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Riviera Maya Archives - Air Canada Vacations

26 Nov

By

7 Resorts for an Unforgettable New Year’s

November 26, 2015 | By |

Tired of the same-old, blasé New Year’s plans? We know the feeling – that’s why we’ve compiled a list of the best places to ring in 2016. Exciting, luxurious, and boasting sand over snow, here are our top picks to kick-start your year.

1. Grand Bahia Principe Coba

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The Grand Bahia Principe Coba in Riviera Maya offers great value for the whole family. There’s a waterpark and shows for kids, a golf course and casino for adults, and a beautiful beach for all only a short distance away (and yes, transportation to the beach is included!). It’s also part of our PLAY collection, which means everyone gets an exclusive flight experience and kids stay and eat for free. If that’s not impressive, then try this: stay in exclusive rooms with prime locations, thanks to our Privileges program.

2. Luxury Bahia Principe Sian Ka’an

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Say hello to 2016 in style at the adults-only Luxury Bahia Principe Sian Ka’an in Riviera Maya, Mexico. This resort exudes elegance with its minimalist, modern décor and supremely outfitted rooms. And what’s a romantic getaway without 24-hour room service, waiter service at the beach, or “After Golf” treatments at the on-site spa? We especially love the spa’s Vitamin Bar, where you can enjoy exotic natural fruit juices.

3. Grand Bahia Principe Jamaica

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The Grand Bahia Principe Jamaica is another excellent option for a family vacation. Situated right on the beach in Runaway Bay, there are 3 interconnected lake-style pools with 2 areas specially reserved for children. We’re also quite taken with the green spaces, tropical gardens and abundance of wildlife (keep your eyes peeled to spot long-tailed hummingbirds and green turtles). Bonus: Air Canada Vacations guests enjoy all the PLAY perks and access to an exclusive room section near the ocean.

4. Luxury Bahia Principe Runaway Bay

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The Luxury Bahia Principe Runaway Bay is an adults-only paradise and a definite contender for New Year’s. Since early this year, the resort has undergone extensive upgrades and by December 2015, there will be many new additions to experience firsthand. These include a new swimming pool, a swim-up bar, a lounge and “chill out” areas.

5. Meliá Jardines del Rey

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Treat your family to ultimate comfort at Meliá Jardines del Rey in Cayo Coco, Cuba. This 5-star beachfront resort has nightly entertainment, 3 swimming pools (don’t miss their pool parties with bubbles!) and designated activities and facilities for kids, including a playground and paddling pool.

6. Playa Costa Verde

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Another family favourite is Playa Costa Verde in Holguin, Cuba – and not just because it’s part of our PLAY program. Located directly on the beach, we particularly love the availability of snacks 24/7 (you never know when you’re going to get the munchies, right?), salsa dance classes, and introductory scuba lessons in the pool. Be sure to take advantage of the morning room service, which means continental breakfast delivered to your door!

7. Sol Pelicano

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The Sol Pelicano in Cayo Largo, Cuba, is a nature lover’s dream. Bring the whole family and check out their renowned turtle observation program, which includes egg-laying and the release of baby turtles. Combined with ecological excursions, this resort has everything to make your next family vacation an adventure!

With the holidays around the corner, there’s no better time than now to start making plans for New Year’s. Get started today!

28 Oct

By

Rick knows best

October 28, 2015 | By |

Rick McCauley is the Senior Director of Sales & Marketing for Barceló Hotels & Resorts. He travels a lot. And one of his most-loved escapes is the Riviera Maya. He takes us on a tour of his favourite places, and some of his top family-friendly features at the newly renovated Barceló Maya Beach Resort.

What’s the most exciting change at the resort?

My favourites would have to be the new Pirate Island Waterpark, and the bowling alley. The Maya Mall has new shops and we’ve added two great new restaurants. We’ve invested $50 million, so there’s a lot to see.

The U-Spa for kids is a new concept? How does that work?

It’s another experience for you and your kids to share. For kids, we’ve created a special ice cream pedicure, and our signature Imma Diva Facials. It’s just a lot of fun.

What can kids look forward to at the new kids clubs?

We have lots of supervised kids activities, like arts and crafts, walks on the beach, sand castle building and sports. There’s also lots of time for kids to just relax and be themselves, have fun and make new friends.

How did you make your Club Premium more family-friendly?

