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Top 15 tropical destinations for families – the complete list

Sipping cocktails from a coconut in an all-inclusive resort? Zip-lining through the Costa Rican jungle? Star-gazing in the dark sky parks of the Canary Islands?

We’ve collected the top 15 tropical destinations around the world to cover every family’s summer paradise fantasy. In each of these holiday hotspots, discover top attractions and some accommodation ideas to get the ball rolling. Mostly, we’ve tended towards hotels and resorts.

Colour and vibrancy await over and underwater in these tropical destinations. Credit: Denis Moskvinov / Shutterstock

Be sure to do plenty of your own research before you make like Moana and soak up the sun at the best family tropical destinations.

1. Australia

The good news is that your exotic getaway doesn’t need to be in a far-flung corner of the globe. In fact, it might not even require a flight. Pack your car with the essentials (snorkels included, of course). Then, head north to explore the best domestic tropical destinations of Queensland. Make Cairns, Port Douglas or Airlie Beach your access point to the largest coral reef system in the world, one of the oldest rainforests or to the stunning Whitsundays. Stay wary of stingers and crocs.

The spectacular Port Douglas Credit: Martin Valigursky/ Shutterstock

Top family attractions: Whitehaven Beach (Hamilton Island), Daintree Rainforest, Great Barrier Reef, Kuranda Skyrail Rainforest Cableway

Top family accommodation: Camp, cabin or caravan in a range of Big4 Holiday Parks including Airlie Beach, Adventure Whitsundays and Port Douglas. Otherwise, opt for island resorts including Daydream Island Resort and Spa, Hamilton Island, Heron Island Resort, Fitzroy Island Resort. Pick mainland luxury hotels like Riley Hotel Cairns, Peppers Beach Club and Spa Palm Cove.

Man sits on tree overhanging creek in the Daintree, two girls in the background
The Daintree Rainforest is over 135 million years old and the largest region of tropical rainforest in Australia. Credit: Tourism and Events Queensland
What else you can read or watch:

Great Barrier Reef islands you can camp on for next to nothing
Why the wildlife haven of Heron Island is so special
A guide to the Great Barrier Reef for families
11 reasons Hamilton Island is perfect for your family

Watch this video for tips from local kids on where to go and what to see in Cairns.

2. Fiji

Fijians are famous for doting on visiting kids, which is why this Pacific island nation is so popular with Aussie families. Nadi, a city on Fiji’s main island, and Denarau have plenty of accommodation with easy access to airports. Island-hopping on smaller islands is ideal if you prefer more intimate, authentic encounters with local culture and natural wonders. Stay poolside in your resort bure, or head out on a river safari, surfing expedition or snorkel adventure.

Fiji islands
Head out on a catamaran for the day in Fiji and you might see sights as stunning as this. Credit: Shutterstock

Top family attractions: Sigatoka Dunes, Yasawa Islands, Sawa-i-Lau limestone caves

Top family accommodation: Plantation Island Resort, Sheraton Denarau Villas, Musket Cove Resort, Intercontinental Natadola Bay, Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort Fiji, Sofitel Fiji, Castaway Island Resort, Mana Island Resort. Click here for Fiji’s best budget stays for big families.

What else you can read or watch:

Comprehensive Guide to all things Fiji
Julie Jones heads on an accessible Fiji holiday
An island-by-island guide to Fiji – Viti Levu, Denarau and beyond

Family activities in Fiji

3. Vanuatu

Four hours from Australia’s east coast, this collection of 83 islands is an accessible and stunning tropical destination. Vanuatu’s capital Port Vila is on Efate Island, but you’ll find a kid-friendly resort culture all over. Make the most of volcanic sand beaches, verdant jungles, waterfalls and vivid coral reefs.

The water of Vanuatu’s blue holes looks like it has been photo-shopped. Credit: Martin Valigursky / Shutterstock

Top family attractions: Blue Holes on Espiritu Santo or Efate, village tours at Tanna Island or Ekasup Cultural Village, Mele Cascades, Champagne Bay, trail to peak of Pele, snorkel Hideaway Island

Top family accommodation: Kids often stay free at resorts such as Warwick le Lagon Resort and Spa and Holiday Inn Resort. Read more about family-friendly Vanuatu Accommodation here.

