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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available – Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card, Starwood Preferred Guest® Luxury Credit Card from American Express
Cancun is a popular destination for family vacations, and it is quite easy to see why. There are many flight options from around the country, the “Hotel Zone” is a short drive from the airport, there are amazing all-inclusive resorts and, most importantly, there are a ton of options to use your hard-earned hotel points. There are well over a dozen family-friendly properties where you can use your hotel points, although only nine are resorts.
Ultimately, you can use your World of Hyatt, Marriott Rewards or IHG Rewards Club points for a free award night stay in Cancun. And, of course, if you’ve got transferrable points — like those from Chase Ultimate Rewards that transfer on a 1:1 ratio to all three of these programs — you’ll be vacationing in Cancun before you know it (and here are mistakes to avoid making if you do book a trip to Mexico).
If you’ve been accruing Marriott (or previously Starwood) points, you are in luck. There are six pretty awesome resort options right in Cancun. To have this many choices means you will most likely always be able to find a property that fits your needs and has availability.
The Westin Resort & Spa, Cancun
The Westin Resort & Spa just went through a huge renovation as it turned into one of the Westin Vacation Club resorts. Although now a timeshare property, you can still use 35,000 Marriott hotel points per night (or a 35k certificate available with the Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card. The resort features both regular guest rooms and villas (with kitchens), which means there are a ton of options to fit your family. When using your points, you’ll be booked into a regular guest room, but if you go during an off-peak time or have suite night certificates to use for your elite choice benefit, there is always the chance for a more spacious room.
One of the best activities at this resort is a FlowRider surfing simulator. This is something that both kids and adults alike will enjoy. There are also four pools, two tennis courts and a kids club. Kids must be 4 years or older to be dropped off (there is a fee), although younger kids can visit with an adult for free.
This hotel is at the beginning of the Hotel Zone and further removed from the center. This means there aren’t many restaurants and shops nearby, but being slightly more isolated has its perks, too. If you prefer to be walking distance to the center, consider the Westin Lagunamar Ocean Resort Villas & Spa.
The Westin Lagunamar Ocean Resort Villas & Spa, Cancun
Similar to the Westin Resort, The Westin Lagunamar Ocean Resort Villas & Spa is also a timeshare property. The main difference between the two is that the Westin Resort & Spa is a smaller property away from the center, while the Westin Lagunamar is much larger and walking distance to many bars, restaurants and shops. The rooms at the Westin Lagunamar are also ideal for a family as every single room offers either a kitchenette or a full kitchen, a washer and dryer, and a balcony. I don’t really consider doing laundry part of a vacation, but having the option just in case is quite amazing.
The property offers many family-friendly activities, such as arts and crafts, sea turtle release programs, iguana feeding, board games, miniature putt-putt course and beach volleyball. You’ll also find a playground on the resort and a kids club. While this Marriott Category 6 property will cost you 50,000 points a night, it does offer great accommodations and resort activities for families. You could also use an annual 50k certificate from the Starwood Preferred Guest® American Express Luxury Card to cover a night.
JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa
The JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa, a Category 6 hotel that will cost you 50k points per night, is all about luxury. The hotel boasts an adult-only pool and kid-friendly lagoon-style pool, as well as a separate 14-foot dive pool with its own artificial reef. The main drawback to this hotel is the beach is quite narrow, but fortunately, the sizable pool area makes up for it.
On-site, there is a BeachWalk Game Center, which is great for teens and tweens. Here, you will find Ping-Pong, air hockey and foosball tables. There is access to a kids club for 4- to 12-year-olds as well, but you’ll have to go next door to the Marriott Cancun Resort as the program is shared between the two resorts.
Marriott Cancun Resort
Between the JW Marriott Resort and Marriott Resort, the Marriott Cancun Resort is probably the slightly more kid-friendly property, although you are able to use the pools and amenities at both resorts regardless of where you are actually staying.
