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Whale Sharks & Spider Monkeys: An Intergenerational Safari through the Yucatan

Program Number: 20435RJ
Start and End Dates:
7/25/2013 - 8/2/2013; 6/25/2016 - 7/3/2016; 7/6/2016 - 7/14/2016; 7/15/2016 - 7/23/2016; 7/26/2016 - 8/3/2016;
Duration: 8 nights
Location: Mexico
Price starting at: $2,449.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: Intergenerational
Activity Level: t (see description)
Meals: 22; 7 Breakfasts, 7 Lunches, 8 Dinners    
Meal Options: Low Fat; Vegetarian; Low Salt    

Program intended for grandchildren from 12 - 14 years of age.

Experience the fascinating wildlife and the wealth of ancient Maya civilizations on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula. Snorkel the warm waters of the Caribbean to encounter sea turtles and the mighty whale shark, the world’s largest fish. On land, discover playful monkeys and colorful birds, zip-line through the jungle and learn the story of the Mayans. Take part in fun, informal Spanish lessons to get a grasp of the local language.


• Enjoy the exhilarating opportunity to swim with whale sharks — though massive, they are docile and safe to swim alongside.
• Get an up-close view of spider monkeys, howler monkeys and other Yucatán wildlife as you walk through a protected nature reserve.
• Explore the great Mayan city of Chichen Itza where you find pyramids and the Great Ball Court.

Activity Particulars

From three to five hours physical activity per day including swimming, snorkeling, climbing archaeological ruins, zip-lining, walking on forest trails.

Program is for grandchildren ages 9-11 or 12-14, depending on the date.

Date Specific Information


This departure is for grandchildren between the ages of 12 and 14.

Itinerary Summary

Arrival Cancún, 1 night; ferry to Isla Holbox, 2 nights; ferry and coach to Chichen Itza, 2 nights; coach to Akumal, 2 nights; coach to Cancún, 1 night; departure.

Arrival Cancún
1 night
Coach to Chiquila
Ferry to Isla Holbox
2 nights

Isla Holbox — “black hole” in the language of the Yucatán Mayans — is a protected island within the Yum-Balam Biosphere Reserve. Explore the lime rock roads of this mostly car-less isle by golf cart and enjoy the beach and hotel pool. Board a boat to an area where whale sharks are abundant to observe and even swim with these huge fish. Learn about the music of the Yucatán with a local musician and instrument maker.

Ferry to Chiquila
Coach to Chichen Itza
2 nights

Navigate through Yalahau Lagoon and go ashore on one of its small islands to view flamingos, pelicans and other colorful birdlife. Continue to Chichen Itza and learn about the Mayans who inhabited this great city, including the story of the Yucatán’s own “Trojan War.” Swim in the cool, spring-fed waters of one of Chichen Itza’s cenotes (natural sinkholes).

Coach to Akumal
2 nights
Coach to Cancún
1 night

Walk through the Punta Laguna Spider Monkey Reserve to observe these playful creatures and many others. Stop in a modern Mayan town to see what daily life is like here. Take a nighttime turtle nesting walk with the experts from the Centro Ecológico Akumal. Journey to Selvática Eco Park for a jungle zip-line and cenote zip-line adventure.


The oldest of the land’s found by Europeans in the New World, Mexico has endured a rough history at the hands of Cortes and subsequent invaders. Despite a turbulent past, the country maintains its relaxed and inviting charm with a mix of modern and traditional from its industrious cities to its captivating wildernesses.

Lodging: Comfortable hotels and oceanfront resorts.
Meals and Lodgings
   Courtyard Marriott Cancun
  Cancun, Mexico 1 night
   Hotel Villa Delfines
  Holbox Island, Mexico 2 nights
   Hotel Mayaland
Chichen Itza
  Chichen Itza, Mexico 2 nights
   Akumal Beach Resort
  Akumal, Mexico 2 nights
   Courtyard Marriott Cancun
  Cancun, Mexico 1 night
 Courtyard Marriott Cancun
Type: Hotel
  Description: This new hotel provides guests with excellent service, spacious rooms and open public areas. One of the most important highlights of this property is its location, only 5 minutes from Cancun International Airport. Courtyard by Marriott Cancun offers a free shuttle to its beach club, and also to Cancun's downtown area.
  Contact info: Bvl. Luis Donaldo Colosio Km. 12.5 Lte. 1 SMZA.301
Quintana Roo,   Mexico
phone: +52 -998-2872200
  Room amenities: High speed internet access, desk, a large LCD TV, and air-conditioning.
  Facility amenities: The hotel has an excellent restaurant serving a variety of delicious dishes. El Henequen resembles an old elegant ''Hacienda'' from the Yucatan Peninsula. The hotel also features a swimming pool.
  Smoking allowed: Yes
  Elevators available: Yes
  Additional nights prior: Subject to availability. Please contact your program provider, Holbrook Travel, at 1-800-866-7111 or for information on availability and rates.
  Check in time: 3:00 PM
  Additional nights after: Subject to availability. Please contact your program provider, Holbrook Travel, at 1-800-866-7111 or for information on availability and rates.
  Check out time: 12:00 PM

