Three things to do near Cancun with young children

"Wooo! Spring break! Jello shots and partial nudity for a week!"

Obviously we've all yelled this at one time or another on the way to Cancún, Mexico. But fast forward 10 years and instead of drowning yard-long margaritas by the hour you've got a two-year-old kicking you in the groin. The good news is you can still hit your favorite vacay spot and have a damn good time. Here are three of the best places to have an awesome time just outside of Cancún, even with the little one in tow.

1. Xel-Há

America. Mexico. Quintana Roo state. Xel-HaAGF via Getty Images

Xel-Há Park is built around a natural lagoon, and features some of the most diverse and active marine life you'll ever see. The lagoon provides naturally calm waters, perfect for some casual snorkeling for the whole family. From sea turtles to giant groupers to parrotfishes and much more, Xel-Há promises to ruin snorkeling for the rest of your life. It truly sets the bar.

Even if junior isn't ready for the ol' snorkel, there's plenty more to do for youngsters. There's an entire area just for kiddos that features a wading pool, rope courses and lots of other things that will tire them out so you can get to tequila after bedtime. Plus opportunities for close-up encounters with stingrays, dolphins and manatees.

If you feel like splurging, buy the all-inclusive admission, which includes unlimited drinks. Just try to remember how many you've knocked back before professing your love for that angelfish.

2. Akumal

Playa Akumal, Resort Area Located Along Caribbean SeaUIG via Getty Images

Akumal is about an hour south of Cancún, but it's an easy car or bus ride between the two. There's also an all-inclusive resort in town that's perfect for families. The beaches are notoriously clean, the waters generally calm, and the provided entertainment will get everyone from the little munchkin up to Great-Grandpa having a grand ol' time. Akumal allegedly means "Place of the Turtle" in Mayan, and it lives up to that moniker. Keep an eye out for shells popping up or possibly even a sea turtle just chillin' on some nearby sand.

Akumal also offers a great jumping off point for those history-buff families (nerds!). Tulum is only about 30 minutes away, and while Chichen Itza is closer to two hours, it's well worth the trip — for nerds! (I hear putting others down makes you feel better about yourself. Not sure if it's working, but in reality I went to Chichen Itza from Akumal, and it completely blew my mind. You should do it.)

3. Playa del Carmen


In between Cancún and Akumal lies the seaside town of Playa del Carmen. It would be easy to forget that you're not in Southern California once you step foot on the pedestrian walkway of Quinta Avenida, featuring everything from high-end fashion stores to street vendors selling handmade knick-knacks.

There are several family friendly restaurants around, and if you're up for something a little bit more adventure, catch a ferry to the famous island of Cozumel and get the kiddos a taste of the world-famous scuba diving there.

And don't worry, every destination on this list does indeed offer Jello shots (not a factual statement in any regard).

James Kerley is a Senior Editor at MapQuest.