Mexico is an amazing place for a family getaway. From the beautiful beaches to the all-inclusive resorts and activities, there’s something for everyone. We often hear people ask where is the best place to vacation in Mexico and particularly within Quintana Roo, along Mexico’s eastern coast. Deciding between Cancun vs Cozumel (and even Riviera Maya vs Cancun) can be a tough decision. After several trips to the Caribbean side of Mexico, we have some insight to offer based on personal experience.
So whether you’re trying to pick the best vacation destination in the Yucatan Peninsula or the most kid-friendly resorts in Mexico, we have you covered with these tips.
Disclaimer: Our stays at Park Royal and Grand Park Royal were sponsored. As always, all opinions are our own. Toddling Traveler also participates in affiliate programs. That means we could earn a small commission for purchases through our links, at no extra charge to you.
Table of Contents: Planning the Best Family Vacation in Mexico
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Determine a Budget for Your Family Vacation in Mexico First
If you’re planning a family vacation in Mexico, you’ll find that the options are almost endless in terms of resorts and amenities. (Whether you’re looking for a budget resort, a luxury resort or anything in between!) For that reason, deciding on a budget for a family trip to Mexico can help to narrow down the options.
As a general rule of thumb, all-inclusive resorts in Mexico tend to be priced lower than other Caribbean destinations. That makes it even more attractive for larger families. As a rough estimate, $1,300 per adult is usually a good budget for a week-long all inclusive vacation in Mexico. That’s for airfare, transfers and the cost of a 1 week vacation at an all-inclusive resort.
Keep in mind that this amount can be more or less. Prices depend on a number of variables including departure airport, location and resort type. If you’re staying in Cozumel, for example, the cost to travel there might be slightly higher.
Cost for Children at All-Inclusive Resorts
Traveling with kids Mexico? There are many family friendly all-inclusive resorts in Mexico that allow kids to stay for free. At the Grand Park Royal Resorts, for example, kids under 6 years old are free. Kids ages 6-12 can also stay at 50% off. That’s a great value when you consider that your kids may be able to travel to Mexico for just the cost of a flight.
Many booking agents offer packages that include airfare and transportation to and from the hotel, to save even more money on your trip.
Decide on the Best Place for a Family Vacation in Mexico
Choosing the best place to visit in Mexico with your family can be overwhelming with so many options. If you’re looking for an easy and safe vacation, we recommend sticking to the more touristy areas in Mexico by the beach.
One thing to consider is whether you plan to spend a lot of time on the resort of if you’re looking to explore. For the purpose of this article, we’re specifically focusing on family-friendly destinations in (or near) the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. Cancun and Cozumel are both great options that give you the best of both worlds. They both offer all-inclusive resorts, a walkable city or town and easy access to a number of unique adventures nearby. Riviera Maya is also a popular destination for similar reasons.
Keep reading for more information on Cancun vs Cozumel for a family trip to Mexico.
Visiting Cancun for a Family Vacation
Cancun is located in the state of Quintana Roo on Mexico’s eastern shore of the Caribbean. The beaches in Cancun are beautiful with white sand and blue waters. The Hotel Zone in Cancun is very close to the Cancun International Airport. That means you can easily access a number of nonstop flights to Cancun, especially during the busier travel seasons when routes are more frequent. If you’re looking for the best resorts in Cancun for families, the Grand Park Royal Cancun and the Park Royal Golden Cancun are both great options. (Keep reading for more on everything these family-friendly resorts in Mexico have to offer.)
For booking information and current rates for the Grand Park Royal Cancun, go here.
Is Cancun good for kids? We received this question a lot when sharing with others that we went to Cancun for a family trip. While it may be traditionally more known for the spring breakers and nightlife, Cancun is actually very kid-friendly. Cancun is close to the airport and the beach is beautiful. Plus,there are tons of kid-friendly resorts in Cancun as well.
For booking information and current rates for the Park Royal Cancun, go here.
Things to Do in Cancun for Families
The great thing about Cancun it’s close to a number of popular sights in the Yucatan Peninsula. Below are some ideas of popular things to do in Cancun, with kids or without. While we didn’t have a lot of free time on our most recent trip, I’m definitely looking forward to doing some of these Cancun excursions on future visits!
- See the some of the best Mayan ruins in Mexico at Chichen Itza.
- Swim with the whale sharks off the coast of Cancun.
- Visit Xcaret Park or Xplor Park for a day of adventure.
- Explore the best cenotes in Mexico along the Yucatan Peninsula with a guided tour of the Cenote Route.
- Discover Cancun street food with a locally guided food and art tour of Cancun.
- Sail to Isla Mujeres by catamaran from Cancun.
- Take a day trip to Tulum from Cancun to see Tulum’s Archeological Zone against the Caribbean Sea.
You can also click on the image below for more ideas on fun and unique things to do in Cancun.