We’ve made our Club Premium rooms bigger and they’re all very close to the pool and beach so it’s really easy for families to go back and forth.

What’s your favourite meal?

That’s hard to pick. We have an amazing Mexican restaurant called Mexico Lindo and for Japanese we have the wonderful new Tokyo restaurant. They're both so good.

One thing we all have to try?

Definitely the FlowRider surf simulator. It’s great and it’s pretty easy to get the hang of it. 

One thing we should all bring home with us?

A lot of fantastic memories.

 

28 Oct

By

Our 6 favourite things in Riviera Maya

October 28, 2015 | By |

We love the Riviera Maya, and the all-inclusive Barceló Maya Beach Resort is right in the heart of it. It’s on an incredibly beautiful stretch of beach and has something for every member of your family. Off the resort, fill your days with the heritage of the Maya and Mexico’s unmatched natural beauty.

Stay at 1 and play at 4

Stay at the Barceló Maya Beach Resort and enjoy complete access to all the restaurants, bars, swimming pools and beach facilities of the Barceló Maya Beach, Barceló Maya Caribe, Barceló Maya Colonial, and Barceló Maya Tropical hotels. It’s like four resorts in one!

Club Premium

Treat your family to a vacation unlike any other with this resort-within-a-resort experience. Enjoy a room close to the beach, personal check-in and checkout in the exclusive Club Premium Lounge, priority reservations at à-la-carte restaurants, spa and shop discounts, complimentary internet in select areas, and lots more vacation extras that will have everyone asking to stay another week.

Dolphinaris at Barceló

Dolphinaris at Barceló offers four unique encounters with these incredible animals. Learn about them, get to know them and even kiss them – all in an enclosure that is certified by the European Association for Aquatic Mammals.

Xcaret Park

This unique adventure celebrates the natural beauty of the Riviera Maya and the unique legacy of the Maya themselves. Discover underground rivers, animal encounters with stingrays, sharks and more, spectacular live shows and great restaurants. It’s an eco-archaeological adventure to remember.

Pirates Island Waterpark

This is fun for the whole family with a kids pool play area, and slides for the adventure-seekers in your family. Be sure to try your hand at the amazing FlowRider surf simulator. It really is a blast.

Tulum

One of the most famous Mayan sites, this once-thriving port offers a fascinating glimpse into the lives of the Maya, from commerce to faith and family. Bring your swim gear for a dip after your tour. It’ll be one of the best moments of your trip.

U-Spa and U-kids Spa

Over 1,500 m2 dedicated to pampering body and mind. Inspired by the deep spirituality of the Maya, the U-Spa offers the finest treatments including aromatherapy, reflexology and deep tissue massage. And with the U-kids Spa even your little ones can join in.

 

28 Oct

By

Barceló and the Riviera Maya

October 28, 2015 | By |

Welcome to the Riviera Maya and the newly renovated Barceló Maya Beach Resort. The Riviera Maya is one of our favourite vacation destinations. You’ll find great food, great fun and incredible historical heritage. Plus, the beaches are long and warm and perfect for building sand castles!

Our friends at Barceló Hotels & Resorts understand this. Their Barceló Maya Beach Resort is the family resort you’ve been looking for, with activities, games and dining for every age. This place is so good, you’ll never want to leave.

 

30 Sep

By

9 reasons you need to visit Cancun now

September 30, 2015 | By |

Cancun and the Riviera Maya is one of our most popular destinations. On the Caribbean side of Mexico, this area has great beaches, a unique Mayan heritage, lots of resorts to choose from and tons of activities. Here’s what we love most.

1) Xcaret Park

This eco-adventure park is a great day for everyone. Explore underground rivers. Share an encounter with a stingray. Take in a spectacular live show that celebrates Mayan heritage. And enjoy some traditional dishes at one of the great restaurants. This may just be the best day of your trip.

2) Tulum ruins

Tulum

One of the 3 most important Mayan sites in the Mayan Riviera, Tulum was once a thriving port. A guided tour here gives you a unique glimpse into the daily lives of the Maya from commerce to faith and family. Be sure to bring your swim gear because you can go for a swim after your tour. It’s a really nice stretch of beach and the view of the ruins is impressive.

3) The sea turtles of Akumal Beach

If you’ve ever wanted to swim with sea turtles, this is your chance. This secluded bay is a popular feeding ground for a population of sea turtles and they don’t mind sharing. You can make your own way here or you can book a boat trip which includes snorkelling gear, snacks and drinks. The turtles are as beautiful as you’ve always hoped.

