Raising an Intrepid Traveler? How to Up Your Kids’ Summer Vacation Ante in AsiaBy Christian Razukas
A journey through Asia will immerse you in vibrant cultures and beautiful landscapes. However, as any parent knows, developing wonder in kids is tough when on the road.
While technology — and staying at family-friendly resorts — makes entertaining a young one while traveling easy, here are tips on how to engage emerging explorers with day trips and experiences at some of Asia’s most exciting destinations.
Blue Lights on Australia’s Gold Coast
You’ve brought the family to Surfers Paradise to the resort to enjoy a world-famous Aussie beach resort experience.
When you’re done whale watching or soaring above the Pacific Ocean in a balloon, make the hour’s drive to Springbrook National Park and explore the Gondwana Rainforest. At night, there’s a cave that sparkles in blue light from tens of thousands of glowworms, found only in this part of the world.
Your kids will enjoy a didgeridoo performance before meeting some Aboriginal people of the Gold Coast, who will share legends of kangaroos and koalas (and other native animals) that they can then go meet at nearby Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary.
Follow the Spice Trail in India
The resorts along the 50-or-so miles of beaches at Goa on the Arabian Sea offer sunsets and snorkeling, of course. But venture a little inland to show your kids another India on a tour of the organic spice farm run by the Tanshikar family, where you can smell cinnamon, nutmeg and a dozen more spices by breaking open fresh seeds.
Or take an easy hike through the Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary and walk through the mists of the spectacular, 1,017-foot Dudhsagar Falls.
If the monsoon rains come, visit the planetarium and mirror maze at the Goa Science Centre & Planetarium.
Into the Rainforest in Borneo
Give kids an understanding of why rainforests are the lungs of the earth by visiting Gunung Mulu National Park in Malaysia. Isolated and untouched, Mulu, with its single resort, is reached by airplane.
Young Lara Crofts in training will love the ancient burial cave of the local Penan people, while would-be Indiana Joneses can go spelunking at Lagang Cave (12 and older).
Or take a tour of Deer Cave (easier), with a ceiling that’s never lower than 295 feet. At twilight, the skies will darken as millions of bats settle down for the night.
Children will also love looking for Malaysian sun bears, pythons, dazzlingly colored birds and immense insects while strolling through the rainforest at near-treetop level on the park’s 500-meter-long Canopy Skywalk.
Mud, Mantas, Fun and Fiji
Most journeys through Fiji’s 333 islands start on Viti Levu — a great launchpad for day trips to the Mamanuca Islands or for longer jaunts to the Yasawas to snorkel with manta rays.
However, the Coral Coast of Viti Levu, an hour’s drive from the main airport, is home to one of Fiji’s best kid-friendly resorts. Nearby, you’ll find the Sabeto Thermal Mud Pool and Hot Springs, which local adults say is healthy and restorative. Kids are welcome, too, and will be thrilled to be slathered from head to toe.
Ecologically minded children will enjoy a park ranger tour at Kula Eco Park, where they’ll get to hand feed whatever baby animals are on hand in support of an endangered-species breeding program.
Traveling with an (Elephant) Trunk in Thailand
Idyllic beaches set against the placid Andaman Sea in Phuket are perfect for family vacations.
After the kids are finished kayaking, hiking, snorkeling and swimming at Nai Yang or Merlin Beaches, visit Elephant Retirement Park Phuket to see rescued pachyderms. Everything is sustainable. No rides are offered. Visitors make food and feed the elephants, who will walk side-by-side with you on a jungle hike to a waterfall.
Later, you can try the tasty tom-yam ice cream in Phuket’s Old Town or take a boat for the day to see the sleepy, traditional Thai village on Koh Yao Noi Island in Phang Nga Bay.
Under the Sea in Jeju
Korea’s favorite vacation isle, Jeju mixes beach relaxation with fun driven by cutting-edge tech. Treat your kids and stay inside Jeju Shinwa World — a series of over-the-top theme parks that’s home to Asia’s largest waterslide (754 feet), Transformers virtual-reality missions and even a Korean steampunk animation (aeni) adventure land.
To see old Korea, visit the Haenyeo Museum, dedicated to the traditional women divers who have been jumping into Jeju’s waters without specialized gear for centuries. Kids can see the divers at work and look at replicas of a traditional village.
On the Beach in Japan
Metal walkways make the cave descent easy and will let kids get close to stalactites and stalagmites that shine and dazzle under the lights.
A different beach vacation experience awaits at Yambaru National Park, at Cape Hedo, where the South China Sea meets the Pacific Ocean, making for dramatic landscapes and whale watching (in season).
Older children might like exploring the history of the Second World War at the Japanese Navy Underground Headquarters, full of atmospheric underground tunnels drilled into the side of a mountain.
Thrills and Tradition in Hong Kong
After lots of exploring, kids want some thrills. Enter the ultimate kid-friendly hotel at Hong Kong Ocean Park, where little ones and tweens can hand feed walruses and dolphins, and teens can get scared out of their wits on roller coasters that threaten to hurtle them into the South China Sea. The property also offers kid-friendly activities like painting and cooking classes.
Urban marvels will also wow kids, whether the half-mile ascent over Hong Kong on the Central Mid-Levels Escalators or the nightly light show projected on a skyscraper in Victoria Harbour. Don’t forget to show off traditional Hong Kong through a visit to a local fisherman’s village and then go in search of pink dolphins.
Book the M Passport Family Package at participating Marriott Hotels & Resorts in Asia Pacific to enjoy exclusive perks and special kid-friendly activities.