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While there are three different Dreams all-inclusive resorts along the Riviera Maya, we found the Puerto Aventuras location (between the Cancun and Tulum Dreams) to be ideally situated for our family's stay. Puerto Aventuras is away from the bustling hotel track of Cancun, 25 minutes south of Playa del Carmen and just 20 minutes from the ruins of Tulum. We were able to enjoy the resort itself and also walk to a handful of shops and attractions within the gated Puerto Aventuras "neighborhood," including the Dolphin Discovery Center.
The resort sits on a fine sand beach with plenty of lounge chairs between the warm Caribbean water and family swimming pool—with kid friendly swim-up bar and shallow zone for young kids and wading parents—that is on the beach side of the building. An adults-only pool in a separate location on the grounds helps keep everybody happy and comfortable with the swimming pool scene.
We also appreciated that the resort is secure enough within the gated complex, without any outside traffic or tourists, that no wristbands are required as at many other all-inclusive resorts.
The resort offers rooms and suites in eleven different categories, including garden view, ocean view, and harbor view options. Families with just one young child or baby may prefer to book a king room and go with a complimentary crib (small) or rollaway bed, as opposed to the rooms having two double beds. Family suites offer two double beds and much more space, including a seating area with sofa (shown right).
We were able to book connecting rooms on the ground level facing the family pool—a tremendous convenience as we came and went through our patio doors for swim diapers, potty breaks, and sun block as needed rather than lugging extra stuff out to the pool and making way through the building. Though you can't lock the door from the outside, we made very good use of the ground-level patio and its easy access to the pool, bar (with included kid and grown-up drinks), and snacks. Having our connecting "Grandma's room" was also a plus so we could go on with visiting or showering even while someone napped or had gone to bed in the other room.
Helpful inclusions in the rooms: robes and slippers for adults, stocked mini bar, satellite TV with DVD/CD player, iron and ironing board, coffee maker, alarm clock with MP3 dock, and safe.
When vacationing with small kids, it's always a plus to stay somewhere that you can simply slip on your snorkel gear (included with your stay here) and drop in to the water right along the beach as your family builds sand castles. The Caribbean water is warm and calm and it's an easy place to help acclimate young swimmers to snorkel gear as well. It's also a nice spot to tool around in the resort's sea kayaks.
The sea trampoline is quite popular with kids and adults alike, and even at 3 years old our non-swimmer could have spent hours out on it with Daddy. The family pool has a nice shallower area for young swimmers, but the real draw is the large Jacuzzi beside it overlooking the beach—very popular with parents and their little fish (pleasantly warmer than the pool but not too hot for the kids).
Other daily activities for adults may include beach volleyball, bocce, cooking classes, water aerobics, and complimentary scuba lessons in the swimming pool. Evenings feature live music and shows, dancing, and outdoor movies on the beach.
Just a short walk away is the Dolphin Discovery Puerto Aventuras complex where you can swim with dolphins and get up close and personal with manatees, sloths, and more. We watched preschoolers learn to swim with the dolphins, but even if not everyone (or anyone) in your group is ready to give it a try, it's a fun area to walk around, get ice cream cones, and just watch the shows.
Kids 3 years through 12 years old can join the supervised daily activities at the Explorer Kids' Club, which is staffed by adults with CPR and First Aid training. Crafts, video games, treasure hunts, sand castle contests and other activities are offered by day, and certain nights outdoor movies are shown on the beach (which families can watch together as well). Additionally, the Explorer Kids' Club hosts a weekly campout with tents on the beach for those who are interested. Activities vary day to day, so check the daily line-up to see which activities may best suit your child. Parents with very young children (especially those still potty training) can check out a pager when they check in their child to be easily notified if they should stop by the children's area.
Dreams Puerto Aventuras has six restaurants on site, ranging from beach side hot dogs to elegant seafood served by candlelight beside the harbor. While we ventured to try them all, you will definitely be most comfortable with babies and small kids at the World Cafe where buffet-style meals make it easy to pick out kid-pleasing options and extras and the highchairs are kept handy. No reservations are required for these restaurants, and as mentioned above, no wristbands are required. However, you'll want to arrive early with little ones to avoid waiting for seats.
I think this Dreams is a good option for family vacations, including those with grandparents and extended family—particularly when you can take advantage of the kids-free promotions (check current offers to the right) they sometimes run and/or book adjoining rooms as described above.
Did we enjoy our stay at Dreams Puerto Aventuras? Yes. Would I recommend it to a friend? Yes, and I have. Would we stay there again? Yes, and I'd love to take even more of our extended family with us the next time around!