All Ages

5 Best All Inclusive Resorts for Families With Special Needs

Offering meals, accommodations and many activities for a single price, all-inclusive resorts have long been a great option for family vacations. And recently, a number of all-inclusive resorts have become even MORE inclusive for families, offering enhanced accommodations, supports and services for guests with disabilities. Check into these accessible all-inclusive resorts for families and let your worries go!

Beaches Sesame Street Program; Courtesy of Beaches Resorts

1. Beaches Negril – Jamaica

Situated on a prime stretch of Jamaica’s famous Seven Mile Beach, Beaches Negril is one of three resorts worldwide to hold “Advanced” designation as a Certified Autism Center (ACAC). Kids with autism are welcomed with a slew of special services, including sensory-friendly spaces and supports, special dietary modifications (when needed) and optional one-on-one Beach Buddies. Certified Kids Camp staff are trained to assist and accommodate children with autism. Water sports and PADI staff have also received Advanced Autism Certification, so kids with special sensory needs can be fully included in the resort’s extensive array of water sports activities, including banana and glass-bottom boat rides, snorkeling, waterskiing and diving excursions.

At Beaches Negril, teens have their own space, complete with sports activities, X-Box and DJ Scratch Lounges, and entertainment coordinators—who host a nightly disco dance party. Complimentary drop-in kids’ camp and resort meet-and-greets with Sesame Street characters are a highlight for younger children. You can even arrange for a private birthday party with your child’s favorite Sesame Street star—a thoughtful perk for a child who may struggle with group activities at home. Family members of all ages will enjoy Yoyo’s frozen yogurt bar—a make-your-own “Top Chef” vacation fantasy. Seven restaurants, as well as the beach itself at Beaches Negril, are wheelchair accessible, and the resort offers eight handicapped-accessible guestrooms. .

Kids' Club at Grand Palladium Punta Cana Resort and Spa; Courtesy of Grand Palladium Punta Cana Resort and Spa
2. 
Grand Palladium Bavaro Suites Resort & Spa – Dominican Republic

Part of a large four-resort complex that includes Grand Palladium Palace, Grand Palladium Punta Cana Resort & Spa, and TRS Turkquesa Hotel (an adults-only property,) Grand Palladium Bavaro Suites Resort & Spa, situated on beautiful Bavaro Beach, is a Certified Autism Friendly Destination. This designation ensures that at least 80 percent of resort staff (including childcare staff) have received 14 hours of autism sensitivity training. All kids are treated like royalty at the resort kids’ club, a facility for children ages one to 12 that just happens to be located in a Spanish “castle.” The Black & White Jr. Club, for ages 13 to 17, at adjacent Grand Palladium Punta Cana, beckons teens with supervised table and video games and the all-important free Wi-Fi. As part of their company training, resort staff receive English language lessons; however, keep in mind that Spanish is the primary language in this region.

Water Park at Beaches Ocho Rios; Courtesy of Beaches Resorts

3. Beaches Ocho Rios Resort & Golf Club – Jamaica

More compact and “intimate” than its sister Beaches property in Turks & Caicos, but still offering all the family amenities you’d want in a Caribbean beach vacation (along with a consistently raved about staff), Beaches Ocho Rios Resort & Golf Club, Jamaica, is an attractive destination for families seeking an entertaining, yet contained experience for a special needs child. Beaches Ocho Rios is one of three resorts worldwide to hold “Advanced” designation as a Certified Autism Center (ACAC.) Kids with autism are welcomed with a slew of special services, including sensory-friendly spaces and supports, special dietary modifications (when needed) and optional one-on-one Beach Buddies. Certified kids’ camp staff are trained to assist and accommodate children with autism, and water sports and PADI staff have also received Advanced Autism Certification.

Just a short trip from Dolphin Cove (also a Certified Autism Center,) Beaches Ocho Rios features a fully staffed Kids Camp for ages 5 to 10, Xbox and Under 21 Lounges, a fun-filled waterpark and Sesame Street character meet-and-greets. The private beach (not all Beaches Resorts offer this feature,) three restaurants and two premium category guestrooms at Beaches Ocho Rios are wheelchair accessible.

Kids at Beaches Turks and Caicos; Courtesy of Beaches Turks and Caicos

4. Beaches Turks & Caicos – Turks and Caicos 

Located just 15 minutes from Providenciales International Airport and overlooking crystal-clear Grace Bay, Beaches Turks & Caicos extends a warm welcome to visitors with special needs. The fully wheelchair accessible resort features ramps and lifts throughout the property. Four guestrooms are designed to meet the needs of physically challenged guests, with lowered beds, steps and other room amenities. Beaches Turks & Caicos is one of three resorts worldwide to hold “Advanced” designation as a Certified Autism Center (ACAC). Kids with autism are welcomed with a slew of special services, including sensory-friendly spaces and supports, special dietary modifications (when needed) and optional one-on-one Beach Buddies. Certified kids’ camp staff are trained to assist and accommodate children with autism. Water sports and PADI staff have also received Advanced Autism Certification, so kids with special sensory needs can be fully included in the resort’s extensive array of waters ports activities, including banana and glass-bottom boat rides, snorkeling and diving excursions.

At Beaches Turks & Caicos, teens have their own space, complete with sports activities, X-Box and DJ Scratch Lounges, and entertainment coordinators, who host a nightly disco dance party. Complimentary drop-in kids’ camp and resort meet-and-greets with Sesame Street characters are a highlight for younger children.

Note: Beaches Turks & Caicos will close in 2021.

Character Breakfast at Nickelodeon Hotels and Resorts Punta Cana; Courtesy of Nickelodeon Hotels and Resorts Punta Cana

5. Nickelodeon Hotels & Resorts Punta Cana – Dominican Republic 

For character-loving kids, Nickelodeon Resort Punta Cana offers a fully inclusive, fully entertaining – and fully accessible family vacation experience. Opened in 2016, and sharing some facilities with the adjacent Sensatori Resort Punta Cana, Nickelodeon Hotel & Resorts Punta Cana is the first all-inclusive resort dedicated to Nickelodeon animated stars. From pre-school idols from PAW Patrol, Dora the Explorer, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to ‘tween favorites like The Fairly Odd Parents and “Sponge Bob Squarepants, there’s a ton of character appeal to the fun-loving beach resort.

In 2018, the property became a Certified Autism Center, and as such, accommodates the needs and special interests of kids on the autism spectrum. At least 80 percent of resort staff – including those at Just Kiddin’—the kids club for ages four to 12—have received 14 hours of autism sensitivity training.  If your child has a favorite Nickelodeon character, consider booking a character breakfast or arranging a private meet and greet (which can be done through the resort concierge). The resort offers complimentary 24-hour room service and special dietary requests (i.e. “hold the slime smoothies, please!”) are graciously accommodated in all dining outlets.

Writer Jackie Perrin has covered the best of family travel for nearly two decades, for media ranging from newspapers and magazines to TripAdvisor.com. At home and on the go, she manages a crew of companions. Follow her on Pinterest, TripAdvisor and Instagram, @NYfamtravels.

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