Hotels & Resorts

These Hotel Activities for Kids Are Way Cooler Than Summer Camp

After all that virtual school, kids need hands-on learning more than ever. Could these resorts — and their next-level educational programs — be the answer?

Nanuku Junior Warriors. Courtesy of Nanuku

By Nicky Short and Rachel Chang

Jun 14, 2021

PARENTS EVERYWHERE ALREADY KNOW that iPads and Zoom calls don’t hold a candle to in-person instruction, but the question for many families has been what to do about it. Enter the travel industry: “Many resorts around the world have recognized the challenges of the past year,” says Jack Ezon, a member of T+L’s Travel Advisory Board and a father of four. “They’re setting up work-and-school opportunities for families that blend virtual classes for the children with experiences based on where you are.”

The key to finding the right fit, Ezon says, is choosing a getaway that syncs up with your children’s passions. Here are some of the most impressive options all over the world.

FOR THE FAMILY OF ESCAPISTS

While remote learning and working remain the norm, why not capitalize on the flexibility in the most idyllic of tropical retreats? The Remote With Auberge package at Nanuku Auberge in Fiji keeps parents connected (via an in-villa office) and children engaged. In an above-and-beyond move, the resort has partnered with Advantage Testing to offer private and group tutoring that keeps kids up-to-date with schoolwork. 

Courtesy of Nanuku Auberge (5)

But if you want to trade book-learning for field work, there’s LaiLai Adventure Club, where young guests get immersed in nature, mindfulness, education and local culture through cooking, dancing, water sports and art. They help rebuild the coral reef and plant mangroves with an expert Marine Scientist and experience Fijian culture firsthand in a “Kids Kava” ceremony (with chocolate milk). 

FOR THE EXPLORERS

Adventure of the Corbin Soneva Fushi (3)
Photos by, clockwise from top: Jula and courtesy of Soneva Fushi; Julia Neeson; Aksham Gadir

Admit it: You’ve sometimes considered dropping your kids off on a desert island.

Soneva Fushi lets you actually cast them away, Robinson Crusoe-style, totally guilt-free, by offering a fun, independence-immersion course on a small Maldivian island. Adventure of The Corbin combines nautical history, ancient navigation techniques and essential survival tips on a three-night, three-and-a-half-day adventure around Baa Atoll. From fishing, prepping and cooking their catch and camping under the stars, to snorkeling the wreck site of 17th-century galleon The Corbin, and learning to play traditional drums with local islanders, young explorers capture every moment of their experience on a GoPro. Back at the resort, they produce a short film of their adventure, ready for a family screening. 

Courtesy of One&Only Wolgan Valley (2)

Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley makes Australian adventures accessible for outward-bound kids with alfresco exploration and hands-on activities. The Wolgan Rangers program introduces the outback through bush hikes, fossil hunting, mountain biking, horse riding and chances to help protect local flora and fauna with expert field guides. 

In the U.S., Rhode Island’s Preserve Sporting Club & Residences has kid-focused classes in archery, mountain biking, and rock climbing — and can even arrange survival-skills training for teens. Tucson, Arizona’s Tanque Verde Ranch offers daily horseback riding on the surrounding desert trails for kids as young as seven. And Hidden Pond, in Kennebunkport, Maine, has partnered with the parks and recreation department to organize tide-pool explorations and kayaking trips.

FOR THE ENVIRONMENTALLY CONSCIOUS

Courtesy of Londolozi Game Reserve (2)

Londolozi Game Reserve in South Africa doesn’t have a children’s safari program. It has a “Children’s Philosophy” centered around bringing ecotourism to life for kids. An eight-hour game drive is transformed into an interactive sensory experience, with lots of chances to hop out of the family-sized Land Rover to touch and smell the bush, identify tracks and learn about local conservation projects. Back on the reserve, Cubs Den is staffed with young-at-heart rangers, who get to know which kids want to learn permaculture and decorate pizzas with African garden ingredients, and which prefer tree climbing, mud wallowing and dung spitting. 

At andBeyond lodges across Africa, the new WildChild program teaches young guests about animal tracking, life in the bush, anti-poaching efforts, and the impact of climate change on animal populations.

Courtesy of the Mandapa, A Ritz-Carlton Reserve (2)

Surrounded by the paddy fields of Ubud, Bali, Mandapa, A Ritz Carlton Reserve is its own patch of lush bliss. Within the reserve, Mandapa Camp welcomes kids and families into a bamboo hut with a slide from upstairs to downstairs, and onto the verdant educational farm, for a full day of eco-discovery, exploring sustainable practices from Balinese daily life.

Sister property Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, near San Juan, Puerto Rico, lets teens direct and star in their own conservation-oriented PSA shot in the surrounding jungle.

FOR THE AQUATIC ADVENTURERS

Courtesy of Gold Coast Hotel (2)

Kids’ Summer Adventures at Hong Kong’s Gold Coast Hotel gets them on paddleboards and kayaks, learning about marine habitats and letting off steam on the beach for a memorable day and a half. Kid-friendly rooms put the whole family in the summer camp spirit with themes including safari, space, princesses and pirates (complete with a treasure chest). 

The Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island, in Florida, has launched a four-night Barrier Island ecology field trip, during which families can kayak or sail the Intracoastal Waterway while learning about marine ecosystems. Other Ritz-Carlton properties, including those in Santa Barbara, California, and Kapalua, Hawaii, have partnered with Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ocean Futures Society, which has developed a range of activities on subjects such as coral reef ecology, organic gardening, and even media production.

Amanyara, in the Turks and Caicos, has teamed up with Miami’s Phillip & Patricia Frost Museum of Science for a series of themed weeks led by the museum’s educators. Upcoming sessions include reef rescue in July, coastal conservation in August, and astronomy in November.

FOR THE BUDDING GLOBAL CITIZENS

Mexico’s Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal has a weeklong cultural-immersion program for families that includes Spanish lessons, a wellness class, and a choice of activities including volunteering in a nearby community or learning about Baja California’s agricultural history.

At Kenya’s Naboisho Camp, an Asilia Africa lodge that’s a favorite of the safari experts at Alluring Africa, kids learn about local folklore and games from Masai instructors and, depending on COVID-19 conditions, can visit nearby schools to meet future pen pals.

FOR THE FUTURE GALLERISTS

The Hotel Metropole Monte-Carlo has partnered with the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco to offer, exclusively to guests, after-hours tours of the institution’s aquariums and galleries of maritime artifacts.

In Charleston, South Carolina, the French Quarter Inn can arrange an insider visit to the Gibbes Museum of Art for a tour of its more than 10,000 paintings and sculptures led by the chief curator.

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