5 Family-Friendly Getaways
When you’re jonesing for a not-so-ordinary vacation fix, forget Disney. From ziplining over (and rapelling into) cenotes to walking on the ocean floor, these destinations offer activities that are anything but average.
Deemed the sunniest island in the Caribbean – its average temperature levels out at a balmy 28 degrees – Aruba is brimming with fun. In addition to calm ocean waves, ancient caves and The Butterfly Farm that’s as educational as it is tranquil, families won’t want to miss trying their hands at a round of beach tennis, visiting Donkey Sanctuary Aruba, going on an authentic semi-submarine ride, or experiencing fun-filled DePalm Island. (It’s here that kids as young as eight can spot shipwrecks and a myriad of tropical fish as they walk the ocean floor, get wet at a massive water park that thrills kids of all ages, and learn to SNUBA – snorkel with supplied air – too.)
Where to stay: Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino. Among other things, kids will love the on-property lazy river and the Bon Bini Kids’ Club, which features arcade games, air hockey, unique crafting sessions and an on-site basketball court.
Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
Sugar-white sand and swaying coco palms aside, adventure options are seemingly endless in the Dominican. Between extreme dune buggies, island exploration tours, jungle safaris, ziplining and Dolphin Island, there’s little time for boredom. Add a monster truck safari, during which guests spy scenic and noteworthy cultural landmarks, and Manati Park, where local animals roam, and leaving the island may be your biggest chore.
Where to stay: Club Med Punta Cana. If the children’s program that incorporates native dances, crafts and sporting activities doesn’t win you over, the circus camp, which teaches kids how to walk a tightrope, juggle, swing on a trapeze and learn magic tricks will.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Though Albuquerque may not immediately leap to mind when you think ‘family getaway’, it should. With an aquarium that houses stingrays, bamboo sharks, jellyfish and eels, the International Balloon Museum that enables kids to hop aboard a basket and take a virtual balloon ride, and the hands-on Explora Science Center where youngins can create animated mini movies or ride a bike on a suspended high wire, kids of all ages and can play and learn while having a whack of fun in the process. Another must-visit: Old Town, where mock gunfights take place every Sunday afternoon, ghost tours are conducted in a plethora of historic buildings, and a completed tour of the International Rattlesnake Museum earns kids a certificate of bravery.
Where to stay: Los Poblanos Historic Inn & Organic Farm. Set on a sprawling 25 acres of land, families will love the far-reaching scavenger farm hunt, spying strolling peacocks and expansive lavender fields. A welcome gift of in-room milk and cookies can’t hurt, either.
Mayan Riviera, Mexico
Yes, it has stunning beaches, and yes, the weather is stellar, but Mexico‘s Mayan Riviera is more than just a pretty face. From July to November, families can gather and transport sea turtle eggs to sand corrals, where the eggs are buried for gestation. Families can also swim year-round with sea turtles at Akumal, or opt to brave cenote waters in Coba after a bout of ziplining and rapelling. Those looking for historic adventure have their pick of a myriad of ruins, including the Nohuch Mul pyramid in the Yucutan Peninsula, and the 1.3-million acre Sian Ka’an Biosphere near Cancun promises to delight with learning tours through the jungle offering an in-depth look at some of the more than 800 plant and 350 bird species.
Where to stay: Barcelo Maya Beach Resort. Between sandcastle-making contests, dance classes, movies, a mini disco, beach volleyball and crafting activities with the Kid’s Club staff and an enormous on-site water park, there’s little time for boredom here.
Set on what’s arguably the best beach in the state – the powdery white-sand stretch of beach along the Gulf of Mexico is made up of 99 per cent quartz – spotting a few of this area’s surrounding wildlife (read: manatees and dolphins) is worth the visit alone. But should water-based activities grow old, the MOTE Marine Aquarium and its 135,000-gallon shark habitat is a big family-friendly draw, as is Ringling Museum, where you’ll find circus artifacts, parade and baggage wagons, costumes, a hands-on interactive exhibit that allows visitors to be centre-ring stars, and the world’s largest miniature circus. Looking for more? The Children’s Garden & Art Center’s pirate ship, secret garden, maze, tree forts, fair gardens and dress-up rooms are worth a visit.
Where to stay: The LongBoat Key Club. Activities like kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding are sure to please the whole family, as is Camp Loggerhead, with on-site activities like tie-dyeing, sea turtle nest hunts and water balloon dodgeball.