- Villas ClaritaPuerto Morelos #14, 77580, Puerto Morelos, MexicoVillas Clarita is a totally unexpected. From the outside, it looks like a fortress with a few palm trees sticking out of it. Inside, however, it is a set of apartments with full kitchens surrounding 2 ... read morecourtyards—one with a great pool, the other an outdoor yoga studio and lush garden. The apartments are, on the whole, sparse but very spacious with fully equipped kitchens, big living rooms and bedrooms. They’re perfect for travelers looking to occasionally cook for themselves and/or hunker down in Puerto Morelos. (All with daily maid service, of course.) They're also great for families who need a bit of room to spread out. Villas Clarita is located in a residential neighborhood just a couple blocks from the beach, which is especially nice if vacationing like you live in a place is how you like to travel.
- Hotel Marina El Cid Spa & Beach ResortBlvd El Cid Mza 1, Lote 1, Unidad 15, Sm 3, Puerto Morelos 77580, MexicoEl Cid is a solid all-inclusive resort, especially if you’re got kids in tow. The beach is nice (bring water shoes—there are rocks), the main pool has a faux rock outcropping with waterslides and ‘ ... read morecaves’ that are fun for imaginary play (there’s also an adult-only pool which is perfect for just relaxing), and there are lots of options for food—2 buffets and 3 ‘reservations-only’ restaurants; the seafood restaurant on the marina is my favorite. The rooms themselves are relatively modern; they’re starting to show a bit of age—the marble bathrooms could use an overhaul, for instance—but are very comfortable. The best thing about the place may be its marina, which makes ocean excursions—snorkeling, diving, fishing, sunset tours, etc.—all the more easy to do. All in all, I think this is a good middle of the road option.
- XcaretHighway Km 282, Playa del Carmen, ROO 77710 MexicoXcaret is mega-eco-culture-park offering water activities like snorkeling in underground rivers and swimming with dolphins; up-close animal viewing areas of jaguars, a butterfly pavilion, and an ... read moreaquarium. There's also a phenomenal folk art museum and entertaining live shows, including a Maya ball game, regional dances, and music performances. Yes, Xcaret is touristy and pre-packaged, but it's so well done it makes for a worthwhile day trip, especially for families.
- Xel-HaKM 240 Tulum-Playa del Carmen, Tulum, ROO 77780 MexicoXel-Ha is all about water play in a park setting. Set on a huge natural inlet, activities include snorkeling, snuba, tubing, and interactive programs with dolphins, manatees and stingrays. The ... read morefreestyle snorkeling also is great for children and beginner snorkelers--the water is calm and shallow and there are plenty of tropical fish darting about. Add to that a handful of eateries, lots of clean bathrooms, and places to just chill out on the waterfront. All in all, Xel-Ha is an easy and fun place to spend a day if you want a variety of water play options with a minimal amount of planning.
- Hidden Worlds Cenotes ParkHighway 307, Tulum C.P. 77780This park is a great intro to the underwater world of cenotes--an underground river system with caves flooded with cool and crystal clear water. Guided snorkeling and diving tours are offered ... read morethroughout the day. Floating past huge stalagmites and stalactites and eyeless fish is an eerie, beautiful and unforgettable experience--I loved it. This park also was featured in a National Geographic film a while back.... The park also offers additional activities like zip lining, rappeling and sky cycling--I saw them but didn't try them out so can't say whether they are worth the extra expense.
Coba is an impressive archaeological site located just 45-minutes from Tulum by bus or car. It's known for it's complex system of 'sacbeob'--ancient roads--that criss-cross the thick forest that the ... read moresite is in. It also is the home of the second tallest pyramid in the Maya world--an amazing structure and one of the few that visitors are still allowed to climb (be sure to take good shoes!). Because of the thick forest and lagoons, the site also is a great one for wildlife spotting--just be sure to get there early (or stay late). When I was there last, I saw green parrots and toucans! The site is really spread out so it's worth renting a bike ($5) or hiring a bike taxi ($10 per hour). Guides also are available for about $30 for a two hour tour.
Chichen Itza is an amazing archaeological site, and one of the most popular in the Yucatan Peninsula. Declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1988 and one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in ... read more2007, the ruins include impressive palaces, temples, and altars, as well as the largest-known ball court in the Maya world. Chichen Itza is located just two hours from Cancun; it's easy to book a tour from your hotel but almost as easy to do it on your own by bus or rental car. If you do opt to do it yourself arrive early (it opens at 8am)--tour groups start to take over the place around 10am.
