20435
Mexico
Whale Sharks & Spider Monkeys: An Intergenerational Safari through the Yucatan
Create lasting memories with your grandchild as you swim with sea life, learn about Yucatán wildlife, zip-line through the jungle and explore the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza.
Program No. 20435RJ
Length
9 days
Starts at
2,815
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9 days
8 nights
23 meals
8 B 7 L 8 D
Getting There
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DAY
1
Arrive Cancun, Check-in, Orientation, Welcome Dinner
Cancun
D
Courtyard Marriott Cancun

Activity note: Two arrival transfers will be provided on this day. Pick-up times will be scheduled by the Road Scholar Program Provider approximately 30 days prior to the program and will be based on the most popular flight schedules. Participants should also note that the Road Scholar hotel offers a complimentary roundtrip airport shuttle service. The hotel is located approximately 5 minutes from the international airport.

Afternoon: 5:30 p.m. - We will meet in the hotel lobby in preparation for our Orientation session. The Group Leader will greet everyone with a warm welcome and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule and any changes, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer any questions you may have. Meals on our program feature local cuisine. In many cases, they will be plated and served set meals; in others, we will have buffets with multiple options. Beverages include coffee, tea, water; other beverages are usually available for purchase. Free time is reserved for your personal independent exploration. Please note that program activities, schedules, and personnel may need to change due to local circumstances. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding. During this program, we must follow regulations when interacting with local wildlife. Please bring biodegradable sunscreen because normal sunscreen is not allowed near whale sharks and sea turtles. Mosquito repellent and a lightweight, long sleeve shirt are recommended for cool evenings.

Dinner: Hotel plated meal plus coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
2
Ferry to Holbox Island, Beach Time, City Field Trip
Holbox Island
B,L,D
Hotel Villa Delfines

Activity note: Transfer time is approximately a 2 1/2 hour ride with a 20 minute ferry. You might wish to wear a bathing suit under your clothes or pack one in your carry-on, along with some sunscreen lotion, so that you can go to the beach or jump in the pool as soon as you arrive at the hotel at Holbox Island.

Breakfast: At the hotel; juice, coffee, tea, and water included.

Morning: After breakfast, we will check-out of the hotel and board a motorcoach to Chiquila (83 miles). Our motorcoach will drop us off at the Chiquila port entrance and we will walk a few minutes to the dock and board the ferry to Holbox Island (20 minutes). Disembark at Holbox and transfer to our hotel via motorized golf cart taxis. After check-in, enjoy the time to relax or take a swim at the beach or hotel pool while the rooms are being prepared. The hotel will store our luggage until rooms are ready for check-in. 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.

Lunch: Hotel plated meal plus coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: At the hotel swimming pool, a local expert will instruct us on proper snorkeling techniques and provide useful pointers for snorkeling with whale sharks. Later, we’ll hop on golf carts for a fun city orientation led by our Group Leader along the island’s lime rock roads Before dinner, our Group Leader will lead the kids in an informal Spanish lesson at the hotel.

Dinner: At a local restaurant that serves kid-friendly fare. Meal includes a non-alcoholic drink; other beverages are available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
3
Swimming with Whale Sharks, Spanish Lesson, Live Music
Holbox Island
B,L,D
Hotel Villa Delfines

Activity note: Swimming with whale sharks is highly regulated. Only 2 participants are allowed in the water with the guide at any time (each session lasts approx. 10 mins) and no flash photography is permitted while in the water. Regular sunscreens are prohibited--only use biodegradable lotions. Although the boat has a cover, you will be in and out of the sun throughout the day--please bring a hat and sun glasses. A rash guard offers good protection against chafing (from wearing a life vest) and sunburns.

Breakfast: At the hotel; juice, coffee, tea, and water included.

Morning: Transfer, via golf cart taxis, to a local dive shop to select fins and snorkel gear in preparation for today's activities. After collecting our equipment, we will walk to the dock and board a boat that will take us to the whale shark feeding site. During the boat ride, our snorkeling expert will provide information about whale shark migration patterns, feeding habits and general biology. If we’re lucky, we might see some dolphins or manta rays during the journey. Swimming with whale sharks is an activity that is regulated by local park authorities. Only 2 participants are allowed in the water with the guide at any time (approximately 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 (flash photography is 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.

Lunch: Box lunch plus bottled water on the boat.

Afternoon: Time permitting, enjoy some en route snorkeling on your return journey to Holbox Island. Back at Holbox, transfer to the hotel via golf cart taxis. Once at the hotel, participants will have free time to shower and change before dinner. While adults enjoy some free time at the hotel, the kids will join our Group Leader for another informal Spanish lesson. As our last day in Holbox Island comes to a close, we'll enjoy some local music performed by a talented local musician and instrument maker. The musical presentation is guaranteed to get our feet tapping to the contagious rhythms.

