7 Top Family-Friendly Resorts in Mexico’s Riviera Maya
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Nonstop flights from the US to Cancun International Airport make the culturally rich and jungle-like setting of Mexico’s Riviera Maya region an ideal and easily accessible destination for a warm-weather getaway. If you happen to have a Southwest Companion Pass, you are in extra luck as Cancun is served by Southwest from cities like San Diego, Raleigh-Durham, Austin, Nashville, Chicago, St. Louis and Indianapolis.
I’ve been traveling to this region since 2006, and over the past 12 years have noticed a new crop of luxury resorts popping up and new cultural immersions, whether that’s walking among Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza, zip-lining above the jungle or swimming in cenotes (fresh-water swimming holes that are truly stunning). If you’re an active family, this is your place.
This part of Mexico — stretching from Cancun to Tulum along the Caribbean Sea, also including the islands of Cozumel and Isla Mujeres, plus Playa del Carmen — is not just a romantic locale dotted with adults-only resorts. There are plenty of properties (some all-inclusive) that also cater to families. The all-inclusive properties mean extra cheeseburgers or late-night room-service dessert, as well as watersports rentals and access to kids clubs, usually cost nothing extra. Who wants surprise charges at checkout, anyway? But — the properties that aren’t all-inclusive can still give you a great return for your points and many offer all-inclusive packages if you ask for an extra rate.
Here are our favorite resorts you can book on points for a family getaway in Riviera Maya.
Program: World of Hyatt
Family Rooms: Category 5 from 20,000 points per night (increasing to a Category 6 in March 2019)
At Andaz Mayakoba Resort Riviera Maya, younger travelers ages 4–12 like the Kimbo Kid’s Club at this 214-room resort where they can sign up for activities like a boat tour that teaches about ecology or how to make crafts native to the region. This is not an all-inclusive resort, but it is one that caters to adults and kids alike.
Five room categories offer varying views and locations within the resort, including beachfront (with two double beds) where the sand is a short walk away. There are two outdoor pools. Overall, the design is bright, crisp and modern, and it’s within the 600-acre gated Mayakoba complex (also home to Rosewood, Fairmont and Banyan Tree properties), which has many trails for hiking or jogging, or using a complimentary bicycle rental. Chauffeured golf carts are helpful when little ones get tired. You can earn points with the World of Hyatt Credit Card.
Program: Marriott Rewards
Family Rooms: Category 6 (50,000 points per night)
Part of the Marriott Cancun Collection — with Marriott Cancun Resort — this 447-room property is just off a $40 million renovation. Accommodations include ocean-facing rooms with two double beds and a balcony. There is a spa, and treatments just for tweens — like “Mayan Princess for a Day” — help build a mother-daughter experience. Lessons in Spanish and building a killer sand castle are among activities available at the kids club. One of the three pools on property is just for kids and a poolside private cabana keeps everyone together for the afternoon. Ten restaurants easily satisfy the picky eaters in your group. If you don’t have enough Marriott Rewards points, transfer some of your Chase Ultimate Rewards at a 1:1 ratio. You can also use the annual 50k award night available with the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card.
Program: Marriott Rewards
Family Rooms: Category 5 (35,000 points per night)
Fresh off a $25 million renovation, this 450-room resort — connected to JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa in Cancun’s Hotel Zone via a pathway — offers a Family Fun in Cancun package (in case you’re low on points and need to book with cash) where everyone gets free breakfast. Plus you get a $100 spa credit and you can book an ocean-facing connecting room with two double beds and a balcony. (Package pricing varies by date.)
All rooms with king beds also have a pullout sofa to help accommodate small families. If your child is between the ages of 4 and 12, then the kids club (included in resort fee) beckons with Spanish and piñata-making lessons or other crafts. There’s even a turtle-release program in September and October. Six restaurants offer everything from sports-bar cuisine to poolside snacks. The whole family can partake in poolside and beachfront entertainment like beach volleyball and cooking classes. Since this is a Category 5 property, you can use a free night certificate like the one you can earn with the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card.
