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The gorgeous Caribbean coastline of Mexico’s Riviera Maya is a favorite vacation destination for families all over the world. Dozens of resorts line this stretch of sparkling blue water, from Punta Allen in the south to Puerto Morelos in the North, with the largest clusters around Playa del Carmen and Tulum. The all-inclusive experience is a particularly popular one, allowing for maximum relaxation and surprisingly good value for your vacation buck. Many of the Riviera Maya all-inclusives go out of their way to cater to families traveling with small children and teens: the younger set can enjoy kids’ clubs, dedicated swimming pools, outdoor recreation of all kinds, special dining menus and so much more. With all of the great amenities on offer, which property is best-suited to your family’s needs? Read on to see our favorite family-friendly resorts on the Riviera Maya.
Best Overall: Grand Velas Riviera Maya
This mega-resort just north of Playa del Carmen tops every list of the best resorts in the area, and for good reason. Families can spread out in the spacious Ambassador Suites with their plush King-sized beds and sitting areas, all with an ocean view. Not far away, fully-staffed and stocked clubs for kids and teens give the younger set places to hang out and make friends while parents enjoy a full-service spa, golf course, fitness classes and good old lounging and relaxing. When it comes to activities for the whole family, the possibilities are endless: snorkeling, boogie boarding, eco-tours, trips to Chichen Itza and more.
Best Luxury: Rosewood Mayacoba
Sheer luxury awaits you at the Rosewood Mayacoba, from the larger features, like heated plunge pool and waterfront views from every room, to the tiny details, like a fruit bowl, replenished daily, and luxe fully serviced beach chairs on the white sandy beach. Kids, who stay free (12 and under) are VIPs in their own right, and the Rose Buds program offers them a wide variety of activities, including yoga classes, an eco boat tour, make-your-own-pizza class and Mayan storytelling. The three gourmet restaurants all include kid-friendly options, as well, and the resort also offers complimentary playpens, baby monitors and baby bathtubs upon request. The resort will also happily arrange in-room babysitters at an hourly rate.
Best Value: Iberostar Paraiso Beach
The Iberostar Paraiso Beach isn’t exactly budget, packages here still come at a pretty darn good price, but what you get for your money is outstanding. Paraiso Beach is the family-focused option in the huge multi-resort Iberostar complex and offers all the amenities of a large spa resort (including an 18-hole golf course) with a sweet, sunny, family-friendly vibe. Kids will enjoy daily planned activities in the kids’ club, a swimming pool just for kids, an ice cream shop and even a “mini-discotheque.” And the whole family can enjoy all sorts of water and beach sports, live theater shows, eight different restaurant options, and, of course, the famous Paraiso Beach.
Best Small Resort: Azul Beach Resort Riviera Maya
Mega-resorts can be a bit overwhelming and feel impersonal and smaller resorts often don’t have the same level of amenities, but the Azul Beach Resort Riviera Maya combines a boutique feel with a surprising quality (and quantity) of on-site amenities, especially for families with kids. The resort is partnered with Nickelodeon, and includes character breakfasts with SpongeBob and Dora the Explorer, a kids’ club with daily activities, an on-site MyGym facility for kids (adults get a pretty spanky fitness room of their own), as well as a menu of spa services for children and teens at the full-service spa. Five restaurants, five pools and a gorgeous stretch of beach round out the experience.
Best for Grandparents: Generations Riviera Maya
Traveling with multiple generations in tow? Well, they don’t call this place “Generations” for no reason! Book a glamorous two- or three-bedroom oceanfront suite for plenty of space for the whole family to spread out, or let Granny and Pops escape in the evenings to their own room at the adjacent adults-only El Dorado Royale for some peace and quiet. (Better yet, let Granny and Pops stay with the kids at Generations, at least for a meal or two, if not overnight.) The kids will be overjoyed with the dedicated amenities at this resort, which include the Eko Kids Club, children’s cooking classes, a teen lounge, kids’ menus at all the restaurants, as well as ten swimming pools, one of which is just for kids. The restaurants are highly rated and include Caribbean, Pan-Asian and even Indian cuisine — a much wider variety than you’ll find almost anywhere else. The beach is not the best for regular wading/swimming, but with a number of rocky outcroppings, it’s great for snorkeling, and complimentary snorkeling gear can be borrowed from the hotel.
Best for Teens: Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya
Kids of all ages (and those who act like them) will enjoy the extensive amenities and excellent food at this Hard Rock outpost on a lagoon-enclosed beach south of Playa del Carmen, but teens, in particular, will be in rock heaven. The Cavern is a teens-only club with video games, pool, table hockey, nightly movies and more (and because there tend to be a lot of teens on site at any given time, the scene is actually pretty active). Music instruction, DJ lessons, kayaking, snorkeling, beach volleyball, a rock climbing wall and excursions that include ziplining and a day at a massive indoor BMX/skate park will keep even the surliest teens entertained. A hammock on the private balcony in each guestroom gives them a place to read a book and be alone. Younger siblings can enjoy a kids’ club of their own, and with nanny services offered for an extra fee, parents can even sneak away to Heaven (the aptly-named adults-only section of the Hard Rock resort) for dinner, spa treatments or just a nightcap.
Best Beach: Grand Palladium Colonial Resort and Spa
The Yucatan is better-known for seaweed and rocks than white sands, but some of the beaches are better than others, and the Grand Palladium Colonial’s extensive beach is actually quite lovely. It’s sandy enough to walk for quite a stretch, not so rocky that you can’t swim, and the hotel offers comfy chairs and chairside service, watersports equipment, as well as a luxurious bar and snack area. Families can also enjoy seven freshwater pools, one of which has waterslides and sprinklers for the kids. When kids aren’t enjoying splashing in the ocean or the pools, they can spend time at the kids’ club, which is hosted by Raggs, the Palladium Hotel Group’s very own mascot. (He’s a giant dog and he’s very cute.) Kids and adults alike will enjoy the wide variety of food served at the nine different restaurants, while adults can enjoy tennis courts, a full-service spa and live entertainment nightly, as well as all of the amenities of the property’s adjacent sister resorts.
Best Eco-Resort: Sandos Caracol Eco Resort
Eco-resorts are increasing in popularity in both this stretch of Mexico and throughout the world, but eco properties are often wellness retreat centers, not family fun-focused, amenity-filled, all-inclusive resorts. But Sandos Caracol is different. Nestled along the beach and tucked into pockets of untouched jungle, the series of small buildings that make up this resort put guests right up close and personal with nature. Kids will love the monkeys, lizards, coatis and tropical birds that live in the resort’s trees (they’ll also love the kids’ club, the waterslides and sprinklers in the aqua park, the all-ages nightly performances and even the donkeys, pigs animals who live in the onsite rescue farm). Parents will enjoy the luxurious designer lodgings, the beautiful beach, the excellent bars and restaurants, the extensive spa and wellness programs and the exciting excursions and sporting activities. And knowing that your vacation was a green, eco-friendly one is certainly a special feature in and of itself.