Traveling to the Mexican Caribbean this year for a Cancun family vacation at Royal Resorts? Try something new during your 2017 trip. The Mexican Caribbean and the Yucatan offer a wealth of amazing places to visit and the opportunity to create unforgettable travel experiences. Where would you like to go and what would you like to do? Thomas More Travel is your guide to the area and here are 10 great trip ideas to whet your appetite for wanderlust.
Explore the Mesoamerican Reef
When you travel to the Mexican Caribbean for your Cancun family vacation you literally have the Mesoamerican Reef, the world’s second longest coral reef system, right on your doorstep! Take the plunge and explore a wonderland of reefs that begins near Contoy Island, runs through the Cancun-Isla Mujeres area, and south along the Riviera Maya and the Costa Maya into the neighboring country of Belize.
Stretching for nearly 700 miles, this immense reef system is home to more than 500 species of fish, large and small, 350 species of mollusks such as octopus, conch and colorful nudibranchs, tiny sea horses, turtles and many other wonderful marine creatures.
The Mexican Caribbean also welcomes ocean wanderers that move through the area to feed or breed during the year. They include eagle rays, golden cownose rays and manta rays, sailfish, marlin and the famous whale shark. The world’s largest fish, the whale shark congregates in the waters around the northern tip of the Yucatan Peninsula and east of Contoy and Isla Mujeres during the summer months to feed on plankton.
Plan a family snorkeling trip in Puerto Morelos Marine Park, Yalku or Isla Mujeres or don your mask, flippers and tanks for unforgettable reef dives in the Cancun-Isla Mujeres area, Cozumel and Akumal. For an amazing experience further afield, visit Banco Chinchorro, a coral atoll off the coast from Majahual and Xcalak.
With clusters of submerged sculptures in several locations in the Cancun-Isla Mujeres National Marine Park, Cancun’s iconic Underwater Museum of Art (MUSA) is the largest of its kind in the world and well worth a visit. Snorkeling and dive trips are available.
Spend the Day in Playa del Carmen
When was the last time you strolled down la Quinta Avenida, Playa del Carmen’s vibrant 5th Avenue? If it has been a while, on your next Cancun family vacation why not plan to spend the day in the Riviera Maya’s lively waterfront capital? You’ll find even more boutiques, craft shops, art galleries and international designer stores to browse through and plenty of new restaurants, bars, outdoor cafes and gelaterias to tempt your taste buds.
There’s more, after a spot of shopping or beach time why not take the family to Playa’s trio of attractions? First up is the Playacar Aviary where you can see toucans, parrots, macaws and other colorful native birds from southeast Mexico in a jungle setting.
Then head for the 3D Museum of Wonders on 10th Avenue. The exhibits at this very different museum are 3D drawings and famous paintings on the floors, walls and ceiling that create optical illusions. Come face to face with a lion or a dragon, drag a zebra out of the jungle, surf the waves, fly like the birds and even pose in a shell like Botticelli’s Venus.
Finally, visit Playa’s newest attraction, L’Aquarium, a state of the art aquarium with 45 spectacular tank installations on three floors of the Plaza Corazon Mall on 5th Ave and Calle 14 (the entrance is on Calle 14). Exhibits showcase the coral reef and other marine ecosystems and more than 200 species of multicolored fish and marine creatures.
Yet another museum is set to make its debut in Playa del Carmen later this year, the Frida Kahlo Museum. Timed to celebrate the 110th anniversary of the birth of this iconic Mexican artist, the museum will be the second of its kind in the world and will feature paintings and sketches by Frida and local artists inspired by her work.
A Vision in Pink
If you have never been to Rio Lagartos, the fishing village on the north coast of the Yucatan that is the gateway to the Ria Lagartos Biosphere Reserve, make 2017 the year that you explore this wetland wonderland. It is home to thousands of flamingos, so many that they dye the horizon salmon pink.
