Lucky for us, December 21 has come and gone and the world is still trudging onward. Although the Mayan calendar’s reign has come to a halt, this calendar year marks one of the best times to take advantage of a trip to their ancient homeland with more safe and kid-friendly options than ever.
Located just south of Cancun International Airport, the Riviera Maya is strip of land that runs more than 80 miles along the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula on the Caribbean side of Mexico. Safely spaced more than 1,000 miles from the region specified in the U.S. State Department’s warning on Mexico travel, this area is lined with gorgeous all-inclusive resorts offering families the chance to soak in the warmth from the sun while exploring all there is to do in this playground of Mexico.
Where to stay/dine
Even among a virtual sea of lodging options along this stretch of paradise, the Iberostar Paraíso Maya stands out as one of the most kid-friendly all-inclusives in the Riviera Maya with tons of amenities geared toward families. The Paraíso Maya is actually just one of five properties in this almost Disney-proportionate resort. Although kids aren’t allowed at the Grand section of this resort (where most of the weddings and honeymoons take place), guests of the Paraíso Maya can take advantage of all the other amenities offered within the resort grounds, including all the restaurants, beaches, pools and more.
From spacious suites to kid-friendly room service (tasty tacos and personal-sized pizzas anyone?), each room seems to have been designed with the traveling family in mind. The staff even creates fun creatures out of the towels laid out on the bed next to a children’s storybook called Libro de Sueños (Book of Dreams).
The Paraíso Maya provides plenty of opportunities to splash around with an expansive beach featuring straw umbrellas to shade sensitive skin, two lake swimming pools, an activity pool, multiple private pools, a lazy river, a wave pool and even a water park. While you enjoy a cocktail at the lobby bar, which happens to be housed in an exact replica of the pyramid of Chichen Itza, the kids can hang out among friends at Lucy’s Club, a play center for ages 4–12 where kids can paint, read, watch movies, play games and more all in a safe and adult-supervised location. Here kids can create their own hand-made souvenirs at the arts-and-crafts hut or chill out by the kiddy pool (lifeguard on duty!).
This all-inclusive resort boasts more than seven specialty restaurants on site, with the freedom to dine at any of the kid-friendly restaurants at any of the other properties … and don’t miss the open-air nacho and burger/hotdog buffet on the beach. From delicious and authentic al pastor tacos (and appetizer buffet) at the Paraíso Beach’s La Hacienda to the fresh catch of the day at Paraíso Maya’s La Marina, no family will leave hungry.
If you want to spend a day or evening without the kiddos, the hotel also offers a babysitting service where a member of the concierge staff will watch your kids en-suite for $10 per hour, leaving you free to check out the 18-hole championship golf course, the space-themed adults-only disco located at the elaborate shopping plaza (with a fantastic tequila room and custom cigar rolling station), or a night show at one of the properties.
What to do off the resort
Even though your family will have tons of activities included in your stay at the resort, for adventurous clans looking to explore more of Mexico, there are nearby attractions that can’t be missed. One of the best preserved Mayan sites, the ancient ruins of Tulum, is only a short drive from the resort, and will give your family a glimpse into this area’s rich history. For an underwater experience unlike any other, take your family to the famous Xel-Ha Park, where your entire brood can snorkel in the world’s largest natural aquarium before eating authentic Mexican foods and testing your bravery at the Stone of Courage, a five-meter-high diving cliff that dares kids and adults alike to plunge into the crystal clear waters below.
For more information on planning your family’s next vacation to the Riviera Maya, visit rivieramaya.com.