For such a sun-drenched, humidity-soaked, tourist-filled region, the Caribbean has surprisingly few really great water parks. Perhaps the best of them, and certainly the largest, is at the all-inclusive Beaches Resort in the Turks & Caicos. It’s there that Pirates Island beacons the young — and the young at heart.
Pirates Island Water Park
For many visitors, the highlight of the water park is the SurfStream, a special sort of simulator that creates a standing wave. It’s one of four that exist in the world. The consistency of said wave makes the SurfStream ideal for learning surfing and boogie boarding. (See it in action in the video below.)
Seeing children hop on a board for the first time and ride a SurfStream wave is very cool. Though, somehow kids have a way of making it look easy. That’s what many an adult discover when they try surfing the simulator and soon thereafter find themselves shooting backwards into the padded landing area. It’s then that they realize that, while their hearts might be young, their sore hips are not.
Fortunately, there’s an array of other attractions on offer at Pirates Island. Those include nine large water slides targeted at various ages and one 650-foot (200m) long lazy river. Various smaller slides and a zero-entry pool are geared towards toddlers. There are also castles to climb, water cannons to shoot and whirlpools to indulge in. And the kids-only pool in the shadow of a large mock pirate ship has what might be the world’s only swim-up soda bar.
Beaches Resort, Turks & Caicos
One needn’t stay at the Beaches Resort to experience the Pirates Island Water Park. (Non-guests can buy a day pass that’s good from 10am to 6pm.) But we’d suggest doing so — especially if Beaches is still running their instant $350 saving promotion. Like their two sister properties in Jamaica, the Beaches on Turks & Caicos is an excellent all-family, all-inclusive resort.
We say “all-family” because Beaches does a rather amazing job at appealing to everyone. For children of all ages, there’s a Kids Camp. That includes a nursery for infants; it’s filled with baby gear and staffed by certified nannies. Toddlers get their own swimming pool and the opportunity to take part in shell collecting, face painting, treasure hunts, interactions with Sesame Street characters and other organized fun. For pre-teens there are special activities too, like sailing, scavenger hunts and pizza making (to say nothing of an Xbox 360 game garage). Among the numerous choices for for teens, the highlight is probably the special teen-centric nightclub and its open bar. (A soda bar, that is.)
Of course, there’s plenty that a whole family can do together in case you, you know, you want to spend time with your kids. Though, the Beaches staff does seem genuinely enthusiastic and skilled at providing kids with a fun and safe environment. Parents can feel at ease about leaving their children as they go off for some, say, scuba diving.
Which brings us to the “all-inclusive” part of the deal. All food (including the entire menu at 16 different restaurants), all drinks (including alcohol), tips, taxes, airport transportation and the vast majority of activities are included in the room rate. You could literally not touch your wallet during your entire stay in the Turks and Caicos. The only optional item that isn’t included in the rate but that Spot Cool Stuff strongly feels should be is the wifi internet. All the other items and activities Beaches charges extra for — spa treatments, private babysitting, individual lessons (eg. for scuba certification), organized island excursions and the like — are very understandable.
If you are looking for an all-inclusive Caribbean resort to enjoy sans kids check out the adult-only offerings from Sandals, the same company that runs Beaches. Most are in Jamaica — see our comparison review of every Sandals Resort in Jamaica for more info — and all are exceptionally well-run and luxurious. But then, only the Beaches Resort in the Turks and Caicos has the largest water park in the Caribbean.