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15 Best Things to Do in Riviera Maya for Families

15 Best Things to Do in Riviera Maya for Families

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Are you planning a family trip to Riviera Maya in Mexico? Check out these awesome things to do in Riviera Maya for families that are fun for the whole family!

Guest post by Allison Sicking

Looking for the best kid-friendly things to do in Riviera Maya Mexico? Look no further!

From beautiful beaches and ancient Mayan ruins to jungle adventures and snorkeling excursions, there are no shortage of fun things to do in Riviera Maya for the whole family.

But with so many incredible family-friendly activities to choose from, it can be hard to narrow down your options. 

That’s why I’ve compiled a list of the best things to do in Riviera Maya for families, so you can spend less time planning and more time enjoying your family vacation.

Ready to start planning the ultimate family trip to Riviera Maya? Let’s dive in!

Best Things to Do in Riviera Maya for Families

These are some of the best family excursions in Riviera Maya Mexico:

1. Spend a Day at Xcaret Park

Xcaret Park (pronounced “Ish-ka-ret”) is one of the top family-friendly attractions in Riviera Maya and is probably unlike any theme park you’ve ever seen before.

The original of the 8 Xcaret theme parks, this beautiful eco-theme park has a focus on the culture and history of Mexico.

Families can spend an entire day exploring the park’s 50+ attractions like underground rivers, animal exhibits, lagoon snorkeling, cultural performances, and so much more.

It’s the most popular Xcaret theme park for families with young children as the activities are more low-key and educational but still tons of fun!

Plus, the park’s nightly Xcaret Mexico Espectacular show is a must-see for all ages, celebrating the country’s traditions and history through dance, music, and acrobatics.

2. Have a Family Beach Day

The Riviera Maya has some of the best beaches in Mexico, with powder white sand and warm turquoise water all year round.

It would be a shame to come to this part of Mexico without setting aside a family beach day to relax, play, and soak up the sun!

If you’re staying at a beachfront resort, then you’ll have easy access to the beach. But even if you’re not, there are plenty of public beaches and beach clubs in Riviera Maya that are perfect for families.

Some of the most popular family-friendly beaches in Riviera Maya include Coco Beach, Xpu-Ha Beach, or the secluded Xcacel Beach.

Just be sure to bring along plenty of biodegradable sunscreen, as regular sunscreen is often prohibited to protect the delicate marine life and coral reefs in the area.

3. Visit a Freshwater Cenote

A trip to Riviera Maya wouldn’t be complete without a visit to one of the area’s famous cenotes, which are unique to Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula.

Cenotes (pronounced “say-know-tay”) are natural freshwater swimming holes formed when limestone collapses to create an underground sinkhole.

When visiting a cenote, you can typically swim in the crystal clear water, snorkel among stalactites and stalagmites, or even try out some cliff jumping!

This is a great activity for families because it’s not only a fun and unique experience, but you also get to connect with nature and learn about the ancient history of the region.

One of the best cenotes in Riviera Maya for families is Cenote Azul, which has shallow areas for young children to safely swim and explore. Other popular cenotes for families include Dos Ojos, Cenote Eden, and Cenote Cristalino.

Cenotes can be visited fairly easily on your own or you can opt for one of these guided cenote tours for a more informative and stress-free experience.

4. Have Fun at Xel-Ha Water Park

If your family loves water parks, then you’ll definitely want to check out Xel-Ha–another of the Xcaret theme parks and the top water park in Riviera Maya.

Pronounced “Shell-Ha”, this massive aquatic theme park has over 20 different activities and attractions like water zip lines, cliff jumping, lagoon snorkeling, lazy river floating, and more.

The park’s most iconic attraction is the 98 ft Scenic Lighthouse, where you can climb the stairs to the top and then descend on one of its four spiral waterslides.

And what makes the park so unique is that it’s situated on a Caribbean inlet, and seamlessly embedded into the ocean and jungle landscape.

Xel-Ha also offers all-inclusive packages, so you won’t have to worry about food or drinks during your visit. Plus, adults can enjoy an open bar!

5. Trek Through Underwater Caves at Rio Secreto

Rio Secreto (Secret River) is another fun attraction slightly less popular than places like Xcaret and Xel-Ha, though just as fun.

Rio Secreto is an intricate underground river system where visitors can explore tunnels of caves and caverns and swim in refreshing waters among the stalactites and stalagmites.

There are optional add-on activities, like jungle biking, rappelling, and dry caves.  And a buffet lunch is included for a hassle-free experience.

Rio Secreto is an excellent all-weather activity for the family because of its fast-paced nature and immersion into the natural beauty of the Riviera Maya.

Plus, it feels much less commercialized than many of the other adventure parks in Riviera Maya and small groups make it a more personalized experience.

