The Explorer’s Club at Dreams’ two Cancun resorts includes a pyramid-shaped climbing wall.
Whether your family clients are still seeking a holiday-season getaway, or looking ahead to the winter and spring school breaks, Cancun and Riviera Maya are certainly worthy of consideration. For parents and grandparents traveling with the younger generation in tow, this region offers plenty of cultural and fun experiences that everyone can appreciate together. There is also an array of beach resorts with children’s programs to let the kids play with other guests their own age while mom and dad (or grandma and grandpa) get to enjoy some well-deserved alone time.
For starters, any visit to the Yucatan should include an exploration of the ancient Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza or Tulum. Day trips can usually be arranged through the concierge at your clients’ hotel. Tulum, the closer of the two to the major resort areas, was an ancient Mayan fortress city whose most iconic structure, the Castillo, is perched on the edge of a cliff overlooking the clear turquoise blue waters of the Caribbean. An expansive walkway extends out around the ruins, and a nearby staircase (which may be difficult for some older clients to negotiate) leads down to the beach where visitors can swim and sunbathe. Grandparents might want to make it a point to go in the morning when it is least crowded and the sun is not at full intensity.
Chichen Itza, home of the Kukulkan Pyramid (also known as El Castillo), is regarded as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. It is more expansive than Tulum, but also farther away. The drive there might be a challenge for younger children and older adults alike, but intrepid visitors who go there will understand why it is the second most visited site of Mexico.
A real family treat is Xcaret, just fifteen minutes south of Playa Del Carmen and one hour from Cancun. Clients may wish to plan a full day at this vast eco-park to swim with dolphins, swim in an underground river, visit the aquarium, and see jaguars, pumas, sea turtles, flamingoes and tropical parrots, as well as archeological ruins. At night Xcaret comes alive with fire-illuminated Mayan sports, ceremonial dances and regional music from all around Mexico. This year Xcaret is celebrating its 10th anniversary as a UNESCO “masterpiece of the oral and intangible heritage of humankind.”
For real water hounds, Xel-Ha is considered the largest natural aquarium in the world. Activities here include swimming with dolphins, snuba (a child-friendly combination of snorkeling and diving) or SeaTrek—walking under water.
AMResorts’ Dreams Cancun Resort & Spa and Dreams Riviera Cancun Resort & Spa are among the many kid-friendly resorts your clients can choose from. Explorer’s Club, a fully supervised program with age-appropriate fun for children ages 3-12, open daily from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., offers programs based on science, nature and exploration. A highlight is the Mayan-pyramid-shaped climbing wall. There’s also a theater for performing their own plays, arts and crafts, a playground, a water fountain, movie nights and sand castle competitions. One night a week, kids have the opportunity (with parental approval) to sleep in tents at the club or on the beach. Explorer’s Club staff are certified by the Red Cross in child CPR.
The Kukulkan Pyramid (El Castillo) is a must-see in Chichen Itza.
For teens, there’s the Core Zone, where 13- to 17-year-olds can cut loose and enjoy a supervised program of daily activities, sports and games as well as nightly entertainment with music provided by resident DJs. There are video game consoles (Xbox, Wii, PlayStation), billiards, Ping-Pong, bikes and computers, although additional charges may apply for the latter.
The Fiesta Kids Clubs activities program at Fiesta Americana hotels has been designed by a specialist children’s entertainment company and offers everything kids look for and love: supervised pool and beach games, competitions, arts, sports, skills, and pastimes focused on sharing, sometimes with parental participation. Likewise, the Club Teens concept helps ensure that there’s something special for every member of the family. Teens will find video games, pool tables, music, movies and sporting activities. They’ll have enough freedom to feel independent and pursue their own hobbies and make new friends, but there’s always staff around in case they need anything.
An Information Area lists all of the activities going on each day, so families can meet with the Fiesta Americana staff to plan adventures for each member of the family.
Fiesta Americana Condesa Cancun provides the added value of being an all-inclusive property, as is Fiesta Americana Cozumel, which is currently closed for remodeling but is scheduled to reopen at the end of March 2014.
In addition to its usual selection of grouped-by-age kids programs, Club Med Cancun Yucatan offers Passworld, a dedicated themed hangout area designed especially for teens and older pre-teens (11 to 17 years old). In Cancun, this area is located under the restaurant, called the Car Wash. Passworld activities generally include such creative and artistic activities as fashion, jewelry making, graffiti art, and the performing arts (dance, music, acting, theater, song mixing, filmmaking directing and editing, magic shows, etc.). The Club Med Spa by Comfort Zone is open to those 13 or older.
Club Med has extended its “Kids Stay Free” pricing policy to children under the age of four. For travelers on vacation with children age 4-12, Club Med offers 50 percent off, and 40 percent off for ages 13 to 15.
Iberostar shows its child-friendly and pocketbook-friendly stripes with its current “Kids Stay Free” program. Among its family-oriented resorts in the area are Iberostar Cancun and Iberostar Paraiso Lindo in Riviera Maya, which offer all-day, well organized activities at Lucy’s Kids’ Club. For teens, there is a disco, an Internet cafe and video games. For grownups, the five-star Iberostar Cancun is the only resort in the area that has its own 18-hole championship golf course.
A member of Occidental Hotels and Resorts, Allegro is yet another family-friendly all-inclusive option when traveling to Mexico. Allegro has two resorts in Mexico—one in Cozumel and another in Playacar. Both have a Kids Club, and the Cozumel resort also has a pirates-themed water park.
The Paradisus Cancun offers a complimentary nursery and play area with toys for children ages 1-4 years of age; they must be accompanied by an adult at all times while in the baby club. The Paradisus Cancun baby play area is in a separate room just off the family concierge lounge. Play areas are open and visible. It is open daily from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m. during high season and closes at 5 p.m. in low season.
Those same hours apply to the Paradisus Cancun Kids Club, a fun hangout for 4- to 12-year-olds. Parents must sign kids in and out with staff for security. Youngsters will enjoy age appropriate activities such as finger painting, mini-disco, surprise games, camping night, beach excursions and treasure hunts.
For the teen crowd, daily activities, available throughout the resort, include sports, cooking classes and competitions.
The all-inclusive Grand Sirenis Riviera Maya Resorts & Spa offers a daily program of supervised, age-appropriate activities up to five hours a day. There is also a weekly show in which children perform for an audience of parents, grandparents and siblings. Children get a gift pack on arrival and have access to the resort’s playground as well. A 10 percent rate discount is available when booking on the Sirenis website before November 30, for stays through April 30, 2014.
Palladium Hotels & Resorts, which offers age-tiered kids club, family friendly suites, and special kids buffet and dietary menus, has enhanced its appeal to parents and grandparents traveling with younger children. Its five Rivera Maya resorts (as well as those in Riviera Nayarit, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic) now offer “Play at Palladium with Raggs,” inspired by the Emmy Award-winning live-action TV series Raggs. The show, starring five musical pups—Raggs, B. Max, Tribly, Pido and Razzle—currently airs in English on public television and in Spanish on Telemundo in the U.S. and Canada. Children can play with Raggs and his four colorful friends in the Kids’ Club, the beach, the pool and around the resort. The Sunday night “Pido’s Surf Party” is a treat for kids and guardians alike.
Palladium’s Kids’ Clubs are tiered for different age groups, ranging from 1 to 19.