The Mayan Riviera in Mexico is a popular destination with families and for good reason. There is so much more to do than just beaches, when traveling to Mexico with a baby or toddler. If you are looking to escape the winter this year, put the Riviera Maya on your list of places to go for your family vacation.
It’s a place we have been to several times before kids and twice with our kids as toddlers. With so many options in the Riviera Maya, we think it’s one of the best places to travel in Mexico with toddlers or babies.
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We stayed at an all-inclusive resort that was one of the best Mexico resorts for toddlers because there was so much to do, so much so that we didn’t even feel the need to leave the resort.
A few years later, we returned to Riviera Maya with a toddler (our son was 2 years old and our daughter was 4 years old). This time we rented a vacation home rental condo in Playa del Carmen, had a car rental in Mexico that allowed us to explore the entire region.
Mexico with a Baby or Toddler
- Is it Safe to Take a Baby to Mexico?
- Where to Stay in the Riviera Maya with a Baby or Toddler
- Food and Water Safety in Mexico
- Renting a Car in Mexico
- Best Things to do in Riviera Maya with Baby or Toddler
- Best places to eat in the Mayan Riviera
- What to Pack for Mexico with a Baby or Toddler
- Pin It For Later!
Let’s get the main question out of the way first…
Is it Safe to Take a Baby to Mexico?
Yes, you can safely take a baby to Mexico on a family vacation with some precautions.
8 Tips for Safely Taking a Baby to Mexico:
- Talking to your pediatrician is always a good place to start, especially when it comes to sunscreen, bug spray and how to handle any tummy issues.
- Visit a travel clinic to understand any necessary vaccinations for Mexico.
- Bring a sun hat, rash guard and even a beach tent to give your baby the best sun protection.
- Keep your baby well hydrated and know the signs for dehydration in your baby.
- Have a plan for washing baby bottles and mixing formula, like this portable kettle for boiling water. Use only bottled water to be extra safe.
- Bring a stroller with a good canopy for excursions.
- If you aren’t comfortable staying in a rental apartment, find a kid-friendly all-inclusive resort that caters to babies and toddlers. Some of the best family resorts are able to provide healthy food options if you travel with a baby eating solid foods.
- Read all of our sun safety tips for babies and toddlers.
Where to Stay in the Riviera Maya with a Baby or Toddler
There are so many choices for families when it comes to deciding where to stay in Mexico, from vacation home rentals (like Airbnb or VRBO) to family-friendly all-inclusive resorts. The area you choose will also have an impact on what you see and do, especially if you don’t have a car rental.
It’s best to figure out your budget and what you want to do in the time you have, then decide which area suits your family vacation best. In the Yucatan Peninsula, there are many excellent places to stay such as Isla Mujeres, Cozumel, Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Tulum and everything in between.
One thing to keep in mind, especially when travelling to Mexico with a baby or toddler, is the distance of your resort from the airport. Though most all-inclusives will provide shuttle service, it may not go directly to your resort resulting in a longer trip than you had expected. If this is a concern, a good (and surprisingly affordable) alternative is to get a private transfer to your resort from the Cancun airport.
You can read more about our first time in Mexico with a toddler, when we stayed at the Grand Palladium Kantenah all-inclusive for a week. With only a week, we chose a toddler-friendly resort with a baby kids club. This family vacation was all about relaxation and keeping a busy toddler occupied.
The second time we stayed in Mexico for 4-weeks, so we wanted an apartment where we could do laundry, have separate bedrooms and cook some of our own food. Our original plan was to stay in a place where we could get to the beach without a car rental and where we could walk everywhere we wanted to go.
With its central location within the Yucatan Peninsula, Playa del Carmen ended up being the best choice for us. We ended up renting a car and our plan to have a quiet time just hanging out on the beach turned into something very different. We ended up discovering all the best things to do with a toddler in Mexico!
If you are interested in staying at an all-inclusive resort, check out our list of baby and toddler friendly resorts in Mexico.
If a vacation home rental sounds good to you, read our tips to find a great Airbnb for a baby, then browse these available rentals.