Program: World of Hyatt
Family Rooms: Category 5 from 20,000 points per night (Increasing to a Category 6 in March 2019)
At the Grand Hyatt Playa del Carmen, the Tortuguita Camp Hyatt (the 314-room resort’s kids club, for kids between the ages of 4 and 12) offers fun cultural activities like learning to speak Mayan, walking around the garden and identifying native plants or experiencing how Mayan chocolate is made. A half-day at the kids club costs $45. If your child likes animals, be sure to visit during one of the club’s wildlife shows.
All three of the resort’s infinity pools face the beach and the balconies are furnished (suite balconies have a private plunge pool). The resort is a few blocks from Quinta Avenida in Playa del Carmen, a pedestrian-only stretch lined with restaurants and boutiques, should you want to wander. There are four restaurants on property. If you need more Hyatt points to book your stay, you can transfer them Chase Ultimate Rewards via cards such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Sapphire Preferred Card at a 1:1 ratio.
Program: World of Hyatt
Family Rooms: Category 6 (25,000 points for double occupancy, additional guests are 12,500 per night)
What makes Hyatt Ziva Cancun — a all-inclusive sibling to the adults-only Hyatt Zilara Cancun — superior to other kid-friendly all-inclusives in the area is that it has a waterpark and KidZ Club with a game room and that’s all included in the resort fee.
At Hyatt Ziva Cancun there is also live music and cultural shows in the outdoor amphitheater designed for all ages, which makes a night out as a family easy (and “free”). Water activities on property include standup paddle-boarding, snorkeling and paddle yoga. A standout highlight for kids of all ages is also the included all-you-can-enjoy dessert store — what can be better than “free” dessert?
This all-inclusive 539-suite beachfront property, set on 209 acres, just rolled out a glamping option (included in the nightly rate) for kids, which folds in activities like making dreamcatchers, roasting s’mores over the fire and creating a puppet show. The kids club and teens club keep younger travelers engaged. Every suite has a spacious balcony and some boast private plunge pools. The new oceanfront Grand Class section recently changed from adults-only to all-ages.
The smaller of the suites allows for two adults and two kids; larger families may like the two-bedroom Family Suites (there are also three-bedroom options). Teens (between the ages of 13 and 18) have a dedicated club with video games, karaoke and a disco floor while smaller children enjoy the kids club. Traveling with a baby? Ask for the Baby Concierge to coordinate things like floaties for the pool and organic foods. Family entertainment includes cooking classes, sand-castle building, eco-cycling tours and astronomy nights.
While you can’t book the Grand Velas with traditional hotel points, you can book it through the Hotels.com/Venture partnership and earn 10 miles per dollar with your Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card. When we checked rates for a family of four, they were often near $800 per night, so you would rack up a lot of miles. Alternatively, you could use fixed value points to cover the cost of your stay.
A newly designed kids club with an outdoor play area plus family suites with bunk beds (in addition to a king bed and pullout couch) attract many families to all-inclusive Panama Jack Resorts Playa del Carmen. This 287-room beachfront resort is a sister property to another Panama Jacks in Cancun. The Playa del Carmen property is near the pedestrian-only Quinta Avenida, which means shops and boutiques are only a short walk away. While buffets are typically good for all ages, this resort has a buffet just for kids and it’s a huge hit with little travelers.
The resort’s nightly entertainment is designed to attract guests of all ages, such as Mexican Night where the lobby transforms into a Mexican fiesta.
Mexico’s Riviera Maya region is home to a plethora of resorts that have at least a decade of experience behind them when it comes to knowing what families want and need on vacation. Your brood will be pampered at any of these properties and, if you use your points, the trip will be a great value too.
Have you traveled to the Riviera Maya? What did your kids enjoy most about the vacation?
To help you continue your trip planning session:
- What To See and Do in Playa Del Carmen
- 9 Ways To Do the Riviera Maya
- Fun Activities in the Riviera Maya
- Redeem Points at 9 Family-Friendly Resorts in Cancun
Featured photo courtesy JW Marriott.
Note: The story has been updated to reflect that some of these resorts are not all all-inclusive properties.
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