Dinner: BBQ dinner on hotel patio.* *We suggest applying insect repellent before heading to the patio for dinner. Mosquitoes and/or sand flies can be a real nuisance in the early morning and evening hours on Holbox.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
4
Yalahau Lagoon, Valladolid, Cooking Class
Chichen Itza
B,L,D
Hotel Mayaland - Chichen Itza

Activity note: The drive from Chiquila to Valladolid is about 97 miles; approximately 2 hours. The drive from Valladolid to Chichen Itza is about 26 miles; just under 1 hour.

Breakfast: At the hotel; juice, coffee, tea, and water included.

Morning: After check-out, we’ll take motorized golf carts to the Holbox pier and then board a motorboat back to Chiquila. On our way back to the mainland we will navigate by Isla Pajaros and join our Group Leader on a short visit to a nearby island within the Yalahau Lagoon. Navigate past the tiny, mangrove-fringed Isla Pasion and nearby Isla Pajaros (Bird Island). Disembark at the small dock and begin a slow-paced walk along unpaved paths to reach the island’s crystalline spring and a lookout tower. If the tower is open to visitors, we'll climb the two-story structure to enjoy nice views of the surrounding forest and grasslands and search for local birds. Scan the island shores for roseate spoonbills and vibrantly colored flamingoes that flock to this location from April to October. Other birds seen here include frigates, herons, and both white and gray pelicans. Returning to the boat, we’ll finish our journey back to Chiquila. After disembarking at the pier, we will transfer to Chichén Itzá via motorcoach with an en route stop at Valladolid. In Valladolid, we’ll enjoy a panoramic introduction to the city as we drive through the town’s colonial center and become familiar with some of its key historic buildings. Valladolid is an attractive 16th century town located in the eastern side of the Yucatán state, within 29 miles of Chichen Itzá. Like most colonial cities in the Yucatan, Valladolid was born from the destruction of a local Maya community. The very stones used to build the Spanish city once graced the graceful lines of ancient Maya structures. It is sadly ironic perhaps, that many of the original colonial buildings were destroyed or damaged during the Yucatecan Caste War (1847-1901) and later during Indian uprisings. The Church of San Bernardino de Siena and adjoining convent are among the oldest churches in the region.

Lunch: Plated meal plus coffee, tea, water at a local restaurant in Valladolid. Other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: If time permits, enjoy some independent time to explore the town square before returning to the bus. Continue with transfer to nearby Chichén Itzá. After checking into our rooms, we'll have some free time to jump into the hotel’s swimming pool or explore the property's attractive gardens for a chance to see local flora and bird life and catch glimpses of Chichén Itzá's ancient temples. At the hotel, 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. Afterwards, the kids will get to enjoy a piñata party and an informal Spanish lesson before dinner.

Dinner: Hotel plated meal plus coffee, tea, water. Other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
5
Chichén Itzá, Cenote Yokdzonot, Spanish Lesson, Planetarium
Chichen Itza
B,L,D
Hotel Mayaland - Chichen Itza

Activity note: A hat, sunscreen, sunglasses, and comfortable walking shoes are indicated for our exploration of the Chichen Itza ruins. Do not remove hotel towels from your room; our Group Leader will provide beach towels for the cenote excursion.

Breakfast: At the hotel; juice, coffee, tea, and water included.

Morning: From the hotel, we’ll join our Group Leader on a walking field trip to the Chichén Itzá archaeological complex. We'll examine the architecture, layout and history of this important Maya city. 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 Yokdzonot. To reach the cenote it is necessary to descend a steep, curving, stone staircase. Take a moment to feast your eyes on the beauty of Cenote Yokdzonot 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. 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: Buffet meal plus coffee, tea, water at a restaurant in the Cenote Yokdzonot park.

Afternoon: Following lunch, we will return to the hotel and enjoy some time at leisure to rest or enjoy the hotel amenities. At the hotel, our kids will join our Group Leader in an informal Spanish lesson while the rest of the group enjoys free time. Our entrance tickets to the Chichen Itza ruins are valid for multiple entries on this day and the complex is open from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Before dinner, we'll join your Group Leader at the hotel’s planetarium to enjoy a cosmic show: “Tales of the Maya Skies.” Journey through time and space, into the Mexican jungle to learn about the history, culture, and incredible scientific and astronomical discoveries of the ancient Maya.

Dinner: At the hotel restaurant, plus coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
6
Spider Monkey Reserve, Local Maya, Turtle Beach Walk
Akumal
B,L,D
Hotel Akumal Caribe

Activity note: The drive from Chichen Itza to Punta Laguna is about 75 miles; approximately 1.5 hours. From Punta Laguna to Akumal is about 54 miles; approximately 1.25 hours. For the evening turtle walk, walking distances up to 3 miles. Dark clothing and sneakers are recommended as well as a light sweater or sweatshirt. Please refrain from wearing perfume or cologne or insect repellent. No flash photography or flashlights are allowed.

Breakfast: At the hotel; juice, coffee, tea, and water included.