- Playa NorteRueda Medina 130, Centro - Supmza. 001, Isla Mujeres, Quintana Roo, MexicoPlaya Norte is one of the best kid-friendly beaches in the Riviera Maya. A long strip of white sand on the northern edge of Isla Mujeres, the water deepens so slowly into the turquoise sea, you can ... read morewade almost a hundred yards and still be only waist deep. The shallow waters also mean that there are virtually no waves, making it a safe place for small children to play in and near the water. For older kids (and, of course, adults too), there are beachfront kiosks offering rentals of kayaks, Hobie Cats, stand up paddle boards and snorkeling equipment.
- Playa Chen RioCostera Este Highway, Adolfo Lopez Mateos, ROO 77600 MexicoLocated on the east side of Cozumel, Playa Chen Rio is one of the best family friendly beaches on the island. A rocky split blocks the huge waves that normally hit this coastline, forming a massive ... read morenatural pool where lifeguards are on duty most weekends. Quiet during the week, it’s bustling on Sundays, when local families turn out with coolers and drinks and lots of kids running and splashing about. Hands down, one of my all-time favorite beaches to go to....
This is a great little bike shop in Tulum, which not only rents good bikes (with helmets and locks) but also offers a bunch of interesting mountain bike excursions in the jungle. If you're interested ... read morein exploring the southern part of the Riviera Maya, this is definitely a different way to see it!
- CESIAK (Centro Ecológico Sian Ka'an)Carretera Tulum - Boca Paila. Biosfera de la Reserva de Sian Ka'an.This is an incredible organization that offers a variety of tours of the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve, just south of Tulum. Excursions include visiting lesser-known Maya ruins, exploring Sian Ka'an's ... read moreextensive lagoons on kayak or motor boat, and bird watching. CeSiak also offers eco-friendly accommodations in tent cabins just inside Sian Ka'an, in case you want to stay a bit longer.
- Tortugranja (Turtle Farm)Carretera Sac Bajo Km 5, Fraccionamiento Mar Turquesa, Isla Mujeres, 77400, MexicoThis little sea turtle sanctuary is a sure-hit with most travelers. There are several enclosures with sea turtles of different ages and species and, typically, a tank of just-hatched turtles too. ... read moreDuring the nesting season (May-October), one section of sand is fenced off, and eggs that are collected from nests around the island are transplanted here to protect them from predators. During evenings in July to November, travelers also can volunteer to help staff look for turtle eggs on the island’s eastern shore and relocate them to the Tortugranja; another option is to help release hatchlings into the sea. Basic Spanish recommended.
- Crococun ZooKm 31 Riviera Maya, Puerto Morelos, Quintana Roo, MexicoAn unexpectedly nice tropical petting zoo, Crococun is a great stop if you've got little ones in tow. Located just north of Puerto Morelos, it offers 75-minute-long guided tours (in English or ... read moreSpanish) that introduce visitors to lots of different local creatures: you'll feed spider monkeys, walk through a crocodile enclosure, and hold boas, iguanas, and baby crocs. Best of all, kids 5 and under enter free.
- Reserva de Monos Arañas Punta LagunaQuintana Roo Nuevo Durango - Coba, Quintana Roo, Mexico The Punta Laguna Spider Monkey Reserve is a great stop for travelers interested in seeing spider and howler monkeys in the wild. A short path winds through the Reserve, passing a small unexcavated ... read moreMaya ruin and a large lagoon where you can rent canoes too. Late afternoon is the best time to visit, when the monkeys are feeding high in the trees. Consider hiring a guide near the entrance (around US$10 per person) if you want to be sure to see the resident monkeys. Good walking shoes and plenty of bug repellent recommended too. The Reserve is located 11 miles north of Coba, on the road toward Nuevo X’can.
- Rainforest CafeBlvd de Kukulcán Km. 9 Lotes 10y 10C Local B-11, Cancun, ROO 77500 MexicoThough not exactly a foodie's hotspot, the Rainforest cafe is a great place to take young kids. Trumpeting elephants, giant flapping butterflies and life-sized gorillas set in a rainforest-themed ... read moredining area will have your kids pointing and giggling within minutes. Keep an eye out for the resident clown, who'll also entertain little ones while they're waiting for their burgers and chocolate milkshakes.
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