rhode Island, Puerto Rico has much to offer its guests from the Caribbean and Atlantic coasts to the mountains of the rain forests. Travel into the El Yunque National Forest to see the wonders of this tropical rainforest or kayak into Laguna Grande (Fajardo) to paddle into the mystic bioluminescent waters under the moonlight. Enjoy the sugar sand beaches of Puerto Rico at Vieques or Culebra where unspoiled coasts await. In Old San Juan, the island heart, marvel at this cities historic splendour and travel back 500 years on its cobblestone streets and stroll inside the walled citadel. When you fall in love with this enchanted island you’ll vow to return.

El Conquistador Resort Puerto Rico

Stay Here:

The El Conquistador Resort, A Waldorf Astoria Resort, in Fajardo has its own water park, Coqui Water Park, as well as it’s very own private island, a tropical oasis called Palomino Island. Only resort guests can take a private ferry to the island, and stay all day to hike to the top, relax on the beach, snorkel with the fishes, kayak, paddle board, and more. It’s 100 acres of pure paradise.

Bonus Islands that we love and can’t resist

Featured photo by: Shutterstock