What else you can read or watch:

Comprehensive Guide on all things Vanuatu

Kids fill us in on what to do in Vanuatu

4. Cook Islands

Imagine this: fifteen tiny volcanic islands scattered across nearly 2 million square kilometres of brilliant blue ocean. Equip yourself with a stand-up paddleboard and you’ll be ready to explore the mystery and magic of the Cook Islands. First settled by French Polynesia, this tropical destination was named after James Cook who landed in 1773. Rarotonga has an international airport and is the most populous island.

You can expect the warmest of welcomes from locals in the Cook Islands. Credit: Chameleons Eye / Shutterstock

Top family attractions: hiking to summit of Te Rua Manga (the Needle), Muri Beach, Te Vara Nui village, Aitutaki lagoon, Aroa Marine Reserve, swim at Papua Waterfall

Top family accommodation: Raratongan Beach Resort and Spa, Nautilus Resort, Pacific Resort Rarotonga, Sea Change Villas, The Edgewater Resort and Spa, Lagoon Breeze Villas

What else you can read or watch:

Diving with teens in the Cook Islands
The Cook Islands featured in our top 5 South Pacific Islands for kids

5. The Caribbean

This region needs little introduction. What more can be said about its pirate history, turtle-inhabited waters and laidback culture, not to mention its penchant for parties? Follow Jack Sparrow’s footsteps and choose your own adventure based on which Caribbean country suits your budget and travel style.

The view of Trunk Bay in the US Virgin Islands is unmatched. Credit: BlueOrange Studio / Shutterstock

Top family attractions:
Cayman Islands – Seven Mile Beach, Stingray City, snorkel with turtles Spotts Beach, Crystal Caves
US Virgin Islands – Magens Bay Beach, sea turtles at Maho Bay, Trunk Bay
Puerto Rico – Old San Juan forts, Museo del Nino de Carolina, Playa Flamenco Beach, El Yunque rainforest, Castillo San Cristobal, tubing on Tanama River, Pirate Historical Amusement Park
Jamaica – Ochos Rios, Montego Bay

Top family accommodation:
Cruises are a perfect way to cover lots of ground (or ocean) in the Caribbean without the stress of transfers. Try Royal Caribbean or Carnival Cruises.
Seven Mile Beach on Grand Cayman is lined with luxury resorts such as Marriott Beach Resort and Ritz-Carlton. Atlantis Resort The Bahamas on Paradise Island has Aquaventure Waterpark, 11 swimming areas and dolphin encounters. Consider San Juan Marriott Resort (Puerto Rico), Beaches Turks & Caicos Resort and Spa (Providenciales), or Club Med’s all-inclusive resorts in a range of Caribbean locations.

Swap the beach for climbing a waterfall for a unique Jamaican swim at Ochos Rios Credit: CO Leong / Shutterstock
What else you can read or watch:

Find out what we thought of cruising on Ovation of the Seas
Top 5 Cruise Lines for families

6. Maldives

Nothing oozes luxury like an overwater villa in the Maldives. Don’t leave the indulgence to the honeymooners – this small island nation south-west of Sri Lanka is ideal for teens. Male is the capital of its 26 atolls. Think seaplanes and floating breakfasts, as well as fascinating city sightseeing surrounded by colourful architecture.

Post-card perfect Maldives. Credit: Bethany Plint

Top family attractions: Male offers up Old Friday Mosque, National History Museum and the Fish Market. Then, get active with scuba diving lessons and swims with whale sharks, manta rays and hammerheads on North and South Ari Atolls.

Top family accommodation: Club Med Kani, Constance Halaveli Hotel Villa Resort, Constance Moofushi all-inclusive, Six Senses Laamu. Click here to read about what it’s like staying in Maldives luxury resort.

What else you can read or watch:

Comprehensive guide to all things Maldives
What it’s like staying in luxury resorts in the Maldives

7. Hawaii

Say aloha to family fun and relaxation in the ultimate tropical destination in the north Pacific. One of the smallest American states, Hawaii has the most heart, treating visitors like ohana or family. More than 100 islands make up Hawaii, but Oaha, Maui, Kauai and Big Island are the most popular.

