Cancun with the Family

Original open uri20160815 3469 9lub4q?1471292657?ixlib=rails 0.3
Cancun with the Family
Cancun achieves what many destinations can only wish for: It offers something special for every member of the family. Though there are plenty of activities for children, Cancun also makes it easy for parents to slip away.
By Julie Schwietert Collazo, AFAR Local Expert
Photo by Julie Schwietert Collazo
  • 1 / 10
    Original open uri20160815 3469 9lub4q?1471292657?ixlib=rails 0.3
    Swim with the Big Fish
    Go to any beach town in the world, and your kids can probably jump in the sea for a swim. But there aren't many places where they can swim alongside whale sharks. These gentle giants are massive, slow-moving creatures who don't seem perturbed by curious human companions. Several tour operators in Cancun offer excursions from late May through mid-September—that's when the largest fish species in the world migrates to Cancun's warm waters to feed. Swimming with them is an unforgettable experience.
    Photo by Julie Schwietert Collazo
  • 2 / 10
    Original open uri20160815 3469 cl60x2?1471292663?ixlib=rails 0.3
    Dip with Dolphins
    A fantastic family alternative to swimming with Cancun's whale sharks is a visit to the Interactive Aquarium Cancun to get to know the resident dolphins. The aquarium's large pool welcomes visitors who are eager to experience a close-up encounter with the friendly mammals. Choose between an hour-long session where you can touch and play with dolphins or the “trainer for a day” program, during which you can feed dolphins and initiate tricks. The aquarium also offers interactive programs with other marine animals, including sea lions and sharks. Minimum age and height requirements apply for some attractions.
    Photo by Chris Cheadle/age fotostock
  • 3 / 10
    Original open uri20160815 3469 7tqihn?1471292671?ixlib=rails 0.3
    Wildlife Encounters in Cancun
    Cancun offers many opportunities for travelers to see and experience marine life, including whale sharks, dolphins, and sea lions, both in their natural habitats and in contained environments such as the city's interactive aquarium. For younger kids or those who aren't comfortable in the water, there are also myriad chances to get close to land mammals. One popular place to do so is at Croco Cun Zoo, an animal park and petting zoo. You'll see birds and butterflies, and the staff encourages facilitated interactions with deer, snakes, and other reptiles.
    Photo by Julie Schwietert Collazo
  • 4 / 10
    Original open uri20160815 3469 1midou4?1471292677?ixlib=rails 0.3
    Zip through Cancun
    Cancun is famous for its beaches, and it's becoming more of an adventure destination every year. Some of the land surrounding Cancun 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 Cancun's famous sinkholes, called cenotes. If you can't be moved too far from the water, try the zip line in Garrafon Natural Reef Park on Isla Mujeres; it hangs suspended 100 feet above the Caribbean Sea. Most outfitters offer excursions seven days a week.
    Photo courtesy of Cancun Convention and Visitors Bureau
  • 5 / 10
    Original open uri20160815 3469 hg20c8?1471292684?ixlib=rails 0.3
    Cancun's Underwater Museum
    If you have a hard time convincing your kids that museums are cool, tell them that Cancun's most famous sculptures are underwater. The idea for the Cancun Underwater Museum was born during a conversation between British artist Jason deCaires Taylor and the city's park and nautical association directors. Concerned about reef destruction, the group decided to construct an artificial reef to house about 450 sculptures by DeCaires Taylor and other artists. Book a diving tour with museum docents to see how the sculptures have helped protect marine life. Or if you don't know how to scuba dive, the museum offers introductory lessons.
    Photo courtesy of Cancun Convention and Visitors Bureau
  • 6 / 10
    Original open uri20160815 3469 1xmuyop?1471292688?ixlib=rails 0.3
    Modern Maya
    Cancun is located on the Yucatán Peninsula, historically home to a significant population of Maya 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 Maya culture during your visit; some hotels and resorts offer cultural performances. The Museo Maya de Cancún celebrates the ancient Maya civilization. Together with the San Miguelito archeological site next door, it offers an overview of the ancient Maya Empire, which flourished in this area more than 800 years ago.
    Photo by Julie Schwietert Collazo
  • 7 / 10
    Original open uri20160815 3469 1hq9i7g?1471292692?ixlib=rails 0.3
    Meet Other Kids in Cancun
    When parents need a break, they can check their kids into one of Cancun's many kids' clubs. Because Cancun is such a family-friendly destination, most of the resorts in the Hotel Zone feature a kids' club with special activities for little ones, usually supervised by first aid-trained caregivers. Many hotels also offer kid-friendly attractions and activities. Moon Palace Golf and Spa features the FlowRider Double, a man-made surfing wave that will entertain kids all day, and Dreams Cancun Hotel has its own dolphin pool where you can swim with these captivating marine mammals. At Grand Fiesta Americana Coral Beach Cancun, you'll find the recently opened $2 million Kidz Club, a 40,000-square-foot indoor and outdoor play paradise.
    Photo by Julie Schwietert Collazo
  • 8 / 10
    Original open uri20160815 3469 ufl7sg?1471292696?ixlib=rails 0.3
    Discover Maya Relics
    Ancient Maya temples and other 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 about 120 miles from Cancun. 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 and Cobá, offer a family-friendly peek into Mexico's ancient past. Little ones will especially enjoy Cobá, stone ruins where climbing is permitted. Take heed, though: The narrow steps are treacherous.
    Photo by Julie Schwietert Collazo
  • 9 / 10
    Original open uri20160815 3469 dt772q?1471292701?ixlib=rails 0.3
    Explore Isla Mujeres by Bike
    Since Isla Mujeres is just five miles long and a half-mile wide, the easiest, healthiest, and most enjoyable way to get around is on two wheels. Guided bike tours are available out of Garrafon Natural Reef Park. You can also rent your own bike and explore independently. Make a family ride even more fun by turning your bike ride into a scavenger hunt. Encourage your kids to be on the lookout for easy-to-spot beach objects (an umbrella, a bathing suit, or a boat), as well as more unusual sights unique to Isla Mujeres. 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 Tono Balaguer/age fotostock
  • 10 / 10
    Original open uri20160815 3469 19g2tyq?1471292705?ixlib=rails 0.3
    Family Day at the Beach
    There's nothing wrong with spending a lazy day on one of Cancun's many beaches. Soak up the sun (with sunscreen, of course), read a book, or drink a margarita or piña colada while the kids build sandcastles or play in the waves. Many hotels have their own private beach intended for the exclusive use of resort guests; check upon booking about whether a beach is an amenity. 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 Alexander Shalamov/age fotostock