These Hotels Have Kids Clubs That Go Above and Beyond
At these properties, the children’s programming goes far beyond basic caregiving services with immersive experiences that offer younger guests a deeper look into culture, nature, sustainability, and even themselves.
As with approximately 99 percent of my preconceived notions about parenting, turns out I was wrong about kids clubs, too. I used to think I would never be a parent who just drops off my kids at what I thought were mediocre daycare centers. I grew up going on vacations where my family did everything together all the time. Wasn’t the whole point of traveling together to bond as a family?
What I failed to realize was that kids really like spending time with other kids, which is something kids clubs can offer, and that there are some truly enriching encounters they can have under the guidance of local educators and caregivers that they wouldn’t get to have otherwise just hanging out with dear old mom or dad.
My first rodeo with kids clubs was in January 2022, when my husband and I took our son and daughter on our first big family trip following the pandemic lockdowns. Our son, who had just turned five, was finally old enough to actually get into a kids club (most kids clubs have a minimum age requirement of four or five years old), and honestly, my mind was kind of blown.
At the Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea, we had our son (our daughter who was only three then was too young to join) participate in the complimentary Kids for all Season programming. Not only did he love it so much that he cried tears of sorrow as we were checking out, but the kinds of activities he and the other kids were engaging in were a mix of good old fashioned fun combined with enlightening outings shedding light on the fragility of Maui’s natural environment. The activities included exploring the natural tide pools among the rocky shoreline near the property and letting the kids see small crabs and sea urchins up close, while teaching them why it’s so important not to harm the delicate creatures. Lei making lessons also introduced them to some of the cultural traditions of Native Hawaiians.
What to know about hotel kids clubs
Kids clubs really run the gamut. The programming might be included in the nightly hotel or resort rate (typical of all-inclusive resorts, for instance) or require an added fee (ranging from reasonable to hefty). They might be offered all day or for select hours each day. They also might only be offered seasonally—for instance, during school break periods such as summer, spring break, and the winter holidays. There’s usually a minimum age requirement and an advance reservation is often necessary, though some kids clubs offer walk-ins, space permitting. Younger children can sometimes participate as long as their parents are with them (for some parents this might defeat the purpose), and some properties offer dedicated babysitters to supervise babies and toddlers in the club. A true kids club is one in which parental supervision isn’t necessary—so the kids are off doing their own thing under the guidance of counselors and caregivers who are employed by the hotel or resort.
Hotels with the best kids clubs
While there are plenty of kids clubs around the world that offer a fun place for young travelers to play, create, and relax, some properties are taking the concept a step further, infusing the agenda with more enriching activities that teach kids about sustainability, cultural traditions, and even health and well-being. Not only do kids get a break from their parents and vice versa, but they also might actually be learning meaningful lessons about the destination, its culture, people, and the environment, in addition to having some fun and being well cared for.
These are our picks for the best kids clubs around the world that are both fun and enriching, selected by AFAR staff and contributors who are parents themselves.
Camp Blackberry at Blackberry Farm in Tennessee
Located on the 4,200-acre Blackberry Farm in Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains, Blackberry Farm’s Camp Blackberry invites guests ages four and older to participate in activities such as cooking, painting, foraging, farming, fishing, and soap making. There are three sessions available each day, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. (including breakfast and lunch); from 1 to 5 p.m.; and from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. (including dinner) at a cost of $175 per session. Kids ages 10 and older have access to Camp Blackberry’s Youth Discovery program with its wildlife hikes, gardening, and farm animal care. Blackberry Farm also hosts an Adventure Series (priced per experience) for families, outings intended to foster “appreciation through connection” by getting fams to fine-tune their navigation skills and learn what life is like on a working farm, among other activities.
Grow With Six Senses at Six Senses Resorts
The Six Senses Resorts, a collection of sustainable luxury properties throughout the world, are eco-conscious hotels that operate with the goal of giving back more than they take. This includes restoring vital ecosystems and supporting local communities while moving toward zero waste and reduced-carbon stays. Its kids club, Grow With Six Senses, incorporates the six dimensions of wellness (social, environmental, physical, spiritual, emotional, and intellectual) and encourages kids to reconnect with both nature and those around them. The focus is on active experiences (including yoga, cooking, farming, and composting), relaxation (spa treatments and meditation), and creativity with a local element (Vietnamese origami or Portuguese tile painting, for instance). All Six Senses Resorts also offer babysitting services for an added fee.