Multi-gen Hawaii
Snorkelling on the North Shore, Oahu. Picture: Hawaii Tourism Authority / Tor Johnson

Top family attractions: Pearl Harbour, Diamond Head, North Shore, Waikiki Beach, Waimea Canyon, Volcanoes National Park (including Mauna Kea), Oheo Gulch, Molokini Crater

Top family accommodation: Aulani Disney Resort (Oahu), Grand Wailea (Maui), Four Seasons Resort Hualalai, Hilton Waikoloa Village. In fact, you can read more about these family resorts here.

Zip lining in Kauai. Credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority
What else you can read or watch:

Ultimate guide to Hawaii for families
Our top tips for shopping in Hawaii

8. Okinawa, Japan

In a country famous for family-friendly ski resorts, it might come as a surprise to stumble on a tropical haven in Japan. But Okinawa province is just that. It even has awesome icecream. Try purple yam, sugar cane and shikwasa (a kind of citrus) flavours. Discover the history of the Ryukyu kingdom, explore the great parks and use Naha (Okinawa’s capital) as a launching point to visit Yaeyama and Ryuku Islands.

Pufferfish, anyone? 25 awesome foods to try in Japan

Top family attractions: Nami No Ue Beach, Elephant Cliff, Todoroki Waterfall, Sesoko Beach, Uppama Beach, Sunset Beach, Nakijin Castle ruins, Nago Pineapple Park, Shuri Castle, Tobaru Koen Park.

Top family accommodation: Renaissance Okinawa Resort, Okinawa Marriott Resort and Spa, ANA Intercontinental Manza Beach, Sheraton Okinawa Sunmarina Resort

What else you can read or watch:

10 reasons to visit Japan as a family

While in Japan, why not check out the top 8 things to do in Osaka

9. Phuket and Koh Samui, Thailand

It is no secret that Thailand’s beaches make for some of the best tropical destinations in the world. So don’t leave partying in Phuket to the backpackers. Adventure activities, secluded coves, boat trips and lazy resort days make Thailand perfect for families in search of a sunny holiday in south-east Asia.

Kayaking is the perfect mode of transport in Ang Thong National Park Credit: Don Mammoser / Shutterstock

Top family attractions: Ang Thong Marine National Park, Coco Splash Adventure and Water Park, Kamala Beach, Kata Beach, Bangtao Beach. Phuket is also great for adventure sports such as zorbing, ziplining, go-karting and surf simulation.

Top family accommodation: Laguna Phuket resort complex has numerous accommodation options on the beachfront including Angsana, Outrigger and Holiday Club. Club Med Phuket, JW Marriott Phuket Resort and Spa. On Samui Island, try Lanna Samui or Intercontinental Samui.

What else you can read or watch:

Top 9 beaches in Thailand
Best family resorts in Thailand

Learn from local kids what to do in Phuket

10. Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a teen adventure paradise. One side faces the Caribbean and the other the Pacific, so there is plenty of beach to go around. Famous for wildlife, rainforest and outdoor adventure, this Central American destination is one for eco-conscious adrenaline junkies who feel at home in the great outdoors.

The mighty Arenal Volcano. Credit: Parkos / Shutterstock

Top family attractions: Cahuita National Park, Puerto Viejo, Papagayo Peninsula, Isla Tortuga, hiking the Arenal Volcano, whitewater rafting, adventure parks near La Fortuna

Top family accommodation: The Peninsula Papagayo is packed with beachside resort options including Four Seasons, and Arenal Volcano National Park offers The Springs Resort, Nayara Resort and Tabacon Grand Thermal. It is worth the extra effort venturing off the beaten hotel path to stay in one of the many eco-lodges like Si Como No in the Manuel Antonia National Park.

What else you can read or watch:

Kid journalist Lillian gives a review of Costa Rica
Travel experiences that will blow kids’ minds

11. Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has exploded onto the travel scene and continues to increase in popularity among intrepid families. Done Fiji? Been to Bali? Sitting snug in the warm waters of the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka is a tropical destination with a difference. Combine banana chairs and coconut cocktails with rainforest hikes, historic forts and ancient jungle ruins. Of course, you have to complete the picture with a cup of Ceylon tea.

One minute you’re by fishing boats at the seaside, the next in the jungle. Credit: Anton Gvozdikov / Shutterstock

Top family attractions: Sigiriya ancient fortress, Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, Galle Fort, Yala National Park, Pigeon Island National Park, Nilaveli Beach, Uda Walawe Wildlife Park, climb past tea plantations to Adam’s Peak to see Ravana Falls.

