The Riviera Maya stretches from Cancun, through Playa del Carmen, and down to Tulum. This area is full of fun, adventure, and things to do in Riviera Maya for families.
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If you’re looking for the best excursions in Riviera Maya for families, I’ve got you covered. While many things seem fun for adults, there are plenty of kid-friendly things to do. Whether you are staying in Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Tulum, or anywhere in-between, there are plenty of options.
From snorkeling in lagoons to seeing ancient history, you’ll have an amazing and unique family vacation. Here are the top 10 things to do with kids in the Riviera Maya.
Trying to choose the perfect family vacation? See my comparison of Riviera Maya vs Costa Rica
Table of Contents
Need a car? Check out deals and rental car pricing in Cancun
How to Get to the Riviera Maya in Mexico
Getting to Riviera Maya is pretty easy from the US.
Fly into the Cancun airport (CUN), and from there you are just a short drive away!
If you are heading to Cancun with the family, it will be a really quick drive from the airport.
If you are heading to Playa del Carmen, you can plan on a ride between 45-60 minutes.
Heading all the way down to Tulum? That will be more around 1-1/2 hours, depending on exactly where you are heading.
I recommend grabbing a private transfer from the airport. This makes an easier, quicker, and more enjoyable ride.
*Important note: when you arrive at the airport, plenty of salesmen will try and tell you they are your ride. In the end, they are trying to sell you a presentation in exchange for a ride or some other reward. JUST KEEP WALKING until you are outside. Your private shuttle driver will be waiting outside with your name.
Book Your Transfer:
Top 10 Family Excursions in Riviera Maya with Kids!
1. Swim in Yal-Ku Lagoon – Akumal, things to do in Riviera Maya for families
In Akumal, which is between Playa del Carmen and Tulum, you can take the kids to swim in this fresh-water, salt-water mixed lagoon. It’s filled with all sorts or colorful fish!
The kids had a lot of fun here. The older ones snorkeled and enjoyed seeing the fish. The younger ones didn’t snorkel, but they put on their floaties and swam around by us. The water was a nice refreshing cool, but quickly adjusted to (🙋♀️ I can’t get in a cold pool, and was totally fine in here.)
The water is calm and easy to swim in. As you swim farther out, you do start to feel the current. But that’s much farther than what you really need to swim to, to enjoy this great lagoon!
Yal-Ku is the perfect family excursion in Riviera Maya. It’s safe since the water is calm and it’s fun for kids to explore underwater (or above).
Good to Know:
Yal-Ku is located a few minutes from Playa Akumal.
Yal-Ku Lagoon has an entrance fee to get in ($14 for adults and $10 for kids). You can also rent life-jackets and snorkels at the entrance. There are bathrooms near the entrance counter as well.
Please note that you CANNOT WEAR SUNSCREEN at Yal-Ku. The chemicals in sunscreens can be damaging to the coral and life in the lagoon, so it is a protected area. With that in mind, make sure to wear a rash-guard or other swim coverup to avoid getting burned.
I would definitely say this was one of the top things to do in Riviera Maya for families.
Go for a 2 minute underwater tour of Yal-Ku Lagoon in this video!
2. Explore Through Aktun-Chen Park– Akumal
Another of the top things to do in Riviera Maya for families is this super cool nature park. There really is so much to do at Aktun Chen, a natural park!
You can swim in an underground cenote, go ziplining, or stay dry as you walk through a cave covered in stalactites and stalagmites. Admission varies depending on which activity you choose, but we found the prices to be pretty reasonable (relative to other excursions). We did the cave tour and it was $20-something dollars per person.
After you finish your excursion, you can walk around the grounds where you’ll see plenty of wild animals. We saw deer, some sort of wild boars, and monkeys.
The staff here is great and welcoming. We did the cave tour and really enjoyed learning about the caves!
3. Swim with Turtles at Playa Akumal– Akumal
One of my daughter’s favorite things in life are sea turtles. So this is naturally one of the top things to do in Riviera Maya for families. And Akumal Beach is the perfect place to have those turtle encounters!
The beach requires an entrance fee, and once you’re in, it’s best to hire a guide to take you out to the turtles. Turtles are commonly seen here, so there’s a good chance you’ll see one! It’s a perfect excursion for kids because, even though you’ll have floatation devices, you don’t have to go to deep waters to see the turtles.
Playa Akumal is, unfortunately, also know to have a lot of pushy sales people around, making the perfect tourist trap. From needing to rent life jackets, snorkels, entrance fees, it’s hard to know what you need and how much to pay. Make it easier by booking an excursion in advance.
Check out these tours you can book ahead:
4. Go Hang Around at the Akumal Monkey Sanctuary– Akumal
This fun experience in Riviera Maya is perfect for kids!
Discover monkeys and other wild animals at the Akumal Monkey Sanctuary. Admission includes a guide, who will share education and insights with the whole family.
