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The Riviera Maya for Families

Zip and Swim with the Kids
The Riviera Maya for Families
This stretch achieves what many destinations can only wish for: something special for every member of the family. Though there are plenty of activities for children, the Riviera Maya also makes it easy for parents to slip away.
Photo by Adam Wiseman
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    Zip and Swim with the Kids
    Zip and Swim with the Kids
    Cancún is famous for its beaches, and it’s becoming more of an adventure destination every year. Some of the land surrounding Cancún is covered by dense forest, perfect for zip-lining. Several outfitters offer half-day zip-line trips that include lunch and, in some cases, an afternoon dip in one of the Riviera Maya’s famous sinkholes, called cenotes. Or try the zip line in Garrafón Natural Reef Park, on Isla Mujeres, that hangs 100 feet above the Caribbean Sea. Most outfitters offer excursions seven days a week.
    Photo by Adam Wiseman
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    Ancient and Modern Maya
    Ancient and Modern Maya
    The Yucatán Peninsula has historically been home to a significant population of Mayan people. Today, approximately half a million Maya still live on the peninsula, and their culture is enjoying a resurgence that’s attracting the interest of locals and international visitors alike. There are different ways to learn about Mayan culture during your visit, including through cultural performances that are offered at some of the hotels and resorts. The Maya de Cancún Museum celebrates the ancient Mayan civilization and, together with the San Miguelito archaeological site next door, offers an overview of the empire that flourished in this area more than 800 years ago.
    Photo by Rita Trejo
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    Meet Other Kids
    Meet Other Kids
    Many parents traveling with kids choose to stay at one of the family-friendly resorts along Cancún’s Hotel Zone, where children can play and swim while attending hotel day camps and kids’ clubs. Some resorts even play movies and serve dinner to youngsters while their parents share romantic time alone together. Few travel experiences, though, resonate as deeply as meeting someone who lives where you’re vacationing. Stop by Las Palapas Park, where everyone can try classic Yucatecan dishes and the kids can spend time at the playground with their Mexican contemporaries. The stalls here are a great place to shop for crafts and souvenirs, as well. Families with small kids can mingle with locals on Playa Langosta, a popular beach for its playground and calm waters.
    Photo by Rita Trejo
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    Discover Mayan Relics
    Discover Mayan Relics
    Mayan temples and other ancient stone structures are impressive regardless of your age. The Yucatán Peninsula is home to several such wonders, the most famous being Chichén Itzá, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that’s 120 miles from Cancún. It may be tempting to let your kids run around the ample grounds, but keep in mind that Chichén Itzá is a sacred spot. Nearby sites along the Riviera Maya, such as the walled city of Tulum, El Rey Archaeological Zone, and Cobá, offer a family-friendly peek into Mexico’s ancient past. Little ones will especially enjoy Cobá and El Rey, stone ruins where climbing is permitted. Take heed, though: The narrow steps are treacherous.
    Photo by Javier Sirvent
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    Explore by Bike
    Explore by Bike
    Rent two wheels for a little independence. Some resorts provide bikes to guests to get around large properties, but cycling is also a great way to sightsee. In addition to cruising the wide and easy Ciclopista path in Cancún, ask the hotel for recommendations of places to ride. Make a family outing even more fun by turning it into a scavenger hunt and encouraging your kids to be on the lookout for easy-to-spot beach objects, say, an umbrella, a colorful towel, or a boat. Isla Mujeres, an enjoyable 15-minute ferry ride from Cancún, is best explored on a bike, and guided tours are available out of Garrafón Natural Reef Park. Be sure to check out Casa Caracol (Shell House), a two-bedroom residence designed to look like a conch, which is available for rental throughout the year.
    Photo by Rita Trejo
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    Family Day at the Beach
    Family Day at the Beach
    There’s nothing wrong with spending a lazy day on one of many beaches along the Riviera Maya. Soak up the sun (with sunscreen, of course), read a book, or drink a margarita or piña colada while the kids build sand castles or play in the waves. Many hotels have their own private beach intended for the exclusive use of resort guests; before booking, check whether a beach is one of the amenities. If you get bored with lounging, ask your hotel concierge about local outfitters that offer water sports instruction or gear rentals. Surfing and kiteboarding are both popular pursuits for travelers of all ages.
    Photo by Ana Lorenzana