4) JOYÁ by Cirque du Soleil

Did you know Cirque du Soleil has built a permanent show tent right in the Riviera Maya? The show is called JOYÁ and it’s inspired by Mexico's history and heritage. It’s an experience that will engage your five senses as you follow the story of a naturalist and his granddaughter and their transformative journey to uncover the secrets of life.

5) Playa Del Carmen’s 5th Avenue

Playa

Playa Del Carmen is the heart and soul of the Riviera Maya and one of its biggest draws is the famous 5th Avenue. You’ll find lots of great shops with works from local artisans, and some great places to eat. At night, this pedestrian road really comes alive as patios fill and the air hums with the buzz of happy people and live music.

6) Cochinita pibil & sopa de lima

There is lots of really great food in Mexico. But two of the most famous Mayan dishes that any visitor to the Riviera Maya must try are cochinita pibil¾pork marinated in achiote, bitter orange and spices, wrapped in banana leaves and barbecued in a pit; and sopa de lima (lime soup) made of shredded, lime-marinated turkey or chicken and topped with sizzling tortilla strips. Delicious.

7) Golf

It may not be top-of-mind when you think about Cancun and the Riviera Maya, but these days you’ll discover dozens of excellent golf courses, laid out by world-renowned designers. So whether you're a novice or pro, you’re bound to find something to challenge yourself, plus many of these courses incorporate natural features so it’s a beautiful experience all around.

8) Cenote diving

Cenote

The soft bedrock of the Yucatan peninsula erodes in the most spectacular way. Rain water seeps deep down and forms underground rivers, and in some places the surface layer has opened up giving access to this amazing network. The cenotes (these openings) were sacred places to the Maya, seen as doorways to the underworld. Dive in and go for a swim you won’t soon forget.

9) Temazcal

This is the Mayan version of the sweat lodge. It’s deeply spiritual and deeply relaxing. Your shaman will guide you through a ritual ceremony before taking you into the temazcal, which is hot and dark and filled with the scent of indigenous herbs. The experience is believed to relax and cleanse the nervous system, help to eliminate fat and toxins and stimulate the digestive and respiratory systems. If you’re curious, many resorts feature a temazcal as part of their spa programs.

 

Interested in these activities? Read more about Cancun and Riviera Maya, or see your Air Canada Vacations representation at your resort to book.

 

11 Sep

By

Quiz: What vacation type are you?

September 11, 2015 | By |

When planning a beach holiday, there’s one more box to tick off besides destination, hotel and location: vacation type. Don’t know what that is? No worries, we’re here to explain and help you find yours. Take this short quiz and you’ll be one step closer to finding the palm tree- and piña colada-filled vacation that’s right for you.

When on vacation, what does your perfect day look like?

  1. I like to get an early start and go snorkeling as a family, followed by an afternoon of golf while the kids enjoy fun activities.
  2. Quiet and soothing – I want to be pampered from head to toe. First up, a hot steam bath to relax and then a heavenly massage by the sea.
  3. It doesn’t matter what time I wake up because I’ll be ordering room service. I’ll probably head to the pool at some point and order a mojito from my lounge chair. If only I could live like this everyday…
  4. I’ll play tennis in the morning, soak up the sun in the afternoon, and enjoy a private hot tub at sunset.

How do you feel about kids?

  1. Love ‘em, of course! Vacations are all about creating lifelong family memories.
  2. Kids are great, but this trip is really about recharging my batteries.
  3. As long as they’re happy, I’m happy. Bonus if I don’t have to lift a single finger. I won’t say no to some alone time with my honey either.
  4. No, thanks! I want a holiday geared towards 18+.

It’s been 7 nights in paradise, your bags are packed and it’s almost time to leave for the airport. How do you feel?

  1. Wonderful! The week went by quickly because I was having fun with my family and I can’t wait until the next adventure together.
  2. Content, recharged and ready to take on any challenges at home.
  3. Amazing – I slept in because I had a late checkout and managed to squeeze in one last massage while my bags were packed for me.
  4. Sentimental and romantic. The trip celebrated my relationship with my partner and our bond is stronger than ever.

Now that you’ve finished our quiz, tally up your answers to find out which vacation type best reflects your needs:

Answer 1  >>  1 point

Answer 2  >>  2 points

Answer 3  >>  3 points

Answer 4  >>  4 points

So, what is your idea of the perfect vacation?

