A smaller resort just down the beach with a different feel

Fish BBA at the Azul Beach Hotel

DAY 7 – I’m perched in a wooden tree house — the most comfortable I’ve ever seen — on a double mattress overlooking the turquoise Caribbean Sea and white sand beach. The Beach Butler comes by to see if I need anything — perhaps something to drink? Can vacation get any more perfect? We’re at the Azul Beach Hotel, a short walk along the beach from the brand new Azul Sensatori Hotel where we’ve been staying all week and part of the same hotel group (www.karismahotels.com).

While the new resort has more than 400 suites and rooms, Azul Beach has just 98. This place is ideal for young families — and we see many with grandparents in tow.

They provide everything in the rooms-cribs, strollers, bottle sterilizers, baby baths and changing tables, even a lending library of Fisher Price toys. But more important is the friendly staff. “They see us coming and they already have a high chair,” says Laura Blumenfeld, from Washington DC, who is traveling with her two grown children, their spouses and her 2-year-old grandson. “The level of attention and sweetness… they can’t do enough for you.”

While teens might get bored, parents of kindergartners and young grade-schoolers love that the place is small enough the kids can run to the bathroom or back to their room comfortably, the staff keeping an eye on them. There are kids’ menus in all of the restaurants and most important — a smoothie bar where my daughter ordered three during the day we visited (they were small!).

I like the ambiance of a small place, where everyone knows your name by the second day. ”It’s the perfect size,” says Patty Royall, who is vacationing with her husband, son and other extended family. “It really works.”

We see one group of young children with a counselor making sand castles. Older kids including mine go sailing and snorkeling. There is a kids’ club here too — albeit smaller.

Too lazy to get up from your covered “beach bed” for lunch? The beach butler wills fix you a picnic basket. “The size was perfect, everything was right there,” said Lisa Degalman, who vacationed here last year with her two young children and opted for the larger resort this trip. “Everyone knew the kids names.”

The best part of the day: A fish barbeque on the beach – freshly caught grouper and snapper — whole fish, grilled crispy and served with salads, rice, potatoes. Yum!

I’m sorry we won’t be here tomorrow for the Paella barbeque. It’s small enough that you can join others at large round tables or sit just with your family, barefoot in the sand.

“If we were staying here, I’d sleep in the tree house,” my daughter Mel says. I’d settle for another afternoon snooze.

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