Mexico

Family Eco-Adventures in the Riviera Maya

written by | Posted on September 1st, 2009

Should your clients want to spend real quality time with their family at a great beach destination while also bonding over soft-adventure or even educating their children on the environment, point them toward the Riviera Maya—this sizzling destination has all those bases covered.

the stay Sandos Caracol Eco-Resort & Spa is a good recommendation for families on a budget. A 45-minute drive from the airport ensures that kids can start the adventure as soon as they check in; they won’t be spending much time in their hotel rooms with all of the activities that await them. Why? Because Sandos Caracol is built at the edge of an actual jungle.

The complex is comprised of bridges, streams and gardens and has 16 cenotes right on the property. An onsite eco-zoo is designed for preservation as well as to educate guests on the area’s eco-systems and provides plenty of up-close interaction with animals such as donkeys, peacocks and other birds; one of the cenotes is even home to marine turtles. Tots and their older siblings don’t even need to leave the property to get in on the action.

According to Thomas Mueller, the property’s assistant manager, the resort’s target clientele is budget-conscious families and couples who get the advantage of lodging closer to the sites such as Tulum than other properties in the Riviera Maya, and this all-inclusive resort might well fit the bill, especially for the little ones. Sandos’ kids’ club offers complimentary enrollment for those between 2 and 17 with various activities offered by age group. The resort also has three pools, plus a separate children’s pool. This beachfront property is also right by the Meso-American Barrier Reef, the world’s second largest living coral reef—as good as it gets for incredible scuba diving and snorkeling.

The all-inclusive property has more than 900 rooms housed in 3-story buildings with jungle, pool or garden views. Book clients in the Select Club (218 rooms)—while not directly on the beach, the rooms are a bit larger and newer, and guests of the club receive extra amenities such as private check-in, exclusive kids’ club and pool, priority in the reservation-required restaurants and use of the Select Beach Club, which offers food and drink, premium alcohol, WiFi and an exclusive beach area. The jr. suites are located on the top (third) floor in the buildings and offer spacious accommodations, with a jacuzzi on the private balcony.

There are six restaurants, three of which require reservations; the balance consists of buffets—but culinary snobs beware, there are no celebrity chefs running the kitchens here. Two snack bars offer quick service and kid-friendly fare.

Parents and couples can take advantage of the spa, which comes with 18 treatment rooms, salon services and a fully equipped fitness center. Also included are non-motorized watersports and a long list of activities, such as dance classes and water aerobics.

Rates through Oct. 31 start at $97 for a standard guestroom, and rates from Nov. 1 to Dec. 20 start at $107. For Select Club accommodations, rates through Oct. 31, start at $119 and from Nov. 1 to Dec. 20, they start at $129.

the play While Sandos Caracol is close to Mayan sites like Tulum, there are plenty of smaller action-packed eco and adventure tours in the area that are ideal for families. Sian Ka’an Community Tours, run by several remaining Mayan families in the area, organizes a great day of education and adventure. This provider is dedicated to conservation and ecologically sustainable tourism; local guides relay their personal history and culture while proudly sharing their community with guests.

A visit to the UNESCO World Heritage site, Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, is the main event. The tour starts with a short hike on a coastal Mayan archaeological site, where guests can climb the ancient temples. A walk through the jungle area (Muyil Forest) provides an opportunity for birdwatching, studying plant species and spotting different animals. After the hike, guests make their way to the beach, where a light snack is provided.

Tour guides then lead guests to a boat for a ride through two different lagoons, one man-made and the other natural. In the first area, they pass a small Mayan ruin and have a close look at the mangrove islands, which are nesting areas for many of the birds found within Sian Ka’an. At the second lagoon, guests are invited to disembark and float down the river, whose gentle current delights kids of all ages (including this one). After the boat ride a homemade Mayan lunch is served. Sample rates are $99 for adults and $70 for children; does not include transportation.