More and more resorts are catering to children -- though the quality of their kids' programs still varies.
It's not enough at a top property to have a table with arts and crafts, a pool and a playground. As parents, we want to give our children the opportunity to experience the destination, spend time exploring and learn something. We've come to expect more, and so have our kids.
The resorts highlighted here all operate a supervised children's program, camp or club, where you can drop off your children daily to participate in organized activities. They each dedicate ample and separate space for the children's activities, and offer something extraordinary, above and beyond the expected.
No. 1 -- Cayman Islands: The Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman
Located on the famous Seven Mile Beach in Grand Cayman, The Ritz-Carlton's children's program, Ambassadors of the Environment, is as unique and educational as it is entertaining.
Created in conjunction with Jean-Michel Cousteau, the program offers kids ages 4 to 18 the opportunity to explore their surroundings with cool adventures like pontoon boat rides through the mangroves and rides in the resort's own submarine, Atlantis XI, which sinks to a depth of 100 feet so kids can view the underwater reefs off Grand Cayman firsthand.
The program allows kids to choose six from more than 40 themed experiences each day. Three modules are geared to kids ages 4 to 7 and three to kids ages 8 to 17.
The program divides into morning (9:30 a.m. through 12:30 p.m.), afternoon (2 through 5 p.m.) and evening (6:15 through 9 p.m.) segments. Parents are encouraged (but not required) to share the activities with their kids.
In Discovering Sea Turtles, kids learn all about the creature's habitat, as well as environmental threats to their well-being. They even get to track two real, tagged green sea turtles.
In Fun With the Sun, kids make solar prints and eat cookies they've baked in a solar oven.
Other popular themes are Eco-Chefs, Traditional Caymanian Crafts and the Sea Floor Submarine Adventure.
No. 2 -- Hawaii: Grand Wailea
Although its stunning location on Maui's Wailea Beach might be enough to please the kids, The Grand Wailea (part of the Waldorf Astoria collection) has a wonderful, supervised children's program for kids ages 5 to 12 years.
Camp Grande is more than 20,000 square feet, open seven days a week and offers full-day, morning, afternoon and night camps.
The spread is impressive and includes a whale-shaped outdoor wading pool, a play kitchen and tool set, a private movie theater, snack bar, craft room and a full-sized soda fountain.
Other popular spots are the game room, which has foosball, ping-pong and pool, and the arcade.
Children can participate in activities like exploring tidal pools, sand castle building, nature walks, Hawaiian lei making, and hula lessons.
Night Camp includes dinner, a Walkie Talkie Tag at Night game, sand crab hunting, theater games, scavenger hunts and more.
No. 3 -- New York: Mohonk Mountain House
The Mohonk Mountain House has a fairytale setting kids will love, nestled in the secluded woods of the Hudson River Valley.
The resort's children's program stands out because it puts the kids in touch with nature and local wildlife through an impressive array of outdoor activities.
Parents of toddlers also will appreciate that Mohonk accepts children as young as 2 years old, as opposed to the standard 3.