By Kara Williams, on November 1, 2013

Riviera Maya family-friendly all-inclusives

When my daughter was just shy of a year old, we made our first trip to an all-inclusive resort along Mexico’s Riviera Maya. Needing a beach fix after a long winter in Colorado, we figured four nights at a tropical resort with on-site meals and entertainment would set the scene for some rest and relaxation. Indeed, we loved our hassle-free vacation with our infant, wishing we’d booked 7 nights instead of four.

Since that initial trip more than 12 years ago, I’ve stayed in at least 10 different all-inclusive beach resorts in the Riviera Maya, most often with children in tow. Here’s why I recommend all-inclusive resorts for families:

You know the cost of your vacation up front

While amenities and services vary among all-inclusive resorts, generally you can count on your vacation cost including your accommodations, entertainment (such as cooking classes, pool aerobics, salsa lessons, and evening shows), the use of non-motorized sporting equipment (kayaks, snorkel gear, catamarans, bicycles), and of course, meals and drinks. Fees for anything that’s not included in your room rate – such as spa treatments or premium dining experiences – are spelled out. With the bulk of your trip covered in one payment to an all-inclusive resort, you can easily budget for any off-property excursions or extra meals “in town.” Plus, all-inclusive resorts appeal to all pocketbooks, from the budget-minded Viva Wyndham Maya to the posh Grand Velas Riviera Maya.

Kid-friendly pizza at Hacienda Tres Rios

Buffet dining caters to kids’ picky palates

In my experience, many all-inclusive resorts in the Riviera Maya have buffet dining available for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Especially when my children were preschool age, this appealed to my family because the kiddos could sample different items and go back for seconds on the foods they liked. With buffet spreads, there’s no waiting for menu items to arrive: hungry kids can get their meals, stat! As the children have grown older, we now try all-inclusives’ gourmet a la carte restaurants for more sophisticated dining experiences, often with excellent food and service. We had particularly good meals at the “Gourmet Inclusive” Azul Beach Hotel restaurants, which feature Asian, Italian, Latin America, and Caribbean cuisines.

Developmental Fisher-Price toys at Azul Sensatori


Entertaining kids’ clubs

More often than not, you’ll find a kids’ club (or “camp”) available to children up to age 12 at all-inclusive resorts. Sometimes these are game- and activity-filled centers that parents can visit with their children for a break from the hot sun. Other clubs are full-on babysitting for children, offered all day long and into the evening, so parents can enjoy some kid-free time. Some resorts offer such child care for ages 3 (potty trained) and up; others make the minimum age 4 or 5. Some of the most extensive kids’ clubs I’ve seen in the Riviera Maya were at Dreams Tulum, with its Mayan-themed Explorers’ Club where children have their own treehouse and basketball court, and Azul Sensatori, with a play space filled with Fisher-Price toys, a gym with tumbling mats, and themed doll, theatre, and arts-and-crafts rooms.

Viewfinder Tip: If you think you’d like to use the on-site kids’ club as a babysitting service, make sure you check age minimums for your children before you book your all-inclusive stay.

Awesome pool areas

Parents know that a swimming pool can entertain children for hours. More often than not, all-inclusive resorts have the types of tricked-out pool areas that families love: zero-entry wading pools, water-spray areas, waterfalls, water slides, and lazy rivers. As much as waves might beckon for frolicking in the warm Caribbean Sea, the pool is often the place to be for families at Riviera Maya resorts (no sand in the suits – or in toddlers’ mouths).

Something for everyone

While the kids have their own clubs and play spaces at all-inclusive resorts, adults usually do, too, in the form of late-night lounges, adults-only dining venues and adults-only pool areas. Grown ups can enjoy a round of golf, tennis clinics, or chill time at the swim-up bar. My ideal kid-free time takes place in an all-inclusive resort’s spa. After a massage and a steam, I’m refreshed and ready to play on the beach with my children again!

What’s your favorite all-inclusive resort for families?