When families head to Florida, it’s usually to hit the mega-theme parks, explore Miami’s glamorous South Beach or perhaps even swim with the dolphins in the captivating Florida Keys. Most don’t have the small town of Port St. Lucie on their radar, but they should! Located on Florida’s Atlantic coast about two hours southeast of Orlando and a little less than two hours north of Miami, Port St. Lucie is home to the destination-worthy Club Med Sandpiper Bay.
There are Club Med resorts in exotic locales across the world, from Indonesia to the French Alps, but this is the only one in the United States. Club Med has catered increasingly to families in recent years, and on a summer visit to Club Med Sandpiper Bay, our family of five got to experience everything they had to offer.
Finding the resort can be a little tricky, but it’s definitely worth the trouble. Sandpiper Bay is in an unexpected spot, nestled on the banks of the Port St. Lucie River. While the property is not directly on the Atlantic Ocean, it still feels as though guests have been transported to an island in the Caribbean. Swaying palm trees, balmy breezes and lush tropical vegetation all add to the island feel. As soon as we checked in, we were ready to slip into our bathing suits and flip flops — we were on island time now.
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Rooms are spread across the resort. Our Deluxe Family Room (actually two connecting rooms) was close to the river and the dock area, and for a family of five, it worked really well. We had a wonderful amount of space to spread out and relax. Each room had two full beds that could be made up into one king for parents or left separately for the kids, plus two big couches. Our eight-year-old slept comfortably on one of these and loved that she actually had four choices for “sleeping spots.”
Bathrooms were large and the closet was almost as big, filled with shelves that made unpacking a breeze and robes and slippers to lounge in. Each room had a sliding glass door with a small patio, which was great for sitting outside and watching the action on the river or just enjoying the breeze.
The idea behind an all-inclusive is that once you arrive, you really don’t need to leave. This is very true for Sandpiper Bay. There is such a wide variety of activities that it’s nearly impossible to run out of things to do. This particular Club Med is host to several sports academies, all run by professional coaches, and we saw many families whose children seemed to be there for one of those.Those looking for watersports can test their skills on paddleboards and sailboats at the small beach in the center of the resort, and for an additional charge guests can jet ski, water ski, use a fly board, go tubing or take a fishing excursion.
Traveling to an all-inclusive resort with children under four can be a challenge, as the majority of resorts tend to offer kids’ clubs for the 4- to 12-year-old set. Not at Club Med. At most of their family- oriented properties, the children’s programs start at 4 months, not 4 years. Other activities at the resort vary widely; each day a new schedule comes out with a theme such as Sports Day. Yoga, poolside games, basketball, ultimate Frisbee and spinning classes are just a small sampling. There’s even circus training onsite, complete with a flying trapeze that both kids and adults can try out.
The four pools on-property include one just for kids and a beautiful, quiet adults-only pool that’s the perfect spot for a pina colada). My girls and I shared some mother-daughter bonding time at the onsite spa, the only L’Occitane spa at a U.S. resort. We had manicures and pedicures and soaked in the sweet smell of lavender that permeated the space.
Once the sun goes down, there are nightly shows, kids’ activities and folks gathering in the family-friendly Slice Bar.
As with most all-inclusives, it’s hard to go hungry at Sandpiper Bay. The main dining area is located in the Marketplace, which serves three enormous buffet style meals a day. There is a huge selection of international-inspired entrees for the adults and teens in the family, and a kid-oriented area with fare such as hot dogs and chicken nuggets. Friendly chefs serve up a variety of choices at the pizza bar, plus fruits, salads and delicious handcrafted desserts. And the bread! Club Med is at heart a French company and the variety of bread is amazing. If you visit, make a beeline for the chocolate bread (thank me later).
Beyond the main dining area lies the alfresco restaurant Soleil, open for light meals whenever the Marketplace is closed. The resort also offers an adults-only option called Riverside BBQ and Grill; reservations are required. We didn’t try this, as we were having too much fun with the entire family.
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Club Med Sandpiper Bay is a great property for families with active kids who want to try new things and spend quality time together. We saw a lot of multigenerational families having a great time as well, since there is something to appeal to every age. There is not a great deal to do outside the resort, but we did take a nice ride out to Highway A1A and the beaches. Areas like Palm Beach and Kennedy Space Center are within easy reach for a day trip, but you may want to wait until you leave the resort so you don’t miss any of the action.
Editor’s Note: Adrienne was hosted by Club Med Sandpiper Bay to review the property for families. As always, our opinions are our own on Ciao Bambino. Photos by Adrienne Jarrell.
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