Food and Water Safety in Mexico
If food poisoning and water quality is a concern for you, we wrote a post all about food safety in Mexico with kids especially when renting an apartment. If you are taking your baby or toddler to an all-inclusive resort, you have very little to be concerned about. Bottled water will be provided and a reputable resort will take all the necessary safety precautions with the food.
As for snacks and meal time at an all-inclusive with a baby or toddler, our post on taking a baby to an all-inclusive resort covers this plus what to pack for a Mexico all inclusive holiday with a baby.
Renting a Car in Mexico
Before deciding to rent a car, consider how long you’ll be in Mexico and what you realistically plan on doing. If you plan on spending most of your time at your resort and/or on the beach, you can easily forgo the car rental and simply join a couple of tours on the days you plan to venture out.
If you will be in Mexico for longer and the tours, taxis or public transportation aren’t an option for you, then make sure to read up driving around the Yucatan Peninsula.
If you do rent a car in Mexico, you can either travel with your own car seat or rent one when you get there. It’s easy to rent baby gear for travel (like car seats) from a baby equipment rental company instead of the car rental agency. If you decide to fly with your car seats, be sure to keep them protected in a car seat bag.
When you compare car rental prices in Cancun, don’t get too excited about how cheap they look. The prices often don’t include mandatory insurance. For more on what you need to know, read up on common scams when renting a car in Mexico.
Best Things to do in Riviera Maya with Baby or Toddler
And now for the fun part, the list of things to do with a baby or toddler in Mexico. Each of the places listed below, we have done with a toddler who was 2 years old but we include tips on traveling to the Riviera Maya with a baby as well.
The 6 Best Beaches in Mexico with a Baby or Toddler
Without a doubt, beaches will be a large portion of your time in Mexico with a baby or toddler. We loved all the public beaches around Playa del Carmen and found there was enough variety to keep us happy for a month in Mexico with a toddler and preschooler.
1. Xpu-Ha Beach
Xpu-Ha beach easily became one of our favorite toddler-friendly beaches in Playa del Carmen and we returned there several times. About 30 minutes outside of Playa del Carmen, we were fortunate that having a rental car made it easy to frequent this beach.
There are a few resorts behind Xpu-Ha Beach, but it always felt so quiet. The water at Xpu-Ha beach is nice and shallow for a long way out and the waves are relatively small, making it the perfect beach in Mexico with a baby or toddler. Enjoy spending the entire day at the beach and being prepared with these baby beach essentials and one of these best baby beach tents.
There are also some rental equipment places along Xpu-Ha beach, making it a fun place to try stand-up paddle boarding with your kids.
Note: there is a small fee to drive on the various access roads to Xpu-ha beach.
2. Punta Esmeralda Beach
You’ll also find Punta Esmeralda in the ‘Cenotes with a toddler‘ section below, since it also has a cenote in the middle of the beach. The fresh water bubbles up into a lagoon which has a stream that runs into the ocean.
Punta Esmeralda is such a fun Playa del Carmen beach for babies, toddlers and small kids who can play in the shallow, waveless water of the cenote. The added bonus is the ocean is right next to the cenote too. It’s the best of both worlds!
Though Punta Esmeralda is still a local’s beach, there are a few resorts nearby and you’ll find other tourists here. You can this toddler-friendly beach to be much quieter than the beaches in central Playa del Carmen though.
Don’t forget these beach essentials for toddlers!
3. Playacar Beach
Playacar is a gated Playa del Carmen community with expensive homes and also some large all-inclusive resorts nearby. The beach in front of the homes is relatively quiet, aside from the large amount of pedestrian traffic (i.e. resort goers) who are walking the beach.
The real benefit of Playacar Beach is you’ll still be able to find seashells here which is fun thing to do in Mexico with toddlers.
4. Main Public Beach in Playa del Carmen
The main beach in Playa del Carmen stretches from the ferry pier to Calle 10 Nte. With its proximity to the main tourist area of Playa del Carmen, it’s busy as you would expect, but don’t let that turn you off. The beach and water are stunning and you’ll have no trouble finding places to eat.
Right near the ferry pier, you can also stop at Fundadores Park where there’s a great playground for little kids.