3-5 points >> Family Vacation

Allegro Papagayo Resort Family Vacation

Allegro Papagayo Resort

The happiness of your family is a priority and a vacation without your kids is unimaginable. To ensure everyone has a great time, be sure to check out our Play hotels (family-friendly resorts where kids stay and eat free) such as the Allegro Papagayo in Liberia, Costa Rica. Surrounded by beaches, rainforests and active volcanoes, this resort is the epicenter of adventure. From kayaking to nature excursions, there’s plenty to keep the kids active and entertained.

If you prefer to head to a Caribbean island, we recommend the Be Live Collection Marien in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic. With a supervised kids club, take some time for yourself and head to the spa or play a round at the nearby Playa Dorada golf course.

No matter which hotel you choose, keep in mind that our Play hotels also come with exclusive flight perks: pre-boarding privileges, free seat selection and a $10 meal voucher for every family member. Your family vacation truly starts at the airport.

6-8 points >> Spa Vacation

Melia Resorts Cuba Spa Vacation

Melia Resorts Cuba

Where are the best indulgences found? Only at our collection of Spa hotels, of course.

Our top pick is the Melia Buenavista All-Inclusive Royal Service & Spa in Santa Clara, Cuba. Designed with total privacy in mind, this adults-only resort is an oasis for rejuvenation. Choose from a range of body treatments and massages at its full-service spa and we promise you’ll leave feeling invigorated.

If you want to spoil yourself and you’re travelling with children, we suggest the neighbouring Melia Las Dunas. This popular hotel provides the perfect balance as it’s tailored for families seeking activity and adults looking to relax. The supervised kids clubs arrange activities according to age, which gives you the chance to retreat to Spa Aguas Claras for a Japanese Shiatsu massage. The kids will be so busy, you’ll even have time for that much-needed pedicure.

9-11 points >> Luxury Vacation

IBEROSTAR Grand Hotel Paraiso Luxury Vacation

IBEROSTAR Grand Hotel Paraiso

You want the royal treatment and nothing less. That’s what vacations means, after all. For an unforgettable luxurious holiday, you will definitely want to stay at IBEROSTAR Grand Hotel Paraiso. Located directly on the beach in Playa Paraiso, in the heart of Riviera Maya, this adults-only, dream paradise has 5 shiny stars attached to its name – and for good reason. At check-in, enjoy a warm welcome with champagne and a minibar stocked with your favourites. By mid-afternoon, lounge poolside and accept a cold beverage from your butler. For dinner, choose between 2 buffets and 4 à la carte restaurants, or perhaps make use of the 24-hour room service. Come bedtime, select the right pillow for your tired head from the elite pillow menu. Rest now because tomorrow will be busy – there’s a Par 72, 18-hole golf course on site, a casino and spa in the massive Complex Shopping Centre, and numerous sports to try.

For similar vacation ideas, discover our complete list of Luxury hotels.

12 points >> Adults-Only Vacation

Luxury Bahia Principe Bouganville Don Pablo Collection Adults Only

Luxury Bahia Principe Bouganville Don Pablo Collection

You want serenity, intimate moments and above all, a kid-free holiday. Whether you’re celebrating a honeymoon, anniversary, or traveling just because, Adults-only hotels are right up your alley. The Luxury Bahia Principe Bouganville Don Pablo Collection in La Romana, Dominican Republic, for instance, caters to couples and guests aged 18+. With no less than 8 bars on its premises, local area tours (a visit to Catalina Island is a must!) and nightly entertainment, this resort provides the ideal setting to unwind and let loose. For something different, try merengue, bachata and salsa classes. For something more sensual, try the spa’s aromatic relaxation treatment. Deep breath in and exhale, it doesn’t get much better than this.

 

Curious about what other vacation types exist? Check out our complete list of vacation types to find your dream holiday.

 

02 Apr

By

Top 10 Resorts to Check Out This Summer

April 2, 2015 | By |

Trying to find the newest, hottest resorts to stay at this summer? Search no more, as we have shortlisted the top 10 resorts to check out this summer in Mexico and the Caribbean. These include some brand new and recently renovated properties, as well as properties that have been newly added to the Air Canada Vacations lineup. From villa accommodations to boutique hotels, these are 10 resorts you definitely want to check out.  

