At the Ritz-Carlton Kids Camp ages 4 to 12 play bingo, go on scavenger hunts, search the property for iguanas, bake cookies, learn Spanish, make Pinatas and splash in the kiddie pool. The colorful children's room comes equipped with board games and art supplies. The relatively small room is brightened by a jungle mural adorned with the resort's mascot Balam, a friendly jaguar.
Because children cannot sign themselves in and out of the program, most older children ages 10 through 12 are likely to think the program too babyish, especially when younger kids sign up. The program works best for younger children. Kids younger than four are welcome if accompanied by an adult. The program operates daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Friday and Saturday nights from 6 p.m. until 10 p.m.
For beach loving families, the resort's Beach Club, a deep rectangle of sand that starts at the Caribbean shore and stretches back along the side of the hotel, adds 7,000-square feet of valued play space. In addition to the "beach club" alongside the building, the Ritz, as a result of the beach reclamation project, has added a wide stretch of sand between the resort and the ocean. At the Beach Club, cabanas, which rent for an additional per day cost, consist of raised, wooden platforms covered for shade, two lounge chairs and a hammock. Palapas are available too. You can always ask a beach attendant to bring over lounge chairs. Umbrellas are available to rent daily, too. We wish resorts, especially luxury ones, would offer beach umbrellas on a complimentary basis.
Even strong swimmers should be mindful of the aggressive surf when swimming in the ocean. In many places, rocks and sand bags protrude near the shore. Locals tell us that from December through February, the waves typically crest at 1 to 3+ feet high, breaking in quick succession. March through June, locals say, remain the best months for Caribbean swimming as sea is relatively calm. A lifeguard presides over the beach.
The main pool -- two connected loops with a small waterfall -- always draws guests. Although there's no kiddie pool, one loop's depth is 3.5-feet, good for gradeschoolers. Toddlers, sitting along the shallow area's wide ledge, splash under the watchful eyes of parents.
On Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4 p.m. until 5 p.m., ages 6 to 9 and ages 10 to 14 can improve their swings at the resort's Cliff Drysdale Tennis Center.
The Ritz's $500,000 Culinary Center is a big plus for families who want to get hands-on in the kitchen. Each week at the state-of-the-art facility with its four cooking stations, Chef teaches a variety of two-hour cooking classes, most of which are open to families. Families will go back to basics, learning the correct way to cut vegetables (who knew there was a technique?) and discover easy recipes. Following the recipes and learning tips along the way, families will love this hands-on activity. Then, its time to eat what was cooked on the terrace facing the sea.
Is there a chocoholic in your family? Then, sign up for Chocolatier and learn how to create tuxedo strawberries, chocolate truffles and sauces. During Christmas and at other times, the center offers kids-only classes. Kids learn how to fashion gingerbread houses and bake chocolate cakes, and cookies. At other sessions, children, working in teams of three, learn how to make pizza dough, cook pancakes and French toast for breakfast and how to create enchiladas.
On the weekend closest to the full moon celebrate with a beach bonfire, music and marshmallow roast at the Moonlight festival held beachfront.
La Isla Shopping Village, an open-air facility bordering the lagoon, is a pleasant place to shop. The complex features Johnny Rockets, Haagen-Dazs ice cream and many familiar chain clothing stores. At Ah Cacao Chocolate Cafe, sample the rich Mayan hot chocolate made with 72 percent cacao.