Take your family south of the border to score sweet deals and have some fun in the sun.
By Laura Manske
Forty miles south of Cancun on the Yucatan Peninsula is Playa del Carmen, a former fishing village. Go South 90 miles through beach, jungle, and mangrove and you'll run into the laid-back town of Tulum. Along the way you'll see mostly family-friendly all-inclusive resorts.
With the help of a guide, learn about the fascinating Mayan architectural ruins of Tulum. Climb the former walled city's ceremonial buildings, including the Temple of the Descending Gods and El Castillo, perched on a cliff above the sea (mexicokantours.com/lang-en/tulum-tours.html). Take a dip in the water when the weather gets too warm; the beach is one of the prettiest in the Caribbean. Don't miss the valodores (flyers), men dressed in vibrant costumes and suspended from 150-foot poles by ropes tied to their ankles. Another highlight: the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve is a UNESCO Heritage Site that's home to sea turtles and hundreds of bird species; families can kayak its wetlands (cesiak.org). For more fun with nature, snorkel at Xel-Ha, the largest natural aquarium in the world (xelha.com), or see stalactites and stalagmites up-close in the wondrous caves of Aktun Chen (aktunchen.com). Back in Playa del Carmen, head to Quinto Avenida to pick up a pareo sarong or a hanging lantern made from coconut.
Where to Stay
The 284-room Sandos Playacar Beach Resort has six restaurants, four pools, a video game room, tennis courts, and a teen club (sandoshotels.com). A seven-night, all-inclusive promotion starts at $1,617 for two adults and two kids under 12 years in same room. (Older kids pay adult rates.) With three properties—The Suites, 5th Avenue, and Beach Club—the Blue Parrot offers a mix of rooms and rates. For example, a spacious apartment suite at 5th Avenue starts at $166 a night. Teen-friendly fun includes include nightly fire shows and a dance floor on the beach (blueparrot.com).
Complimentary bicycles are often available at big resorts. Get your family's wheels spinning on a leisurely ride to Playa del Carmen.