Visiting Cozumel for a Family Vacation
Cozumel is an island located off the eastern coast of the Yucatan peninsula, right across the water from Playa del Carmen. With Cozumel being surrounded by the Caribbean Sea, it definitely feels more tropical than some of the neighboring towns in Quintana Roo. Cozumel is well known for its diverse coral reefs that make it great for diving and snorkeling.
Cozumel has a small international airport that you can fly into directly. You can also get to Cozumel from Cancun by driving to Playa del Carmen and taking the ferry from there. If you’re looking for one of the best Cozumel, Mexico all inclusive resorts, check out our review of the Grand Park Royal Cozumel.
For booking information and current rates for the Grand Park Royal Cozumel, go here.
Family-friendly things to do in Cozumel
Just like Cancun, there’s an endless amount of fun things to do in Cozumel. In addition to exploring the island itself, it’s also easy to get to the Yucatan Peninsula for day trips from Cozumel. Cozumel is known for its diving throughout several diverse coral reefs. When we were there, we met so many people who visit Cozumel frequently for the diving alone.
Below are a few excursion ideas for your next family vacation to Cozumel.
- Take a glass bottom boat tour in Cozumel for snorkeling in 3 different reefs.
- Visit Chankanab Beach Adventure Park for a snorkeling adventure and beautiful beach. You can find a day pass for Chankanab here.
- Take ATVs on a tour through Jade Cavern in Cozumel.
- Swim with the Stingrays at Stingray Beach.
- See a Mayan ball game and have a traditional Mexican fiesta at Kun Che Park.
Click on the image below for more ideas on fun things to do in Cozumel.
Riviera Maya vs Cancun or Cozumel
Riviera Maya is also located in the Yucatan Peninsula, and it’s about equal travel time from Cancun and Cozumel. It’s known for its large, luxury resorts that are often very secluded. Riviera Maya is a popular recommendation from travel companies, and I stayed there during my first few visits to Mexico. At the time, the larger resorts were perfect for our large groups of mostly adults.
Riviera Maya or Cancun: which is better? This comes down to personal preference. After visiting Cancun and Cozumel on our recent trip, however, I realized I prefer them over Riviera Maya for a family vacation. Both Cancun and Cozumel are located close to both sightseeing and local establishments. They’re located in more populated areas, so you can walk right outside of your resort to access things nearby. The smaller resorts are also much easier when visiting with small children or older adults. (I’ve found the size of the Riviera Maya resorts to be a lot to navigate even as an adult.)
Note: The Park Royal Resorts do not have a location in Riviera Maya since they typically are found in places with more of a local Mexican feel. I’m including it here for comparison purposes.
Where to Stay in Cancun and Cozumel
With so many resorts on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, it can be hard to know where to start. We recently stayed at the Park Royal Golden Cancun, the Grand Park Royal in Cancun and the Grand Park Royal Cozumel. We can definitely recommend all three as they checked all the boxes for a family-friendly resort. Below are the highlights of staying at the Park Royal Resorts in Cancun and Cozumel.
- Kids’ Clubs. The minimum age for kids’ club drop-off is 4. Kids are allowed in the kids club with adult supervision, though, and we had a blast. In-room babysitting is also offered for a fee.
- Kids’ pool with water slides. The Park Royal Golden Cancun has the largest waterpark area of the three resorts. The Grand Park Royal in Cancun does not have a kids’ pool, but it does have an outdoor play area.
- Adults only areas.This holds true whether you need a break or are traveling without kids!
- Daily activities for kids and adults. In addition to hourly activities, the Grand Park Royal Resorts also have nightly performances. Grand Park Royal Cancun has an indoor theater, and Cozumel has an outdoor amphitheater.
- A variety of food options including quick service meals. In addition to the buffets, the three resorts offer Italian, Mexican and Seafood restaurants. Grand Park Royal in Cancun also has additional fine dining options. All 3 resorts have several bars including swim up pool bares as well.
- Easy access to excursions and activities. All three resorts have places to book excursions. You can also find Cancun and Cozumel excursions here.
- Access to beautiful beaches. Cancun has some of the best beaches in Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico. The Grand Park Royal Cozumel has a small private beach, but the pools are the highlight there.
- Park Royal Golden: A Family-Friendly Resort in Cancun
- Review of Grand Park Royal Cozumel All-Inclusive Resort
- Grand Park Royal Cancun, a Luxury Resort for Families
Best Time to Travel to Cozumel and Cancun
Fortunately, the weather in Cozumel and Cancun is warm all-year round. It typically hovers around 80 F, with the summer being warmer. The best time to visit Cozumel and Cancun is typically from mid November until early June. July to October are not only very hot, but it’s also when hurricane season occurs in the Caribbean.