 Hotel Villa Delfines
Type: Hotel
  Description: This Caribbean style oceanfront hotel provides accommodations in 20 attractive bungalows with thatched roofs. Its eco-friendly facilities boast solar panels for the heating of water and composting toilets.
  Contact info: Domicilio Conocido
Isla Holbox,  Quintana Roo Mexico
phone: +52 -984-875-2196
  Room amenities: Bungalows have private baths with eco-toilets, ceiling fans, telephones, coffee makers, and terraces with hammocks. Hotel amenities include swimming pool, restaurant, beach access, gardens, and boutique.
  Facility amenities: Swimming pool, restaurant, beach access, gardens, and a boutique.
  Smoking allowed: No

 Hotel Mayaland
Chichen Itza
Type: Resort
  Description: Mayaland was the first hotel built at Chichen Itza (in 1923) and, with its superb location amidst the temples, the first within an ancient site in the world. In its way, it's as much a landmark as the pyramids that tower above it. Mayaland is a creation of Old Yucatan, built and operated by its original owners and their descendants in a style reminiscent of the hacienda nobility of a century ago. Its air of genteel hospitality and old-fashioned charm is a legacy enhanced by the addition of every amenity. The grounds are alive with birdsong and butterflies, and all the exotic fruits and flowers of tropical Yucatan. Over 100 acres of gardens surround the main house. The main building was designed by Sylvanus G. Morley, the head of the Carnegie expedition that rebuilt Chichen Itza in the 1920's. Its Hacienda style main corridor faces the Mayan Observatory. The Mayaland Hotel is an experience in itself; one that will enrich your stay at Chichen Itza.
  Contact info: Near Chichen Itza
Chichen Itza,   Mexico
phone: +8002354079
  Room amenities: Spacious air-conditioned rooms with ceiling fans, satellite TV, mini bars, bathroom hand-tiled in ceramic, marble and stone, tubs, breezy private balconies.
  Facility amenities: Pools, four restaurants, convention hall, masseuse, craft shop, tennis courts, interconnected paths, over five kilometers of trails, golf cart service.
  Smoking allowed: Yes

 Akumal Beach Resort
Type: Resort
  Description: All-inclusive oceanfront resort with breathtaking views of Akumal Bay.
  Contact info: Km 104 Carr. Cancun-Chetumal
Akumal,  Quintana Roo Mexico
phone: +52 -984-875-7500
  Room amenities: Rooms have private bathrooms, A/C, ceiling fans, hair dryers, cable TV, telephones, safety deposit boxes, and balconies or terraces.
  Facility amenities: Two tennis courts, gym, beach access, kayaks, swimming pool, 3 restaurants, 3 bars, indoor theater, internet access, conference room, money exchange, boutique, a kids club, and tour desk.
  Smoking allowed: No
  Elevators available: Yes

Travel Details
  Start of Program:
All-day arrivals at the Cancun International Airport. Hotel check-in starts at 3 p.m. You will be staying at Courtyard Marriott Cancun that night.
  End of Program:
Departures from the Cancun International Airport. Hotel check-out by 11 a.m. You will be staying at Courtyard Marriott Cancun the night before.
  Required documents:
The Participant Information Form is required. Adult participants traveling with a minor must carry notarized parental consent forms.
  Parking availability:
Not applicable.
Transportation (For Independent Travelers)
To Start of Program
  Location:  Cancun
  Transportation to site: Taxi services are available at the Cancun International Airport. Payment can be made in U.S. dollars. The Courtyard Marriot Cancun offers a complimentary airport shuttle service from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. Once at the airport, request a pick-up by calling (998) 287-2200 or from any Telmex public phone call 01800 0203373.
  From End of Program
  Location: Cancun
  Transportation from site: The Courtyard Marriot Cancun offers a complimentary airport shuttle service from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. Participants wishing to use this service should make inquiries at the hotel's front desk. Taxis are also available at the hotel. Please ask the hotel staff for assistance if you wish to use this service.
    (Additional transportation information same as above)
The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Daily Schedule

