Check out one of these kid-friendly accommodations on your next Mayan vacation.
With tourism exploding in the Riviera Maya, the area on the Yucutan penninsula in Mexico, about an hour south of Cancún, there are a host of hotels to choose from, many of them offering all-inclusive options that give vacationing families all the food, drinks and non-motorized water sports they can handle.
Here are four properties worth a closer look:
When my family and I visited Riviera Maya, we stayed in style at the elegant Hotel Riu Palace Riviera Maya, a beautiful hotel on the beach. While the facility was wonderful and the staff was attentive, it is not the most kid-friendly of places. As soon as we walked in, my son, then 11, couldn’t resist the urge to run and skid across the shiny marble floors of the expansive lobby. The staff looked on with warm smiles, but the other guests made disapproving frowns. Their distinct message: The Riu Palace was not made for the likes of us.
We found a much family-friendlier environment across the street at the brand’s lower-end sister property, ClubHotel Riu Tequila (an odd name for a family hotel). The only downside: The Riu Tequila is not on the beach. But it has a great pool and guests are welcome to walk across the Riu Palace property to reach the turquoise water.
The dining at the Riu Palace was a little more upscale, but my picky-eater son found more food to his liking at the Riu Tequila. Adhering to the belief that everything rolls downhill, guests at the high-end Riu Palace can eat at any of the five neighboring, less expensive Riu properties. Guests of those less expensive facilities, however, do not have the option of dining up at the more exclusive Riu Palace.
Hotel Riu Palace Riviera Maya; tel. +52-984-8772280; www.riu.com/en/hotel-riu-palace-riviera-maya; junior suites w/balcony start at $372.50 a night for two adults and one child under the age of 13.
ClubHotel Riu Tequila; tel. +52-984-8734300; www.riu.com/en/clubhotel-riu-tequila; double rooms w/balcony start at $198 a night for two adults and one child under the age of 13.
When Chicagoan Sandra Robinson headed to the Riviera Maya with her husband and two young teens, they opted for the all-inclusive Iberostar Tucan in Playacar. She’s an adventurer, more accustomed to traipsing around with a backpack. But this was a first trip with her new husband and his kids, none of them experienced travelers. She chose the Iberostar Tucan on the recommendation of an uncle who works for a competing resort that was out of their price range.
They found the Iberostar staff to be friendly and helpful—even when they called down for yet another round of clean, dry towels—but the beach to be a little crowded. Getting a choice spot on the sand required her or her husband to head out early and stake out their beach chairs with towels, effectively reserving them for the day. Between the Tucan and its neighboring Iberostar Quetzal was a “jungle” area complete with wild howling monkeys, iguanas, lizards, birds, tapirs and other wild animals that was “very cool,” she says.
Her kids’ favorite: driving the wave runners. No American resort would allow 12- and 14-year-olds to do that, but there are no laws against it in Mexico. Families with younger kids have lots of activity options, she says. And the resort allows its guests two meals in the fancier restaurant on-site. But book early—they were able to eat in the restaurant only once because they couldn’t get a reservation at other times. The kids, meanwhile, liked having room service (also included in the room price).
Iberostar Tucan; tel. +52-984-877-20-00; www.iberostar.com; all-inclusive double rooms start at $1,380.60 for three nights and two adults and two children under 13.
Another all-inclusive, the Sandos Playacar Beach Resort was recently remodeled and offers a great family option: junior suites. It’s always nice for parents to have a separate bedroom with a door, and the kids feel special having their own space, generally with their own TV. Sandos Playacar arranges daily activities on the beach and around the pools, has a video arcade room with an X-Box (though you might not want to tell the kids about that, if you want them to get outside), and a variety of sand and water sports. There’s also a spa—and the all-important kids’ club where you can park the children while you get a much-needed massage. The resort also boasts four pools, one of which is for adults only. That means the crabby, childless travelers won’t be at the kids’ pool complaining that your kids splashed them. Or worse, getting drunk and behaving in ways you’d rather your kids not witness.
Sandos Playacar Beach Resort; tel. +52-984-873-11-51; www.sandoshotels.com; Hacienda junior suites start at $534 a night for two adults and two children under the age of 13.
The spectacular Azul Beach in Puerto Morelos has thought of everything.
Check into one of the stylish rooms specifically set up for families with young children and you’ll open the door to a crib, changing table, plush stroller, bottle warmer, refrigerator, tiny step stool, even a little white terry robe (they carry five children’s sizes). The healthy snack bar near the pool stocks natural baby food in jars and will puree any of the glorious fresh fruits for your little one.
For children between 4 and 12, the Kid’s Club is clearly a cut above (as is everything at this 96-room boutique hotel that bills itself as Gourmet All Inclusive) with activities such as cooking classes, creative crafts and charming magic shows in a breezy seaside pavilion, all at no extra cost.
Taking baby to the beach? You and your little one will be more than comfy on the big, shaded double beach beds with pillows and retractable curtains. The accommodating Beach Butler passes by regularly with fluffy towels, water (to drink or mist), sunscreen, snacks and more. Want to stay in and watch a DVD? Movies are served with popcorn.
No bland buffets here. The five no-reservations-required, a la carte restaurants are beyond beautiful and accommodating of any dietary desires, from children or adults. Fish Market, the resort’s on-the-sand lunch spot was my 13-year-old son Erik’s favorite. Each day the chef grills a huge fish purchased right off the fisherman’s boat. They also offer smaller individual fish which Erik got a kick out of selecting himself.
At Tainan, Azul’s Asian restaurant, you can sit on the floor as the waiters deliver your food from underneath the table. Order a cold cocktail at the Agavero Tequila Lounge, and it stays cold on the unbelievable frozen bar top (which also works on virgin margaritas, as Erik can attest).
Unlike your typical all-inclusive, this stand out all-inclusive actually includes things you really, really want. Go.
Azul Beach Hotel, tel. +52-998-8728080 or 1-888-280-8810; www.azulhotel.com; all-inclusive superior room for two adults and one child under 2, $360 per night low season, $574 high season; all-inclusive deluxe room for two adults, one child age 2-13, one child under the age of 2, $533 per night low season, $800 high season.
All prices in U.S. dollars, unless otherwise noted. The Azul Beach Hotel section was contributed by Leslie Long.
Enticing Thanks for the variety of options (both location and $$$) and honesty in how kid-friendly and all-inclusive each hotel is. Adding these to my itinerary.