Top family accommodation:

What else you can read or watch:

Why Sri Lanka is perfect for everyone, grandparents included

12. Bali

It might be small, but this Indonesian island packs a huge punch and is ever-green when it comes to family popularity. Bali is easy to get around, with lots of beaches, markets and animal encounters. The biggest beaches thrive with energy and action, busy with surfboard-toting backpackers, henna artists and market stalls. But you can also invest in local culture by sampling satay-style dishes and scoping out seaside temples, or delving into the monkey forests of Ubud.

Bali pool girl
Bali – the perfect place for the resort experience. Credit: Shutterstock

Top family attractions: Kuta Beach, Sanur Beach, Bali Treetop Adventure Park, Ubud Monkey Forest, Tirta Empul, Goa Gajah, Pura Tanah Lot

Top family accommodation: Nusa Dua is packed with options including Novotel, Grand Hyatt, Westin, St Regis and Club Med.

What else you can read or watch:

The Ultimate Guide to Bali
Indonesia’s top 10 destinations for families beyond Bali

13. Phu Quoc, Vietnam

Of Phu Quoc’s 28 islands, some are private resorts while others are totally untouched. This makes the Vietnamese region, which is famous for snorkelling and fish sauce, all the more enticing. Located in the Gulf of Thailand, the main pit stop is Phu Quoc Island, half of which is national park ripe for exploring.

Khem Beach is the quintessential tropical summerscape. Credit: Jindowin / Shutterstock

Top family attractions: Khem Beach, Sao Beach, Long Beach, Pho Quoc National Park, Suoi Tranh Waterfall, Cau Temple, Duong Dong Market, Phu Quoc Prison (museum of colonial and wartime history), oversea cable car from Pho Quoc Island to Hon Thom, theme parks of Ganh Dau.

Top family accommodation: Coco Palm Beach Resort and Spa, JW Mariott, Richi Resort, Novotel, Salinda Resort.

What else you can read or watch:

Vietnam from top to toe – follow one family’s adventure

14. Singapore (Sentosa)

Too many families bypass Singapore as a stopover en route elsewhere. But those in the know will tell you this cultural melting pot south of Malaysia contains more family attractions than you could ever visit in one holiday. The island resort of Sentosa, accessed by cablecar, monorail or boardwalk, is a particularly thrilling must-see when it comes to tropical destinations.

A tropical cityscape – Super Trees at Gardens by the Bay Singapore. Picture: Shutterstock

Top family attractions: Adventure Cove Waterpark, Mega Adventure Park, Singapore Zoo, Universal Studios, Silosa Beach, Gardens by the Bay

Top family accommodation: You’ll find all you need to know about family hotels in this article here. You should also check out the Crowne Plaza Changi airport, or Shangri-La Rasa Sentosa.

What else you can read or watch:

The best of Singapore with kids – insider perspective
How to do a Singapore stopover right

10 reasons your family will love Singapore

15. Canary Islands

Change course and set sail for Europe to a tropical destination of a different flavour. The Spanish archipelago of the Canary Islands is about 4.5 hours’ flight from the UK. It consists of eight main islands, the best of which for kids are Tenerife and Gran Canaria. The Canary Islands are a great stopover if you need to thaw out after a European escapade.

The Tenerife town of Garachico is bursting with colour. And cacti! Credit: Balate Dorin / Shutterstock

Top family attractions:
Tenerife – Teide National Park (including observatory and volcano!), Tenerife Museum of Sciences and the Cosmos, Museum of History Tenerife
Gran Canaria – loads (we repeat, loads!) of beaches including Las Canteras, Maspalomas Dunes, Aqualand. Maspalomas is full of water parks and kid-friendly attractions.

Top family accommodation: We stuck to Tenerife and Gran Canaria, but there is plenty more waiting on other islands. Lopesan Villa del Conde Resort, Hotel Cordial Mogan Playa, Baobab Suites Costa Adeje, Ritz-Carlton Abama

What else you can read or watch:

Why teens will love southern Spain


Your thirst for tropical destinations and family holiday inspo still not quenched? Sip on these stories by the poolside:
Top 20 short-haul family destinations
Where to go in each school holiday break in Australia
The hot destinations of 2019 part 1

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