Three Ways to Enjoy The Yucatan

Whatever you do, bring the kids. It’s not every day you get to visit a place where a visit to ancient ruins is just as easy as…a day at the beach. The Yucatan Peninsula is a mixed and very full bag of family vacation options and almost as many stay alternatives, from the “ritziest” of seaside resorts to an intimate estate that bears the mark of the region’s Mayan legacy.

cancun You’d never think The Ritz-Carlton, Cancun could be so darn cozy and family-friendly, what with its central location right on the city’s main strip. But it has one of the most fun children’s programs around, not to mention the many, many delicious luxuries and amenities that easily make this resort one of the most lavish in Cancun.

For starters, there’s Ritz Kids Mayan Adventures, which teaches the younger set a bit about the Mayan culture through beach games, nature programs and other activities (a full day at the supervised Ritz Kids camp is $65 per child). Also available is the POLO(Protect Our Little Ones) program: families traveling with children 5 and under have their own check-in desk, and a trained bellman assists parents in kid-proofing the guestroom with outlet plug covers, tub spout covers, a night light, a stuffed animal, and a first-aid kit with Band-Aids, thermometer and more. Families with babies may request an Itzy Bitzy Baby Room, which comes with the comforts of a home nursery: changing table, crib, miniature hanger, even a phone programmed to light up rather than ring.

The Ritz-Carlton, Cancun has a Love & Family package good through Dec. 21 that combines a family holiday with a romantic getaway—an ideal mix, as far as busy parents are concerned. Starting at $489 per night with a 3-night minimum, it includes an oceanfront stay, daily breakfast for two, a Kids Meal Plan for two kids (which includes all food and beverages from children’s menus at any of the resort’s restaurants), beach toys, and a Kids Night Out (where the little ones go off to have some supervised evening fun) while Mom and Dad enjoy a 5-course dinner with wines for two at one of two in-house restaurants. Note that clients using the services of the kids’ camp need to make reservations the night before—7 p.m. at the latest.

Outside of this package, there’s a Ritz Kids Meal Plan available at $49 per child 12 and under through Dec. 20 that includes meals from any children’s menus (including in-room dining), as well as poolside snacks and ice cream from the cart found by any of the two swimming pools.

merida, or thereabouts The other side of the Yucatan coin is not beachfront, but the countryside; not a hotel, but an estate with the feel of a second home. At Hacienda Petac, exuberant vegetation gives way to an exquisite compound comprised of three small buildings that feature five guestrooms—each individually and beautifully decorated—and a “main house” for dining, meeting for a drink, or just picking a book from the library. The property, a 300-plus-year-old hacienda that used to manufacture henequen, is decorated in bright colors and antique furnishings that highlight its Mayan roots and is filled with quiet corners and fun diversions much like a vacation home should be, be it an afternoon learning how to make guacamole with the kitchen staff, a friendly match of billiards in the game room or birdwatching on its private grounds—not to mention unlimited siestas on locally made hammocks by the pool.

Hacienda Petac is all about great service the way clients want it, with a new spa that lets them design their own “menu” of treatments, flashlights and bikes available for “soft” adventures and no TVs anywhere. The private estate, which fits up to 10 guests, has a special promotion through 2010 that lets clients choose up to three of its optional tours as part of a 7-day stay. Among the Best of the Mundo Maya tour options: swimming in the clear waters of underground cenotes; a walking expedition of the beautiful city of Merida; a visit to Celestun, where approximately 90 percent of the world’s flamingos spend their winters; a guided tour of the archaeological ruins of Uxmal or Chichen Itza; or a beach picnic catered and assisted by the hacienda’s staff.