5. Playa Mamitas Beach
Playa Mamitas is a lively Playa del Carmen beach that is a 22 minute walk from the main ferry pier. Enjoy the walk down the pedestrian-only Calle Quinta Avenida (5th avenue) and then access the beach at Calle 28 Nte.
Playa Mamitas beach was clean with plenty of sand to play in and no rocks to trip up little feet. The day we were there, the water was calm with very small waves, though this can vary day to day.
Behind the beach, you’ll find the Mamitas Beach Club which has sun beds for rent, a restaurant and a family area with a kid’s pool.
6. Coco Beach
Coco Beach is another Playa del Carmen local’s beach and you’ll find way less tourists here. The beach has a more natural feel to it as it is backed by jungle instead of resorts. The downside of this is that resorts often clean the beaches, while you’ll be more likely to find some garbage on Coco Beach.
To get to this beach you’ll need find the path on the far side of the Reef Coco Beach Resort (past the gate at the entrance to the resort and the guard station). Though Coco Beach was dirtier than the rest, it wasn’t horrible and it’s always nice to spend a day away from the crowds.
The 3 Best Mayan Ruins with a Toddler or Baby
A day trip to the Mayan ruins is one of the most fun things to do with a toddler near Cancun and Playa del Carmen. The Mayan ruins are a perfect excuse to a break from the beach and give your kids a fun cultural experience.
If you have a rental car you can easily do a self-guided tour of the ruins or hire a local guide when you arrive. Alternatively, you can book a family-friendly Mayan ruins tour that includes transportation.
Each of the Mayan ruins near Cancun will provide a different experience, so if you only visit one choose the one that offers the type of experience your family is looking for. Also, when visiting the ruins with little kids, plan your visit early in the day when there are less people and it’s not quite so hot.
1. Chichen Itza
Being one of the “New 7 Wonders of the World”, Chichen Itza is one of the top tourist attractions in Mexico. Despite the crowds, it’s worth a visit to see Chichen Itza’s iconic pyramid, El Castillo.
To learn more about these incredible Mayan ruins, you can hire a private guide with transportation. Avoid visiting Chichen Itza on a Sunday, when locals get free admission and it gets even busier. Again, it will get very hot at Chichen Itza so don’t forget those sun hats, sunscreen and plenty of water.
If you don’t have your own rental car, these top-rated day trips to the Mayan ruins would be a great option. We really enjoyed visiting each of the Mayan Ruins with a toddler and would recommend your family visit at least one during your family vacation.
2. Tulum Ruins
Where the Coba ruins will give you that sense of being deep in the jungle, Tulum will wow you with its Caribbean Sea location. If you are more interested in a beautiful seaside setting over a walk in the jungle, then plan a day at Tulum with your a baby or toddler.
The Tulum ruins are set high up on a cliff overlooking the stunning turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea. The lack of jungle trees means that you’ll find very little shade here and it will get hot. Don’t forget those sun hats and sunscreen.
The Tulum ruins are the third most visited site in Mexico; it’s not a very big complex, so it can feel very crowded. Try to arrive early with your little ones to beat the crowds.
3. Coba Ruins
The Mayan ruins of Coba are set deep in the Yucatan Peninsula jungle and is the only one of the three where you’ll still be able to climb the pyramid. The Nohoch Mol pyramid in Coba is the tallest Mayan temple in Mexico and you can climb the 120 steps right to the top.
The stairs to the top of the Coba pyramid are worn from so much traffic and can be quite slippery. It doesn’t take long to get to the top, so if you are not comfortable taking your toddler to the top, it’s just as easy for one parent to wait at the bottom, and then take turns.
We do recommend going straight to the Nohoch Mol pyramid as soon as you arrive to Coba with kids, as that’s when you’ll find it to be the least crowded.
Visiting Coba with a toddler can be a really fun experience, your toddler will love getting a ride on one of the bikes! Just be prepared with plenty of water and mosquito repellent!
Wondering which set of Mayan Ruins to visit? Here’s another good run down of the Mayan Ruins in the Yucatan to help you chose.
The 4 Best Mexico Cenotes with a Baby or Toddler
To cool off after your visit to the Mayan ruins, plan a fun stop at a nearby cenote! Cenotes are natural sinkholes caused when the limestone bedrock collapses, which then fill with groundwater. Often you’ll find the ground water to be surprisingly cold, especially when it is not exposed to the sun.
