Popular Beach-Related Sports and Activities
If you'll be spending some quality time at the beach, this section offers ideas about activities you and your kids can engage in while enjoying the Caribbean's sun and pristine sandy beaches.
Building Sand Castles and Collecting Shells
Whether it's part of a resort-wide competition or just a fun way to pass the time, as you walk along almost any beach where kids and teens are at play, you're bound to find sand castles being built. This is an activity your kids will probably want to participate in as well. Children, especially if they are somewhat shy, can often make friends while building an elaborate sand structure.
Not all of the beaches will have an abundance of seashells, but if you find a beach with lots of shells, kids will enjoy collecting them. Be aware, however, that many nations now regulate the collection or export of shells. You might consider purchasing a guidebook to shells before leaving home, and then explain to your children why they are welcome to collect shells but must put them back before leaving for home.
For your kids (or the kid in you), bring along your own shovels, buckets, and any other beach toys. These toys are often sold at hotel or resort shops, but you'll pay a hefty premium.
If hooking a forty-pound mackerel is your idea of a great time, you can find plenty of opportunities to fish in the Caribbean. Fishing is a popular activity offered by many resorts and hotels on or near the beach, and some cruise ships also offer fishing excursion options. Fishing rods and supplies can often be rented. If you do go fishing, be sure to following the local guidelines. Half-day or full-day fishing trips are generally available.
Most people who visit the Caribbean hope to return home with an awesome tan to show off to their coworkers, friends, and relatives. While it's easy to get a nice tan, it's even easier to get a nasty sunburn anywhere in the Caribbean. At least for the first few days of your vacation, limit your exposure to the sun in order to slowly build a base tan. Carefully follow the directions printed on your favorite brand of sunscreen or sunblock, and don't forget to reapply it after swimming or taking a shower.
Things to remember when trying to prevent sunburn are that the sun is strongest between 10:00 A.M. and 2:00 P.M., and that even on overcast days, it's possible to get burnt relatively quickly. The ultraviolet rays of the sun will bounce off the sand and water and can intensify the burn you receive and speed up the process if you're not properly protected.
Sunscreens are rated for their effectiveness according to their sun protection factor (SPF). This is a measure of how much longer someone wearing sunscreen can stay exposed to the sun before they start to burn (as opposed to someone not wearing sunscreen). You'll find many companies offer sunscreen with SPF numbers ranging from 2 to 50 (with 50 being the strongest.) The American Academy of Dermatology and the Sun Safety Alliance (SSA) recommend an SPF of 15 or higher for adults. To protect your kids, apply sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher, depending on how fair their skin is and how much time they'll be spending in the sun. Adults who are not fair-skinned can often get away with a sunscreen with a lower SPF rating.
You'll find that sunscreens and sunblocks come in creams, sprays, and in a variety of strengths and formulas. It's a good idea to purchase the right type of sunscreen or sunblock for all the skin types in your family before you leave home. This way, you'll ensure you have the best formulation when you're actually exposed to the sun in the Caribbean. For tips on choosing the right sunscreen or sunblock, consult with a pharmacist or visit the Coppertone Web site (www.coppertone.com). When purchasing your sunscreen or sunblock, it's also a good idea to purchase some type of cream or spray designed to relieve sunburn pain, plus some type of aloe cream or gel which can help prevent peeling. The best protection, of course, is a wide-brimmed hat or cap, and it is a good idea to pack two of these for each member of your family.
Always keep infants out of the direct sun, and apply special sunscreen designed for infants to all exposed areas of their skin. Infants should be kept in the shade and wear a hat whenever they're brought outdoors.
If you're planning to sunbathe at the beach or by a pool, apply the appropriate type of sunscreen or sunblock for your skin. If you'll be sunbathing alone, always bring an alarm of some kind or have someone check in on you periodically to ensure that you don't accidentally fall asleep and get badly burned. While not life-threatening, a serious burn can all but ruin an otherwise great vacation.
Other items that'll help you enjoy your sunbathing time include:
Cash or your hotel room key/resort charge card (to purchase drinks or snacks, if beach service is offered)
Magazines or a book
Walkman or iPod (MP3 player) with headphones
On many beaches, you'll find volleyball nets where impromptu volleyball games tend to be played. This is a great way for people of all ages to get exercise, enjoy the Caribbean weather, and meet new people. Many hotels and resorts coordinate volleyball tournaments for different age groups, so check with the beach activities desk at your hotel or resort. A bathing suit or comfortable, loose-fitting clothes are the ideal attire for a game of beach volleyball. The net and ball(s) will typically be provided by your hotel or resort.