A Yucatan Family Adventure: Plan it on the internet

2602-28The exotic Mexican state of Quintana Roo is a land of mystique and adventure. Located on the breathtaking eastern shores of the Yucatan Peninsula, it is only a two-hour plane ride from Houston. A perfect destination for a family vacation, Quintana Roo has it all: unparalleled resorts by a turquoise sea, an ancient history, a colorful culture, and an array of amazing activities for all ages. Jet ski rides through the jungle, riding with the dolphins, exploring the ancient ruins, snorkeling in splendid coral reefs, or spending a day at a world-class spa are only some of the temptations available in this seaside paradise.

The most challenging thing about traveling with a family to such a diverse and foreign destination as Quintana Roo, is narrowing down in advance the things you want to do. If you book ahead, it will make the trip pure pleasure and less stressful. For tremendous savings and access to information, you should book your trip on the internet.

Orbitz.com, the international online travel site, has one of the largest selections on the internet for activities at this Mexican destination. When flight and hotel discounted packages are booked online, a list of excellent adventure tours appears on screen. Each listing has photos with a detailed description of the activity and the price per person for children and adults. When you are ready to book, click on your choices and your selections, then review your summary, which includes a total price for the trip. Now all you have to do is print your agenda and pack your bags.

Orbitz.com negotiates with hotels and airlines to offer package deals on travel. At this time of year there are big savings at many of the finest resorts in Cancun, Quintana Roo’s flagship international beach resort city. Cancun is an island approximately 16 miles long, best known for its mesmerizing white sandy beaches and glorious clear waters. Glittering hotels, each seemingly more beautiful than the next, line the shores along the peninsula known as the Hotel Zone. The selection of accommodations are world class with most having spectacular restaurants, beautifully appointed rooms, lush landscaped grounds, and several pools overlooking the Caribbean’s shimmering waters. This is a good place to have a family adventure in the Yucatan.

If you book your rooms online, for example, you can land a deal at the luxurious Le Méridien Cancun Resort and Spa. The Méridien is located on the eastern side of the Hotel Zone. All of its large, beautifully appointed rooms offer dreamy views of the ocean or the lagoon. European gardens surround the numerous pools overlooking the ocean. Le Méridien’s 15,000-square-foot spa is one of the finest in Cancun and is worth a trip unto itself. Book online and get a 25% discount for spa services.

Other memorable hotels in Cancun are the Ritz-Carlton Cancun, a palatial seven-acre resort, and the Presidente Intercontinental Cancun Resort, just recently restored. For larger families, the charming Ambiance Villas and Suites offers great values on two and three bedroom villas. When booked with air travel, hotel prices online are discounted by 10 to 30% off the regular rates.

Orbitz.com makes it easy to plan your trip after you have selected your resort. Functional considerations like airport/hotel shuttle bus round-trip tickets ($20), international cell phones (making calls in Cancun is a challenge) ($119), and calling cards ($10) are all offered online. If you select the cell phone, it is air freighted to you in advance of your trip.

Now you are ready to choose from the myriad of day trips that are available in the surrounding areas. A must do is the boat trip to Isla Mujeres ($56/$29) where a fantasyland island exploration awaits. You can book a moped online and have it waiting for you when you get off the boat. Exotic natural pools for snorkeling are a lure here. If you do not have time for a full day in Isla Mujeres, then take the romantic Caribbean Carnival Night Cruise to the island at sunset ($68/$34).

A thrilling experience is the Selvatica Tree Top adventure ($65/$47) where you can “fly” through the jungle on a two-mile track of zip lines. Swim with the Dolphins ($125) is a soulful experience where you actually get to hug these amazing creatures in the water as you ride their backs. Riding a jet ski through dense mangrove and the aqua water is hard to top in the Jungle Tour ($55).

A visit to this region is not complete without a tour to one of the spellbinding archaeological ruins and ceremonial grounds. The visit to Tulum, an ancient Mayan port located about one and a half hours south of Cancun, unveils an architectural marvel built on a cliff overlooking the sea ($112/$67.50). Even more astonishing is Chichen Itza, located about two hours from Cancun, where the Mayans had their most important regional capital from 750-1200 BC. Here, attempt to climb the Pyramid of Kukulkan without falling off its 365 steep steps, and listen to the incredible stories about the La Plaza de Mil Columnas (the Plaza of a Thousand Columns) and its brutal ball court games. Peer into the El Cenote Sagrado (the Sacred Sinkhole) where virgins were once thrown into the pit alive as sacrifices for the Mayan gods ($60/$36).

If you have time, take a day for a visit to dreamy Cozumel for snorkeling or scuba diving in some of the most majestic coral reefs in the world. Plunge beneath the sea (experienced or not) and swim with sea turtles and thousands of iridescent fish—some nibbling at your nose ($99/$59.50).

Also offered online are many Cancun nighttime festivities such as the Captain Hook Dinner Cruise, with a superb lobster dinner and a ship full of dancing pirates ($75/$37.50), and a flamboyant night at Coco Bongo Vegas Showtime, where flying acrobats and bar-top conga lines provide stellar entertainment ($45).

Many of the outstanding restaurants in Cancun can be reserved in advance at Iseatz.com, an online restaurant and activity reservation site. Try Mango Tango for tropical dining, and for authentic local cuisine try Rosa Mexicano, featuring live Mexican music daily.

Plan a trip to Quintana Roo for a weekend trip or a month-long holiday. This wonderland on a not too distant shore is only a click away.

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