Many of the Riviera Maya cenotes will be in large caves, which is a fun experience but if you are visiting with a baby or toddler, they may not want to be in the cold water for very long.
When visiting Mexican cenotes with little kids, we recommend visiting cenotes where one parent can stay on the side with your baby or toddler and that are easy to get to the water. Some cenotes are very deep and may not have a shallow area for little ones to play in.
We also recommend bringing your own life jacket to the cenote for your baby or toddler, since it’s unlikely you’ll be able to get one small enough.
Here are a few family-friendly cenotes in Mexico that we visited with our toddler:
1. Punta Esmeralda Cenote
Punta Esmeralda is a great place to visit in Playa del Carmen with a baby or toddler as it has both a beach section and a cenote. It’s a bit of a journey from the main tourist area in Playa del Carmen, but worth the time to get there.
This Punta Esmeralda cenote is open-air and has some of the excellent shallow areas for a baby or toddler to play in, especially since there are no waves! There is a small current where the cenote water flows into the ocean, so keep a close eye on your baby or toddler.
2. Kantun-chi Eco-Park
Unlike some of the other toddler-friendly cenotes, Kantun-chi is in a highly developed eco-park. In Kantun-Chi eco-park, there are 4 cenotes which are all suitable to take a baby or toddler.
Three of the Kantun-Chi cenotes are underground or in large open caves, where one is completely exposed to the sun. There are also kayaks available at three of the cenotes.
3. Choo-ha Cenote
After you family enjoys exploring the jungle around the Coba ruins, cool off at the Choo-ha cenotes which are only a 10 minute drive away. The local Mayan community owns and operates these three cenotes and your entry fee helps to support the local people.
There are 3 cenotes here but we only visited Choo-ha since it seemed the most toddler friendly cenote of the bunch. After the long staircase down (best to carry little ones down these stairs), there were plenty of places our toddler could splash around and enter the water as much (or as little) as he wanted.
4. X-keken Ecopark
If you are visiting Chichen Itza, you can skip the super-busy cenote that’s part of that complex and come to this eco-park with two cenotes instead as you’ll find it less busy. There is a large area in the Dzitnup cenote where you can sit along the edge, making this cenote a good place to visit with a baby or toddler.
The water in the Dzitnup cenote is deep and the entrance is quite rocky, but you could still get into the water with a toddler here.
We recommend having a life jacket of some sort for your little ones here. We also recommend having towels as you’ll feel cold in that underground cave when you come out of the water!
The 5 Best Eco-Parks in Mexico with a Toddler or Baby
You might think that visiting some of the eco-parks in the Mayan Riviera won’t be worth it with a toddler or baby, but that isn’t the case. When you are looking for something fun to do with kids in Mexico with kids, other than play at the beach, here are some of the best Mexico eco-parks to visit with your toddler.
1. Xcaret Ecopark with a Baby or Toddler
Without question, Xcaret was the best eco-park for toddlers in Mexico. There was so much to see and do at Xcaret there that we had no issues filling up our day. Between the butterfly pavilion, the sea turtles and the Children’s World, our two kids were in absolute heaven.
We had so much to share after visiting Xcaret with a toddler that we wrote two posts on our Family Can Travel blog about having the best day at Xcaret with kids and our top 15 tips for visiting Xcaret.
2. Xel-Ha with a Toddler or Baby
Xel-Ha is another excellent kid-friendly Yucatan Peninsula eco-park. While there are many attractions withing Xel-Ha which are not suitable for toddlers, but there’s still plenty of fun stuff for little kids to easily fill a day. The river tour was our toddlers favorite attraction at Xel-Ha, aside from the fun playground and small pools, of course.
Keep in mind that the Xel-Ha park is big, so having a stroller or carrier for your baby or toddler will help you get around easier. For toddlers, packing a toddler carrier for travel can easily allow you to carry your toddler when those little legs get tired!
Click here for our best tips on visiting Xel-ha with kids.
