Located about 2 hours by plane from Boston, MA, Bermuda is an easy destination for a family vacation. This English-speaking country features a number of family-friendly activities, and offers beautiful pink sand beaches, delicious food, and wonderful resorts. During the recent Thanksgiving break, my family headed on a JetBlue Vacation to Bermuda for a four-day Bermuda vacation. Here are our tips for Bermuda vacations, including things to do in Bermuda, top rated Bermuda resorts, and overall tips for a smooth vacation.
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A Complete Guide to Bermuda Vacations for Families
Things to Do in Bermuda
Many think of Bermuda as being located in the Caribbean, but it’s actually off the coast of North Carolina. Therefore, there are some months when the weather is chillier than you’d want for a beach day. Definitely look at the temperature averages before booking your Bermuda vacation so you are prepared.
In November, during our trip, the average temperatures are in the 70s. We had two days in the high 60s and two days in the low 70s. We planned our activities based upon the forecast, so that we had our beach day on the warmest day.
Beaches in Bermuda
When looking for things to do in Bermuda, you definitely need to look at the famous pink sand beaches. There are several on the south coast of the island, including Elbow Beach, Horseshoe Bay, and South Shore Park.
Our hotel, the Fairmont Southampton, offered a private beach adjacent to Horseshoe Bay. As a result, we were easily able to walk over. It offers a parking lot, changing facilities, and a beach bar/cafe (open in season, closed during our trip). It’s absolutely stunning, and I’d definitely recommend a visit.
Note that not all of the beaches offer facilities. If you are planning a visit, make sure that you know what is available.
Crystal and Fantasy Caves
The highlight of our trip was our morning at Crystal and Fantasy Caves. These caves, owned by the Wilkinson family, can be toured individually, or as a package. It’s just a little bit more money to include both caves, so we decided to do both.
Tickets are sold on premises, and you won’t need to make a reservation. When you purchase your ticket, they’ll let you know which cave you’ll visit first. You are directed to an area to wait, and then when your ticket number is called, your guide will start your tour.
Crystal Cave was discovered in 1905 by two 12-year old boys who were looking for their lost cricket ball. It was opened to tourists soon afterwards, although tours were originally offered by boat. There are some stairs and a ramp to get down to the cave, and I’d definitely recommend wearing appropriate footwear – nothing slippery.
A tour of Crystal Cave takes about 30 minutes and is guided. We were so impressed at how beautiful it is, as well as how knowledgeable our guide was.
After visiting Crystal Cave, we brought our ticket vouchers to Fantasy Caves back to the ticket desk and received our number for our next tour. Our number was called a few minutes later, and we headed down to Fantasy Cave.
That walk is much more steep – 88 steps down. If you have balance or other issues, you may want to skip this particular tour. Fantasy Cave was discovered several years after Crystal Cave, and was sold to the Wilkinson family years later. Like Crystal Cave, you’ll walk on a platform to visit the cave and won’t go into the water. Appropriate footwear is definitely recommended.
Fantasy Cave is similar to Crystal Cave, but it’s also got a lot of differences. The formations are surprisingly different, and are so unique. Half of our family prefered Fantasy, while the other half preferred Crystal. We did noticed that Fantasy Cave was much hotter than Crystal Cave, and definitely more humid.
If you can, I’d definitely recommend visiting both. It look about 90 minutes to see both, although I can imagine that must increase during the busy cruiseship season. It’s probably best to visit earliest in the day.
Shopping in Bermuda
My daughter and I love shopping, so we enjoyed walking around the various shops in Hamilton, the capital city of Bermuda. Our resort offered a complimentary ferry to Hamilton, so we were able to experience a beautiful boat ride before arriving at the town. Shops include American favorites like Vineyard Vines, British favorites like Marks and Spencer, and Bermudan originals like A.S. Cooper.
You’ll also find stores in some of the Bermuda resorts. The Fairmont Southampton, where we stayed, featured several smaller locations of popular Hamilton shops. There are also shopping areas in the Royal Naval Dockyard.
During our day in Hamilton, we purchased some souvenirs. We also stopped at a liquor store to purchase wine and Dark and Stormy cans. This was much more affordable than the alcohol at our hotel.
Bermuda Aquarium, Museum & Zoo
Located in Flatts Village (in the center of the Island), the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum, and Zoo (BAMZ), is open daily (except for December 25th) from 9am-4pm. Admission is an affordable $10 for adults ($5 for kids aged 5-12).
Exhibits at the BAMZ include Green Turtles, a Natural History Museum, a Galapagos Exhibit, and a Haitian Slider Pond. There’s also a Discovery Cove interactive outdoor space for kids, as well as a full aquarium.
Throughout the year there are a number of programs that kids will enjoy, including storytime on Thursdays mornings (except in the summer). You can also experience animal feedings and talks during your visit. The BAMZ website shows the schedule for these events through the various seasons.
Learn more about the BAMZ here.
Royal Naval Dockyard
For the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, our resort also offered complimentary transportation to the Royal Naval Dockyard. This area, located in the West End of the island, offers a number of activities for families.
These include the National Museum of Bermuda, where you can learn all about the history of Bermuda. There’s also Dolphin Quest, where you can swim with dolphins. There are several different experiences available, including Trainer for a Day, and a shallow-water experience that can be enjoyed by kids as young as three.
