elcon resort private islandWhat is a family to do when cabin fever strikes and the kids don’t have passports? Head to Puerto Rico.

Or at least that’s what we did when I started going a bit bonkers in blustery Chicago cooped up with small children. I told my (thrifty) husband that a Caribbean vacation would be cheaper than a stay in the mental hospital.

While there we checked out several properties that are great for kids so here’s the scoop on each, starting with my favorite:

El Conquistador

el conquistador resortThe next time we go to Puerto Rico, El Conquistador will be our first choice of lodging. The property is breathtaking and has its own 100-acre private island, Palomino, and the Coqui Water Park. Only guests staying at the hotel have access to the waterpark and Palomino Island which keeps the atmosphere relatively tranquil. The island, only accessible by a 10-minute catamaran ride, has the best beach we experienced during our trip — white sand with crystal clear, calm waters.

The waterpark has something for kids of all ages. There is a zero-depth pool, perfect for toddlers or early swimmers. There are mini-sized slides for the younger set and older kids seeking thrills won’t be disappointed with the speed slide. (This decidedly non-thrill-seeking mom was goaded to try the speed slide, wound up with nose full of water and called it a day.)

There are about 20 dining options on site ranging from the open-aired casual beach cafe on Palomino Island to fine dining back on shore. I loved the whole vibe of the place; the resort is like its own quaint town. If a regular hotel room isn’t big enough for your family, there are suites as well as villas available.

The only down side, if it matters to your family, is you can’t run back and forth to your room from the beach easily since the only beach is on Palomino Island. That said, anything you can need — food, drinks, bathrooms, toys — is readily available.

We only spent one day at El Conquistador but easily could have spent a month!

Wyndham Rio Mar

iguana at wyndhamThis hotel with beach access is a lovely spot although it caters to groups and conferences so it can have a “crowded” feel if it’s at maximum capacity (as it was when we visited). Kids will love the pool slide, tame enough for younger kids but still entertaining enough for older ones. It kept our girls busy for hours at a time.

A highlight for children is the daily iguana feedings where baskets of lettuce are distributed and dozens of iguanas come scurrying out of the bushes for lunch. Quite frankly, it scared the daylights out of me, and the pool area is crawling with these creatures looking for additional food. But the kids enjoy it even if iguana-wary adults (like me) are a bit freaked out. (Check out this video of the feedings.) I wondered why the iguanas seemed especially drawn to our lounge chairs until the mystery was solved: my twins were luring them over with French fries. One iguana literally jumped onto our neighbor’s chair to sniff out his nachos and, unsurprisingly, they don’t respond to “Shoo! Shoo!”

There are eight restaurants, several lounges, a lively outdoor cafe overlooking the pool and beach and an on-site casino for gamblers in the group.

ocean villas poolOcean Villas, Rio Mar Villa Rentals

We stayed for a week at these privately owned condos which have up to four bedrooms and are located right next door to the Wyndham — guests of the villas have privileges to use the Wyndham resort facilities.

There are two gorgeous, ocean side pools exclusively for use for those renting the ocean-front villas (Wyndham hotel guests do not have access to these pools). One pool is zero depth on one end and an infinity edge on the other while the second pool is great for lap swimmers. A large circular baby pool and a hot tub are in the same area. The condos have full kitchens and there are grills for use near the pool area. Even though it was high season, the grounds were peaceful and quiet. When we wanted some more action or the pool slide, we just walked a few minutes over to the Wyndham.  You can rent from the Rio Mar Villa Rentals official web site but we found better deals on VRBO where the condo owners list their properties directly.

Looking for fun, kid-friendly activities while in Puerto Rico? Suburban TravelingMom has you covered.

Disclosure: El Conquistador granted my family access to the Coqui Water Park and Palomino Island one afternoon for research purposes; as always my review accurately reflects my opinions.