Fairmont Mayakoba villas
Rosewood Mayakoba beachfront
Hotel Esencia exterior
The Riviera Maya is spot on for a luxury family holiday. It stretches along the Caribbean coastline of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. Home to the Mayan ruins, the beaches of Tulum, the hedonism of Playa del Carmen, Puerto Morelos, Puerto Aventuras, Solidaridad, and even Cancun to the north (depending on who you speak to,) this strip along the northeast coast of the country is fabulous fun at any age. Diving in the cenotes is a must for those who are qualified, while snorkelling along the small coral reefs near the shore of Tulum is a wonderful way for little ones to get snorkelling. The luxury hotels are heavenly and the staff will happily cater to your family's every need.
A 50-acre private estate near Playa del Carmen, Esencia, once home to an Italian duchess, now offers superior luxury for adults and little ones alike
Hotel Esencia is perfectly located between Playa del Carmen and Tulum, so you’ve all the fun a short drive away, but enough distance from the party strips to ensure peace, quiet and relaxation. The garden view and ocean view rooms are fabulous, but if you can stretch to one of the cottages, you’ll not want to...Baby-friendly / Family-friendly Spa / Pre-Teen friendly / See this Hotel & Book »
Large is size but intimate in feel, the Fairmont Mayakoba in Playa del Carmen offers a spoiling combination of lagoon, beach or jungle setting
A resort but intimate in feel, the Fairmont Mayakoba is a 401-roomed beauty perches on the edge of the sea and encompasses dunes, water canals, tropical forest and dense mangroves so it’s unique, lush and ripe for exploration (or relaxation depending on what you’re after). Not far from bustling Playa del Carmen,...Baby-friendly / Family-friendly Spa / Pre-Teen friendly / See this Hotel & Book »
Rosewood Mayakoba is a luxury leader along the Mexican Riviera Maya with an exceptional children's program
A gorgeous option, the Rosewood Mayakoba is unique and utterly spoiling, though children are very much kept in mind. Their sweetly named “Rose Buds” program is for younger guests and children under 12 always stay for free if sharing a room with their parents. You’ll want to go back again and...Baby-friendly / Family-friendly Spa / Pre-Teen friendly / See this Hotel & Book »
La Cueva del Chango, Play del Carmen
Calle 38, Playa del Carmen
A stone’s throw from the sea is La Cueva del Chango, a fantastic option if authentic Mexican cuisine is what you’re after. From breakfast through to dinner, the menus include favourites such as bean chalupitas, homemade guacamole and enchiladas, with lots of sandwiches, salads and simple seafood options if you want a change from local fare. The fruit juices are made from nothing but local fresh produce and children will adore the décor, which includes tree trunks from the local vegetation amongst which the restaurant is built. This is as close to eating in the rainforest as you’ll find, yet you’re just a moment from your beach towel.
La Vita e Bella
77780 Tulum, Quintana Roo
Those wanting a more rustic bite dressed in nothing but one’s morning bikini and a sarong will love La Vita e Bella. Aside from the restaurant, there are beachfront haciendas replete with requisite sandy bedroom floors and a hammock if you come for dinner and stay the night. The menu’s highlight are the stone-baked pizzas – always popular with children – and this is highly recommended as a fun, casual option between boating excursions in the morning and sunbathing in the afternoon.
77780 Tulum, Quintana Roo
This is a great option and also has gorgeous rooms. Its Thai menu serves some incredible fusion food (such as the perfection that is their giant fried prawn tacos) and Friday nights draw in huge crowds for live music, mega-watt Mojitos and a late finish (perfect if you’ve lined up a sitter). Celebrity Thai Chef Dim Geefay heads up the kitchen so there are some really authentic curries on offer, as well as an informal but diverse breakfast menu and another menu described by the kitchen as “casual beach cuisine” so lots of salads and sandwiches for light lunchtime bites whether you are staying at the hotel or not.
Explore the Mayan ruins
Aside from the hours spent swimming, sunning and satiating on delicious local cuisine, the Riviera Maya is loaded with historic, and very beautiful, Mayan ruins and ecological parks. Xel-ha, for example, is a natural acquarium park, largely considered to be the largest natural acquarium in the world. From snorkeling to swimming with dolphins, zip-biking (a combination of zip-lining and biking) to swimming with manatees, there is plenty ehre to keep active kids busy. (Parents will enjoy some downtime of their own at the on-site Spa Xel-Ha while the children are otherwise occupied and well supervised). Xcaret, meanwhile, is an archeological area dedicated to Myan history, complete with a butterfly park, a coral reef aquarium and underground rivers amongst other endless activities both underwater and on land.