6. Make a Splash at Jungala Water Park

Located at Vidanta Resorts, Jungala water park is more of your traditional water park like Six Flags Hurricane Harbor, though a bit more upscale.

It’s not on the same level as the Xcaret parks, but it’s nice that it isn’t so overwhelming. The staff and environment cater to children, making sure safety is a priority.

There are several impressive waterslides, a large lazy river, private cabanas for guests, spa treatments, and a few restaurants and bars.

There are also areas specifically designed for children of all ages, like the Kids Rain Fortress and Kids Slides.

The attention to detail, high safety standards, cleanliness, and friendly staff make this the perfect family outing for those who want a break from the salt and sand.

7. Snorkel with Sea Turtles in Akumal

Located about 30 minutes south of Playa del Carmen, Akumal Bay is a must-visit for families who love marine life.

The shallow bay is a protected area that is home to an abundance of sea turtles, who come to feed on the sea grass.  

Visitors to Akumal Beach can snorkel right alongside these gentle creatures in their natural environment. There are so many sea turtles in Akumal that you are almost guaranteed to see them!

Because it’s a protected area, the best way to visit Akumal is by going on a guided snorkeling tour with a local tour company.

This ensures that you follow proper conservation guidelines and get to learn more about these fascinating creatures from knowledgeable guides.

8. Go on a Catamaran Excursion

If your family loves being out on the water and taking in scenic views, then a catamaran excursion is a must-do activity in Riviera Maya.

Most catamaran tours near Playa del Carmen will sail along the coastline and stop at different snorkeling spots or swimming areas. Some excursions even have paddleboards and waterslides.

Plus, onboard lunch, drinks, and an open bar are included in most tours, making it a great value for families.

The town of Puerto Aventuras is the most popular departure point for catamaran excursions, as it has a beautiful marina and provides easy access to some of the best snorkeling spots in Riviera Maya.

Private catamarans and charters are also available for families who want a more personalized and intimate experience. 

9. Get Slimed at Nickelodeon Aqua Park

Located at Nickelodeon Resort Riviera Maya, Aqua Nick is a Nickelodeon-themed aquatic park, complete with traditional slime stations, a lazy river, and lots of water fun.

This is a popular choice for families, especially those with little kids who love all things Nickelodeon. But there’s a little something here for everyone, as well.

The lazy river is one of the best around, great for lounging and sipping on a cocktail. And the water park has different themes. 

The Paw Patrol Adventure Bay is a popular destination for the kids, and the massive water slides offer thrilling rides for the older ones.

Aqua Nick tickets can be purchased separately and you don’t need to be a resort guest to access the park.

10. Go Ziplining at Xplor Adventure Park

Xplor Adventure Park (pronounced “Explore”) is another great theme park from Grupo Xcaret that offers adrenaline-pumping activities for adventurous families.

This is an all-inclusive outdoor adventure park known for having the best ziplines in Riviera Maya that will take you soaring over the Mayan jungle. 

You’ll also get to go rafting through ancient caves, swim through stalactite rivers, drive amphibious vehicles, and more.

Plus, you’ll get to enjoy a delicious buffet lunch and unlimited snacks and non-alcoholic drinks during your visit.

Xplor is best suited for families with older kids or teens, as the activities are more intense and some have height and weight restrictions. 

11. Explore Ancient Mayan Ruins

Mexico’s Riviera Maya is the perfect place for an educational trip, with abundant ancient Mayan ruins and archaeological sites scattered throughout the region.

Chichen Itza, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, is one of the most popular Mayan ruins to visit near Riviera Maya.

Chichen Itza is located about 2.5 hours away from Riviera Maya, but guided tours make it very easy to visit on a day trip.

You’ll get to see impressive pyramids, an observatory, and a ball court and learn about the ancient civilization from knowledgeable guides.

And if you want to stay closer to your resort, the Tulum Ruins and the Cobá Ruins are also impressive Mayan ruins that make an easy day trip.

12. Take a Day Trip to Cozumel

Cozumel is a small island located just 45 minutes from Playa del Carmen by ferry. It’s known for its crystal-clear waters, incredible coral reefs, and laid-back island vibes.

For families, a day trip to Cozumel is the perfect opportunity to go snorkeling or scuba diving in some of the world’s most renowned spots.

El Cielo is a popular spot for snorkeling with starfish or you can even go on the Atlantis Submarine to see the underwater world without getting wet.

You can also rent a car or jeep and explore the island’s attractions like Punta Sur Eco-Park, the San Gervasio Mayan Ruins, Playa Chen Rio, or simply relax on one of its many beautiful beaches.

Cozumel also has plenty of family-friendly restaurants, beachfront aqua parks, and adventure activities, making it a fun destination for a day trip from Riviera Maya.