1) Eurostars Cayo Santa Maria (Cayo Santa Maria, Cuba)

Eurostars Cayo Santa Maria

Snack La Caleta

The beach at Eurostars Cayo Santa Maria is an absolute pièce de résistance, with its pure white sand and turquoise water. If you want to maximize your intake of ocean views, make sure to dine at the Mediterranean Aire de Mar Restaurant, or stop by Snack La Caleta, a poolside snack bar that also overlooks the Caribbean Sea. A variety of activities are on offer at this resort, including non-motorized water sports, 2 tennis courts, a kids club and a yacht club.

2) Beach House Turks and Caicos (Providenciales, Turks and Caicos)

Beach House Turks and Caicos

The 21-suite Beach House Turks and Caicos is a boutique hotel with an intimate setting. As a guest, you are entitled to dedicated lounge spaces on stunning Grace Bay Beach. Ranging from 1,150 to 1,580 square feet, guest suites feature a kitchenette, as well as a balcony or terrace with a day bed. The on-site Beach House Restaurant is a popular dining spot in Providenciales and showcases a creative Caribbean and contemporary menu. For additional dining options, you can take a shuttle to the hotel’s 2 sister properties, Alexandra Resort and Blue Haven Resort.

3) Bel Air Collection Resort & Spa Vallarta (Riviera Nayarit/Nuevo Vallarta)

Bel Air Collection Nuevo Vallarta

Bel Air Collection Resort & Spa Vallarta has your wellbeing in mind. Its Asian-style spa is perfect for some R&R: in addition to various spa treatments, it offers daily yoga and meditation, as well as a special low-calorie diet program for the health-conscious. Its infinity pool overlooking the beach does nothing but inspire relaxation, and a variety of special services like tea time and a nightly turn-down service with petits fours adds to the serene experience offered by this resort.

4) ACOYA Hotel Suites & Villas (Willemstad, Curaçao)

ACOYA Lakefront Villa

Lakefront villa

Lush lodging is the name of the game at ACOYA Hotel Suites & Villas. Deluxe rooms feature a private patio surrounded by a tropical garden. Suites range from 2 to 4 bedrooms and are appointed with a large private balcony, fully equipped kitchen, living room and dining area. Featuring a garden, pool or lake view, villas come fully furnished and offer the ultimate private sanctuary. On-site amenities include a swimming pool, a spa and fine dining at Restaurant Seasons.

5) Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall (Montego Bay, Jamaica)

Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall Spa

The new, adults-only Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall is the epitome of luxury. Stylishly decorated, each guest room features handcrafted furniture, a furnished terrace, designer toiletries and plush bathrobes. Dining is a regal affair as well with access to 3 exclusive restaurants, as well as 6 restaurants that are shared with its sister property, Hyatt Ziva. When you want to go for a swim, you can choose from a total of 14 pools, including 9 swim-up pools and 5 whirlpools, and when you’re in the mood for relaxation, indulge in a service at the oceanfront spa.

6) Fiesta Americana Puerto Vallarta (Puerto Vallarta, Mexico)

Fiesta Americana Puerto Vallarta

Lobby

It’s amazing that Fiesta Americana Puerto Vallarta can provide an oasis so close to bustling downtown Puerto Vallarta. The hotel lobby itself is like a mini sanctuary, housed in an enormous palapa and adorned with a calming, rushing waterfall. The resort is surrounded by the Sierra Madre Occidental Mountains and it offers a beautiful private beach on the Bahía de Banderas, the second largest bay in the Pacific Ocean.

7) Be Live Collection Canoa (La Romana, Dominican Republic)

Be Live Collection Canoa La Romana

Be Live Collection Canoa offers a convenient location in La Romana, right on Bayahibe Beach. It also facilitates day trips to neighbouring Del Este National Park, where you can explore over 400 caverns (some of which contain ancient pictographs), a variety of flora and fauna and Saona Island. The resort’s amenities cater to all ages: a lagoon-shaped pool, multiple dining options, a spa, fitness centre and kids club make it perfect for either a couple’s getaway or family vacation.

8) Point Grace (Providenciales, Turks and Caicos)

Point Grace Beach

Featuring a remote location on the point of 19-km Grace Bay Beach, the 28-suite Point Grace offers a quiet, peaceful setting. Appointed with British Colonial architecture, this boutique hotel offers guest suites that are over 1,000 square feet in size, and that include a kitchen, terrace and upscale bathroom. It is also home to 2 Caribbean restaurants, as well as the oceanfront Thalasso Spa which incorporates the properties of sea mud and sea water into its treatments.