The kids club is open between 9:30am and 4:30pm and only costs $35 a day per child. Compared to many other kid clubs I’ve visited, this is a steal. There is a playground, pool and beach activities, arts and crafts, board games, movies and Spanish lessons. This Category 5 hotel is significantly less expensive than the JW Marriott, costing only 35k points a night or a 35k certificate that is available with multiple Marriott credit cards.
When using Marriott points, your fifth-night stay is free, which means you’ll only spend 140,000 points (based on a rate of 35k points per night) for a five-night vacation. Staying next door at the JW Marriott at a rate of 50k points per night will require you to spend an additional 60,000 points total for that same vacation. I would personally prefer to use less points and instead extend my vacation almost two more nights for free, or put them toward a future vacation.
The Ritz-Carlton, Cancun
The Ritz-Carlton, Cancun (Category 6) is absolutely beautiful and less than a mile away from the JW Marriott and Marriott Resort complex. It is a property that defines luxury, but is still extremely kid-friendly. At only 50,000 points a night, this is one of the less expensive Ritz-Carlton properties in North America. If you are a family who enjoys being pampered, this is definitely a hotel to check out.
The property features an active kids club, although it is double the price of the JW Marriott and Marriott Resort. You can sign up for the day, half-day or even by the hour. There are also Kids Night Out events on both Friday and Saturday evenings, which is a great way for your kids to have fun, while you enjoy a kid-free dinner — best of both worlds. Between the kids club, the pools and the beach, your kids should be well occupied during your trip.
To add to the family-friendly vibe, The Ritz-Carlton has gone out of its way to make sure all kids are safe in their room. First off, if you have kids 5 or younger in your room, you can request toddler-proof items, such as a bathtub spout cover, electrical outlet plugs and gentle shampoo, conditioner and baby lotion. Secondly, you can book one of three “Itzy Bitzy Baby,” rooms that give you access to everything your baby might need — crib, changing table, bath amenities, baby soaking tub, high chair, bottle warmer and sterilizer. This can take the anxiety off parents knowing that they can baby-proof the room. Just make sure to confirm this room upon making your reservation.
Renaissance Cancun Resort & Marina
The Renaissance Cancun Resort & Marina is a brand-new modern hotel that just opened in January. The location of this property is different from most of the other hotels on this list as it is in the “new Cancun entertainment zone,” right on the marina. You are just a stone’s throw from the Marina Town Center, which contains more than 100 stores and restaurants. Despite its location, you are still walking distance to the beach and there is a pool on-site. For those who enjoy golf, there is also a large golf course just a few feet away.
This Category 5 property also offers some pretty ridiculously low rates at just $111/night. Staying at a resort property in Cancun during peak times for this price is pretty unheard of, and it might not even be worth using the 30k to 40k points a night to redeem for a free night stay. Or, you can even stay in a one-bedroom suite for just $179/night.
Since this is a new property, there unfortunately isn’t much information available just yet. We will surely start seeing more pictures and trip reports pop up in the next few months.
World of Hyatt
World of Hyatt has some of the best all-inclusive options if you are looking to use your hotel points for a free vacation. There is the family-friendly Hyatt Ziva Cancun and then the adults-only Hyatt Zilara Cancun.
Hyatt Ziva Cancun
The Hyatt Ziva Cancun is one of my favorite family-friendly properties. We love this resort so much, we actually have visited twice and have another vacation in the works. I love to try out new beach locations and resorts but when a property is that good, I have to make exceptions to our travel plans.
This is an all-inclusive property done well where you are never nickel and dimed. On both vacations we were able to get away without paying anything extra than the room rate. Our only added expense was tipping the waitstaff, bartenders and kids club staff (but that was at our own discretion). Room nights start at 25,000 World of Hyatt points per night, which is an incredibly amazing value for an all-in vacation. That covers two guests in the room, plus any children under 3; additional guests cost 12,500 points per night.
There are a ton of restaurants on-site, with options ranging from buffet to sit-down to food trucks at the pool. Your family will never go hungry as there is always food available; you can even order complimentary room service whenever you desire. The candy store (also included) was also one of the highlights for my kids.
