6 Ways to Conquer Cancún with A Toddler
Updated: May 29
Also a featured guest post at TravelingMom.
For families with young children, it is often difficult to find a vacation destination that will suit everyone's needs. If you are looking for a safe and family-friendly destination that won't break the bank, look no further than Cancún, Mexico. With everything from white sand beaches to parks and aquariums, Cancún is the perfect place for an affordable family vacation. Here is how I conquered sunny Cancún alone with my toddler while having a vacation that was enjoyable for the both of us.
When I first told friends and family about my intentions to spend a week in Cancún, Mexico with my three-year-old son, the first thing that came out of their mouths (after looking at me like I had three eyes was), “What in the world is there to do in Cancún with a kid?!”
Little do they know that Cancún is so much more than just one strip of hotels with a beach. It is, in fact, a very large, safe and family friendly destination with a variety of activities to keep children of all ages entertained, without breaking the bank!
Here are six ways that my son and I enjoyed our one week trip together in Cancún, and how you can too:
1. Spend some time at Playa Delfines.
One of the quietest and least busy beaches in the Hotel Zone, Playa Delfines features a small playground, restrooms, and plenty of open space to relax and enjoy the view under a palapa. Although the water was a little rough, my son loved having the space to run around, play, and build sandcastles. We even went back on a second day to capture some souvenir photos by the colorful “Cancún” sign at the top of the hill leading down to the beach.
2. Take the ferry to Isla Mujeres.
Just eight miles and a 15-minute ferry ride from the coast of Cancún, Isla Mujeres is a small island that makes for the perfect day trip. We chose to sit on the open-air upper level of the boat as opposed to the air-conditioned lower level, allowing us to feel the fresh breeze on our faces while enjoying the Caribbean sounds of the live band playing on deck. My son felt as though he was on a “big boat ride” and smiled ear to ear the entire way, looking for fish in the ocean and pointing out the other boats that sailed by.
After we made our way to the island, we made the most of our day by:
…renting a golf cart.
Because the island is so small, one of the best ways to get around is by golf cart. Both my son and I enjoyed the refreshing and cooling feel of the wind blowing against our skin as we took in all of the interesting sights around us. He certainly got a kick out of all of the speed bumps on the road that made for a bumpy and giggly ride!
…visiting the Tortugranja (Turtle Farm).
One of most exciting and affordable attractions for visitors of all ages is the Tortugranja, which exists to help preserve the sea turtle population. We enjoyed the opportunity to stop, view and feed sea turtles of all sizes, from palm-sized to so large that their tank is the ocean itself!
…making a stop at Punta Sur.
With several scenic photo ops, souvenir vendors, and a large iguana statue that is sure to capture the attention of any child, this was a good halfway point on our golf cart journey and an opportunity for us to get out and stretch our legs while enjoying some delicious ice cream from the cart at the entrance.
…chilling out at Playa Norte (North Beach).
Playa Norte is the most popular beach on Isla Mujeres. In fact, it has been ranked as one of the best beaches in the world. We enjoyed lunch at one of the beachside restaurants before taking a dip in the calm, blue, crystal clear waters. Between the soft sands and virtually no current, this beach is absolutely perfect for kids.
3. Take a ride on the local bus.
During the times when we grew tired of the beach scene wanted some new scenery outside of the hotel zone, we gave our legs a break, hopped on the local bus, and rode the entire loop. My son was absolutely fascinated by the number of buses that drove by at any given moment, and how different each of the buses was. Some played music, some were uniquely decorated on the inside, and some were, well…not so pretty. On more than one occasion, we had the authentic experience of riding the bus during rush hour, which showed us just how many people can be packed into one bus and survive with no air conditioning!
Headed to Mexico with the family? Check out this complete packing list for a family trip to Mexico!
4. Do some souvenir shopping at Mercado 28.
When it was time for souvenir shopping, we took the less-expensive route by taking the local bus over to Mercado 28, a popular flea market in downtown Cancún with a variety of souvenirs, food stalls, and clothing items. My son enjoyed climbing and taking photos with another colorful “Cancún” sign, and playing with the small toys sold in the market. Once we were done browsing, we spent a few pesos on a delicious, freshly cut coconut from one of the street vendors near the plaza.
5. Cool off at the Cancún Interactive Aquarium.
To take a break from the afternoon heat, we made a trip to the Cancún Interactive Aquarium. Located in a large shopping center just off of the main bus route in the hotel zone, the aquarium is the only one in Cancún and is home to a variety of fascinating and colorful fish and species of sea life. We enjoyed the opportunity to pet a stingray and starfish, and to view a dolphin show from above. Just outside of the aquarium were several shops and places to stop and grab more much needed ice cream.
6. Spend an evening in Parque de las Palapas
Nestled within downtown Cancún, this plaza was desolate during the day, but became a lively plaza in the evening with colorful playgrounds, performances, delicious food stands, and live music. On weekend nights, the plaza is busy with resident families enjoying a night out. Children of all ages have a blast running and driving around the plaza in Power Wheels vehicles, or convincing their parents to buy them a balloon or cotton candy from one of the vendors.
Some of the best things about taking children to Mexico are the slower pace of life, affordability, and family-friendly atmosphere. Cancún is no exception, so next time you’re considering going with your kids, don’t hesitate. I found that there was plenty for both of us to keep busy and enjoy while creating precious and unforgettable memories, and I'm sure you will too.
Are you a single mother who currently lives in or plans to move to or visit Mexico in the near future? If so, join my Facebook group Single Moms in Mexico to connect with other single mothers and their families!