13. Defy Your Senses at Xenses Park

Xenses Park (pronounced “Shen-says”) is a unique experience where nothing is as it seems. You’ll find optical illusions and sensory deceptions to defy your five senses.

This is a half-day adventure park, so unlike Xcaret, you don’t need an entire day. But it’s still just as fun, albeit a bit confusing at times, as they do a good job of trying to defy the senses.

The quirky park is centered around a giant pinwheel where guests can choose between two paths–The Path of Feeling and The Path of Doing.

You’ll have a different experience catered to different senses based on your chosen path. 

The activities at Xenses are more low-key but there are also a couple of more thrilling activities like the Bird Flight Zipline and the high-speed Slip Water Slide.

The park is such a fun sensory, fully immersive sensory activity for families. Children of any age will love the experience from start to finish. 

14. Visit the Akumal Monkey Sanctuary

The Akumal Monkey Sanctuary is a fun experience for the family, complete with environmental, educational, and interactive animal exhibits.

Currently, over 200 specimens from 55 different species have been rescued. But this place is nothing like an unethical zoo. 

They have a rehabilitation, relocation, and reintroduction program for the animals at the sanctuary.

There’s also a “Save the Spider Monkeys” program designed to help socialize juvenile spider monkeys that come to the sanctuary.

This is the perfect activity to add to your Riviera Maya family itinerary as not only are monkeys usually pretty popular amongst children of all ages, but it’s also a great learning experience about the local wildlife around the Mayan jungle.

15. Get Adventurous at Aktun Chen Nature Park

Aktun Chen Nature Park is a small yet exciting adventure park near Tulum. The park’s highlight is the guided tour through the 5-million-year-old dry cave and nature reserve.

After the walk-through, you can swim and snorkel around the stunning Aktun Chen Cenote. There’s also ziplining, a wild zoo above ground, and other fun theme park activities. 

All topped off with a decent buffet-style lunch, which is welcome after a full day of exploring and adventuring.

Aktun Chen Nature Park is an excellent spot for families because of the vast array of activities, without being overwhelming or overly commercialized. 

Visiting Riviera Maya with Kids FAQs

Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about visiting Riviera Maya with kids:

Is Riviera Maya good for families?

Yes, Riviera Maya is a great destination for families! There are many exciting water sports and activities and eco-adventure parks, and it’s also home to some of the best beaches in Mexico. There are also great learning opportunities about the natural environment and the Mayan culture.

Is Riviera Maya safe for families?

Yes, the Riviera Maya is safe for families as long as you take basic safety precautions. Mexico is often in the news about various crime reports, but crime targeted at tourists is rare. Millions of people travel to the Mayan Riviera each year and most visit without any problems.

What are the best family-friendly resorts in Riviera Maya?

Hotel Xcaret Mexico is an excellent all-inclusive hotel that offers guests free access to all Xcaret parks and tours. Nickelodeon Resort Riviera Maya is another popular option, especially for family travel with younger kids.

When is the best time to visit Riviera Maya with kids?

December through April is the best time to visit the Riviera Maya. Although the state of Quintana Roo is warm and beautiful year-round, summer can be a little hot and rainy.

How long should you visit Riviera Maya?

3-5 days is enough time to visit the Riviera Maya, although if you can do longer, you’ll have even more time for Riviera Maya excursions and activities, as well as relaxation at the resort.

Final Thoughts: Best Things to Do in Riviera Maya with Kids

From exciting adventure parks to thrilling cave exploration and snorkeling with sea turtles, Riviera Maya has so much to choose from when it comes to family-friendly activities.

Whether you’re looking for relaxation or adventure, this beautiful stretch of the Mexican Caribbean has something for everyone. 

Head to Xcaret Park for a day of fun and learning, have a family beach day at one of the region’s beautiful white-sand beaches, or check out the region’s incredible cenotes or ancient Mayan Ruins.

No matter which activities you choose, Riviera Maya is the perfect destination for families to create unforgettable memories in a beautiful place.

About Allison

Allison Sicking is a travel blogger with a passion for Spanish and a love of Latin America travel. She created the travel blog Viva La Travelista after moving to Playa del Carmen, Mexico in 2018 to empower others to travel safely and confidently in Spanish-speaking countries. Follow her blog to find out how to travel Mexico like a local with her insider travel tips! 

Looking for more Riviera Maya travel content? Check out 15 Mexico Family-Friendly All-Inclusive Resorts Worth Booking, Is the Hard Rock Hotel in Riviera Maya Mexico Worth it for Families?, 7 Best All-Inclusive Playa del Carmen Family Resorts Worth Booking, 12 Cancun Day Trips: Your Guide to Exploring Yucatan Peninsula, and Choosing Between Cancun vs Tulum for an Unforgettable Family Vacation!

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