9) Meliá Jardines del Rey (Cayo Coco, Cuba)

Melia Jardines del Rey

Opened in January 2015, the Meliá Jardines del Rey is a beautifully styled hotel that blends contemporary décor with a design that emulates a sugar cane plantation. It is home to 9 restaurants, 6 bars and a sweet corner called Macao, which offers a variety of ice cream and snacks. There is a boulevard that extends from the lobby to the beach, and guest rooms are located in 3-storey bungalows.

10) Akumal Bay Beach & Wellness Resort (Riviera Maya, Mexico)

akumal-bay-beach

Though Akumal Bay Beach & Wellness Resort is now sporting a brand new look after a recent renovation, it has preserved what is at its core: a laidback, beachy vibe and unspoilt natural surroundings. Rooms are now ultra-sleek junior suites with outdoor hot tubs, but have retained their main focal point: an amazing view of Akumal Bay. The resort also offers pop-up beach bars and access to a world-class snorkelling site that is home to sea turtles and a beautiful coral reef.

 

Looking for more resorts like these? If you did not get a chance this past season, you may still wish to look at our Top 10 Resorts To Check Out: Winter Edition, or consult our full listing of properties in the Caribbean & Mexico.

 

10 Mar

By

Fun With the Kids During March Break

March 10, 2015 | By |

“Are we there yet?” takes on new meaning when you finally arrive with a luggage full of summer wear and a family ready to start their fun.

After all, it is March Break or Spring Break depending on where you’re from and that means one thing: fun in the sun.

Here’s where to get the extra fun breaks that’ll satisfy both adults and the kids.

The Mayan Riviera

Chichen Itza

Chichen Itza, Mexico

Blue azure sea, white soft sand, and a Caribbean reef that’ll have the kids snorkelling for Nemo are just some of the fun to be had at the Mayan Riviera.

I also love to hang with the critters in a jungle-rich environment at Xcaret Park. Amid the tall leafy trees in this eco-archeological park, you can hear the sounds of the jungle, prowl through the tropical jungle trail, stop at the wild bird aviary and watch entertaining free shows scheduled daily. See big cats at Jaguar Island and discover the ancient culture of the Mayans at the recreated villages. Water activities are popular too. I enjoy the clear, cool waters by the underground river and it’s always a treat to drift down the canyon-like Paradise River with its exotic foliage in a small raft.

Of course, swim spots are totally fun in Xel-ha Park. This water park torques through more Mayan jungles and winds past mini islands. Grab a tube and a lifejacket and prepare to tube down lazy rivers with its jungle backdrop. Xel-ha boasts many attractions and is loaded with activities. On my last visit snorkelling by the natural cove was a huge hit. You can also hike the nature trails to spot jungle critters.

Little kids may not really care for visits to see ancient ruins, but older ones like tweens should drop by with their parents to see Tulum. After you visit this ancient Mayan waterfront site, take a dip in the sea – as clear and sinfully warm as a hot tub.

At Tulum, you’ll learn about the ancient Mayans who were a resourceful, ingenious lot. If you want to dabble further into the world of the Mayans, take a full day excursion by bus to Chichen Itza. Located in the neighbouring state of the Yucatan, it is a bit of a drive (like 2 hours with a very early wake-up) but is well worth the trip to view this massive ancient Mayan site complex. Excursion tours can be booked directly at your resort.

Vegas for families

New York New York Hotel and Casino

Big Apple Coaster at New York New York Hotel and Casino

When you think of Las Vegas, you think of high rollers, casinos, and late nights, maybe not the stuff you want your family exposed to. But let me tell you, there’s a lot more to Vegas than adult entertainment.

There are the gondola rides, roller coasters, animal shows and tasty snacks and that’s just for starters.  I enjoy the variety and the selection in offerings is pretty staggering too.

At New-York New-York, get strapped in for dips and turns and try the Big Apple coaster ride with its Coney Island feel. At the Stratosphere, get strapped in again, but this time, the ride shoots you up into the stratosphere (try 160 feet) in just 2.5 seconds.

In this desert town it’s the hotel pools that make the big splash. Spend hours luxuriating at the poolside or hours at the many other attractions.

