Family Traveller editor, Jane Anderson gets in the festive spirit with her top five winter sun resorts to take the children this Christmas, whilst Sunuva stylists advise what to pack
I was lucky enough to take my children to Niyama in the Maldives earlier this year, and it truly is one of the most child-friendly resorts in the Indian Ocean. When people say, ‘Oh isn’t being on a castaway island boring with kids?’ the answer here is a resounding ‘no way!’
The resort is made up of two islands, Chill and Play, and on arrival you’ll be taken to your expansive beach villa by your dedicated butler and presented with natty white bikes with your names carved on wooden plaque on the handlebars. So cute! Cycling along the sandy resort paths, you’ll soon discover the Explorers Kids Club, awarded Best Kids Club in the 2016 Family Traveller Awards. Hidden in the jungly interior, there are all sorts of creative activities for kids, but it’s mostly about getting them out on the islands learning about coral planting and surfing. The Drift spa also has a family spa-rty and the restaurants will take everyone’s breath away including Subsix, where you dine beneath the ocean.
Christmas here has a tropical theme with a host of holiday happenings for families including a Christmas market on 22 December with mulled wine, eggnog and festive treats, an underwater Santa’s grotto on 23 December and a Christmas Day feast. Little ones are invited to take part in a superhero themed costume party, perform in a fashion show and enjoy a scavenger hunt on land and sea.
New Year is quite a part with global entertainers jetting in including America’s Got Talent’s top magician, Hara and a candlelit performance from jazz favourites, Soul Family before New Year fireworks.
Al Baleed Resort Salalah, Oman
What more appropriate place to head for Christmas than sunny, warm Salalah in southern Oman, home to the frankincense tree?
The resort provides the perfect base for exploring the ‘Land of Frankincense’. A half-day Salalah excursion takes families on a tour of coconut, banana and papaya groves and the Al Balled Archaeological park, a UNESCO World Heritage site featuring ancient ruins belonging to the 12th century trading port of Zafar, from where frankincense was shipped across to India and beyond.
The Land of Frankincense Museum is right next door to the resort, and families can learn about the region’s rich frankincense heritage. They can also visit Haffah Souq, a traditional souq and the oldest in Salalah, known for selling rare and high quality local frankincense.
For parents, they can end their day with a Frankincense Ritual at the Anantara Spa including a frankincense infused drink and a massage using frankincense oil, known to promote relaxation, increase blood flow and circulation and reduce inflammation and skin imperfection.
Festive relaxation is top priority here with a gorgeous 44 metre-long infinity pool with mini sun beds for the young ones, cabanas and beanbags. The Albahhara Kids Club keeps little ones active with water games and cooking classes and the Teens Club includes diving and fishing adventures. Other activities include a Cinema under the stars, dhow cruises and dolphin watching.
Special Christmas touches include Christmas Tree Lighting on 12 December with festive carols performed by international children’s choir followed by a family buffet dinner. On Christmas Eve a themed buffet also includes a visit from Santa Claus bearing gifts to kids with festive carols. On 29 December, a professional cartoonist will be in residence so guest can come away with a personal portrait!
Kimpton Seafire, Grand Cayman
Kimpton is an innovative American hotel group that infuses resort hotels with a boutique feel. I recently stayed in their first Caribbean property, Kimpton Seafire on Grand Cayman and highly recommend it for a hassle-free, easy Christmas holiday with the kids.
The Cayman Islands may be known primarily as a tax haven, but they are so much more. Grand Cayman has incredible nature. We went night kayaking to see the bioluminescence, dipping in our oars to create fairy dust in the water. Kids will marvel over the rare Blue Iguana in the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park and can swim with stingrays at Stingray City if they’re brave enough!
The Kimpton Seafire is the highest hotel on the island with gorgeous inter-connecting family rooms overlooking Seven Mile Beach – literally miles of pure white sand. Or you can book a gorgeous fifties-meets-contemporary style bungalow.
You’ll spot the stylish Camp Seafire kids club if you follow the little trolley with popcorn and balloons. Happy kids can be seen down on the beach with smiley carers having fun snorkeling and playing games.
