You might notice that in the title of this post it says, Mayan Riviera, and the headline is Riviera Maya. In the U.S., we refer to this area of Mexico as the Mayan Riviera. But in Mexico, it is referred to as the Riviera Maya, said in an exotic Spanish way that makes you want to roll around in fine, white sand while wearing coconut lime verbena tanning oil.
In my last post, I told you how excited Wyatt and I were about heading to the Mayan Riviera. After an amazing trip, I can unequivocally say that it is a fantastic place for families of teens and tweens. I owe a great thanks to the Riviera Maya Destination Marketing Organization for sponsoring this trip, which gave me so much valuable information to share with you!
Wyatt and I traveled with a group of other parents and their kids, which made it that much more fun, but it was especially interesting because the kids ages varied so widely. One mother brought her 19 year old son, another her 16 year old son. Of course, there was Wyatt and I, and yet another mom and her 12 year old daughter. This 12 year old girl was spunky and held her own amidst a group of sassy boys! One mom and her adorable, French speaking 7 year old son rounded out the group. We all wondered how the 7 year old would do with some of the activities, but there he was ziplining, crawling through underground caves, and snorkling with the best of them. So much fun to watch:)
Kids Won’t Say They’re Bored and Tick you Off
When I save my pennies and forgo my beloved $48 Clinique face cream to take my kids on vacation, nothing makes my blood pressure go up like when they say they’re bored. That’s one reason I loved the Mayan Riviera. There’s no possible way to be bored. There are hotels and resorts at all price points, and family friendly parks galore. The beach is accessible in only minutes no matter where you stay, and it is spectacular. The fine, white sand and blue green water is exactly as it appears in magazines. It is mesmerizing, and it is toasty warm, which everyone knows makes me as happy as a clam. I simply cannot say enough about this area.
Where the Heck IS the Mayan Riviera?
Mexico is made up of 31 states plus one capital city. The Mayan Riviera is an area in the state of Quintana Roo, which is at the very end, or tip of Mexico. If you’ve ever been to Cancun, Riviera Mayan begins just south of Cancun and runs down the Caribbean coast. Take a look at the map above, it’s easy to see.
During our trip, we visited the town of Playa del Carmen for shopping, the park of Xcaret for lively, entertaining theater, and Xel-ha for snorkeling, cliff jumping, and a long lazy river that wasn’t made of concrete like they are in Minnesota! We also toured the ruins of Tulum , and my personal favorite, Xplor Adventure Park, rounded out the trip. Xplor is a park so new it doesn’t even appear on this map. It’s just a year old, and if I were Roger Ebert, I would give it a very enthusiastic thumbs up! Zip lines, all terrain vehicles, and a water experience through caves of stalactites is not something you’re going to find in Minnesota any time soon. It was incredible, although I will admit to reciting my Catholic prayers as they fastened my son onto the zip line and let him go.
The People that You Meet
I met all manner of people while I was in Mexico. Vivacious shopkeepers, theme park employees, people at the airport, and tourism professionals proved to be hospitable, friendly, and genuine. I felt welcomed at every turn. A more casual attitude toward time, which includes no clocks in hotel rooms, probably contributes to that less harried, more welcoming attitude. Personally, it’s the one thing I struggled with. I need to know what time it is, and waiting around makes me crabby. That wasn’t going to change in a week, so I tried to just go with the flow and everything worked out beautifully.
I simply adored this area of Mexico, and can’t recommend it enough as a destination for families with kids in their teens and tweens. It’s easy to be as lazy or as busy as you please. I never know what mood my family will be in so it’s nice to have options available.
Oh, and I didn’t mention the critters, but you see these guys everywhere. They’re friendly and hang out at the parks, just going about their business. Personally, I think they’re cute…in a scaly kind of way.
Things You Need to Know
- Every person entering Mexico now needs a passport. If you are flying, you need the old fashioned passport book. If driving, a passport card will do.
- If you plan on visiting any caves, you will want to have bug spray. There were pockets of mosquitoes in some areas of the caves.
- If you haven’t been to Mexico before, the sun is HOT! Take sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses. Also, drink lots and lots of water. Beer and lemon also works:)
- Flights can be expensive, so start looking as far in advance as possible. There are great deals to be found, but you have to spend some time to hunt them up.
- Keep a paper copy or a digital copy of the first couple of pages of your passport in case it is lost or stolen. I’ve learned this lesson the hard way.
- Put this destination on your list immediately. It’s worth it.
The rest of this series includes information on:
- The cosmopolitan, Playa Del Carmen, and it’s hotels, shopping, and good eats.
- The parks of Riviera Maya including Xplor Adventure Park and Xel-Ha, the largest natural aquarium in the world.
- A poll of the kids. They share their opinions on what you should definitely take advantage of, and what they think you can just skip!
- An underground world of caves and rivers discovered only recently, called Rio Secreto.
- Xcaret Mexico Spectacular, a lively and emotional performance depicting Mexico’s history from the beginning.
*Images by Jason Rich, who was on the trip with me. I lost my camera when my purse was stolen in New York, (story to come:) so he’s been kind enough to let me use his images. To see his amazing photography, visit him at Jason Rich Photography.