Fun in Orlando

Orlando SeaWorld

SeaWorld

Hit the big theme parks in Orlando. Don’t think too much about the line-ups… Just think: it’s not every day the kids get to visit Disney WorldUniversal Studios or SeaWorld.

International Drive is crammed with resorts. In between the pool visits, spa treatments, and great dinners at your property, don’t forget to make time for some quick retail therapy. I love to hang out by the famous Premium Outlet Malls on International Dirve. Scour the shops with luxe brands like Ann Taylor, Kenneth Cole, and Kate Spade New York.

For some downtime, or to flee the crowds at the theme parks, why not mellow next door at the “Gateway to Fun,” known as Kissimmee. This neighbouring city and its surroundings have some of the nicest off-the-beaten path activities. Take a fabulous paddling trip at Shingle Creek Regional Park. Located at the most northerly stream of the Everglades not far from International Drive, this waterway is laden with mangroves and promises fabulous nature sightseeing.

One of my favourite stops in Kissimmee is to spend the day at Gatorland. Dubbed “The Alligator Capital of the World,” the ginormous park is also home to a menagerie of other critters like tropical birds and snakes. Hands-on activities and daily shows with naturalists make it educational without being boring.  Once at Gatorland, you can’t escape hearing the call of Tarzan either. That’s because the park is home to 5 zip lines. Called the Screamin’ Gator Zip Line, it’s great fun for the whole family. Note there are certain height and weight restrictions that apply.

Award-winning travel writer Ilona Kauremszky is a co-producer of mycompasstv and mycompass.ca and works with leading publications across North America. She’s been a nationally syndicated travel columnist and has appeared as a travel expert on CBC, NPR, Yahoo Finance and other national broadcasters. Follow her travel pursuits on Twitter and YouTube @mycompasstv.  

06 Jan

By

Turtle Watching in Riviera Maya with Eco-Bahia

January 6, 2015 | By |

During my last trip to the Riviera Maya, a place that I value for its fantastic snorkelling opportunities, I looked for eco-friendly tour options to satisfy my desire to see wildlife in the most responsible way. Passionate about animals, I had already taken a couple of trips to see the amazing marine life at the Great Mayan Reef, the second largest coral reef system in the world, with two local guides who clearly had environmental protection at heart. I had also seen the wonderful plant and animal life in the mangroves of the incredible Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve and swum with sea turtles at Akumal beach that includes a sea turtle protection association.

I was looking into possibilities to watch the impressive whale sharks that feed off plankton, krill and small fish close to Cancun during the summertime, when I found a really interesting, low-cost, eco-friendly activity offered within my resort: the sea turtle conservation program. Offered by the Eco-Bahia Ecological Foundation at the Grand Bahia Principe Tulum, the program aims to protect the two species of sea turtles that nest on all the beaches of the Riviera Maya: the critically endangered leatherback turtle and the endangered green turtle.

At midnight, I left my room to meet a small group of people and a guide at the snack bar on the beach. The guide was quick to offer information on the sea turtle conservation programs available on Mexico's Carribean Sea and on the Pacific coast. Interestingly enough, the hotels that are set on the turtle nesting beaches (sea turtles always lay their eggs on the beaches where they were born) are legally obliged to promote their reproduction by closing off the beaches at night and letting ecological organizations take over to protect the turtles and their eggs. In turn, by participating in the activity, the public generates revenue, allowing these groups to hire more people.

The experience was magical and touching… under a twilight sky right by the sea, we carefully approached a four-foot green turtle and watched her dig a whole in the sand to lay approximately one hundred eggs before covering them and heading back to sea. She wouldn't come back to the beach for another three to six years to nest again.

Once the turtles are back at sea, the ecologists collect the eggs to place them in a safe area, far from the movement on the beach in the daytime and the possible predators. Later, when the turtles are ready to hatch, Eco-Bahia also offers an activity allowing the public to watch the baby turtles make their way to the sea.

On a positive note, our guide said that the number of leatherback turtles is slightly increasing and that the positive numbers may well be due to conservation programs like this one.

For me, it was really moving to know that this female turtle could have swum up to 3,000 kilometers to reach her nesting site, as if guided by a little "internal compass,"  overcoming all the obstacles, such as pollution, fishing, poaching and predators. And knowing that my guide had left a well-paying job in Mexico City to dedicate herself full-time to sea turtle conservation was simply inspiring!