Families find Caribbean smiles Jamaica: Natural attractions, friendly resorts, package deals lure travelers.

Taking the Kids

October 05, 1997|By Eileen Ogintz | Eileen Ogintz,LOS ANGELES TIMES SYNDICATE

We climbed the slippery rocks, toehold to toehold, through the cascading waterfall up the steep incline.

The kids thought we had found the best theme park attraction ever, but this was no theme park: We were climbing Dunn's River Falls, perhaps Jamaica's most famous natural attraction.

The morning we visited Dunn's River Falls, experienced guides were offering to lead the way to the top for a few dollars. The place was crowded with tourists of all shapes and sizes -- my daughter Melanie and nephew Kyle, both 6, made the climb easily, stopping at various points to splash in the cold, clear pools of water.

But my water shoes kept coming off, and I was decidedly nervous as we followed our own barefooted guide who pushed us faster to the top. Kyle's 9-year-old brother Michael thought I was mean when I wouldn't let him make the climb again. (I won my way back in Michael's good graces later when he had the chance to shimmy up a giant coconut tree. He didn't get very far.)

Jamaica offers plenty of natural attractions like the falls, exotic gardens, green mountains (you can go watch coffee being roasted) and, of course, water sports to satisfy any child and parent.

Family choices

It also has, it seems, the greatest concentration of family-friendly inclusive resorts eager to woo travelers with an array of packages and deals.

Another option for families, especially two traveling together or those vacationing with grandparents and other relatives, is to rent a staffed villa. Here's your chance to check out how the other half lives, complete with housekeeper, gardener and cook, frequently for less than the cost of a hotel for everyone. (Call the Jamaica Association of Villas at 800-845-5276.)

It's easy to get here, too, with direct flights from major cities. (Don't forget a passport or certified birth certificate.

If you'd like to see other islands, check with Air Jamaica. It offers island-hopping options. Call 800- 523-5585.)

There is a downside: Jamaica is a poor country whose residents aggressively pester tourists, hawking everything from guide services to boat rentals, souvenirs and hair braiding. Some parents say they have fended off drug dealers as well.

That's why rather than seek adventures, many families who come to Jamaica opt to remain safely ensconced at a resort or villa where they and the kids will be pampered from the time they wake up until they go to bed.

"In the week we were in Jamaica, we left the resort once," said a laughing Ray Carmichael, a Midwest executive who has vacationed at a Jamaican resort twice with his wife and daughter. "We were there for sun and fun."

Good deals for autumn

Here are some Jamaica family deals this fall:

* Until Nov. 15, kids under 6 stay, eat and play free at Boscobel Beach. You won't have trouble finding a sitter because nursery hours are extended and free baby sitters are available any other time. Pay for six nights and stay for seven. Rates start at $2,038 for a family of four. Call 800-859-SUPER.

* Go before Dec. 18 and kids 16 and under can stay and eat free at the brand-new 225-room Beaches resort in Negril, built on a seven-mile-long beach. There are organized kids' activities available all day and in the evening for children 3 months and older. Call 800-BEACHES.

* Go before Halloween to Round Hill Hotel & Villas and you get a free nanny for five hours a day. Children 16 and under can also stay free in an adjoining room in Pineapple House and get half off meals. This deal is in effect all summer, too. Rates start at $190 a room.

* Go by Nov. 6 to the all-suite, all-inclusive Franklyn D. Resort in Runaway Bay (where you get your own nanny for the week when you check in) and pay just $125 per night per adult for lodging, meals, drinks and all activities. Kids 16 and under are free. Call 800-654-1FDR.

* Go by Dec. 20 to the newly renovated Holiday Inn Sunspree Resort in Montego Bay and get summer rates starting at $125 per person per night, including all meals, drinks and activities. There's a full children's program, which includes lunch and dinner, even for toddlers, and a separate kiddie pool. Children up to age 12 are free; teens are $50 a night. Call 800-HOLIDAY.

Taking the Kids invites questions, comments and stories about your family travels. While we can't answer every letter, some of your stories may be used in future columns. Write to Taking the Kids, Los Angeles Times Syndicate, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles, Calif. 90053, or e-mail eogintzol.com.

Pub Date: 10/05/97

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