Local fishermen trained as eco guides take visitors on boat trips through the ria or estuary and mangroves to the salt flats and lagoons where the flamingos feed on the minute brine shrimp that give them their bright pink plumage.
In addition to flamingos, Ria Lagartos is a refuge for 364 other species of bird and the feathered population is swelled in the winter months by migratory ducks, waders, songbirds, birds of prey and even hummingbirds that fly south to escape the colder climes of the US and Canada. During your boat trip you can expect to see herons and egrets, ibis, roseate spoonbills, kingfishers, skimmers, white and brown pelicans and hawks. You’ll spot birds any time of the day but for the greatest number of sightings plan your visit for sunrise.
Ria Lagartos Reserve owes its name to the lagartos or crocodiles often spotted in the mangroves. Other resident wildlife includes spider monkeys, jaguars, deer, coatimundi and raccoons. The shoreline is also an important nesting area for sea turtles, particularly the hawksbill or carey, the smallest of the four sea turtles found in waters around the Yucatan Peninsula.
A trip to Rio Lagartos can be combined with a visit to the colonial town of Valladolid or the archaeological site of Ek Balam, 20 minutes to the north of Valladolid.
Nights of Mexican Caribbean Magic
For a magical Mexican Caribbean evening how about dining under the stars on board a catamaran or a Spanish galleon? Other options are a Mexican gala of music, dance and tasty cuisine, a Mayan jungle experience or a Cirque du Soleil show.
There’s something about taking to the waves to watch the sunset, enjoying a lobster dinner and cocktails and watching the moon rise in a star-studded sky. Evening cruises depart from Cancun and sail through the lagoon and the bay. Luxury yachts and catamarans also ply the Riviera Maya coast.
Xoximilco Park is the place to go for a lively Mexican fiesta of music and cuisine. Board a trajinera or colorful gondola for a cruise along canals in the jungle where musicians serenade you at every turn. Dinner is a tasty selection of some of Mexico’s most popular dishes and beer and tequila flow freely.
Cirque du Soleil’s Riviera Maya show La Joya takes its inspiration from the annual migration of the monarch butterfly, Mexican nature and history and the passing of the love of life from one generation to another. Music, art and the grace of the Cirque du Soleil performers make it an experience for the senses. Four packages are available: VIP dinner and show, dinner, champagne and show, show, champagne and hors d’oeuvres and show only.
Merida, Cultural Capital of the Americas 2017
Celebrating its 475th anniversary and being named Cultural Capital of the Americas 2017, the first city to have achieved this distinction twice, Merida should be on your must-see list this year. Lonely Planet, New York Times and the Huffington Post have all recently featured the capital of the Yucatan for its colonial treasures, rich traditions, cuisine, music and the hospitality of its inhabitants.
Spend the day exploring the city’s historic heart, visiting the 16th-century Cathedral and Casa de Montejo, home of Merida’s founding family, on the main square. Then stroll along Calle 60 past more colonial churches and leafy squares to Paseo Montejo, a wide boulevard lined by opulent mansions built at the height of the henequen boom in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Visit Merida’s many museums and art galleries, starting with the Gran Museo de la Cultura Maya and the Regional Museum for an introduction to Mayan culture. At the City Museum, you’ll learn that Merida’s origins go way back before 1542. The Spanish conquistadores built their city amidst the ruins of a much earlier Mayan capital called T’ho.
Shop for Yucatecan and Mexican folk art in craft centers, bustling markets and eclectic boutiques and galleries. After dark, sample the delights of the Merida dining cuisine and enjoy a different cultural event every evening. The program ranges from traditional dance performances and guitar trio concerts to a Mexican evening and Merida en Domingo, an all-day gala on Sunday.
Have a Family Park Outing
Treat the children to a day out at one of the Riviera Maya’s famous parks on your next Cancun family vacation. There’s plenty to choose from, whether you enjoy water sports, zip lining and jungle adventures or Mexican culture.