If you’re looking for the best prices and lowest crowds in Mexico, April, May, November and early December are typically best. To date, we’ve been to Mexico in April, May and November and experienced great weather and little rain each time.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Mexico
I also wanted to take a minute to cover safety in Mexico. If you’ve gotten questions family or have concerns yourself, you’re probably wondering, is Cancun safe for travel? And is Cozumel safe to visit? When we first considered traveling to Mexico with a toddler, safety was definitely a consideration. We hadn’t been to Mexico in several years and things have changed. Plus, a lot of our family, tends to be more conservative when it comes to travel.
That said, we felt totally safe when traveling to both Cancun and Cozumel in November of 2019. Below are a few safety considerations for visiting Mexico in 2020.
- Stick to the touristy areas and make sure the area you’re visiting isn’t on the do not travel list for Mexico.
- Prearrange transportation from the airport. You can find options for pre-arranged transportation from the Cancun airport here.
- Only do excursions through reputable tour companies like Get Your Guide.
- Check for updates on the Zika virus in Mexico if you’re pregnant or trying to conceive.
- Don’t drink the tap water at your Mexico resort unless it’s filtered.
- Avoid places like night clubs late at night. (Usually not difficult when traveling to Mexico with kids!)
Check out these Mexico travel tips for more information on safety in Mexico.
Cancun vs Cozumel: Which One Should You Choose?
So, you read our post on Cozumel vs Cancun and still aren’t sure which one is better for your family? I find them both to be equally as great for different reasons- so you really can’t go wrong! Overall, we found the beaches in Cancun to be the most beautiful and super relaxing. The smaller resorts and proximity to the airport also make Cancun ideal for families with younger children.
For resort options in Cancun and current rates, go here.
Cozumel, on the other hand, has a lot of outdoor adventures to offer families with older children. (Or those traveling without kids who are looking for both relaxation and adventure.) Plus, the main town of San Miguel offers a number of bars and restaurants.
For resort options in Cozumel and current rates, go here.
If you’re having trouble deciding between Cozumel or Cancun, consider visiting both.
Getting from Cancun to Cozumel is fairly easy and affordable. Plus, the scenery in Cozumel and Cancun is SO different that you don’t even feel like you’re in the same area.
If you’re interested in splitting your time between Cancun and Cozumel, below are the steps to get from Cancun to Cozumel.
- Book a transfer from Cancun to Playa del Carmen.
- Book the Ultramar Ferry from Playa del Carmen to Cozumel here. Note: There is not a direct ferry from Cancun to Cozumel.
- Take a taxi from the ferry to your hotel. (Or prearrange a pick up from your hotel.)
Alternative, you can also fly from Cancun to Cozumel on MAYAir. Just be aware that the airline can be somewhat unreliable. For safety reasons, they are quick to cancel flights at the slightest chance of a storm.
If you’ve been to Mexico with your family, I’d love to hear more about your favorite places or any additional tips you would add!
19 thoughts on “Cancun vs Cozumel: Mexico All-Inclusive Vacation”
Excellent recap of Cancun vs. Cozumel! We’ve been to both and I agree with everything that you’ve said! I tend to like to stay on the ‘mainland’ versus on an island, so I lean more towards Cancun. Great article!
Thanks so much! Great point on staying in Cancun- it’s definitely easier!
This is a really useful resource. We lived in Mexico for nearly six years and loved it! I never got to go to Cozumel but we did visit Cancun and spent a wonderful holiday in Tulum.
That’s amazing that you lived in Mexico for that amount of time! We love Cancun and I really recommend Cozumel if you get the chance- it has such a different feel!
I have only been to Mexico once but i am constantly looking at flights and deals to Mexico. The idea of main land vs island is something i had never thought of
You need to go! Cancun and Cozumel are both great for kids and we really loved staying in both places to get different experiences during our trip.
We have been to both on a cruise and love them, but are hoping to one day do all inclusives. This post will come in handy. Thanks!
It’s great when you have kids that are old enough to go to the kids club and you can actually have some adult time too! The kids clubs at all 3 resorts we stayed at were great.
We’ve never been to Mexico but now I want to visit both Cancun AND Cozumel. Thanks for the hotel tips – can’t beat an all inclusive resort for a stress free family holiday
Totally agree! Park Royal Resorts in Cancun and Cozumel are both great options!
Great tips on visiting Mexico! We’ve been a couple times without our kids and I really want to take them soon- I think they would LOVE it!!
They would! Theres so much to do at the resorts for kids of any age and fun excursions as they get older.
Both Cancun and Cozumel look like great options for Mexico.
Thanks they definitely are great family friendly places in Mexico!
Love the list of unique family friendly activity options included.
Thanks so much!
This is a really great comparison and break down of both locations. I’ve only been to Cozumel with a toddler, not to Cancun, but I think think I could bring my kids there. I agree it’s extremely handy to many cultural and architectural sites as well as theme parks.
Cancun was surprisingly really great for kids! A lot depends on the resort and what you do while you’re there, but it wasn’t what I expected from all my friends who did spring break there back in the day!