Morning: After checking-out of our accommodations we will board the motorcoach and begin our transfer to Akumal Bay. On our way, we’ll stop at the Punta Laguna Spider Monkey Reserve for a walking field trip led by a reserve naturalist. 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 safe haven for all nature of native wildlife and flora. Explorations of the forest trails reveal tall ceiba trees, zacate trees, fruiting ramón trees, 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 serving typical fare plus coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: Arrive in Akumal and check-in at the hotel. Enjoy the rest of the afternoon at your leisure. Lounge by the pool, take a walk along the beach, get a fruity drink at the beach-side snack bar, or maybe just take the opportunity to relax in your room.

Dinner: Hotel plated meal plus coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At the hotel, we’ll be joined by a biologist from the Centro Ecologico Akumal (CEA) for a lecture on sea turtles. Following the lecture, we’ll set out for a nighttime walk to a nearby beach that is a turtle nesting ground. We hope to see turtles coming ashore to lay eggs and have the chance to observe CEA staff as they measure and document the turtles and their nests. The Centro Ecologico de Akumal 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.

DAY
7
Snorkeling with Sea Turtles, Yal Ku Lagoon, Spanish Lesson
Akumal
B,L,D
Hotel Akumal Caribe

Activity note: Snorkeling gear will be provided for the activity at Puerto Morelos and at Yal Ku Lagoon. In order to protect the coral reefs and other marine life, please only use biodegradable sunscreens.

Breakfast: At the hotel; juice, coffee, tea, and water included.

Morning: Early this morning, we’ll board our motorcoach and transfer to nearby Puerto Morelos. Once there, we will journey by boat to the nearby reef for a morning of snorkeling activities. Puerto Morelos has one of the world's largest barrier reefs where it is possible to see a variety of colorful coral and tropical fish such as parrot fish and butterfly fish. Sea turtles occasionally make their appearance among the patches of sea grass while rays of various species glide close to the sandy bottom. Return to shore.

Lunch: At a local restaurant.

Afternoon: A motorcoach transfer will get us to Yal Ku Lagoon for snorkeling activities. After picking out fins and snorkel gear, we'll walk along a tree-lined path to the lagoon. It will be necessary to negotiate a few steps (with railings) to get in and out of the water. A few wooden benches placed along shaded edges of the lagoon offer inviting spaces in which to rest and enjoy the views. Yal Ku Lagoon has a unique marine environment that is home to a variety of tropical fish including parrot fish, rays, urchins, sergeant majors, damselfish, and tangs. Its inviting crystalline waters are a blend of salt water, from the Caribbean Sea, and freshwater, from local cenotes. The naturally protected lagoon has calm waters with depths ranging from 6 ft - 15 ft, making it a great place for snorkelers of all ages/levels. We will return to the hotel and the kids will join the Group Leader for an informal Spanish lesson while adults have some free time.

Dinner: At the hotel restaurant, plus coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
8
Zip Lining, Transfer to Cancun, Farewell Dinner
Cancun
B,L,D
Courtyard Marriott Cancun

Activity note: The drive to Selvatica is about 55 miles; approximately 1.5 hours. Wear cool, comfortable clothes and closed-toed shoes for zip-lining. Bring a bathing suit to change into for the cenote visit after completing the zip line course. The park has storage lockers. The drive from Selvatica to Cancun is about 26 miles; usually just over 1/2 hour.

Breakfast: At the hotel; juice, coffee, tea, and water included.

Morning: After check-out, we'll board the motorcoach and begin our transfer to Selvática Eco Park for a jungle and cenote zip-line adventure. After getting our equipment, park staff will demonstrate the dos and don’ts of zip-lining and review safety procedures. Then we'll be ready to climb the stairs to the first of 12 zip-lines that will take us on an exhilarating journey over the forest canopy. After completing the last zip-line, and take a moment to catch our breath, we'll change into bathing suits before boarding the park’s transfer vehicle to a local cenote. We will get to cool off and recharge our batteries by jumping from a platform or dropping from a zip line into the cold waters of a deep cenote.

Lunch: Plated meal plus coffee, tea, water at Selvática Eco Park. Other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: We'll board our motorcoach and transfer to Cancun (30 minutes). Arrive at hotel and check-in. During free time, get a head start on your packing or relax at the hotel.

Dinner: Farewell dinner with coffee, tea, water at a local restaurant featuring typical Mexican food. Alcoholic beverages available for purchase.

Evening: Return to the hotel and time at leisure.

DAY
9
Flights Back to the U.S.
In Flight
B

Breakfast: At the hotel (dependent on flight times); juice, coffee, tea, and water included.

Morning: Transfer to the airport via hotel shuttle. This concludes the program. Safe travels! If you are transferring to another Road Scholar program, detailed instructions are included in your Information Packet for the next program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Please join our Facebook page and share photos of your program. Visit us at www.facebook.com/rsadventures. Best wishes for all your journeys!