Chichén Itzá is an infamous Mayan site but about 90 kilomoeters east of that sits an entire Mayan city of ruins called Coba. This is recommended for visits with older children as there are no clear paths, it gets very very hot because it’s located in the Yucatan jungle and, let’s face it, only older children would really find such ruins of interest for more than a few moments.
Snorkel the Cenotes
There are Cenotes are all over this area of Mexico, and families with proficient swimmers musn’t miss the magical experience of snorkeling in one. Cenotes are basically large sinkholes that have been created by collapsing limestone bedrock, the result of which are underground pools of water that are extremely beautiful, often homes to bats and filled with dappled light. There are many along this route, but one recommendation is the Dos Ojos Cenotes just outside of Tulum. Those not familiar with such natural phenomenon will be blown away by these underwater worlds of limestone, bat caves and freshwater. Those with a diving certificate can enjoy these at greater depths but, however you decide to explore them, they really are not to be missed. Older children will be hard to drag away.
Visit the Sian Ka'an biosphere
Nature-lovers will adore the biosphere that is Sian Ka’an. Part of this stunning and vast reserve is on land, part is underwater and made of coral reef, with some 23 known Mayan archeological sites spread across its dimension. This is a magical way to educate and stimulate children across so many historical, environmental and natural levels.
The Riviera Maya is a large area encompassing several places so we’ve separated the two areas we have focused on to give you a bit more idea of the characteristics of each area.
PLAYA DEL CARMEN
Just a few kilometers south of the beach strip that is known as Riviera Maya lies the funky and very lively place known as Playa del Carmen. Once considered the Monaco of Mexico it is now, inevitably, tarnished by the Starbucks brush, but nonetheless, the beaches are beautiful, the bars and clubs fantastic fun, and the people, absolutely magnificent. It can get busy with tourists but it’s still a city full of year-round, local residents so it’s got a real heartbeat to it, one that can be felt in every restaurant, shop and food stall. And speaking of, 5th Avenue (the main road through Playa) is dotted with good restaurants, but walk one block west to 10th Avenue (mathematically that may not make sense but it is literally one block over) and you’ll find a fabulous array of food stalls and little restaurants where you can dine for only dollars on really authentic, delicious traditional food. Tortas, tacos, enchiladas, fajitas: everything imaginable is available and, so long as you’re happy eating from a plastic bag, you really will feel you’ll hit the pulse of good Mexican food.
About an hour south of Playa, cascading ancient Mayan ruins nestle around the town of Tulum and the water’s edge. Untouched by any familiar names or brands, every restaurant, hotel and bar is a one-off, created with local materials and using local products. Its beach, several miles long, lies parallel to the second largest barrier reef in the world, palm trees sway across neon white sand, and daytime beach revellers pour into the adjacent restaurants and bars after a day in the sun.
Definitely worth bearing in mind:
In children’s clubs, all guests must be toilet trained to participate. Mexican law prohibits nappies and pull-ups in organized childcare facilities.
Bring plenty of mosquito repellent. Those susceptible to bites will be quite alarmed at how large they can be here. And, we’re stating the obvious, but make sure everyone stays well hydrated. Temperatures can soar in this region during the hot summer months and if you’re out exploring ruins, eco-parks or even sitting on the beach, dehydration is to be avoided.
You can find pharmacies in all villages and cities in the Riviera Maya, with most open 24 hours a day. Some even offer a delivery service. The main hospital along this stretch of coastline is in Playa del Carmen (+52 984 803-1002) but if you need to call emergency services dial 066.
When to go
Spring break (which usually takes place in early March) is a time to keep in mind when booking a holiday in Mexico. If you’re in a luxury hotel you’re unlikely to clash with hedonistic college kids but Mexico is a very popular destination for American students during this week off classes so it can make airports and air travel busier than normal. June to November is hurricane season and July, August and September can be extremely humid (unless you’re in land in an area of higher elevation), making it a perfect winter destination for a beach holiday with guaranteed high temperatures. Christmas and New Year periods can get booked up so do try and plan trips during that time as far ahead as possible.