3 Kid-Friendly Western Caribbean Shore Excursions
When our family first booked our 7-day Western Caribbean cruise from Galveston, Texas on the Carnival Breeze, we were over-the-moon excited about our first cruise. Our happy smiles were soon replaced with deer-in-the-headlights looks as we faced the prospect of choosing from 132 Carnival-sponsored shore excursions across our ports of call in Cozumel, Belize, and Isla Roatan in Hondouras. This task became harder when trying to find excursions that were appropriate or even allowed for our three young children. And to make the selection process even tougher, I was barely one month out from back surgery that I had in May, so the normal action-filled activities that I like to do were off limits.
Below are three Western Caribbean shore excursions that we recommend across three port stops to hopefully help you make an informed decision if you’re cruising with Carnival or any other cruise line in the Western Caribbean with kids.
Swimming with Dolphins in Cozumel, Mexico at Chankanaab Park
Cozumel was our first port, and it ended up being the only port where we utilized a Carnival-organized excursion. We knew we had to see and play with dolphins on this cruise because our daughters were obsessed with the Dolphin Tale movies. Carnival offered multiple options for dolphin encounters in Cozumel, and we chose the Dolphin Swim, Push Pull, Lunch and Beach. We selected this option because it allowed our youngest daughter who just turned 3 years-old to get in the water, touch, and kiss the dolphins too; she just couldn’t swim with them since she was under 4-feet tall. No other dolphin encounter on the entire cruise allowed kids that young or small to participate. An added bonus was her trip was free because she was under age 5.
This excursion was run by professionals from start to finish. It included round-trip transportation and entrance to the Chankanaab Beach Park and Dolphin Discovery. The park is nicely organized with plenty of activities along the water including a large pool area, lagoon and snorkeling area. The bathrooms and changing areas were very clean with free lockers.
The dolphin swim lasted almost an hour, and I liked that it was in a more natural setting in the ocean and not a big water tank or pool. Our girls had the times of their lives. The smiles on their faces while kissing the dolphins, getting belly rides, being pushed on boogie boards, and simply hugging them were priceless.
Another bonus was that we never felt rushed or pressured to buy something extra which can be a hassle on cruise excursions in Mexico. The excursion was fun for adults and kids, and we all still talk about it frequently. We now have three girls who have solidified their desires to become dolphin rescuers and trainers.
Belize Cave Tubing
Belize was our second port and our first time to make an excursion that wasn’t organized through Carnival. Cave tubing with Vitalino Reyes was highly recommended by friends, family and also random strangers that review things on the internet. All of them were right because this trip did not disappoint. Everything was expertly handled. The guides were well informed and very friendly. The bus ride from the cruise terminal to the Caves Branch Archaeological Reserve took about 45 minutes, but it allowed us to see a significant part of Belize.
The cave tubing with Vitalino was really nice with our kids because we didn’t have to drag our tubes up the path through the jungle. They were waiting for us at the top. Cave tubing was a nice, leisurely float through the beautiful dark cave and then there was a nice, open river portion too. Following the tubing, the provided lunch was tasty, and rum punch was included! Don’t worry about weak or non-swimmers because everyone wears a life jacket, and the tubes are all tied together like a big honeycomb.
From the very beginning, safety is a priority and throughout the excursion, the guides work to ensure everyone is happy, comfortable, and most importantly, safe. This cave tubing excursion also allows young children to participate, but they must ride in the lap of an adult if they are too small to sit in a tube. In addition, people of any shape or size and those with physical conditions are able to participate; the only requirement is the ability to walk.
The entire excursion was all expertly timed, and we were back to the cruise terminal with at least an hour before the last tender to our ship. We could not have asked for a better experience to calm our fears about using a non-cruise organized excursion, especially with our young kids in tow.
The Best Zipline in Roatan, Honduras
Our final port call was Isla Roatan in Honduras. Again trusting the opinions of friends and family, we chose South Shore Zip-Line for our last family excursion. It was a short, relatively scenic drive to their facility, and the transportation was included in the price. It was just a short walk outside the Carnival compound to catch their shuttle, but on the return trip we were dropped off inside the Carnival gate.
