In summer, Canadian family vacations typically include cool lakes, sunsets on the dock, and roasting marshmallows over a bonfire. But achieving that idyllic vacay means hours spent in traffic, followed by the never-ending battle against the mighty mosquito. Cottage rental rates skyrocket during the summer, and the best campgrounds book up fast. Both vacation scenarios include cooking and cleaning, minus the comforts of home. Where's the holiday? For a real summer vacation, consider heading south, instead of north.

Wait, go south for...summer? 

horse beach jamaicaJamaica Tourist Board

Jamaica is an ideal family destination, and is especially popular as a winter escape. But like our summer cottage getaways, winter sunseekers pay top dollar for Caribbean vacations, especially during school holidays. If you're willing to trade silver maples for palm trees and chilly lakes for the Caribbean Sea, take advantage of off-season deals and jet to Jamaica. And definitely bring the kids - this island is a family-friendly paradise.

No bumper-to-bumper traffic en route to Jamaica, either. There are year-round direct flights from most major Canadian cities, and airport transfers are included in most resort packages.

What's summer like in Jamaica? 

Jamaica's summers are hot and humid, just like much of Canada's. But ocean breezes and the shade of a palm tree, combined with an ice-cold Ting or Red Stripe, make Jamaican heat much more bearable than Central Canada's.

Rainy season runs from May to October, but there is less average rainfall in July and even August than in December or April, and Caribbean summer rainfalls typically roll in and out quickly.

Family-Friendly Accommodations

Beaches Ocho RiosBeaches Ocho Rios

Families are spoiled for choice when it comes to accommodation options in Jamaica.

There are large all-inclusive resorts, like Beaches Negril and Beaches Ocho Rios, where every member of your family is catered to with top-notch amenities and activities. Some resorts, like Runaway Bay's Franklyn D. Resort and Spa, pamper families with their own "Vacation Nanny".  Just next door, the Jewel Runaway Bay Beach & Golf Resort offers comprehensive programming for kids of all ages and includes the Jewel Lagoon water park - a day-long destination for swimming and adventure.

Beaches Ocho RiosBeaches Ocho Rios

Extended families looking for luxury might consider Half Moon. With private villas boasting four-to-seven bedrooms, families can spend quality time together. A spa, 18-hole signature golf course, dolphin lagoon, children's village, fitness centre, wide range of water sports, and an equestrian centre mean everyone gets to indulge their own vacation interests. 

Other great family-friendly hotels include the Hilton Rose Hall Resort & Spa in Montego Bay and Moon Palace Jamaica Grande near Ocho Rios.

For families preferring more of a homestay feel, Villas by Linda Smith offers fantastic properties for families of any size and configuration. A collection of 50 private villas, most boast their own private cook, butler, or housekeeper.

Kid-friendly activities off the resort

Sun, sand, and sea are the three main priorities for families seeking to unwind on a beach vacation, but Jamaica's rich culture and diverse geographical makeup make it impossible to stay resort-bound.

dolphin Cove jamaicaDolphin Cove

Explore the jungle via river tube or zipline, or go horseback riding/swimming with Chukka Caribbean Adventures. Dolphin Cove is an ocean-based marine attraction where you can interact with dolphins, stingrays, and sharks in their natural environment.

Families with older kids and more adventurous palates can explore the renowned Blue Mountain and John Crow Mountains National Park by mountain bike.

Yaaman Adventure ParkYaaman Adventure Park

Elsewhere, Yaaman Adventure Park dials up the fun with Segway, dune buggy and Jitney tours. Animal lovers won't be able to resist horseback riding and camel rides. Refuel for more adventure with Chef Irie as he leads the kiddos on a culinary adventure that ends with jerk chicken, festival, shrimp run down and steamed callaloo. 


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