Beach and Pools
The big draw is the large, free-form main pool. We are happy to note that poolside and along the beach there are many thatched palapas (umbrella-like awnings). We appreciate shade since our family "burns" rather than tans. With the resort not completely filled with guests, we find it easy to get a spot. However, with a full house it may be more difficult to snag a chaise lounge, so it may be wise to wake up early and steak out your poolside area.
One interesting hang-up is that each guest is allowed only one pool towel at a time. These, of course, may be switched out, but you can't get two with just one pool card. If you only need one towel, this isn't an issue. Our kids often use two towels after each swim -- one to dry off and one for the chaise lounge. The beach, however, is an inviting, wide stretch of soft sand and a mild sea that offers calming, shallow waves.
Lucy's Club runs supervised activities for kids ages 4 to 12. The club takes place between the hours of 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. The children's playroom displays colorful decorations in an open-air atmosphere. It's welcoming, with its yellow and blue picket fence. At the facility, kids whack pinatas, paint, create crafts and watch movies. Oftentimes, counselors take the children to splash in the one-foot deep, children's pool. The counselors speak both English and Spanish. Each day the Star Friends (the resort's recreation and entertainment staff) plan activities, like water aerobics, yoga and beach games. Older teens may want to play volleyball, tennis, ping pong or billiards. Quetzal does not offer specialized activities for teens, except occasionally during holidays when the teen count runs high. Kids can also play on the tennis or run relays on the beach. To us, this program seems best for kids up to age 10.
The evenings bring live entertainment and musical concerts produced by the hotel staff. Shows take place in an open-air theater with a roof, marble floors and bamboo chairs with seatbacks and comfortable cushions. The 8 p.m. show is for families, while the 9:30 p.m. show is best for adults. At the edge of the dance floor, a semi-circle of children's chairs is a nice touch. After all, kids want to sit upfront and Iberostar invites them to do so.
For families the Riviera Maya offers an array of off-property outings and adventures. From Quetzal it's a short cab ride to Playa del Carmen, the shopping area. Shops along the pedestrian-only area, Avenida 5 sell silver jewelry, pottery, Mexican tablecloths, wall hangings and blankets. This is the place to find souvenirs for everyone in the family. Break up the shopping with a snack at a local cafe or sample a churro -- a fried pastry sprinkled with cinnamon.
Xcaret is a must-see; just try to avoid it on days when the cruise ships are in port, as Xcaret is a top shore tour. At Xcaret, an eco-adventure park, you can swim with dolphins, take a dip a natural pool. A variety of wildlife are waiting to meet you, including flamingos, jaguars, turtles and tapirs. Adventurous children will enjoy walking through a bat cave. In the evening the park hosts a demonstration of Pok-Ta-Pok, the ancient Mesoamerican ball game. The game displays players' traditional body paintings and ceremonial dress. Afterwards, there is often an entertaining folkloric show.
At Xplor, another eco-theme park, one admission gains you access to several adventures. Families can fly down zip lines, ride through muddy creeks or raft through an underground river. Lunch, though not as adventurous, is included in your ticket package.
Take older teens looking for even more adventure to Rio Secreto -- a natural cenote. You enter the underground river by walking. As you go further through the cave, covered with stalactites, the water rises. Later on, you swim into another chamber. Although the tour company allows children older than age 5 to visit, we suggest this outing for courageous kids over age 8.