by Michael Blanding
From the outside, the Cape Codder Resort doesn’t look like much. Located beside the highway in — let’s face it — the ugliest part of Cape Cod, the outside of the resort looks more like a strip mall anchored by the Hearth & Kettle Restaurant than an enticing place to spend a family vacation. Inside, however, the property is full of surprises. The entire resort is focused around a large open-air courtyard filled with sand and beach chairs and opening up to what is sure to be the main attraction for the kids: the giant indoor wave pool. Sheltered from the highway, guests are quick to forget the exterior — instead, finding a terrifically unpretentious family-friendly resort with lots of activities to keep the kids occupied, a convenient location in the heart of the Cape, and a price tag quite a bit lower than other nearby resorts.
The resort actually started with the restaurant, which was opened 35 years ago by Vincent Catania, who everyone called VJ. Over the years, he added to his properties with the John Carver Inn in Plymouth, the Dan’l Webster Inn in Sandwich, and finally the Cape Codder, a former Sheraton Resort which he updated and reopened a decade ago. Since VJ passed away in 2010, the resort has been managed by his children Bill, Steve and Debra Catania, who have worked to update the look and feel of the property with a more contemporary vibe, adding a spa, outdoor pool and a new “residence club” of more upscale fractional ownership rooms that are also available to hotel guests.
The heart of the resort, however, remains the laidback attitude with a staff that not only excels at handling kids, but actually seems to enjoy being with them. This is not the place to come, necessarily, if you are a couple looking for romance. But for a family looking to relax, you won’t have to worry about being the only one with rambunctious little ones — or have to worry about what to do with them once they find the wave pool. When you are not out exploring the beaches and villages of the Cape, you’ll find it easy to pull up a deck chair on the sand or prop open the sliding door facing the courtyard and know your kids are safe and more than entertained.
Our Editor Loves
- Indoor wave pool complex
- Great value and family-friendly atmosphere
- Convenient location in the heart of Cape Cod
- Water Parks
- Water Sports
- Children Programs
- Game Room
- Kids' Pool
- Onsite Dining
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
In all, the Cape Codder has 260 rooms, in a mix of sizes. The deluxe rooms are the most basic design, with two double beds or one king. The larger Cape Codder rooms have two queens or one king, some with gas fireplaces. Finally, the seven Loft Suites feature two bedrooms, each with queen beds, the second one accessible by a spiral stair to a loft overlooking the room. All rooms include flat-screen TVs with on-demand movies, and coffee makers. The regular rooms include Gilchrist & Soames bath products. The suites feature more upscale furnishings as well as Jacuzzi tubs, memory-foam mattresses and softer sheets, fireplace, DVD player, and Spa Therapy product. Children are free up to five people in each room; cribs are complimentary and cots are available for $20/night. Refrigerators are also available for $20/night.
The most upscale option for a stay is the new residence club suites: apartments that are available for purchase as fractional units, but also open to stays by the hotel guests. Truth be told, the level of luxury in these suites is surprising, with spacious rooms, flat-screens, stereo sound system, kitchen with chef stove, large Jacuzzi soaker tubs, etc. Hand-painted murals of beach scenes on the walls help to retain the Cape Cod vibe, while the rest of the decor creates an exclusive feel.
Stayed here for two nights while on a tour of New England. Biggest problem was it smelled very musty inside the hotel. Our room also had a musty odor to it and everything just felt damp, sheets, towels. The air conditioner kept us up most of the night going off and on. The 2nd night we opened up our slider and shut off the air and got a much better sleep. The staff was very nice and very friendly, the grounds had beautiful flowers all around, we checked out the water park which would be nice for kids. Just not impressed with the hotel due to the odor. They provided a breakfast buffet and it left much to be desired. If I was in the area again I myself would stay at a different location.
I was excited to stay here with my family after seeing the commercials. My children loved the water parks (both small but perfect) and they were never overcrowded. The outdoor pool was stunning, and we were able to enjoy the nightly movie and fire pit. The food served at both “the deck” and “hearth and kettle” we good though the service was extremely slow which is difficult with hungry children! The resort grounds are beautiful and landscaped immaculately. Mid day shows were a plus. The hotel room was definitely sub par. We paid extra for a “courtyard view” which was a hotel room with a sliding door, tucked away in the corner we could not see a courtyard but it was private so it wasn’t bad. I will complain however about the significant amount of bugs/ants all over my Room. I lost two days of my stay complaining about an issue and the manager james, was not doing much to help the cause. He offered to move our room to an inner room (as mentioned we paid extra for a courtyard room with a sliding door) and this inner room was much further away from all the Amenities. This wasn’t an option either seeing I had a conjoining room with my sister and her three children. Her room also had bugs but he wasn’t addressing the situation. We stayed in the big infested rooms and they were sprayed with bug spray. They blamed the bugs from my children’s dropped food though we had arrived in the hotel approximately 2 hours prior. Another manager ended up taking some money off of each nights stay though we still paid a significant amount (a couple thousand) we will not be going back there again!
