Carlisle Bay, Antigua: Connect With the Kids
One school of thought about family vacations dictates that each morning kids are shuffled off to well-meaning group activities like collecting conch shells, while their parents marinate by the pool in a childless stupor. At Carlisle Bay, a chic, unfussy resort tucked into a cove in a quiet corner on the southern side of Antigua, parents can find enough space to recharge as they chart a course of activities and low-key luxuries that weave in and around, and even with, their kids. It's not a mammoth resort — 82 suites, all facing the ocean (from about $500 a night); nine tennis courts; and a beach shack where you can snag a kayak or snorkeling gear — and little advance planning is required, because the smart people who run Carlisle Bay have obliterated the one major obstacle between your family and whatever activity you feel like doing: the hassle.
So one minute you're tossing a Frisbee on the beach; the next you're zooming in a catamaran across the cove, kids clinging to the mast. Or go from torturing them with drop shots on the clay courts to relaxing on the couch in the resort's screening room with some classic you've been trying to get them to watch. Of course, there are ways to make your children disappear (and even experience something new and useful) at a full- or half-day kids' camp with boat rides and nature walks and sports.
But even better is the free-range option: Carlisle Bay is small and mellow enough that you can let your kids explore on their own. You might serendipitously spot them paddling a kayak, playing soccer on the beach, or jumping into one of three pools so unique and luxurious that they'll find any other hotel pool lacking forevermore. And since Antigua is still an English colony, each day in Carlisle Bay is punctuated by afternoon tea, meaning dainty watercress-and-salmon sandwiches and a generous slice of almond cake, a ritual your lucky kids will associate with sand and salt — and that time you nearly capsized the catamaran.