If you talk family travel long enough, you’re bound to hear the name Beaches. The family-friendly division of the Sandals brand known for “barefoot luxury” has a reputation as one of the best family all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean and has long been on my travel wish list. My 4 year old and I recently joined my parents for a week at Beaches Turks and Caicos, the largest of the Beaches properties (there are also two in Jamaica and a fourth coming soon in St. Vincent and the Grenadines). All three generations of our family had a fantastic time and would love to go back someday. Read on for my recap of our visit and detailed review of the property.
First and foremost, the property is stunning. I think this is the thing that surprised me the most. While I was expecting a beautiful beach (this was our second trip to Turks and Caicos and I knew how stunning Grace Bay is) I was blown away by how gorgeously landscaped and well-maintained the resort itself is. According to my parents who are Sandals veterans, this is a hallmark of the brand. It was really lovely, and instantly put us in vacation mode.
Beaches Turks and Caicos is divided into five “villages” – each with its own pool and assortment of bars and restaurants. We stayed in the Italian Village, which is the most central and convenient to pretty much everything. I worried the property might be too big for little legs, but once you’re there the size feels manageable, and there are also golf carts and a cute train to take you around if you get tired of walking.
The rooms are set up with families in mind. We had a large master bedroom and a kids room with bunk beds and a trundle bed that could accommodate three children or petite adults. One minor annoyance is that there was no access to the outside without going through the kids’ room – I’m not sure if that was just our room or if all the rooms are laid out that way, but it’s not the most logical layout given that kids typically go to bed much earlier than adults. Our room also had a small balcony with a nice view of the main (Italian Village) pool.
Pools and Water Park
We spent most of our time in the Italian village pool, which is the biggest pool and has a lot of shallow areas and some shade. There are cabanas which are reserved for butler rooms or those who pay extra for them, but there are also plenty of chairs and we never had a problem finding a chair at the pool.
Each pool has a swim-up bar and a long list of specialty drinks they can make for kids, which was a highlight of the vacation for my daughter, who discovered a drink (the “chocolate monkey”) that she loved. The swim-up bar in the main pool was always crowded and there was frequently a long line. If you’re looking to get a drink quickly, I recommend leaving the pool and walking over to one of the real bars where there was never a wait during the day.
A major draw for older kids and teens is the 45,000 square foot water park, which has tube and body slides, a lazy river and a surf simulator. There’s also a small splash pad area for younger kids, but my daughter preferred the pools. The water temperature is quite a bit colder at the water park than in the pools, probably because of the deeper water. The French Village pool is right around the corner from the water park and is a good place to hang out if you want to be in a pool but have easy access to water park amenities and restaurants (the water park has the 1950s diner Bobby Dee’s and the mac and cheese and ice cream trucks, which are all excellent and very kid-friendly).
Beach and Pier
Beaches has a prime location on Grace Bay Beach, a beautiful stretch of sand that regularly shows up on those “best beaches in the world” lists. The water is turquoise, the sand is powdery white, and even when the waves are rough, the sea breeze is refreshing. In addition to the standard umbrellas and chairs on the sand, Beaches also has some day beds set up with great views of the water. I spent a very pleasant afternoon reading here one day.
Beaches also has a large pier, which is used for their various boat trips, but is also fun for kids to explore. There’s a glass viewing area in the bottom of the pier, so you can look down on the sealife below, and one time we saw a large school of needlenose fish. This is also a nice spot for sunset photos.
Watersports and Excursions
If there’s no red flag up, Beaches offers a variety of non-motorized watersports (including Hobie Catamaran sailboats and kayaks), as well as complimentary snorkeling excursions several times per day. That’s a fairly big “if,” however – of our six full days there, only one day was a yellow flag, the rest were red. While December is reportedly a bit windier than average, I would highly recommend you seek out watersports the first day with a yellow flag if you’re at all interested in this.
There are also a number of paid excursions operated by Island Routes, a Sandals subsidiary, and those may operate when the complimentary excursions are called off. My parents took a catamaran tour that included snorkeling and a visit to Iguana Island. The snorkeling got mixed reviews, but they really enjoyed the boat trip and the iguanas.
With 21 food options on the property, there’s no way you’ll go hungry. I have a separate post with a detailed guide to all of the restaurants at Beaches Turks and Caicos, so here I’ll just say that the food surpassed my modest expectations and was among the best food I’ve had at an all-inclusive. Just about everything was good; some things were exceptional. A la carte restaurants were generally better than the buffets, which is no surprise. My favorite restaurants were Neptune’s and Schooner’s for breakfast, Bobby Dee’s, Dino’s Pizza and Cricketer’s Pub for lunch and Bombay and Arizona’s for dinner. Sky, which is adults only at dinner but welcomes families for breakfast, has a great view from the rooftop. Mario’s, the Italian restaurant, was not a huge hit for dinner, but my family of chocoholics all loved the warm chocolate tart with almond ice cream and agreed it was the best dessert on the property. Every restaurant has lots of kid-friendly food and if you want something specific that isn’t available at a particular restaurant, the staff will be happy to get it. A unique feature of Beaches is that just about every restaurant will do takeout (Soy, the sushi restaurant, is a notable exception, perhaps for food safety reasons?) which is not something I’ve found at other all-inclusive resorts. On the other hand, Beaches doesn’t have room service (except in butler suites) and many resorts do.
Activities for Children and Families
Beaches is unique among Caribbean resorts in that it includes not only a kids club for potty-trained kids age 3 and up, it also includes free childcare for infants and toddlers. With a 3:1 adult to kid ratio, we didn’t use these services on this trip, but this is a big draw for many families and every time I observed the kids’ camp staff they seemed like they were doing a great job and the kids were having a blast. There’s also a small playground near the kids’ camp that you can visit even if your kid is not enrolled in the camp.
Beaches has partnered with Sesame Street for entertainment, and there are a number of characters roaming the property and live Sesame-themed shows (a different one every night), which is great fun for the preschool set. There are also shows with fire-eaters and sword-fighting geared toward older children and adults.
Like Sandals, Beaches offers free professional photography sessions – in this case, against the beautiful backdrop of Grace Bay beach. You pay for the photos you want (individual photos and packages are both available, I believe a la carte each photo is $22), but the session itself is free. Even if you’re not looking to spend a lot of money, it’s an affordable way to get a great photo for your holiday card. The photographers are great with kids (naturally) and accommodating.
Arrival and Departure
This was one area with room for improvement. When we arrived at the airport the line for shuttles to Beaches was very long and chaotic. As a party of two, my daughter and I were able to skip the line to fill out a van, but who knows how long we would have waited if not for that. Departure was even worse, with everyone crowded into one small “departure lounge” and no apparent method to the madness of loading shuttles. It wasn’t a disaster by any means, but it felt like a frenzied cattle call in a way the rest of the resort didn’t. Also this is not specific to Beaches, but I highly recommend purchasing FastTrak for the Providenciales airport. Customs lines can be very long, especially on Saturdays, and security lines can take a while too. FastTrak allows you to bypass both and we had hardly any wait.
Is Beaches worth the hype, and the money? Overall I would say yes. While many Caribbean resorts have kids’ clubs, I’ve never been anywhere that catered to kids quite the way Beaches does, which makes for a very easy vacation for parents. The beautiful property, good food, and gorgeous location will win over the adults in your group.