Beaches are nice, but if your clan is looking for an out-of-the-ordinary vacation, you won't want to miss these top spots in the Riviera Maya.
Searching for something a little unexpected to fill a family vacation? If you're looking for adventures that you can have with kids of any age, look no further than the sunny shores of Mexico’s Riviera Maya. The Yucatan Peninsula area south of Cancun is filled with plenty of opportunities for snorkeling, sailing, and swimming, but there are whole host of unusual activities you can try with your kids too.
Dive into a Cenote
Cool, spring-fed limestone cenotes (caverns) dot the lush jungles of the Riviera Maya, creating natural swimming holes where locals and families can escape the heat with a dip into the fresh water. Locals can guide you to cenotes throughout the area, where there’s usually just a few-peso fee. If you want to spend a day, and want a bit more supervision for kids, try XelHa, a kind of natural water park, where you can swim in cenotes, float in a real lazy river, and swing from ropes into swimming holes.
Eat a bug
No, they don’t taste like chicken. But the bugs on the menu in Riviera Maya—crickets, ant larvae, worms—are deep fried to crisp perfection or sautéed with garlic and oil until they taste, well, not like a bug. I’m not going to say a bug taco is an easy sell to a picky 5 year old, but that’s half the fun. And they’ll remember it WAY longer than any chicken finger kids meal. Try La Perla Pixan in Playa del Carmen, where chapulines (deep-fried grasshoppers) are a specialty and there are Mexican chocolate and banana batidas (shakes) to bribe the kids, plus pulcha and Mezcal tasting for the adults (yes, you can try a worm in that, too).
Swim along Mayan Ruins
The nearly 500-years-old Mayan ruins of Tulum are an iconic site on the Caribbean coast. The grand, white “God of Winds” temple rising over the sea and the remains of the community that lived, worked, and played here centuries ago is always a draw for kids. However, it’s what's in front of these ruins that make it one of the most unique family activity sites in Mexico: The sparkling sea, soft white beach, and scenic rocky outcroppings stretch right beneath the temple. To reach the beach, you’ll need to navigate a steep flight of tiny steps, winding your way down to the sand. Then throw off your sandals and throw the kids into the waves for some memorable modern swimming with ancient views.
Explore underground mysteries
Follow an underground river deep down into the hidden caves of Rio Secreto, where kids will be met with magical-looking stalactites, stalagmites, and iridescent limestone curtains. Be prepared to get wet, since you’ll need to walk through knee-high water, and sometimes swim a bit, to traverse the caves. (You can piggy-back your kids.) You’ll be fully suited with helmets, life vests, and headlamps (another kid favorite), and a guide is with you at all times—but this is best for kindergarten age and up (and maybe, if they’re scared of the dark, keep this for another trip).
Get bit by a fish
The pedestrian thoroughfare, Avenida 5 (Fifth Avenue), of Playa del Carmen feels like a carnival, with street performers entertaining for pesos, ice cream stands selling local flavors like avocado and mango, and brightly painted wares spread out along the sidewalks. (Bring a packable duffel or backpack so you can load up on embroidered shirts, hand-painted art, and some loud maracas for the kids.) Oh, and also, on every street corner, you'll find large glowing glass tanks full of tiny gurra rufa, fish that nibble the dead skin off your feet. Kids can’t get enough of watching the little biters working to give fish kisses to scaly feet. You can all take a turn letting the petite pets work their magic—expect lots of giggles and a couple of squeals of “Ewww!”
Do you have any favorite family-friendly adventures in Riviera Maya? Share them in the comments sections, below!
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