Cancún, located in Quintana Roo, is well-known as a spring break destination with round-the-clock parties, full of dancing, drinking, and loud music. There’s another side to this Mexican city, situated on the sunny Yucatán Peninsula, that is actually super fun for parents with kids in tow. Indulge in a relaxing beach vacation situated along the Caribbean Sea, take a boat to a nearby island, stay at a property with a stellar kids’ club, swim with whale sharks, dine at vibrant restaurants with entertainment, and shop for colorful Mexican toys, blankets, and art. Here are the top activities to try while traveling with your family in Cancún.
Enjoy a Slice of Mexican Culture
For an authentic and safe family-friendly experience, visit Parque Las Palapas. This park, located in the heart of downtown Cancun, is where you’ll see children running around the square, musicians playing on the corner or under trees, and vendors selling handmade crafts, clothing, jewelry, and art. Buy spicy corn on the cob or Mexican candy, find a place to sit, and watch your kids play with the local children. Stroll past El Cristo Rey, the city’s oldest Catholic church, and stay late to see a show on the park’s main stage.
Also, consider dining at one of Cancun's best restaurants while you're out and about exploring the city.
Pro Tip: Sunday’s are bustling and vibrant, making this the best day to visit and experience the Mayan culture.
Revel in the Unusual at Croco Cun Zoo
The guides at Croco Cun Zoo, near Puerto Morelos, have made it their passion to ignite a love for animals through hands-on experiences and education for visitors. You’ll go on an informative tour to learn about different species and how to protect them. Kids will have an interactive adventure where they can touch, hold, and even feed wildlife. This is a fun way to learn about different animals, habitats, and conservation.
Visit an Eco-Archeological Park
X-Caret is one of the most popular family-friendly destinations in Playa del Carmen. You’ll get to experience Mayan culture here through the dining, shopping, cultural ceremonies, and eco-friendly activities. Take part in water activities like swimming in underground rivers and floating on a lazy river, let butterflies land on your hand in the Butterfly Pavilion, see a variety of birds in the aviary, explore the aquarium, and try to spot spider monkeys. There’s a Mayan ruin that kids can climb as well as activities like snorkeling, sunbathing, and special kid-friendly Mexican dance performances. The park is open every day of the year, from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., including holidays.
Pro Tip: Plan on eating at one of the buffets. The food is priced well and in an ideal setting for families of all sizes.
Snorkel with Whale Sharks
If your kids can snorkel, then they can swim with whale sharks off the coast of Cancun. If you visit this Mexican Caribbean hot spot from June to August, you’ll have the opportunity to jump in the water with some of the ocean’s largest creatures—some whale sharks weigh up to 10,000 pounds! Don’t worry, these massive slow-moving filter feeders eat krill and plankton (not little kids).
Pro Tip: This experience requires a choppy boat ride out into the big blue ocean, so if you get seasick, plan accordingly.
Sweat it Out to the Top at Chichén Itzá
Pack some good shoes, water bottles, and sunscreen and make your way to Chichén Itzá, a world-renowned Mayan archeological site located in the Yucatan Peninsula about 120 miles west of Cancun. El Castillo, the pyramid-shaped structure, is now one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Learn about Mayan culture as your family strolls around the site, paying special attention to the ball game area, temples, and the enormous Calendar Stone.
Pro Tip: Guides can make the experience rich with information and context and if you want to visit a cenote with special cultural meaning, the guides can set this up as well.
Take a Boat to the Island of Women
Isla Mujeres, a long and thin landmass just off the coast of Cancún, is a laid back island oasis full of great beaches, shopping, and wildlife. Picture your family relaxing in hammocks, while listening to easy-breezy tunes, and sipping cool sugary drinks. Stretch out on the white sands of Playa Norte, one of the best beaches in the Cancun area. Explore MUSA Underwater Sculpture Museum to see schools of fish swim through vibrant coral. Walk around Garrafon Park to see interesting rock formations and the biota drawn to the area. Older kids visiting Garrafon Park can check out the zip lining and bungee jumping. Celebrate the Mayan Moon Goddess at Punta Sur’s ancient temple and then shop for handmade Mexican goods in the Caribbean Village. Turtles lay eggs in the sand from May to September and the eggs hatch August to October. If you time it just right, you can see hundreds of baby turtles make their way to the sea from the turtle farm, La Tortuga Granja.
Pro Tip: Rent a golf cart to make transportation easier with little kids and all of the beach gear you’ll have in hand.
Marvel at Mayan Cenotes
Dotted throughout the Yucatán Peninsula are cenotes, or underground rivers, where you can swim in the warm waters and explore the cave systems. Some cenotes have more natural light then others, so you’ll want to choose one that works for your family. X-Caret has a family-friendly cenote that is gentle enough for even the youngest of kids. Cenote Dos Osos, just south of Tulum, is a great choice as well. Cenote Santa Cruz, not too far from Akumal, has interesting limestone formations and kids are given flashlights to spot fish.
Pro Tip: Wear water shoes and snorkel gear and bring along a waterproof bag for cameras (or leave everything in a locker for safekeeping). Definitely wear a lifejacket so you can float and have a break from swimming.
Slip and Slide at Ventura Park
If it has always been your kids’ dream to visit a theme park that has views of the sea, then Ventura Park in Cancun, near the international airport and the Hotel Zone, will hit the mark. This massive amusement and water park has it all. Embark on an adventure full of zip lining, roller coasters, waterslides, virtual reality experiences, Go-Karts, and more at the six different theme park experiences: Wet n’ Wild Waterpark, Aaah! Ventura, Fun World, Underworld, Grand Prix, and Dolphinaris.
Talk and Eat Like a Pirate
Don your eye patch and pirate gear and head for the high seas at the Jolly Roger Pirate Show in Cancun. Kids can watch pirates battle as they defend their loot with explosions, sword fights, and swashbuckling trash talk. The pirate ship is a replica of the famous Santa Maria ship. Enjoy drinks and food as you watch the show and experience a fun adventure like no other.
Pro Tip: Kids can order from a special menu and participate in a tailor-made treasure hunt.
Have an Adults-Only Night Out
At some point it might be nice for the parents to have a night out, enjoying an adult-centric dining experience or time away from the kids. Choose a hotel with excellent kids’ amenities and programs. The JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa, situated right on the beach, has a large swimming pool, full spa for the parents, a game center with table tennis and air hockey, a kids’ club, and spacious rooms that are comfortable for families.
Pro Tip: While your children are having fun in the kids’ club, relax at the adults-only swimming pool.