3. Akumal Monkey Sanctuary
Likely the place both our kids remember most from our month in the Yucatan Peninsula is the Akumal Monkey Sanctuary. Home to many rescue animals, most who were exotic pets, this place has so much more for kids to see than just monkeys.
The tour through the Akumal Monkey Sanctuary begins with feeding goats and deer, moves to holding macaws and boa constrictors then ends with feeding the cutest little spider monkeys.
The staff was very good at making sure our kids felt comfortable with the animals and didn’t encourage or push the animal encounters on anyone who didn’t feel one-hundred percent comfortable.
4. Aktun Chen
We also visited Aktun Chen to give our daughter a chance to go ziplining for the first time. Our toddler was too young (obviously) to go ziplining, so he and Dad explored the eco-park while the girls enjoyed a high-adrenaline adventure.
Since we were already at Aktun Chen, we also did the cave tour, which ended up being a lot of fun and both kids really enjoyed it.
5. CroCo Cun Zoo
CroCo Cun Zoo is a fun and interactive zoo near Cancun, filled with local animals like parrots, iguanas, crocodiles, spider monkeys and hairless dogs.
If your toddler loves animals, the CroCo Cun Zoo is a great outing. It’s also a good place to get out of the sun, since you’ll spend most of the time in the shade of the jungle. Just don’t forget the bug spray.
Learn more about these top eco-parks in the Mayan Riviera.
Best Day Trips on the Mayan Riviera with a Toddler
Day trip to Isla Mujeres
If you aren’t staying on Isla Mujeres, then consider going there for a fun family day trip on the Riviera Maya. There are so many fun things to do on Isla Mujeres with kids, including renting golf carts to tour the island. Your toddler is guaranteed to love riding around on the golf cart!
Tortugranja, a turtle farm, is a fun place for kids on Isla Mujeres. It’s not a large facility, but if your kid loves turtles they’ll see plenty of them here.
Next, drive up to Punta Sur, the southernmost tip of Isla Mujeres. It may not sound like much but it ended up being my favorite part of our day trip. The scenery at Punta Sur is incredible and the walk through the sculpture garden is a lot of fun.
There’s an incredibly scenic path that goes down below the Punta Sur sculpture garden along the rocky cliffs, just keep your toddler close as there are no safety guards along the sides of this trail (better yet, this is a great spot for a shoulder ride!).
Finally, a walk through the lively town and a stop at the beautiful Playa Norte will fill up the rest of your time on Isla Mujeres with kids before heading back to the ferry terminal.
Day trip to Cozumel
We did a day trip to Cozumel from Playa del Carmen and really enjoyed our walk through the town, but because we hadn’t planned on doing any snorkeling tours there really wasn’t much else for us to do there.
Best places to eat in the Mayan Riviera
Playa del Carmen Restaurants
Isla Mujeres Restaurants
In between our visit to the Coba ruins and our time swimming in the Choo-ha cenote, we had a simple, yet delicious lunch at El Cocodrilo overlooking Laguna Coba.
For authentic Mexican food, don’t miss El Taco Maya in Akumal. It’s a small locals restaurant, but we loved the pork tacos so much that we made a return trip!
What to Pack for Mexico with a Baby or Toddler
Packing List for Mexico with a Baby or Toddler
- If you do plan to rent a car in Mexico and bring your own car seat, purchase a car seat cover to give it the best protection on the flight. We have been very happy with this car seat cover.
- If you are staying at an all-inclusive resort, contact them to find out if they have a suitable travel crib available. If you plan to bring your own, look at these best portable travel cribs for babies or these toddler travel beds.
- If you plan to have your baby sleep in the stroller, the CoziGo stroller cover is the safest way to go when it’s hot and will block 97% of the light! The KidCo PeaPod toddler travel bed is a great option for a baby beach tent!
- Don’t forget a life jacket (we use this swim vest) and towels for visiting the cenotes with a toddler or baby.
Other Beach Essentials for Babies or Toddlers
- Baby safe bug spray like this one
- Baby safe sunscreen
- A wide-brimmed sun hat
- Long sleeve swim suit
- Swim diapers
- Baby or toddler tent for the beach
- Sand toys
Need more help planning your trip to the Mayan Riviera? We have all the resources to help you plan your best trip to Mexico with children!