Some of properties with standout programs:
- Six Senses Laamu, Maldives: The Junior Marine Biology program is for ocean lovers ages 7 to 12, allowing them to engage in science experiments and snorkeling adventures and to make their own conservation videos with marine biologists. (The fee to enroll is $80.)
- Six Senses Ninh Van Bay, Vietnam: The complimentary Just Kids program at Vooc Village is for guests ages 4 to 12 years old and features dozens of arts, crafts, discovery, sports, ecology, and outdoor activities like “learn about langurs,” which introduces kids to the local monkey species, and “be a farmer” in which participants visit the resort’s organic farm and tend to the plants in the vegetable garden. The program is available daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
- Six Senses Yao Noi, Thailand: The Junior Eco Warrior program is for kids aged 4 to 12 years old and includes building nests for hornbills and enjoying nature walks. There’s no fee to enroll, but an advance reservation is recommended.—Marianne Perez-Fransius, AFAR contributor
Guidepost Montessori and Green School Bali at Ayana Estate in Indonesia
Tucked away amid the vast blue swimming pools, gargantuan foliage, and water-spouting monkey statues of the 403-room family resort Rimba by Ayana in beachy Jimbaran Bay, Bali, is an ultra-tidy, minimalist, and child-led environment that, as of summer 2023, is home to camps for children ages 2.5 to 6 years old. Led by Guidepost Montessori, a Hong Kong–based school, this club’s well-educated teachers present curious young minds with programming that is typically focused around the Balinese kembali concept of returning to nature with activities centered on the ocean, farm-to-table agriculture and cooking, and Indonesian culture.
For an added fee of around $485 per week (there are also promotional packages for property guests), children can take part in the outdoors-infused activities among the idyllic 242-acre Ayana Estate, where beaches, jungle, and an organic farm serve as the backdrop to a total of four resorts (with rooms and villas available at a variety of price points, plus 26 restaurants). Among the weekly themes at Guidepost Montessori is “cultural connections,” which has little ones creating a Balinese craft each day (such as lyang-lyang, or kites; batik-printed cloths; and damar kurung, or lanterns), as well as learning a traditional Balinese dance that is performed for the property’s guests. Older kids ages 7 to 12 can drop in for single days or longer stints at Green School Bali’s Green Camp on the same property, with such themes as bamboo design and building, survival skills, and junior scientist. —Kathryn Romeyn, AFAR contributor
Jungle Jam at the Shore Club in Turks and Caicos
Housed within a stand-alone cottage with a colorfully painted interior on the southern end of the property and surrounded by bougainvillea is the Shore Club’s Jungle Jam kids club (included in the hotel rate and open daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.). The programming offers the 4-to-10-year-old set a deep sense of place (kids under 4 are welcome, too, but must be accompanied).
The accommodations at this oceanfront property in Providenciales range from standard guest rooms and suites to 8,800-square-foot private villas with their own saunas and dedicated butlers. The resort fronts a secluded stretch of Long Bay Beach where kids can head out on guided wildlife walks with the kids club counselors to hunt for local reptiles, birds, butterflies, hermit crabs, and snakes along the shore line and scout for parrot fish in the shallows (the water is as clear as a swimming pool in these parts).
“Critter safaris” play out along an eco-trail winding from just outside Jungle Jam’s door through a scrub brush environment along which children might see colorful birds, native orchids, curly tailed lizards, or anoles while learning about bush medicine and the historical island uses of tropical plants. Other club activities include “oven-to-tummy” cooking classes where kids learn the basics of kitchen tools while making “jungle pies” and pizzas, as well as sand-sculpting lessons down on the beach incorporating seashells into their designs.—Terry Ward, AFAR contributor
Kids Club at Marbella Club in Spain
A grande dame on the southern coast of Spain, Marbella Club is a sprawling beachfront paradise that is a whole world unto itself, including its Kids Club. Open daily year-round, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (the rate is 100 euros for a full day, and 65 euros for a half day), this massive Kids Club is open to both guests and day visitors ages 4 to 14. The program introduces little ones to gardening, cooking, music and dancing, wildlife encounters, and science experiments, among a whole host of additional activities. There’s a focus on movement and exercise classes, along with activities that teach kids about regional cultures and customs.