Day 1: International Arrivals in Cancun -
(Thursday, July 25)
 Arrive To: International flight arrivals into Cancun. Participants will be required to go through standard immigration and customs procedures before exiting the airport.

Transfer to your hotel.
 Dinner: Pre- dinner welcome to the program.

Dinner at the hotel.
Accommodations: Courtyard Marriott Cancun
Meals Included: Dinner

Day 2: Holbox Island -
Ferry Ride to Holbox/City Orientation/Beach and Pool Time/Spanish Lesson

(Friday, July 26)
 Breakfast: At the hotel.
 Morning: After taking part in a program orientation at the hotel, board a bus to Chiquila (2.5 hours).

Arrive at Chiquila and board a ferry to Holbox Island (20 minutes).

Holbox Island is located off the northern coast of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, within the Yum-Balam Biosphere Reserve. Just 7.44 miles long and less than a mile wide, this diminutive tropical paradise is home to a peaceful fishing community and is increasingly visited by tourists who come to view whale sharks. Residents and tourists get around the island on golf carts or mopeds. Streets are made of lime rock and remain unpaved.

Arrive in Holbox and transfer to the hotel in golf cart taxis.

Check-in at the hotel followed by a snorkeling orientation at the hotel swimming pool.

Time at leisure to enjoy the beach and the hotel swimming pools.
 Lunch: At the hotel.
 Afternoon: Board golf carts for a fun city orientation through Holbox's lime rock roads.
 Dinner: At a local restaurant that serves kid-friendly fare.
 Evening: Return to the hotel for an informal Spanish lesson.
Accommodations: Hotel Villa Delfines
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3: Holbox Island -
Snorkeling with Whale Sharks/Beach and Pool Time/Spanish Lesson/Learning About Local Music

(Saturday, July 27)

Note: Swimming with whale sharks is highly regulated. Only 2 participants are allowed in the water with the guide at any time (each snorkeling session lasts 10 minutes). No cameras are allowed in the water while snorkeling with the whale sharks.

 Breakfast: At the hotel.
 Morning: Transfer to the dock and board a boat to the snorkeling site (1-2 hours ride depending on location of the whale sharks).

Swimming with whale sharks is an activity that is strictly regulated by local park authorities. Only 2 participants are allowed in the water with the guide at any time (10 min. sessions). Participants take their turns in the water while the remainder of the group can observe the passing whale sharks and take photographs from the comfort of the boat (cameras are not allowed in the water). Participants are allowed up to 3 swimming sessions lasting 10 minutes each time. Snacks and drinks are provided onboard the boat.

After completing this exhilarating activity, return to Holbox Island in time for lunch.
 Lunch: At the hotel.
 Afternoon: After lunch, enjoy some time at leisure to relax after your busy morning. Visit the beach, lounge by the hotel pool, or perhaps catch-up on your vacation reading.

Join your group leader for another informal Spanish lesson. Let's see how much you can remember from the previous day!

Before dinner, learn about local music with Victor Vasquez--a local musician and instrument maker. A talk and musical presentation will have your feet tapping to the contagious rhythms.
 Dinner: BBQ dinner on hotel patio.
Accommodations: Hotel Villa Delfines
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4: Chitchén Itzá -
Isla Pajaros Sanctuary/Valladolid City Orientation/Cooking Lesson/Spanish Lesson

(Sunday, July 28)
 Breakfast: At the hotel.
 Morning: Private transfer to the pier. Board a boat back to Chiquilla via Isla Pajaros.

At Isla Pajaros (Bird Island), take part in a walking field trip to a local lookout point in search of sea birds. Look for vibrantly colored flamingoes that flock to this location from April to October.

Continue your boat transfer to Chiquilla.

Disembark in Chiquilla and transfer to Chichén Itzá via Valladolid.
 Lunch: At local restaurant in Valladolid.
 Afternoon: After lunch, acquaint yourself with picturesque Valladolid during a city orientation.