Love mini golf? You can enjoy playing the 18-hole of mini golf at Bermuda Fun Golf. You can also book various charter boats, and find restaurants and shops.
Bermuda Underwater Experience Institute
If you or your children are interested in the ocean, definitely plan a visit to the Bermuda Underwater Experience Institute (BUEI). The BUEI includes both the Bermuda Triangle Tram and the Ocean Discovery Centre. You can choose to book just the Discovery Centre, or can include a tour on the tram with your ticket.
The Ocean Discovery Centre offers a number of exhibits including Bermuda Triangle: Unlock the Secrets, Bermuda Revealed, a virtual reality experience, and a simulated diving experience.
The Bermuda Triangle Tram Tour departs from either the Hamilton Ferry Terminal or the Ocean Discovery Centre. If you are already in Hamilton, it’s probably easiest to start at the ferry terminal. During the tour, you’ll learn about the history of Hamilton and will see various sightseeing highlights of the town.
Learn more about the Bermuda Underwater Experience Institute here.
Gibbs Hill Lighthouse
I always love seeing lighthouses, so I was thrilled to see the gorgeous, cast-iron Gibbs Hill Lighthouse in Southampton. If you are looking to get a gorgeous view of Bermuda, you can pay $2.95 and walk up the 185 steps to the top.
For a small island, Bermuda certainly features lots of fabulous resorts, all with varying amenities. During our trip, we opted to stay in the Southampton area of the island, at the Fairmont Southampton.
The Fairmont Southampton features 500+ guest rooms and suites, a private beach, a spa, several restaurants, a heated pool, an 18-hole golf course, shops, a game room, and a conference center. During Thanksgiving weekend, they offered lots of fun family activities including footgolf (golf with a soccer ball), family movies, trips to Hamilton and the Royal Naval Dockyard, and walking tours of the resort.
We spent so much of our Bermuda vacation at the resort, and especially loved the private beach. I’d definitely recommend staying there again.
There are other popular Bermuda resorts including the Pompano Beach Club, Grotto Bay Beach Resort & Spa, Hamilton Princess & Beach Club, and the Royal Palms Hotel. These hotels, among the others located on the island, offer a variety of different amenities, so decide how you want to spend your vacation before choosing the best hotel.
Restaurants in Bermuda
Food in Bermuda is expensive, but there are so many delicious options. I enjoyed every single bite that I ate in Bermuda. You’ll definitely find that there are more restaurants than you can possible try in one Bermuda vacation.
We ate most of our meals at the on-site restaurants at the Fairmont Southampton. However, we did have two meals off property. First, after our morning at the Crystal and Fantasy Caves, we crossed the street and headed over to the iconic Swizzle Inn. There are two locations, but we went to the original, home of the Rum Swizzle. We sat outside, and I enjoyed a delicious fish sandwich and a glass of Rum Swizzle. Beware, these glasses are small but very potent.
In Hamilton, we decided to eat at the Flanagan’s Irish Pub. This kid-friendly restaurant has a big menu with lots of options. Our favorite menu item was the delicious Wahoo Bites.
Tips for Bermuda Travel
Cash: The official currency of Bermuda is the Bermudian dollar, which is always equivalent in value to the US dollar. Cabs don’t all accept credit cards, so I’d recommend bringing cash with you. Of the four cabs we took during our trip, only one accepted credit cards (with a $3 fee). American Express is not accepted everywhere, even where credit cards are accepted, so it’s a good idea to have at least one Visa/MasterCard with you.
Getting Around Bermuda: Rental cars are not offered in Bermuda. Most tourists either take shuttles, private cars, or taxicabs when they arrive at the airport. Twizy cars, which are little electric 2-seater vehicles are offered on the island. They are relatively new to the island, and only accommodate 2, so they aren’t great for families. We found that cabs or the resort’s transportation was the best option for us.
Weather: Because Bermuda is so north, you’ll find cooler temps than you’d experience in the Caribbean. Lows never go much below mid 60s, and it’s rarely above 90. We did experience rain during our trip, but they were passing showers and didn’t really affect our vacation at all. Sweaters or sweatshirts are definitely a good idea.
Tipping in Bermuda: We found that most of the restaurants that we visited during our Bermuda vacation included about a 17% tip in the bill. Some restaurants didn’t, however, so you’ll definitely want to check.
Passports: Passports are required and are checked at the airport. If you are cruising to Bermuda, check with your cruise line to confirm the proper documentation required.
US Customs in Bermuda: When returning home to the US after your Bermuda vacation, you’ll be guided to an area for US departures. Once you enter that area, you’ll go through US customs – global entry is offered at this point.
Then, you’ll bring your checked bags to be scanned and taken to the plane, and then you’ll see regular security. There’s no TSA pre-check there, so be sure you have your electronics and liquids/gels/etc out of your bag. Once you arrive in the US, you won’t need to go through customs.
What to Bring: Bermuda is expensive, so bring along all of the essentials that you’ll need, like sunscreen and toiletries. There is a small duty free liquor shop at arrivals, and you may decide to purchase alcohol there because it’s less expensive.
Have you been on a Bermuda vacation?