Spend the day snorkeling at Xel-Ha or “flying” through the forest canopy at Xplor or Selvatica. Visit four cenotes in one day at Xenotes Oasis Maya, explore a pristine cave system at Rio Secreto or combine Mayan history, cenotes and jungle adventures on the Coba Encuentro Maya, Jungla Maya or Cenote Maya tours.
With an array of natural and cultural attractions including a huge aviary, aquarium, a Mexican Folk Art Museum, underground rivers to explore and a caleta or inlet for snorkelling there’s something for everyone in the family at Xcaret. Be sure to stay on for the spectacular evening show. From the days of the ancient Maya and Aztecs to the coming of the Spaniards and all that ensued, it tells the story of Mexico through music and dance. It’s so colorful, vibrant and moving that it will have you shouting “Viva Mexico” with the best of them.
Xenses, the Riviera Maya’s latest park, is a strange world of optical illusion and fantasy where nothing is as it seems and the fun is endless.
Famous Mayan metropolis Chichen Itza made international headlines in 2016 with the discovery of an even older pyramid hidden inside the famous Pyramid of Kukulcan. If you have visited Chichen Itza or the cliff top citadel of Tulum before, why not make 2017 the year you venture further in the Maya World?
Head inland from Tulum on the Mexican Caribbean coast to the ancient jungle city of Coba, one of the largest archaeological sites in the Maya World but also one of the least studied; 90 percent of its temples and palaces have yet to be excavated. For spectacular views of the surrounding forest and four nearby lakes, climb Nohoch Mul, the tallest pyramid in the northern Yucatan.
South of Tulum, the smaller site of Muyil is on the shores of a lagoon in the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve. Exploring both sites on your Cancun family vacation is a chance to have your own jungle experience with plenty of wildlife sightings.
In the neighboring state of Yucatan, discover Ek Balam near Valladolid or pay a return visit to Chichen Itza, one of the World’s New Seven Wonders and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Or is this the year that you travel further afield to the beautiful ancient city of Uxmal? Also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Uxmal is famous for the artistry of its stone carvings and is the largest of a chain of archaeological sites known as the Puuc Route, all an hour’s drive south of Merida.
Off the Beaten Track
Go off the beaten track during your next trip to the Mexican Caribbean and explore the Mayan communities of central Quintana Roo and the immense Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, an area collectively known as Maya Ka’an. A collection of community tours gives you the chance to visit rural villages, meet the Maya and learn about their culture, farming, herbal medicine, cuisine and beliefs. If you enjoy nature, other trips take you deep into Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve for bird watching, kayaking, snorkeling and a look at chicle harvesting. The sap of the chicozapote tree is the natural raw ingredient for chewing gum.
Explore at your Own Pace with a Private Tour
On your next Cancun family vacation, sit back and relax, let someone else take care of the driving as you explore the area at your own pace on a private tour available through Thomas More Travel. You have a van, driver and even a bilingual guide at your disposal and you can plan your own day, spending as long in each place as you wish. Visit one of your favorite Mexican Caribbean beaches for lunch or go somewhere new. Tour desk staff will be happy to help you put together a sightseeing itinerary.
See more of Mexico
If you are staying in Cancun or Riviera Maya for several weeks and you would like to go somewhere different this year, why not see more of Mexico? Thomas More Travel offers getaways to some of the country’s most famous destinations and an expanding internal flight network makes regional travel easier than ever. Guided tour packages are available to cosmopolitan Mexico City, the colonial cities of San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato and Puebla, Copper Canyon in the northern state of Chihuahua and the beautiful state of Chiapas, a blend of breathtaking natural scenery, Mayan and colonial history and traditions.
Book your 2017 Vacation Adventures with Thomas More Travel
Visit www.thomasmoretravel.com to book your 2017 vacation adventures or visit the travel desk in your resort during your stay for more tour ideas.
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