Kids for All Seasons at Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts
Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts aren’t just known for their impeccable service and luxury accommodations. For families, the complimentary Kids for All Seasons programming available at numerous Four Seasons properties is a huge hit. Open to kids ages 4 or 5 up to 12 (depending on the property), the program is shaped by each individual resort in its own way. Meaning, you won’t find cookie-cutter offerings from one property to the next, but rather a daily schedule that reflects the rhythm and rituals of the location. What stands out about these kids clubs is that the enriching elements are cleverly woven into the daily agenda without it screaming, “Hey kids, we’re going to learn something today.”
Some of the properties with standout programs:
- Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea: Younger guests who sign up for the Kids for All Seasons program (which runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily) learn about the origins of food by planting seeds, harvesting produce, and meeting the resort’s chefs. During school breaks, naturalists from the Maui Ocean Center host sea turtle activities and a touch pool experience, helping to foster the next generation of ocean conservationists.
- Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita: In 2021, this family-friendly property located 45 minutes north of Puerto Vallarta infused a new KidsWell element into its Kids for All Seasons program that focuses on kids’ mental health and well-being (for kids ages 5 to 12, it’s open between 9:00 a.m. and 4:45 p.m., daily). In addition to cultural activities that showcase the region’s Huichol community, such as making spiritual symbols known as Ojos de Dios (God’s Eyes) and creating a Mexican Catrina doll, kids participate in practices that focus on reducing stress. That includes breathwork, journaling, meditation, watercolor classes, and nature and wildlife encounters.
- Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran Bay: The brand-new, plastic-free Umah Rare Kids’ Club—meaning “house of children”—debuted in July and was built with locally sourced materials as a haven for holistic and sustainably-minded play. Open daily from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. for those ages 4 to 12, the club consists of a reading space as well as a kids’ garden with a wooden climbing play area and splash pad.
- Four Seasons Resort The Nam Hai: A newly launched Young Guardians of the Earth program focuses on sustainability and science at this luxury property in Hoi An, Vietnam. On Tuesdays, younger guests can learn about composting, and on Sundays, there will be a focus on gardening. The hope is to teach kids how important it is to reduce, reuse, recycle, and regenerate.
KidsOnly at One&Only Mandarina in Riviera Nayarit, Mexico
Just north of Puerto Vallarta One&Only Mandarina caters to both parents and their kids, not least because of the KidsOnly club, which features a 42,000-square-foot playground designed by art director Brigitte Broch for children ages 4 to 11. Young travelers can spend hours in this jungle-inspired village featuring tree houses, hanging bridges, slides, climbing walls, and nature trails. Open daily from 9 a.m. to 5:45 p.m., the complimentary club is itself a living outdoor classroom housing 50 species of trees, an insectary, and a butterfly farm. Programming focuses on such topics as the life cycle of bugs; kids also create art that teaches them about local Huichol customs.
Kids’ Outdoor Experience and Tree House at Boschendal in South Africa
In addition to having access to a tricked-out tree-house-themed playground, both guests and day visitors can enroll their kids ages 4 to 12 in either a two-hour or full-day immersive farming experience at Boschendal, one of the oldest wine estates in South Africa’s Western Cape. This working farm bills itself as an “ethical village,” and while parents embrace the organic farm-to-table cuisine, wines, and terrain, children can learn about upcycling, composting, waste management, foraging, harvesting, animal welfare, and worm farming in the Kids’ Outdoor Experience program. (Advance reservations are required; there is a nominal fee of $8 to $14 per session.)
