Next time your kids complain about
, just tell them about what it was like growing up in an ancient Mayan household.
Mayan parents pressed their newborns' skulls between boards to create long tapering heads that resembled corn and purposefully crossed their infants' eyes by dangling objects in front of them. At the same time, the Maya created a sophisticated civilization known for mathematics, astronomy and art, flourishing in the region that today is part of the Western Caribbean.
It's an area whose beautiful, natural scenery and rich history are attracting more and more families. From ancient Mayan archeological sites to stunning coral reefs, the Western Caribbean is ideal for soft adventure -- an outdoor playground with equal appeal to kids and their parents. What's especially appealing about this region is that each destination is distinctive, with its own natural beauty and culture.
We've taken a look at the multitude of ship-sponsored excursions, aimed to please families in particular, in seven ports from Belize City to Roatan. From zip-lining atop rainforests and tubing underground caves to snorkeling alongside stingrays and horseback riding through the sea, here are our family favorites:
Belize City, Belize
Best for First Timers:
Barrier Reef Snorkel & Beach Break
Though Belize is known for its world-famous dives sites like the Blue Hole, you truly don't need to dive to experience stunning marine life (With a mask and snorkel in shallow Belizean waters, I saw the most beautiful schools of fish I've ever seen.). A high-speed catamaran whisks travelers 16 miles across the turquoise waters of the barrier reef to Turneffe Atoll. Shallow reefs on the leeward side of the atoll are home to luxuriant soft and stony corals, large sponges and marine life like damselfish, parrotfish, barracuda, angels and snapper. After snorkeling, there's kayaking and a white sand beach to enjoy.
Know Before You Go:
Snorkel gear, kayaks and beach floats are included.
The angelfish is one of the few fish that can eat sponges with their glass needles.
Want to combine soft adventure with history?
Try tubing through Belize's spectacular caves, considered sacred to the ancient Maya.