Dangers & Annoyances
Traveling in Quintana Roo is mostly safe but a rise in drug-related violence in places like Cancún has some people wondering just how safe it really is. Keep in mind that most of the violence you hear about in the news occurs between rival drug gangs engaged in turf wars, and it rarely affects tourists. That said, common sense will tell you not to wander into dodgy neighborhoods, and as a general rule of thumb it's best to avoid driving at night. And though it may be stating the obvious, buying or consuming drugs can lead to big trouble.
Same-sex marriage is legal in Quintana Roo and most residents hold open-minded views about sexuality, even more so in big cities like Cancún, Playa del Carmen and Tulum, where you'll find the highest concentration of gay bars and LGBT-friendly accommodations. Gays and lesbians here rarely attract open discrimination and violence. 11:11 in downtown Cancún and Playa 69 in Playa del Carmen both stage fun drag shows, while Posada Pachamama in Mahahual and Playa Palms in Playa del Carmen always welcome LGBT guests. Gay Cities website (http://cancun.gaycities.com) lists bars and gay-friendly hotels in Cancún and www.gaymexicomap.com has some good Yucatán-specific recommendations. Playa del Carmen celebrates pride week each year (www.playapride.com.mx), as does Cancún.
Travel with Children
Between all the boating outings, water-related theme parks, swimmable cenotes and snorkeling on shallow beaches kids stay thoroughly entertained in Quintana Roo. What's more, you'll rarely have problems finding accommodations and dining options for the whole family, especially when staying in the larger tourist centers.
Best Regions for Kids
With swashbuckling pirate boat outings, loads of water-related activities and family-friendly hotels offering inviting pools and kids clubs, Cancún is a real blesing.
- Riviera Maya
Not that you ever would do it but you can spend a whole week visiting the many amusement parks just south of Playa del Carmen, most of which specialize in splish-splashing good times. At Cobá, Kids dig pedaling around on a bike through a thick jungle lined with ancient Maya ruins, while in Tulum limestone swimming holes abound.
- Isla Mujeres
Shallow and swimmable beaches, fun snorkeling sites and a turtle farm all make for an ideal getaway with the little ones. Oh yeah, there's also that cool ferry boat across the bay.
Quintana Roo for Kids
Many areas in Quintana Roo such as Cancún and the Riviera Maya were made with kids in mind, and generally most spots along the coast are considered safe and family-friendly. Kids love the region's water-related activities, which includes amusement parks, snorkeling sites and all kinds of boat tours. Children will have plenty of open space to run around at beaches and parks and they can experience nature in large biosphere reserves. Cancún, Isla Cozumel and Isla Mujeres provide many family accommodations.
It's probably fairly obvious but renting a car is the most comfortable and convenient option for visiting multiple cities. The roads are good and driving conditions are generally safe. For the slightly more adventurous, Quintana Roo has excellent air-conditioned buses that run up and down the coast and to inland destinations as well. The 1st-class buses have bathrooms on board and many show movie videos. Ferries to the islands of Isla Mujeres, Holbox and Cozumel are always fun and the low-key island lifestyle is perfect for families.
There's no shortage of places in Quintana Roo serving kid-friendly grub, especially in large resort cities like Cancún, where you'll often find gringo fare in addition to the Yucatecan and Mexican offerings. Italian-owned pizza and pasta joints are everywhere you turn in Playa del Carmen and burgers, club sandwiches and pancakes are standard items at the Riviera Maya resorts. If your children want to experiment with regional Yucatecan food just remember that some dishes are prepared with spicy habanero chili sauces.
When looking for accommodations ask if the hotel has good screening to keep the insects out, and air-conditioning is always a plus during the hot summer months. Family-oriented resorts often offer babysitting services, kids clubs, playgrounds and of course, large swimming pools. Family rooms are widely available and some places will put an extra bed in the room at no additional cost.
- Xcaret Many nature-based activities in the water and fun Day of the Dead festivities in early November.
- Xel-Há A river tour and snorkeling adventure get top billing here.
- Aktun Chen Riviera Maya park with a long cave, a cenote, zip-lines and a small onsite zoo.
- Crococun An interactive petting zoo in Puerto Morelos with crocs, snakes and spider monkeys.
- Captain Hook A fun-filled tour on a Spanish galleon replica with simulated sword fights and cannon battles.
- Isla Contoy Kids can let their imagination run wild on a boat tour to an uninhabited island off the coasts of Cancún and Isla Mujeres.
- Museo Subacuático de Arte Snorkeling outings and glass bottom boats visit a unique underwater sculpture museum.
For all-round information and advice, check out Lonely Planet’s Travel with Children.
When to Go
November through February are the coolest months and they stay mostly dry, meaning fewer pesky mosquitoes.
Cancún and the Riviera Maya have the highest concentration of kid-friendly accommodations. Before booking a hotel be sure to ask if the hotel accepts children; some resorts are adults-only.
What to Pack
For the kids you'll want to bring loose-fitting clothing, flip-flops, a light jacket, long-sleeve shirts and pants, insect repellent, sunblock and hats.
Before You Go
Check that your children have had the recommended vaccines for hepatitis, typhoid and yellow fever.