Best for Active Families
Spanning an 81-mile stretch of Caribbean coast, this destination on the Yucatan Peninsula is home to Mayan ruins and pristine snorkeling coves.
Family Fun: At the airport, rent a car to explore the area's many attractions. While some of the hotels offer shuttles, you'll save time and money driving yourself. Plus, the top-rate four-lane highway is tourist-friendly and runs the length of the beautiful coast.
Start your Mexican adventure off here by checking out the clifftop Tulum, an amazing Mayan ruin that is perfect for a day trip: You can use it as the backdrop for a great family photo, and there's even a beach for swimming. Just make sure to beat the crowds -- and heat -- by getting there in the morning.
The area is also known for its eco-parks (nature theme parks with recreational rides). Xel-Ha (xel-ha.com), for example, is developed around a cove that's home to many brightly colored reef fish, and it's great for snorkeling. And the bigger, Mayan-themed Xcaret (www.xcaret.com) has an unbelievable underground river that carries swimmers through caverns en route to the sea. It also has a replica of a Mayan village, a butterfly pavilion, and a dolphin swim program. If that's not enough to keep the kids entertained, visit the pedestrian-only Avenida Quinta (Fifth Avenue) in nearby Playa del Carmen, which is jam-packed with souvenirs, shops, and restaurants.
Hotel Highlights: Gran Porto Real (800-760-0944, realresorts.com.mx) caters to families, with kids' activities daily, all-suite accommodations, and a convenient location. The well-equipped kids' club at Sunscape Puerto Aventuras (866-786-7227, sunscaperesorts.com) features a rock-climbing wall, big-screen movies on the beach, and weekly overnight camp-outs. And the Fairmont Mayakoba (800-441-1414, fairmont.com), which reserves one of its five pools exclusively for kids, features nature trails and takes guests around the property by boat.