You’ll have the opportunity to interact (and even touch some) with about 40 animal species that have been rescued. The entrance fee not only gets you into the sanctuary, but helps run the organization and take care of the animals.
Book your tickets online for the Akumal Monkey Sanctuary. The farther in advanced you book, the bigger discount you can get to experience this fun activity in Riviera Maya.
(Note: Viator has this experience for sale as well, but it is marked up and doesn’t include transportation unless you add another fee, so I recommend booking straight through the sanctuary.)
5. Discover Mayan History at Tulum Archeological Site– Tulum
Plan to visit the Tulum Ruins, a perfect excursion for kids in Riviera Maya. My son loves pyramids and history, so while this wasn’t pyramids, he really appreciated the historic structures and Mayan ruins.
The kids will love walking around and viewing El Castillo, the large structure that has a beautiful blue sea as the backdrop. There are also many temples and houses to view, and plenty of iguanas sunbathing everywhere you go.
You can take amazing pictures at one of the beach view-points. Tulum has one of the most beautiful beaches in the area, so don’t miss this photo-op.
Good to Know:
When you get to Tulum, there will be plenty of vendors trying to appear as if that is where you purchase tickets. It’s not. They will also tell you it’s a long walk to the ruins, so you need to pay to take their wagon ride/train to the entrance. It’s not really that long. We chose to walk instead of buying tickets to ride there, and it took maybe 10 minutes to get to the real entrance.
Entrance into Tulum Ruins is only a couple dollars each. However, they do not accept dollars or credit cards. Make sure to have pesos on hand.
What makes this one of the top things to do in Riviera Maya for families, especially large families, is the low cost.
The cost is 80 pesos per person, (which is equivalent to under $5!) and they require exact payment. If you get stuck, there is an ATM.
Alternatively, there is a little gift shop right behind the entrance where you can buy something in dollars and ask for change in pesos. I suggest buying a cold bottle of water, as it gets very hot walking through the ruins!
There are plenty of guides waiting at the entrance/ticket counter if you’d like to pay for a guided tour. These are very beneficial, and the guides are legit, friendly, and speak a few different languages.
Between the ease of the activity, the low cost, and the fun, this makes one of the top things to do in Riviera Maya for families!
Check out these tours:
6. Explore Through Río Secreto– Playa del Carmen
The kids will love this excursion in Playa del Carmen. Río Secreto is a natural park where you (and the kids!) can float through clear, freshwater. Experience the stalagmites in this beautiful cave that guides you through geological history.
If you don’t have too little kids, you can also take a bike ride on a tour, in addition to experiencing the water. If the kids are older, try rappeling, Salon de la Paz (Room of Peace), or ride bikes through part of the jungle!
There are plenty of tour options to fit your family at Río Secreto. This is one of the fun things to do in Playa del Carmen with kids. Don’t miss it!
Bonus– this attraction also comes with a buffet, wet suit, life jacket, helmets, lockers, and non-alcoholic drinks. That makes it pretty convenient for a family-friendly excursion!
7. Have a Dolphin Experience – Various Locations, Riviera Maya for families
Looking for a very interactive Riviera Maya excursion? Having a dolphin experience is definitely one of the top things to do in Riviera Maya for families.
With locations in Cancun, just south of Playa del Carmen, and in Tulum, anywhere you stay in Riviera Maya won’t be too far of a drive to this fun dolphin experience! Dolphinaris offers great, kid-friendly encounters with the dolphins. Learn about the behavior of dolphins and then give one a hug, a fin-shake, and other interactions.
Older children might enjoy riding with the dolphins a little more on a dorsal ride or a foot-push (kinda like letting the dolphin drive you by the feet).
Have more time to spare? Sign up to be a dolphin trainer for the day. This 7-hour experience includes a tour, great education opportunities, interaction and activities with the dolphins, behavior training, and some cool swag. Kids 12 and up are eligible for this awesome experience. Don’t miss one of the most fun excursions in Riviera Maya!
Staying in Cancun? Check out: Perfect 4 day Itinerary in Cancun for Families
8. Sail on a Pirate Cruise for Dinner- Cancun for families
This Pirate dinner-cruise is perfect for the whole family. Who doesn’t enjoy a good pirate show?!
The kids will love watching shows, battles, pirate tales, dancing and dinner with Captain Hook. The adults will enjoy all that, plus an open bar. This interactive experience comes with high reviews and lots of memories.
We have done a pirate cruise before in South Padre Island and it was a blast! It’s very fun for adults, and especially fun for the kids to experience a colorful, action-filled performance right in front of them!
Good to Know:
There is an extra surcharge (dock fee) upon arrival to this experience.
9. Take a Glass-Bottom Boat to Experience Under the Water– Cancun
While there is so much to see in the ocean, sometimes the younger kids can’t, or don’t want to, snorkel.