Valladolid is an attractive 16th century town located in the eastern side of the Yucatán state, within 29 miles of Chichen Itzá. As is commonly the case with colonial cities in the peninsula, Valladolid rose from the ashes of a destroyed Maya center. Ancient structures were demolished in order to provide stones and other building materials for the Spanish settlement. Ironically, many colonial buildings were destroyed or damaged during the lengthy Yucatecan Caste War (1847-1901) and in later years during Indian uprisings. Valladolid is home to one of the oldest church buildings in the region, the Church of San Bernardino de Siena and adjoining convent.

Continue with transfer to nearby Chichén Itzá.

Arrive at the hotel and check-in.

Time at leisure to cool off in the hotel's swimming pool or explore the property's attractive gardens for a chance to see local flora and bird life and marvel at views of Chichén Itzá's ancient temples.

Gather around the kitchen table for a lesson in tortilla making. Push up your sleeves and get your hands dirty as you learn how locals make this important Mexican staple.

Piñata party for the children.
 Dinner: At the hotel.
 Evening: Finish the evening with an informal Spanish lesson.
Accommodations: Hotel Mayaland
Chichen Itza
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5: Chichén Itzá -
Chichén Itzá Ruins/Cenote Ik Kil/Spanish Lesson/Light and Sound Show

(Monday, July 29)
 Breakfast: At the hotel.
 Morning: Walking field trip of the Chichén Itzá archaeological complex and site lecture.

Chichén Itzá is considered the greatest Mayan site on the Yucatán peninsula and is certainly the most popular stop along today’s Ruta Maya. The archaeological site centers upon two unusually large cenotes, one that provided water for the city and the other a famous sacred cenote. Its history is the Yucatán’s “Trojan War,” as the ruler of Chichén Itzá stole the bride of one of the lords of Izamal who then took vengeance and sacked Chichén. The consolidation of Chichén Itzá as a political center meant the creation of a complicated political structure. This leadership allowed it to achieve magnificent architectural and sculptural splendor and made it one of the largest cities in the Maya area.

Return to the hotel for a bathroom break and a change of clothes before departing for Cenote Ik Kil.

Feast your eyes on the beauty of Cenote Ik Kil before taking a refreshing dip in the cool spring-fed waters.

Cenotes are water-filled limestone sinkholes found in the Yucatán and some Caribbean sites. Cenotes were an important source of freshwater for the Maya living in the Yucatán Peninsula. They were believed to be the gateways to the afterlife, and were treated as sacred sites. Cenote Ik Kil is located in the heart of the Chichén Itzá archeological site, near the ceremonial centers. Its rock walls encircle a pool of transparent blue waters, amidst lush tropical vegetation. After catching a glimpse of this beautiful natural creation, it is easy to understand why the Maya would have felt this site was sacred.
 Lunch: At a local restaurant overlooking the cenote.
 Afternoon: Return to the hotel.

Time at leisure to rest or enjoy the hotel amenities.

Participate in an informal pre-dinner Spanish lesson.
 Dinner: At the hotel.
 Evening: Watch Chichén Itzá's temples come to life with bright colors and music during a spectacular light and sound show.
Accommodations: Hotel Mayaland
Chichen Itza
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6: Akumal -
Spider Monkey Reserve/Maya Village/Yal Ku Cenote and Bay

(Tuesday, July 30)
 Breakfast: At the hotel.
 Morning: Transfer to Akumal Bay via Punta Laguna.

Walking field trip in the Punta Laguna Spider Monkey Reserve and visit a local Maya village.

Although the small and unassuming nature sanctuary is known for protecting hundreds of black-handed spider monkeys and a lesser number of howler monkeys, it also provides a safehaven for all nature of native wildlife and flora. An exploration of the forest trails reveal tall ceiba trees, zacate trees, fruiting ramón trees (a squirrel monkey favorite) and colorful epiphytic bromeliads. Ancient stone mounds and stone dwellings blend into the forest and offer interesting clues about the people who once inhabited the area.

The small village at Punta Laguna provides a good opportunity to examine the life and customs of modern day Maya.
 Lunch: At a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: Arrive in Akumal and check-in at hotel.

Ride bicycles to nearby Yal Ku Cenote and Bay (approximately 1/4 mile) for snorkeling and water sports.

