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Readers' top travel picks

Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino, Aruba

With a free-form pool for the kids and a casino for the adults, Hector Rivas and his family say the Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino is the perfect getaway.

“We’ve been there four times in the past six years,” said Rivas, of Tamarac. Rivas, wife Evelyn Lopez and kids Jeissmarie, 19, Jeremy 9, and Isabelle, 3, enjoy the hotel’s Caribbean setting and elaborate, expansive pool.

“It’s very beautiful, and you get the Caribbean feel, but it’s very American,” Rivas said. “There is an American-style menu, so it’s very easy to feed the kids.” The eight-story property has 388 rooms, 23 suites and is smoke-free. There also is a kids club with activities like scavenger hunts and sports.

“For us, it just about being together as a family,” Rivas said. “It’s a very relaxing way for us to connect.” June rates from $189-$349 at www.marriott.com

 

Bahia Honda State Park, Big Pine Key

Rustic cabins on stilts overlooking the bay, a picturesque pedestrian bridge with views of the islands and a family-friendly campsite are just a few of the reasons Adam Landry, of Miramar, likes Bahia Honda State Park in the Keys

Adam, wife Courtney and kids Hailey, 10, Gabby, 8, and Katie, 5, love bringing their bicycles to the park, where they can also kayak, go snorkeling or play on the beach. Overnight visitors can enjoy a park ranger-led campfire circle or, “If it’s a full moon, it’s a really good place for star-gazing,” Landry said. Cabins range from $120 to $160 and can book up to a year in advance, so you have to plan, he said. “It’s just a beautiful park,” Landry said. “It’s another way to experience the keys.”  Go to www.floridastateparks.org

 

Lago Mar in Fort Lauderdale

An oceanfront setting and a family-friendly list of activities at Lago Mar in Fort Lauderdale keep Beth Mumby and Richard Kaufman, of Cooper City, going back year after year. Mumby says they’ve been about 15 times to the property since their kids, Alex, 13, and Sarah, 10, were born.

With miniature golf, an oversized outdoor chessboard, shuffleboard, playground and a game room, there is plenty for kids to do, Mumby said.

“There are also hammocks, which are kind of fun, tiki huts with chairs underneath, two pools and the ocean,” she said.

Mumby also likes the suites, which have kitchens, and the on-site restaurants, which include an old-fashioned soda fountain.

“It just whispers Old Florida. It’s very low-key,” she said. “And it’s just a car ride away. You don’t need a tank of gas to get there.” June rates start at $182 for a double, $242 for a suite. Go to www.lagomar.com 

 

LaPlaya Beach & Golf Resort, Naples

A vacation to Jeanette and Guillermo Ide, of Weston, is a stay at a four- or five-star resort, and when their son, Daniel, 13, was born, that desire for luxury didn’t change. So when Jeanette Ide helped plan a family reunion, they chose LaPlaya Beach & Golf Resort in Naples. With four pools and three restaurants on property fronting the white sands of the Gulf of Mexico, the resort offers a first-class experience, Ide said.

“Every family has a different point of view. Some parents think they have to go on a Disney cruise because they have kids, but that’s not us,” she said. “We like to go to nice resorts, places where adults can go with kids and still have fun.”

There is a kids’ aquatic camp and day camp. Children’s menus and babysitting services are available.

“It’s not a rowdy place,” Ide said. “It’s very laidback — a calm resort.”

June rates range from $179 to $350 for a double. Go to www.laplayaresort.com

 

Palm Beach Shores Resort and Vacation Villas, Palm Beach Shores

When Andrew Fichthorn, of West Palm Beach, wants to gather with family, he drives three miles to Palm Beach Shores Resort and Vacation Villas on Singer Island in Palm Beach Shores. The waterfront resort with a pool, hot tub and beach offers lots to do for his younger cousins. There’s a kids’ club with activities such as scavenger hunts, face painting, an arcade and watersport rentals like paddleboards and surfboards.

Units have full kitchens or kitchenettes.

“That’s one of the reasons that it works,” said Fichthorn, who is expecting his first child with wife Ashley. “You can spend a little more on the resort because you don’t have to eat out all of the time.”

Take a quarter-mile ferry ride to Peanut Island, which has a snorkeling lagoon that’s perfect for kids, he said. June rates start at $129. Go to www.pbsr.com.

 

Riu Cancun and Hotel Riu Palace Las Americas, Cancun

 An all-inclusive tropical resort with activities for both kids and adults — that spells paradise for Keona and Roger McGowan, of Miami, and their kids, Jaylen, 5, and Jayla, 3. The McGowans enjoy the Riu Cancun and Hotel Riu Palace Las Americas’ bountiful meals that suit everyone’s tastes, including Mexican buffets and American menu items such as burgers and chicken tenders. There’s a fridge in the room stocked with drinks and snacks, plus a bar for the adults.

“The food is great, the service is great, and it’s very clean,” Keona McGowan said.

During the day, the kids can participate in camp activities that take them to the beach or pool, “which gives you a little time to yourself,” she said.

McGowan notes that the Riu Cancun has better food, but the Riu Palace’s renovated rooms are more modern. Riu guests can use amenities at both resorts. Riu Cancun’s beachfront property has three pools and a children’s pool. June all-inclusive rates start at $352. Go to www.riu.com.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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