For a great single parents getaway, head to Mexico's Yucatan peninsula, where eco-activities and culture keep kids engaged. For a great single parents getaway, head to Mexico's Yucatan peninsula, where eco-activities and culture keep kids engaged.
The Riviera Maya, located 40 minutes south of Cancun, Mexico, is a 50 mile stretch of beautiful coastline anchored by the rapidly growing and delightful town of Playa del Carmen.
It is an ideal place for a single parent family vacation, no matter what the ages of your children. Hotel and meal prices are very reasonable. In addition to beautiful beaches there is a fabulous selection of activities, ranging from visits to ancient Mayan ruins to snorkeling in sacred rivers.
Playa Del Carmen
I recommend staying in or near the town of Playa del Carmen. It's the center of action and has a great pedestrian street filled with restaurants and shops. The crowd is an eclectic mixture of singles, families, Mexicans, Europeans and Americans.
Note: Mommies and daughters – Get your hair braided the first night, then all of you can go native with a henna tattoo.
If you plan to have an active vacation, one in which you will be doing two or more excursions, I highly recommend you rent a car. The roads are in good condition with well-marked signage. Parking is free in the town of Playa although you may have to park a few blocks from your hotel if the hotel does not offer a private parking area. Now that you have your car, here are some of my favorite attractions along the Riviera Maya.
This is an eco-archaeological park and a "must-see" attraction. The park is located just south of the town of Playa. If you are not renting a car, you can sign up for a day's excursion which includes round trip bus transportation. Plan on spending the entire day and evening here and try to get there when it opens if you hope to fit in all the attractions, along with some "lazy time." Admission fee includes all activities except the dolphin swim.
The Underground River is a fabulous 30-minute snorkel down a gentle sacred Mayan River. The first few minutes are quite dark and might be scary for little children. If they have never snorkeled before, I recommend you acquaint them with snorkeling beforehand. (Snorkel equipment available for rent).
Xcaret also has natural history educational exhibits, including bats, butterflies, sea turtles, and manatees that kids love. There is a great beach and small bay areas, snorkel areas, restaurants, hammocks, scenic walkways. The dolphin swim costs extra, and there are more than enough other activities to exhaust the family, but if you've never tried this amazing experience, this is a wonderful place to try it. There is an excellent evening show which includes a demonstration of pelota, the ancient Mayan ball game, precursor to today's soccer, and a full outdoor stage show complete with folklore dances.
Note: Do not apply any sunscreen before coming to X-Caret. You can exchange your sunscreen when you arrive or buy the park's non-water polluting version.
Xel-Ha National Park and Tulum
This is another "must-do." The park centers on a wide, crystal clear sacred Mayan River with multiple easy entry areas, perfect for small children. This park offers some of the best snorkeling I have ever experienced. There are many other activities plus numerous hammock grottos. Restaurants abound along with snorkel and dive gear rental booths. Once again, use only the non-polluting sunscreens.
Many people choose to combine a visit to Xel-Ha with a visit to the nearby Mayan ruins of Tulum. Tulum is about 45 minutes south of the town of Playa. Do Tulum first and try to get there before 10 am when all the cruise excursion passengers arrive.
This is one of the major Mayan cities and is located about a two-and-a-half hour drive west of Playa del Carmen. Be prepared for a hotter, drier climate. Upon arrival sign up for one of the ranger guided two-hour tours of the city. This is a long day and might be taxing for a small child but it is a fabulous educational experience and it is fun to climb to the top of the temples.
Cenotes (pronounced Say No Teys)
These are underground caverns that abound throughout the Riviera Maya. For a dollar or two admission, you can swim surrounded by stalactites and stalagmites.
You can hop the ferry from Playa del Carmen's dock. Great jewelry shopping. I preferred the snorkeling at Xel-Ha.
Regarding hotels, families can stay inexpensively at one of the simple tourist hotels one block from the beach or at one of the more deluxe beachfront properties. Occasionally resorts run special deals for single parents.
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