Graced with sublime jungle-set swimming holes, inviting Caribbean beaches and wildlife experiences that induce wide-eyed wonder, Cancún is a veritable wonderland for children.
Add the ubiquitous amusement parks and kid-centric resorts to the mix, and you have one action-packed tropical playground. There’s just one caveat: your kids may never want to leave.
Is Cancún good for kids?
Absolutely. Not only is the Yucatán Peninsula regarded as one of the safest regions in Mexico, but it’s also a fun and fascinating place with an accommodating family-friendly vibe in most hotels and restaurants. Even fussy eaters will feel the love, as many dining establishments have menus that include familiar international fare. Hello, mac and cheese.
And here’s the kicker: thanks to the abundant outdoor activities and live entertainment offerings, children rarely get bored in Cancún. That’s especially true in the resort hotels, where the little ones go gaga over the ginormous pools, lazy rivers and kids clubs. Moreover, some all-inclusives run seasonal promos allowing youngsters under 12 to eat and stay for free when accompanied by paying adults. There are also children’s discounts at the adventure parks and archaeological sites.
Getting around in Cancún with the kiddos is a breeze. Inexpensive city buses run frequently between the Zona Hotelera and downtown, while first-class buses serving the outlying areas provide air-conditioning and onboard movies, making them a comfortable ride for children of all ages. Alternatively, it’s generally safe to take taxis, but beware of price gouging.
Where is best in Cancún for kids?
The Zona Hotelera’s north shore hugs a remarkably calm Caribbean coast that makes for ideal swimming conditions along a 7km (4-mile) stretch of beaches from Playa Las Perlas to Playa Caracol. Also, it’s aargh-uably (sorry, we had to) the best departure point for pirate-themed cruises replete with sword fights and cannon battles.
Meanwhile, on the hotel zone’s east coast, the waters can get rougher, but the facilities at public beaches Playa Marlin and Playa Delfines win over families for their convenient bathrooms, umbrella rentals and on-duty lifeguards – plus the kids can run around in the nearby jungle ruins. On the other side of town, downtown’s Parque de las Palapas comes alive each night with free concerts, playful street performances and the tantalizing smell of tacos and sweet crepes wafting in the air.
Best things to do in Cancún with young kids
Hop on a boat to Isla Mujeres
If you only have time for one day trip, make it the easy-to-reach Isla Mujeres. Half the fun is getting there as a ferry zips you across sparkling turquoise waters on a scenic 20-minute ride. Upon arrival, mosey over to Playa Norte, a sugary, white-sand beach known for its shallow, swimmable waters, then check out the adjacent Playa Hermosa Caleta, a translucent inlet teeming with small fish. For more family fun, rent a golf cart and head to the island’s south side, where you can stop at beach club Garrafón de Castilla for snorkeling.
Cheer on the good guys at Luchatitlán
Kids dig wrestling venue Luchatitlán, where colorfully costumed, masked marvels wow audiences with high-flying maneuvers and dramatic body slams. If you’ve never seen a live lucha libre (pro wrestling) match, let’s just say the playful spandex-clad wrestlers know how to rile up a crowd. This new arena in La Isla Shopping Village offers a range of ticket options, from show-only to ringside seats that include dinner and drinks.
Connect with spider monkeys and crocs
Crococun allows visitors to touch and hold rescue animals such as spider monkeys, crocodiles, boa constrictors, white-tailed deer and colorful macaws during guided tours. The interactive zoo focuses primarily on educating guests about endangered species from a conservationist standpoint. It’s about 40km (25 miles) south of Cancún, in Puerto Morelos.
Splash around at water park Xcaret
Xcaret (pronounced esh-car-et) costs a pretty peso, but we would be remiss not to mention one of the region’s most popular family attractions. Here at this Riviera Maya water park, you can swim in underground rivers, observe sea turtles, explore Maya ruins and experience vivid Day of the Dead festivities in early November. The park offers discounted admissions for children under 12, while babies and toddlers go for free. It also operates several water-themed hotels nearby.
Best things to do in Cancún with tweens and teens
Plunge into astonishing cenotes
For a quintessential Yucatecan experience, head about 90km (56 miles) south of Cancún to swim at a series of open-air cenotes (limestone sinkholes): Cristalino, Cenote Azul and Jardín del Edén. These jungle-ringed freshwater swimming holes provide a refreshing change of scenery from the beach, and life jackets are available for rent, making it a safe activity for kids. The ancient Maya saw some cenotes as gateways to the underworld.
Visit an underwater gallery
For a legit Cancún highlight, hook up a tour to underwater sculpture museum MUSA, where you can gaze at submerged life-sized sculptures off the Punta Nizuc coast. Aquaworld’s Subsee Explorer (a yellow semi-submarine) visits the fascinating site, and along the way, you can observe brilliant tropical fish in their natural habitat. Snorkeling outings to MUSA are possible for kids aged five and above.
Feel the joy of Joyà
The Riviera Maya’s resident Cirque du Soleil show, Joyà, stages a captivating extravaganza of acrobatics and contemporary dance at a lovely lakeside theater about 45km (28 miles) south of Cancún. The circus show delivers an over-the-top production that will keep even the most fidgety spectator well entertained throughout the 80-minute performance, and the food is surprisingly good should you decide to splurge on the dinner and show option.
Planning tips for family travel in Cancún
When packing your bags, keep in mind that loose-fitting clothes that dry quickly will serve you and the kids well, especially during the wet and sultry months from May to October. Also, bring along some pants and a long-sleeve shirt to protect yourselves from the sun and mosquitoes. Sunscreen and insect repellent are highly recommended, but keep in mind that even biodegradable products should not be used while swimming in fragile ecosystems, such as cenotes or coral reefs.
By year-end, a shiny new intercity railway called the Maya Train should be up and running. The high-speed choo choo will rattle along a 1525km (948-mile) loop route around the Yucatán Peninsula while making stops at some 40 stations, including Cancún, Chichén Itzá and Tulum, making it even easier to explore the region as a family.