Taking a glass-bottom boat is a great way for kids to still experience some ocean life while staying dry! Kids can still see coral, fish, and other ocean life all from inside the boat. The guide on the boat provides plenty of education as well, so it’s more than just pretty pictures of fish!
This boat tour is air-conditioned (very helpful and relieving after experiencing the heat!) and takes you through Punta Nizuc where there’s plenty of ocean-life.
Good to Know:
There is an additional dock/preservation fee upon arrival.
10. Spend the Day at Xcaret– Cancun for families
It would be hard to mention top family-friendly excursions in the Riviera Maya without mentioning Xcaret. Xcaret is one of the more popular destinations to visit on a vacation to Mexico. This natural park is filled with beauty and wonder of nature, as well as tons of entertaining activities.
With Xcaret Plus admission, the family will enjoy underground rivers, the butterfly pavillion, the beach, natural pools, an area just for children to play, snorkeling, jungle trails, performances, and since this experience includes over 50 attractions. Oh, and you’ll get a lunch buffet included. The Plus admission also includes changing areas, restrooms, and lockers. This experience can easily take all day and will entertain everyone of all ages!
Play all day at Xcaret, known as one of the most fun things to do in Riviera Maya for families!
Need a ride? Book a full day excursion that includes transportation from your Cancun hotel!
How to Get Around in the Riviera Maya
Need transportation to these excursions? We recently went to Mexico and wanted to visit a bunch of destinations. We hired a driver for 5 hours from this company, and we are so glad we did! This was seriously so convenient. The driver was friendly, and he had great recommendations and tips for everywhere we went.
Plus, it was so convenient being on our own schedule since we wanted to visit multiple places! It made it very easy to visit all the things to do in Riviera Maya for families conveniently, safely, and on our own time.
Where is the Riviera Maya?
The Riviera Maya is a well known stretch of land in the Yucatan Peninsula and located in the state of Quintana Roo.
The main stretch of land is from the popular destination of Cancun and down south to Tulum.
The Riviera Maya is know for its beautiful beaches and jungle areas, but also for the historic ruins.
It is a popular spring break destination and winter getaway for families. It also is popular in summer, though the temperatures make it rather hot.
Where to Stay in the Riviera Maya
There are 2 popular areas to stay in while in the Riviera Maya.
First is Cancun. This hot spot has a huge variety of hotels in its Hotel Zone. There are many all-inclusive choices all up and down this thin strip of land.
The top hotels for families in Cancun are:
Grand Fiesta (top rated, upscale, all-inclusive, sleep up to 6 in one room)
Wyndham Alltra (midrange, all-inclusive)
Oasis Palm (not as highly rated, but budget-friendly and all-inclusive)
Next is Playa del Carmen. Playa del Carmen has many hotels as well, though the majority of them are a bit more spread out.
You can book a hotel right in town and have easier access to shops and restaurants. Though many hotels are located along the highway with a long entrance that makes you feel like you are nowhere near the highway. These hotels feel more immersed in the jungle with the beach right out the back door.
Our favorite resort in Playa del Carmen has been Royal Haciendas (<— my review).
Though if you want something budget-friendly and closer to town, we also enjoyed Viva Wyndham Maya (<— my review).
Kid-Friendly Activities in Mexico
There are plenty of things to do with kids in Playa del Carmen, Cancun, Tulum, and everywhere in between. If you are wanting more than just beach, there are plenty of fun things to do in Riviera Maya for families!
Choose from snorkeling in a lagoon, getting up close with the dolphins, or having an adventure at Xcaret. There are so many things to do in Riviera Maya with kids that the possibilities are endless, and the fun never ends.
Which Riviera Maya excursions are you most excited for?
FAQ about going to Riviera Maya with Kids
Is Riviera Maya good for kids?
Riviera Maya is great for kids. It’s a fun, relaxing, or adventurous vacation for families. There are so many activities that kids will enjoy, like playing on the beach, going to caves, walking through the jungle and spotting animals, snorkeling, or seeing Mayan ruins.
Is Riviera Maya Safe for Families?
The Riviera Maya is relatively very safe for families. You need to be street smart just as much as you would in your hometown. Staying on your resorts property will feel very safe.
If you go out and about, there could be drugs around, but usually this is pretty discreet.
I recommend booking tours so you don’t have to worry about driving safety.
Is it better to go to Cancun or Riviera Maya?
Cancun is part of the Riviera Maya, but if you are deciding between Cancun and Playa del Carmen, then it will depend on what you are looking for.
Cancun has a big area dedicated to hotels and tourists. It’s a more manicured vacation. Playa del Carmen is a little more spacious and natural.
Does Riviera Maya have swimmable beaches?
Absolutely! Riviera Maya has some of the most beautiful, clear beaches. Especially in Tulum.
You can swim in the water, though Playa del Carmen will bring calmer waters thanks to Cozumel being just off the coast and providing somewhat of a barrier.
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Need a place to stay? See our reviews of hotels in Riviera Maya
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