Le Studio by Petit VIP at Hôtel Barrière Le Majestic Cannes in France
Children ages 4 to 12 staying at the luxurious and centrally located Hôtel Barrière Le Majestic Cannes in the French seaside town of Cannes have complimentary unlimited access to Le Studio by Petit VIP. Open daily (except during festivals, including the Cannes Film Festival) from 10 a.m. to noon, and 2 to 4:45 p.m. (with the option to reserve a space from 7 to 9:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays), this kids club for petits sophisticates offers foreign language workshops and conservation lessons, while also leaning into the creative culture of Cannes. Kids can learn about sculpture, photography, gastronomy, music, circus arts, and (of course) cinema. They can even create their own music video or play and perform and record it on stage. For $37, tiny travelers will have access to meals that include an appetizer, main course, and dessert. (The meal must be reserved 24 hours in advance.)
Lil’ Wranglers at Brush Creek Ranch in Wyoming
Those searching for a fun and educational dude ranch experience should look no further than the luxury all-inclusive Brush Creek Ranch located on 30,000 acres of the North Platte River Valley in south-central Wyoming. A Lil’ Buckaroos program for babies and toddlers up to age three is available for an additional fee with fishing, arts and crafts, and lessons about animals that roam the property (Brush Creek Ranch is home to horses, goats, and llamas). Included in the nightly rate is the Lil’ Wranglers program for ranchers ages four to nine that offers an introduction to horsemanship, ranch ecology, history, and culture. Mini ranch hands can explore the on-site creamery, meet the Alpine, Nubian, and Mini Nigerian goats, and learn about milking. They’ll also go hiking, pan for gold, experience horseback riding, pond fishing, and baking classes, among other outdoor adventures.
Ritz Kids at the Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island in Florida
One of the Sunshine State’s most spectacular stretches of barrier island beachfront serves as a natural playground for families who stay at the Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island, just south of the Georgia border in northeast Florida. The onsite Ritz Kids program focuses on environmental responsibility on this barrier island, which protects a diverse range of wildlife and culture, including Amelia Island’s indigenous Timucua Native American history. One day kids might explore the inner workings of a coral reef to learn who the “doctors” and “security guards” are among the various fish denizens. Another day they might learning about the importance of trees in Florida’s ecosystems through games and lessons inspired by Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein. The Ritz Kids program is open daily, with a full-day program option, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., for $175 per child (including snacks and lunch); as well as a half-day program, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., or from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., for $100 per child (including snacks).
In addition to the Ritz Kids program, families can enjoy the property’s Ecology Field Trips. Led by the resort’s naturalists, these excursions include diving into barrier island ecology and history while replanting sea oats and learning about beach erosion on Boneyard Beach. There’s also the option to explore the historic African American community of American Beach. (Home to Florida’s tallest sand dune, it was one of the few beaches that remained open to African Americans during segregation.) Yet another field trip includes scouting for marsh rabbits and alligators within the 300 acres of protected area in the Ron Sapp Egan Creek Greenway. The Ecology Field Trips start at $300 per person. Every afternoon, the resort’s naturalist team also guides complimentary hunts for shark teeth on the 13-mile beach.— T.W.
Tortuguitas at Esperanza in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
This Auberge beach resort offers an elevated kids club experience for children of all ages (plus one-on-one babysitting services for the really young). At Tortuguitas, 4 to 11 year olds can make piñatas, learn to stand-up paddleboard, and work on all kinds of arts and crafts in the well-stocked clubhouse itself, while teens are kept occupied with games and bikes in a separate area. But Experanza’s offerings go much further, allowing kids to fully explore the saguaro-meets-the-sea landscapes of the southern Baja peninsula. One day they could be releasing baby turtles into the Pacific with conservation group Tortuguero Pescadero AC, the next, taking a plein air painting class or working on clay masterpieces under the guidance of a local artist. Days end with stargazing and the requisite s’mores. Tortuguitas is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily for a full-day fee of $120 and a half-day fee of $75. Similar options await at Auberge’s sister property, Chileno Bay, a short drive away. But here, a recording studio allows kids to create their own songs, while private movie nights are available on the beach or at the in–house theater.—Tim Chester, deputy editor at AFAR