Guests can walk past the pool and down to the beach cabanas that line the shore. // © 2016 Playa Hotels & Resorts Gran Caribe
Feature image (above): Children can zoom down seven different water slides at Oki Splash Water Park. // © 2016 Playa Hotels & Resorts Gran Caribe
Amidst the row of beachfront hotels in Cancun’s Zona Hotelera (Hotel Zone), Playa Hotels & Resorts’ Gran Caribe is distinguished from many of its neighbors by its commitment to family-friendly service.
The experience begins the moment guests arrive at the all-inclusive. Instead of twiddling their thumbs during the paperwork, children are ushered into their own check-in, where they get a special bracelet (the hotel will also soon roll out a kids’ welcome package).
The marble-clad main lobby is reminiscent of an upscale mall, but kids (and adults like me) can forego shopping in favor of the open dessert bar, which creaks under the weight of brownies, cookies and churros con chocolate.
Ocean views and pools are found on either side of the resort. Guests can make their way past a large aqua pool and onto the shore to relax in beach cabanas, take a dip in the water or grab a drink at Trade Winds, where guests can sway on bar-side swing seats.
Back through the main lobby and onto the other side of the hotel is a kiddie pool. Older children will be excited to find Oki Splash Water Park, which offers seven slides. A sign outside the park reads, “Only for kids from 4 to 60 years old,” but I’m sure older family members won’t be denied entrance. Kids can play on the dock of a small pirate ship or run up the steps of a white fortress to zoom down the waterslide.
The waterpark is part of the larger Oki Kids Club, which can be a godsend for parents looking for some alone time.
“Parents can drop off their kids as soon as they get here,” said Marianne Emmelhainz, sales manager of tour and travel for Gran Caribe. “There are lots of activities to keep children occupied.”
Oki Kids Club is divided into four sections: Cooking Factory, Science Lab, Fashion Studio and Arts & Crafts. Children can play with various themed toys in each section or participate in group activities. Kids ages 12 to 17 can duck through a tiny door in the club and find themselves in the T-Zone, replete with a television, video games, an air hockey table and access to the nine-hole Pirate Adventure miniature golf course.
First-floor Family Junior Suites have easy access to the kids’ club and are a great option for clients traveling with two or three children. These rooms are designed to be a good fit for kids — they come sans liquor dispensers, have larger refrigerators stocked with child-friendly drinks and even provide kid-size robes and slippers.
Parents can also take advantage of the resort’s certified babysitters, who take care of kids as young as 4 months old. This leaves adults with plenty of time to try out Spa Azul, visit the gym or take a morning yoga class in the shade of the ocean-facing gazebo.
Families with kids who are interested in marine biology may want to visit the resort between August and November, so they can take part in the sea turtle release program.
Regardless of how they choose to spend their time, Gran Caribe’s guests will enjoy impeccable service and a variety of family-friendly options.