The ziplining was absolutely awesome and our guides were beyond great. The staff was very friendly and they helped our young kids out along the way, including our 3 year-old. Everyone had a blast and our safety was never a question.
South Shore’s canopy zipline experience included 11 different cables and 16 different platforms, allowing for 11 thrilling flights soaring through the air going from tree to tree. The views of the Caribbean and the lush vegetation below were magnificent, and every second of the experience felt safe. With two guides assigned to each group, there was always a highly experienced and trained staff member to get you clipped in at the beginning of each cable and one at the end of it to help you slow down, stop, and get unclipped from the line. The instructions on what to do (and not do!) were well-explained, and our 6 and 8 year-olds were even allowed to go solo on most of the cables.
And while my husband was not thrilled with the idea of me ziplining, I really wanted to do it and am so glad I did. There was never any time when my body was jerked or that I felt my recovering back was being compromised in any way. (However, I opted to decline the inverted/upside down option on two of the cables!) That’s how smooth and secure South Shore’s cables and ziplines were! This excursion was only a half-day event, so we went in the morning, returned to the cruise ship for lunch, and then enjoyed the sand and sun at Mahogany Bay Beach all afternoon.
If there is someone in your group that has no interest in ziplining or is too young or physically unable to participate, South Shore Zip-Line is the only ziplining company that offers an eco-walk along suspension bridges in the trees. So while the others in your group zipline, those who choose not to or are unable to can take a beautiful and scenic walk through the jungle underneath the ziplines and not just sit around waiting.
We were so thankful we chose this excursion compared to the more expensive and much shorter ziplining adventures offered through Carnival, the port, or elsewhere on the internet.
Park Stay & Go
Regardless the port of embarkation, the most hectic part of your cruise can be getting your loved ones and the accompanying mountain of luggage to the cruise terminal on time without starting a family brawl. Let me recommend an option that will save you time, money and sanity if you are planning to sail out of the Galveston Cruise Terminal.
I highly recommend staying in Galveston the night before your cruise to eliminate an early morning dash to the port. Hilton hotels offers two options where you can stay with them and leave your car parked at a hotel for the duration of your cruise and the hotel will shuttle you to the port.
Hilton Galveston Island Resort is a wonderful way to start your Caribbean vacation with an outdoor heated pool including a swim-up bar and grill. It is situated on 32 beachfront acres with several restaurants within walking distance. Their Park Stay & Go package saves time and money on parking and alleviates a lot of stress and waiting outside in the dank humidity at the port. The Hampton Inn & Suites Galveston also offers a Park, Stay & Go package as well, plus they provide a free breakfast to eliminate one more hassle on your cruise embarkation morning.
Note: If you park at one of the private or public parking lots and garages at the port, it can take 45 minutes to over an hour to get to the port from your parking spot on the shuttle. You can always walk, but let’s be honest, it is Galveston and it is hot, humid, and sticky.
Being shuttled directly to the port from the hotel and dropped off right at the entrance is money, especially when traveling with kids, not to mention when you are traveling in zone coverage and not man-to-man.
As a side note: I did not receive any compensation, reduced, or free shore excursions from Carnival Cruise Lines or any of the shore excursion companies mentioned above. I also did not receive any compensation or a reduced or complimentary cruise from Carnival Cruise Lines. I mention these companies simply because they all went above and beyond our expectations for these Western Caribbean shore excursions, and I hope you enjoy them, too!
You may also enjoy:
- What to Pack for a Cruise with Your Family
- Port of Call Day Trip to the British Colonial Hilton Nassau
- Sail Away With Me – Snorkeling and Sunset Cruises in Aruba
- Start Your Trip Right with the Hilton Park, Stay & Go Package
Hilton Mom Voyage writers receive free night certificates to use at Hilton Hotels & Resorts worldwide. To learn more, visit our About Us page.
Amy grew up in Southern California but has lived all over the globe. Her latest move brought her to Panama City, Florida, where she lives with her…