Eric Stoen of Travel Babbo has taken his kids all over the world, including Antarctica, Kenya and China, but sometimes he likes to simply relax on a beach closer to home. We sent Eric to Occidental at Xcaret Destination on Mexico’s Riviera Maya to check out the resort’s kid-friendliness. 

All-Inclusive Riviera Maya with Kids

“All-inclusive” means different things to different people. For some it’s assurance that their vacation will be easy, with no financial surprises. For others, though, all-inclusive resorts are associated with a party scene and a lack of food choices. We’ve had positive and negative all-inclusive experiences, so I’m very picky when evaluating resorts. I want them to be family-friendly without resembling amusement parks. I want good food with multiple dining options. I want fun pools and a good beach. I want local culture. And I want peace. It’s fine if one of the pools has music, but I also want to be able to relax and not feel like I’m at a rave. I finally found what I’m looking for.

Occidental at Xcaret Destination is located south of Playa del Carmen, next to Xcaret Park. I absolutely loved the resort for all of the reasons above plus some. Here are my highlights.

The Setting

This is the big one. So many resorts are simply placed on a flat piece of land next to a beach. Occidental, though, is nestled in a jungle with Mayan ruins. The resort feels like it belongs there. It still has a beach and turquoise water, but exploring the property feels like an adventure. There are even side paths through the trees where you can see…

The Animals

My kids LOVE animals, and any resort with wild animals rates highly. At Occidental we saw turtles, iguanas (so many iguanas), monkeys, deer, fish and several types of birds, including parrots in the lobby. Both times we asked hotel employees if they had seen monkeys recently, other guests spoke up first and told us of their latest sightings. It was a great conversation starter!

Riviera Maya with kids - Iguanas in front of one of Occidental's Mayan sites

Iguanas in front of one of Occidental’s Mayan sites

Riviera Maya with Kids - Occidental - Parrots in the lobby

Parrots in the lobby

The Food

I loved every meal we had at Occidental. The marinated chicken for the tacos (pictured) was especially good. And there was always a kids section with both Mexican and standard kid options (e.g. pasta and chicken).

Riviera Maya with Kids - Lunch at Le Buffet

Lunch at Le Buffet

The Pools

All of Occidental’s pools are great. I liked the pool near the beach with its bar swings and its in-pool hot tubs, and the private Royal Level pool is a perfect place to relax with the kids for a day. The highlight though is the adults-only (sorry kids) saltwater pool just past the beach. It’s a truly unique pool, with ocean water filtering in and out and fish swimming around, and the setting is gorgeous.

Riviera Maya with Kids - The saltwater pool at Occidental at Xcaret Destination

The saltwater pool at Occidental at Xcaret Destination

Riviera Maya with Kids - The bar swings at the main pool

The bar swings (and hammocks) at the main pool

Riviera Maya with Kids - The very quiet Royal Level pool

The very quiet Royal Level pool

The Beach / Snorkeling

I love the beach at Occidental. It’s perfectly-sized for kids to play but always stay within view, and the shallow lagoon is teeming with fish and perfect for easy, stress-free snorkeling.

Riviera Maya with Kids - Occidental at Xcaret Destination

The beach and snorkeling lagoon

Xcaret Park

We’ve been to Xcaret Park several times with our kids and had great days every time. Xcaret is a jungle-based attraction with underground rivers, snorkeling, Mayan ruins, a beach, lots of animals roaming around, and cultural shows. The last time we visited we watched baby chicks breaking out of their shells for over an hour in the lobby. It was my kids’ highlight of our entire trip to Mexico! Don’t miss the nightly cultural show.

Riviera Maya with Kids - Climbing at Xcaret Park

Climbing at Xcaret Park

Riviera Maya with kids - Hands-on learning at Xcaret

Hands-on learning at Xcaret

The Trajineras

There’s a river that runs through the lobby and continues to Xcaret, with small boats (trajineras) that pick up from set stops and take you to the park. The river adds a fun element to the property, and I loved seeing the trajineras traveling back and forth.

Riviera Maya with Kids - A trajinera at Occidental at Xcaret Destination

A trajinera at Occidental at Xcaret Destination

The Kids Club

We’re not a family that utilizes a kids club a lot, but I like when there are interesting activities planned throughout the day so that our kids can get out of the sun for a little while, have fun and meet other kids. The week we were there the kids club schedule had archery, beading, water balloons, ping pong, treasure hunts, Mexican crafts, sandcastle contests, origami, pool games and a lot more. It’s one of those places adults wish they could check in!

Riviera Maya with Kids - The kids club at Occidental at Xcaret Destination

The kids club at Occidental at Xcaret Destination

The Water

It’s hinted at in the above photos, but the water is seriously this color. It never gets old!

Riviera Maya with Kids - Just past the beach at Occidental at Xcaret Destination

Just past the beach at Occidental at Xcaret Destination

Booking

Click HERE to book through Travelocity. Be sure to look for packages that include access to Xcaret Park. Besides being a nice savings, it means that you can come and go at your leisure and not feel like you need to spend a whole day in the park to get your money’s worth.

Eric Stoen is an official Travelocity Gnational Gnomad. Gnational Gnomads is an exclusive group of high-profile travel and lifestyle experts who offer tips and inspiration on behalf of Travelocity. For more information on the Travelocity Gnational Gnomads, visit TravelocityGnomads.com.

Travelocity compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site; such compensation may include travel and other costs.

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