Return to the hotel by bus and enjoy the rest of the day at leisure.
 Dinner: At the hotel.
Accommodations: Akumal Beach Resort
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 7: Akumal -
Reef Snorkeling/Spanish Lesson/Akumal Environmental Center/Nighttime Turtle Nesting Walk

(Wednesday, July 31)

Note: In preparation for the nighttime turtle nesting walk participants should wear sneakers or sturdy walking shoes (no sandals), wear long sleeves and pants for mosquito protection (avoid perfumes or repellents), bring a water bottle and a plastic bag to collect trash on the beach. The walk can cover as much as 3 miles. No flash photography is allowed during this activity as it may disturb nesting turtles.

 Arrive To: At the hotel.
 Morning: Walk to the marina to get your snorkeling gear. After receiving a brief orientation on safety procedures and the use of the equipment, enjoy the morning snorkeling in the nearby reef.

While snorkeling, you will possibly encounter sea turtles. Please make sure to admire these beautiful creatures at a respectful distance (about 6.5 feet). The CEA likes to remind swimmers to avoid snorkeling over the turtles since they need to come up to the surface to breathe and to avoid approaching turtles when they are feeding.

Return to the hotel in time for lunch.
 Lunch: At a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: Enjoy a relaxing free afternoon to indulge in hotel amenities and explore the area at your leisure.

Join your group leader and fellow group members for an informal Spanish lesson before dinner.
 Dinner: At the hotel.
 Evening: Transfer to the Centro Ecológico Akumal (CEA) for a lecture on coral reefs and sea turtles. The center is a non-profit marine research and conservation organization that monitors environmental impact of urban development in the Mexican Caribbean. Through scientific research and community education, the CEA hopes to raise public awareness about local ecosystems and the need for conservation.

The lecture will be followed by a nighttime turtle nesting walk along the beach (May - October is nesting season).

In preparation for the beach walk, the CEA suggests wearing sneakers or sturdy walking shoes (no sandals), refraining from wearing perfume/cologne or insect repellent (good idea to wear long sleeves and pants), and bringing a sport water bottle and a plastic bag to collect trash on the beach. Walks can cover as much as 3 miles.
Accommodations: Akumal Beach Resort
Meals Included: Lunch, Dinner

Day 8: Cancun -
Selvática Park Adventure/Farewell Dinner

(Thursday, August 1)
 Breakfast: At the hotel.
 Morning: Transfer to Selvática Eco Park for a jungle zip-line, cenote zip-line, and sky bridge walk adventure.
 Lunch: At Selvática Eco Park.
 Afternoon: Transfer to Cancun.

Arrive at hotel and check-in.

Enjoy some free time to relax before dinner.
 Dinner: Farewell dinner at local restaurant.
Accommodations: Courtyard Marriott Cancun
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 9: Flights Back to the U.S.
(Friday, August 2)
 Breakfast: At the hotel restaurant (dependent on flight times).
 Morning: Participants will transfer to the airport via hotel shuttle to catch flights back to the U.S.
Meals Included: Breakfast
Important information about your itinerary: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information featured on this website. Itineraries are based on our best information at this time. Circumstances beyond our control may require us to adjust itineraries or other details. We regret any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your understanding. Information will be sent to you from your Program Provider approximately three weeks prior to the program start date. The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Suggested Reading List

Archaeological Guide to Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula

Author: Joyce Kelly

Time Among the Maya, Travels in Belize, Guatemala, & Mexico

Author: Ronald Wright

The American Egypt: A Record of Travel in the Yucatan

Author: Channing Arnold & F. J. Frost

Lonely Planet Yucatan

Author: Ray Bartlett & Daniel Schechter

Birder's Mexico

Author: Roland H. Wauer

Description: A personal, informative account of travels in Mexico. It's a wonderful intro-duction to the natural history of this diverse country, including the northern deserts, Baja California, Oaxaca, Palenque and the Yucatan.

Breaking Out of Beginner's Spanish

Author: Joseph Keenan

Description: Idioms, common mistakes in word usage, and other helpful advice on tackling spoken Spanish. You'll need some foundation to take full advantage of this book – but even a complete novice will appreciate the author's playful sense of humor.

Snorkeling Guide to Marine Life

Author: Paul Humann

Description: Humann's photographs of the fishes, corals, invertebrates and plants of the Caribbean are perfect to take along in the boat or to the beach.

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