Christmas kicks off on 21 December with a life-sized bar crafted from spiced cookie dough in the Seafire Living Room. Families can enjoy a Christmas Eve feast on the Beach Deck with live band and dancing, beach bonfire and beachfront Christmas Village with local artisan crafts for last minute gifts.
Christmas Day gets underway with a Ave Christmas Brunch and a Family Style Diner at Coccoloba with Mexican cuisine.
Throughout the holiday season is a packed calendar of events from to beach soccer and hula-hoop lessons to Christmas storytelling round the fire pit.
COMO Shambhala Estate, Bali
Who wouldn’t want to spend Christmas tucked away in a beautiful sanctuary on the gorgeous Indonesian island of Bali with your nearest and dearest? For larger groups of families and friends, COMO Shambhala Estate has a range of spacious villas and residences. This is especially good for parents looking for a get away from it Christmas experience where it’s mainly about being with the family and wellness, something that’s often neglected at this time of year.
Meaning ‘Golden Space’, Pita Linggar at COMO Shambhala Estate offers larger groups their own private sanctuary in the heart of Bali’s dramatic jungle scenery. Combining the clean lines and indoor/outdoor living traditional of Balinese architecture, Pita Linggar is nestled in a hillside enclave at COMO Shambhala Estate and offers two master bedrooms, one guest bedroom, as well as spacious living areas and a fully equipped, state-of-the-art kitchen. The house sits within its own private garden, complete with infinity pool and jacuzzi sitting amongst the abundance of local flora.
Guests of Pita Linggar will also benefit from the service of a personal assistant and the estate’s world-renowned holistic wellness programmes. COMO Shambhala Estate’s resident experts are specialists in both physical and spiritual wellness and offer sessions in yoga, Pilates and qigong, as well as targeted and tailored Wellness Programmes — Cleanse, Be Active, Ayurvedic and Bespoke – for guests who want to make a lasting commitment to change.
Parents with older children or teens will enjoy rice field walks and cycling and day excursions to local attractions including the Gaya Art Space, Neka Art Museum, Blanco Museum and Gunung Lebah Temple.
Low-key Christmas celebrations usually begin with a Christmas Eve brunch with live entertainment, and a Christmas Day feast which offers traditional turkey alongside nutritious COMO Shambhala cuisines dishes.
Perfect for families who want to come back relaxed and glowing!
Hard Rock Hotel Tenerife
If you don’t want to fly long-haul with the kids but are craving the sun, the Canary Islands is the perfect short-haul solution. It may not be baking hot, but Tenerife has year-round blue skies and warm sunshine to lift the winter blues with an average temperature of 20 degrees in December.
And booking the Hard Rock Hotel Tenerife means never be a dull moment for you and your hard-to-please kids! This rock ‘n’ roll themed hotel has Christmas all sown up, kicking off on 7 December with a glistening ceremony to mark the switching-on of the spectacular Christmas tree lights with live performances from the island’s top artists.
In true Spanish style, Christmas Eve will be an unforgettable day for the whole family. Kids can enjoy their own special celebration at a ‘Hail to the band’ themed day event at Hard Rock Roxity Kids Club. Here youngsters will enjoy face painting, costumes and band rehearsals, a show with the Roxstars, and an after show party with carol singers. Families can also enjoy a special Christmas Eve gala dinner with spectacular Christmas buffet and carol singing.
Wake up to a sunny Christmas Day on Tenerife. And blow your kids expectations out of the water when Father Christmas arrives in true Hard Rock style on a Harley Davidson loaded with gifts and treats.
New Year’s Eve at Hard Rock Hotel Tenerife will be celebrated with an ‘Old Havana’ party gala dinner alongside world-class live performances, a live band and DJ sets.
Kids will love the Spanish tradition of eating a grape for every chime of the clock countdown to the New Year followed by a spectacular firework display. The party continues till dawn, and kids and teenagers will have their own entertainment with alcohol-free cocktails and celebrity style photo-shoots.
Hard Rock Hotel Tenerife has spacious suites and interconnecting rooms for families with 49” flat-screen HDTVs, iPod dock stations and video game consoles. The Sound of Your Stay programme allows young and old to create their own playlists, mix tracks at a professional desk or even a play a Fender guitar in their room. Job done!