The Best Resort Rec Programs for Families

If you’re a travel-media junkie like me, you love to read about the latest happenings in the world of travel. With Condé Nast Traveler’s annual Gold List, Travel + Leisure’s World’s Best Awards, and National Geographic Traveler’s Tours of a Lifetime, there’s certainly no shortage of opinions on who offers the best products and services in the business.

Whether these prestigious lists are extracted from travel experts or the traveling public at large, the plain fact is that these “awards” matter, and the industry takes them quite seriously. After all, they’re read by millions of potential customers and undoubtedly influence some of the decisions we make when planning our trips.

But there’s one list you may not have heard about: the Resort and Commercial Recreation Association’s (RCRA) annual awards for excellence. Every year since 2008, this trade association has honored hotels and resorts that provide outstanding recreational programs and services — from golf courses to swimming pools to kids clubs.

This past year, the Premier Recreation Award went to the Sheraton Vistana in Orlando, Florida. It’s not surprising that a resort in the unofficial family-travel capital of the U.S. would walk away with this distinction, but this particular property’s activities and services deserve the acclaim.

Families take note: they offer miniature golf, tennis, volleyball, pool parties, scavenger hunts, teen jams, “tween time,” Wii tournaments, family game shows, trivia contests, and a scuba academy. With all this stuff going on, who has time for theme parks?

Kaiwah Island Golf Resort snagged the Excellence in Programming Award for resorts with 300-799 guests. Perhaps best known for its world-class golf course, this Low Country hotel has also been cultivating a reputation for its wildlife programs. Kids can learn to kayak in the salt marshes, search for animals with a naturalist, or rent a motorboat with mom and dad to go fishing or look for Kiawah’s own inshore dolphin pod.

If parents want some time on the golf course without the kids, they’ve got you covered with Kamp Kiawah. This top-notch facility, which includes a child-friendly disc golf course, is run by a staff of well-trained and dedicated counselors.

As for bigger resorts, Atlantis Paradise Island in the Bahamas took home top honors. No surprise there, either. The resort’s parent company, Kerzner International, has invested millions of dollars into its kids and teens programs (and that’s not including the water parks and Dolphin Cay). The Atlantis Kids Adventure (AKA) and CRUSH program for teens – not to mention their summer camps — have set the bar quite high.

It’s also worth noting that previous winners of these prestigious awards have included the likes of the Omni Amelia Island Plantation, Diamond Resorts International – Grand Beach, Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo, and Starwood Hotel Resorts.

Why are these recognitions important? For those of us who travel with kids, we know how important high-quality kids clubs and swimming pools can be. So when executives from around the industry get together and select what they think is the best in the business, it’s probably worth it to pay a listen.

Have you experienced a hotel or resorts with outstanding services for families and kids? Tell us about it by leaving a comment below.


  1. Bianca at
    January 31, 2013, 1:22 am

    that little croc looks so cute. i really want to try to touch that. FYI i dont have any phobia towards it so it’s gonna be fun

  2. Deborah Dickson-Smith
    January 29, 2013, 10:24 pm

    I could name a few in this part of the world – is there a global award program? We recently stayed at Sea World Resort on the Gold Coast which was fantastic. Activities like early morning dolphin encounters, our own private water park and early family seating plans for dinner. And enormous rooms!

    Taking the kids to another Gold Coast resort next week which claims to even more kid-friendly – I’ll keep you posted :)