There are two separate pool areas, one on each side of the property. The main pool is more family-friendly as there were pool games throughout the day and even a volleyball net set up. This is also where you’ll find the swim-up bar. The pool on the opposite side of the resort was more quiet, but still great for kids. Rafts and floats are allowed and even provided.
The kids club was also a highlight of our trip. Kids between the ages of 4 and 12 can be dropped off at any time throughout the day for no fee. There are day and night programs, and your kids can come and go as often as they want. For families with children under 4, there are family hours where you can play at the kids club with your little one. There are toys, games, arts and crafts, movies and a pretty amazing kids pool area with waterslides.
Unlike other properties that have just a small sliver of beach, Hyatt Ziva Cancun, on the tip of Punta Cancun, actually has two different beach locations — one on each side of the hotel. This allows your kids to have even more space on the beach to run around, build sandcastles and play in the ocean.
InterContinental Hotels Group
There are actually two options for using your IHG Rewards Club points in Cancun, but based on many reviews, it’s pretty clear that the resorts are not as robust as the Marriott and Hyatt options and could use some updating. With that said, the number of points required for a free night stay is pretty low, and if you’re just looking for a relaxing pool and beach resort, they are both still great options for a free night stay.
InterContinental Presidente Cancun Resort
The InterContinental Presidente Cancun Resort is a solid value for your IHG points. You can redeem from just 35,000 points a night or use your free night certificate from the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card. Although this hotel is not an all-inclusive property, it offers options for guests to purchase an all-inclusive plan that provides access to all 11 restaurants, 12 bars, daytime and late-night snacks, and wine, beer, alcohol and soft drinks.
There is a kids club at this property, but it unfortunately does not get great reviews. It seems to consist of a tiny outside-only area with not many planned activities for kids. If having a robust kids club is important to you, this might be a hotel to avoid. However, it does seem like this hotel still has excellent pools and a beach area for your kids. Due to the relatively low number of points for a free night stay at an Intercontinental property, it should still be a contender when trying to plan a family vacation.
Holiday Inn Cancun Arenas
The Holiday Inn Cancun Arenas offers two different options for your stay — an all-inclusive option or a European option (where no meals are included). However, if you’re looking to use your points for a free night stay, you’re automatically booked into the all-inclusive option, which is pretty cool. All-inclusive properties are ideal for families, as you don’t have to think about constantly taking out your wallet and food is typically readily available for your kids.
An award night at this property starts at 40,000 IHG points for single or double occupancy, and kids under 12 stay and eat for free. For any older children or adults in your room, you will be charged for the third and fourth person. When you go to make your reservation, you’ll see that you are not able to select a certain room type (two double/queens versus one king) so it’s best to call or email the hotel after the reservation is made to confirm your desired bed type. On the kids front, there are many activities around the pool and at the beach, including Ping-Pong, kayaking, snorkeling and beach volleyball. There is also a kids club with scheduled activities, although some reviews do mention that the club is closed during off-peak times of the year, such as hurricane season in the fall.
While not in Cancun, there are many more options to use your points if you widen your search to Playa del Carmen and Mayakoba. While these areas are about an hour or so drive from the airport in Cancun, they have a different vibe and will give you more opportunities to use your points. You can even split up your vacation between two different locations if you want to explore more of the area.
Playa del Carmen
- Grand Hyatt Playa del Carmen Resort (from 20,000 World of Hyatt points a night)
- Viva Wyndham Azteca — All-Inclusive Resort (15,000 Wyndham Reward points a night)
- Viva Wyndham Maya — All-Inclusive Resort (15,000 Wyndham Reward points a night)
If you do make it to Playa del Carmen, here are some family-friendly activity recommendations.
- Andaz Mayakoba Resort Riviera Maya (from 20,000 World of Hyatt points a night)
Cancun has large number of points-friendly lodging options to suit every family’s needs. I am partial to the Hyatt Ziva Cancun property as the all-inclusive option has served well for my family multiple times, but you really can’t go wrong with any vacation in Cancun.
For families looking to start accruing points for a free vacation in Cancun, there are also a ton of credit cards with sign-up bonuses right now that can help get you there.
Image by Gerson Repreza via Unsplash
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