Because of our proximity to the Mayan Riviera, we've had several opportunities to get away there as a family. There are so many things you can do and see, but these are the activities we have found to be both the best family vacation ideas, as well as the most educational travel activities in a natural science sort of way.
Best Family Vacation Ideas
1. Wildlife Boat Tour
This tour leaves the docs in the hotel zone in Cancun in the evening and takes you through the mangroves channels for 2-3 hours as dark is falling to look for alligators and other wildlife that come out at dusk. The tour is excellent for ages 9 and above. The guides speak English and are very knowledgeable, even giving a pictorial history presentation of the animals in the area.
When we went we saw several great blue herons and got within a couple of feet of a young (4-5 foot) alligator. Just remember there are no bathrooms on the boat, and be sure to bring bug spray because the bugs are feeding at this hour too!
2. Swimming with Turtles and Whale Shark Encounters
These two are still on our bucket list, but Contoy Excursions also offers these outings. Once the kids are old enough (10-12) we plan to do this on one of our day trips as well.
Snorkeling from a Glass Bottom Boat
3. Glass Bottom Boat
Right across the street from the main park in Puerto Morelos, a few minutes south of the Cancun hotel zone, is the Pelicanos Beach Club & Marina. Kids under 5 ride free, and they suited us up with life jackets, flippers and scuba gear and we got to take the entire family on a ride in their glass bottom boat out to the reef.
The glass bottom is really a series of windows in the floor of the boat. It's hard to see anything through the glass in the floor when the boat is moving, but once we stopped out by the reef and the boat was still you could see through the clear water to the seaweed beds below and any fish that were brave enough to swim under us.
Out at the reef, we got to jump in the water with the guide and others from the group and put our faces in to see the reef and ocean life around us, up close and personal. The guides were great with the kids and even with those who were not great swimmers.
Indiana Joe's Aktun Chen Adventure Park
There are lots of caves in the Yucatan peninsula. And a great experience for families is the guided tour at Indiana Joe's. It was great for young children and older people as well, no crawling or anything too “adventurous” but a great experience. Read more about that here.
Indiana Joe's also had a zip line that was a fabulous trip through the tree tops and green foliage of the tropical jungles. Watch for local deer sitings and talk to the parrots too. Great for ages 5 on up!
Because the water table is so high and the peninsula is surrounded by ocean there are many places in the states of Campeche, Yucatán and Quintana Roo that have underground fresh water pools called cenotes. It was hard to get a good photo in the dark, underground. Some of the cenotes are fresh water mixed with salt water as the rivers and pools connect with the sea deep under ground. Whether at Aktun Chen, another park, or with a local guide to a more un-touristy cenote, swimming in these underground pools is always a highlight for us, and your trip to the Mayan Riviera should not be complete without it!
Have you been to the Mayan Riviera on vacation with kids? What was your best family vacation experience? Share yours below!