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Fun in the water

Any child who can swim will love snorkeling on the ocean reef or in a freshwater cenote, and parents will enjoy it too. Most area dive shops, like Cyan Ha Dive Shop, also run snorkeling trips out to the reef from the mainland, or you can go out in Cozumel from boats moored at the main pier. For more action, try out jetskis or banana boat rides on the ocean. Kids as young as 12 can learn to dive, if you really want some family adventure.

If the ocean is rough, you can always go to Xel Ha where the sheltered lagoon is normally flat. Xel Ha also has free life vests for snorkelers. You may think the life vests are just for kids, but get one for yourself. They make snorkeling easier and more relaxed since you can rest and stare at fish instead of keeping yourself afloat. There is a large water park in Cancun on the way from the airport to the hotel zone, but can't you do that at home? Fishing is also a good family activity, although younger children should stick with half day or 1 hour trips.

Eco parks

Many of the natural lagoons on the coast have been turned into eco parks. You should try to visit at least one when you are in the area.

  • Xcaret is the oldest and largest of the commercial eco parks in the area. The entrance fee is $40, it has a lot to offer. Of particular interest: sea turtles hatchery, aviary and bird breeding program, mushroom and orchid farm, and a butterfly garden. It is expensive, but if you stay all day you get your money's worth.
  • Xel Ha is well priced at $15 and a good place to learn to snorkel since the lagoon is sheltered from the ocean's waves. They have free inner tubes and life vests.
  • Xpu Ha Eco Park is not open anymore, in spite of the highway signs. It was just a scam to turn a beautiful public cenote into an all inclusive hotel.
  • Tres Rios focuses on the jungle paths and three rivers in the park with canoeing, horseback riding, and bicycling. Entrance is about $20.

Mayan ruins and real Maya

Learn something while on vacation by visiting Mayan ruins. There are several major Mayan ruin sites near Cancun and all are worth seeing. If you don't have much time, see Tulum. If you want to see a restored ruin go to Chichen Itza (you can even go by air with Aerosaab). For a mix of restored and unrestored ruins, check out Coba. For kids old enough for a 15 minute hike, try Alltournative Expeditions tour to Pac Chen and Coba. Children will enjoy meeting other kids who speak Maya and seeing inside one of those stick walled Maya houses in the village of Pac Chen. Plus they get to ride a zip line and rapel into a cenote - sounds scary but it is actually very fun. Closer to home, you can eat Maya food in a replica of the Tulum ruins at Yaxche Maya Restaurant in Playa del Carmen.

A zoo, sort of

Crococun, near Puerto Morelos has seen better days, but it is still a great place to see the local wildlife. Get a guide at the entrance (tip him at the end) and you can hold crocodiles, monkeys, boas, baby deer, and parrots. If your Spanish is good, you can also learn about the animals. Be sure to pet the hairless Mayan dog. It feels sort of like a pig. Cover yourself with bug repellent before getting out of the car. Between the deer flies and mosquitoes, you will need it. Crococun is cool enough to be worth facing the insects, though.

Riding around

There are plenty of places that offer horseback riding. El Rancho Grande, between Playa del Carmen and Puerto Morelos, is a good operation. Well kept horses and rides through the jungle down to the beach. If your kids are over 8 or so, take them on the ATV Explorer Jungle Tour. You ride ATVs on paths through the jungle, see some Mayan ruins and swim in a truly beautiful cenote.

You can rent bikes to ride around, but traffic is crazy so you are better off in a taxi or rental car. Seriously. Especially don't ride bikes on the highway or at night. See the Cancun South Family Itinerary for more ideas.

Family Friendly Businesses

Business Location Reservations Website child care kids' pool rec. lessons

family pkgs.

kitchens water sports tours
Aquamarina Beach Hotel Cancun 998 849 4606 yes yes yes yes yes yes yes
Cozumel Seaside Retreats Cozumel 987 8725215
888 461 4639
  One, two and three bedroom condos on a beautiful beach in Cozumel.
Allegro Resorts Cozumel 877-SCUBA4U   yes yes yes yes yes yes yes
Puerto Aventuras Rentals Puerto Aventuras 984 873 5098   Vacation rentals in Puerto Aventuras. Beachfront condos in this golf resort.
Mexico Dream Villas Akumal 984 875 9050 Vacation rentals in family friendly Akumal
Nautibeach Suites and Town Resort Isla Mujeres 998 845 3467   Vacation rental condos, swimming pool, kids under 5 free
Hotel Las Palapas Playa del Carmen 984 873 0584   Kids under 6 free, 6-12 50%. Pool, game room, nature trail, large rooms, on the beach.
La Ceiba and Casa del Mar Cozumel 888-69-CEIBA   yes yes yes yes no yes yes
MM Rentals and Realty Playa del Carmen 984 873 0450 Vacation rentals in Playacar and Playa del Carmen, many on the beach
Playa Beach Rentals Playa del Carmen 984 873 2952 Nice vacation homes from rent in Playa del Carmen and Playacar. Most have pools.
Taninah Eco Vacation Rental Xpu Ha 984 873 0040 Reservations through Puerto Rentals Amazing private retreat. Pool, Gymboree style play area, walking trails, duck pond, DVD players, game room, trampoline and more more more for kids of all ages.
Aero Saab Airplane Tours Playa del Carmen 984 873 0804 Aero Saab airplane tours from Playa del Carmen to Chichen Itza, Merida, Cozumel, Mayan Ruins, Holbox Island, Cancun, and more with daily flights and trips.
ATV Jungle Tours Playa del Carmen 984 873 1626   Ride ATVs through Mexican jungle, past Mayan ruins, snorkel in clear cenote, ride on beach, 4 guided tours daily, Playa del Carmen, Mexico, fun adventure.
Alltournative Eco Tours Playa del Carmen 984 873 2036   Unique guided eco tours of Mayan ruins, modern Maya villages, snorkeling, and adventures in Mexico's natural wonders from Playa del Carmen, Cancun airport transfers also.
Caribbean Coast Travel Playa del Carmen 984 873 1689 Caribbean Coast Travel can arrange all types of tours for large or small groups. They know what you should see.
La Choza Restaurant Cozumel 984 872 0958   Authentic homemade Mexican and fresh seafood in casual family run restaurant famous in Cozumel for 10 years, a Fodor's Guide choice.
Scuba-Du Dive Shop Cozumel 984 872 0322 x6845   Cozumel dive shop with special kids programs.
Tank Ha Dive Center Playa del Carmen 984 873 0302   Safe dive shop in Playa del Carmen. Snorkeling for all ages and diving and dive instruction for anyone over 12.

free Spanish lessons

cover The Corn Grows Ripe A Newbery Honor Book

cover Rain Player A boy challenges Chac to bring rain to his village

Snorkeling Guide to Marine Life

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