Indoor Wave Pool
For many kids, the recreational activities here begin and end with the indoor wave pool, an 8,000-square-foot complex with two separate pools, a couple of waterfalls and two twisty waterslides that pop out of a giant pirate ship to splash into the water. Every 15 minutes or so, ginormous waves begin pumping out of the ship, rising to levels of two feet to the delighted shrieks of the wee ones. The pool is well-designed to please several different age groups. The zero-entry shallow end is great for toddlers and babies; younger children will love swimmimg with the waves; and older children and 'tweens will find the waterslides thrilling. Only teenagers will find the complex boring, lacking the thrills of a really death-defying waterslide. There is also a small hot tub and sauna here open to adults only, a policy that is strictly enforced. (That's understandable given the hordes of children that might overrun them, however, is also slightly annoying for those who'd like to relax with the whole family in the hot tub.)
Outside in the courtyard, there's a kid's playground, a beach volleyball court and plenty of room for older kids to run around in a big grassy field. One nice feature of the resort is a nightly bonfire that occurs here every night of the year, complete with marshmallows to toast and an outdoor movie for the kids. While the Cape Codder doesn't have a formal drop-off "kids' camp," it does schedule activities nearly every hour of the day during summer months, including tug-of-war and capture-the-flag competitions; Frisbee and soccer games; arts and crafts activities, and face painting. Parents usually accompany children to these activities -- though children 11 and over may be dropped off. The resort also has sports equipment available for kids to use, as well as a variety of board games for loan.
Hearth & Kettle
The Hearth & Kettle restaurants are a mainstay of family dining in Southern Massachusetts, with tourist kitsch decor and an epic menu of options that runs the gamut from all-day breakfasts and plenty of fried fish and seafood options, to burgers, salads and sandwiches. Very little on the menu is over $10, and no entrees are over $20, making this very good value for the money, especially considering the sometimes overwhelming portion sizes. But the restaurant has also been making a concerted effort in the past few years to make its food healthier, sourcing more of its vegetables and meats locally and making soups and other dishes from scratch. The all-American fare will never be mistaken for spa cuisine, but as a parent at least it's nice to know that the food here is as healthy as possible.
Grand Cru Wine Bar
The ambience and the cuisine at the resort's other restaurant, Grand Cru Wine Bar, are somewhat more upscale, but still plenty casual for families. French Impressionist prints and high-top tables set a kind of brasserie atmosphere, while the food includes a mezze plate, paninis and lobster rolls, and grilled organic chicken. The most expensive item on the menu -- a filet mignon in rich red-wine sauce -- is still only $25, making this slightly more expensive than the H&K next door, but still very good value. Jazz groups play live music here on weekends.
Both restaurants have an extensive children's menu with all the favorites: chicken fingers, mac n' cheese, hamburgers and hotdogs, etc. Crayons are provided.
Planning & Tips
All about the Extras
The Cape Codder's new Beach Plum Spa offers a bit of everything, with local beach plum berries worked into many of the products used in massage and body treatments, and medical procedures such as Botox and laser treatments among the offerings. Like everything here, the spa is especially accommodating to families, offering mani/pedis or other treatments to kids as young as 5 (with parent present) and setting up special mother-daughter (or father-son) spa treatments upon request.
For nights out, babysitting is available through a bonded service at the rate of $26/hour, with a four-hour minimum.
The Art of Smart Timing
The Cape Codder is open year-round, and while the kids activities are limited to the summer months, other perks, such as the nightly bonfires and movies are offered throughout the year. Of course, the best time to visit is during the height of summer in July and August, when the weather is sunny and hot, and the Cape is in full swing. A trip during the "shoulder season" of June or September can be a great option, however, to save a little money -- rates are lower, but oftentimes the weather is just as nice (and not as humid as it can be in August). The Cape tends to shut down after October, and doesn't really open again until April. So if you are visiting between these periods, don't expect to have a lot of dining options outside the resort. While there is an austere beauty to the Cape in the snow, recreational activities are few and most tourists avoid the area during the winter.
Hyannis is located approximately an hour and a half from Boston along Routes 3 and US 6. It's about five hours from New York City, along Interstates 95, 195, and 495 and US Route 6.
The closest full-service airport is Boston's Logan International Airport, which offers flights from all major domestic and quite a few international locations. You can rent a car at the airport, arrange car transportation from Logan through Cape Destinations for about $150 each way, or take a bus to Hyannis for about $25 each way with the Brockton & Plymouth Line.
It's also possible to fly from Boston to the regional Barnstable Municipal Airport, which is located only 3 miles from the resort. Among the airlines making the trip are Cape Air, Island Air, and Nantucket Airlines, all of which also fly between Hyannis and Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard. Cabs are available at the airport.
For all of these options, keep in mind public transportation is not very extensive on the Cape. If you plan on sightseeing or hitting the beaches, you'll almost certainly want your own car.
For Mom and Dad
For grown-ups, the resort also opened a new "adults only" salt-water outdoor pool set apart from the main courtyard in a separate outdoor space and screened from the rest of the resort by a large artificial waterfall. It's just the place to come and get away when you need some relaxation apart from the children.