Club Med Cancún: What it's like holidaying as a family at the all-inclusive Mexican paradise

As a teenager of the '80s, Club Med holidays were seen as the bomb. When my lucky mates went to one for school holidays I would seethe with envy; a tropical resort where you get to do heaps of cool stuff and eat all you want, and you didn't pay for any of it? Whaaaaaat?

Of course, kids think everything is free anyway, because for them it is. But still, how COOL.

Well I am no longer a teenager and recently I finally got my long-awaited first Club Med adventure in exotic Cancún, Mexico with the best possible travel companion: my 10-year-old son Max. 

I got to experience the magic of Mexico through his eyes as well as mine. 

Many may see Cancún through the lens of the tacky American Spring Break party scene, but there's so much more to this gorgeous coastline than that. It's located on the northeast coast of Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula with the Caribbean lapping at its shores, shores I've been lucky enough to visit twice before in my travels.

I knew it would be hot, I knew the bright white sands, the turquoise sky and the crystal-clear water would entirely blow me away all over again. But Club Med? As something I'd never done before, it was a first time for us both.

Since becoming a parent, I've had the chilling experience of checking out of a holiday resort or hotel and getting slammed with a hefty bill for all the traffic light drinks, ice-cream sundaes and fried potato wedges by the pool that the kids billed to our room for an entire week. And that's before we even get to the actual meals and the medicinal pina coladas for mum and dad.

I know it comes with the territory and smart parents' budget for all those expenses. I'm just not one of those smart parents.

So the best thing about checking into Club Med is putting your wallet in the safe alongside your passport - you won't need it! The resorts are all-inclusive, so you pay a flat rate up-front for your room and all the food, drinks and activities you can squeeze into your holiday. That includes the kids clubs along with all the extra fun of trapezing, archery, pétanque, beach BBQs, foam parties, volleyball... the list goes on.

Parents, you can choose to join your kids, or laze by the pool or beach with a hand-crafted margarita re-reading 50 Shades of Grey on your Kindle. And if you're footloose and kid-free the same applies.

All you can eat, all you can drink, all the yoga, tennis, sailing, snorkelling, snoozing, sunbathing and swimming you can handle.

Club Med Cancun.
The exclusive infinity pool in Jade. Photo credit: Newshub.

The resort

An easy 15-minute drive from Cancún International Airport, Club Med Cancún spreads across its own peninsula and circling around a large lagoon.

Half the resort faces its own sheltered beach with views stretching down the massive coastline of Cancún lined with dozens of beachfront hotels. The other side of the resort is lined with an offshore reef and stunning views out to sea. It's here you will find all the free water sports along with the tennis and pickleball courts (and yes, pickleball is my new favourite thing).

Our accommodation for the week is what Club Med globally calls their 'Exclusive Collection' which here is called 'Jade'. Our interconnecting rooms were spacious, with a huge super-king bed in each, heaps of storage, a rainfall shower and a separate area with sofa, coffee table (and coffee machine!) which opens onto an ample terrace.

We overlooked the gorgeous garden and through to the lagoon, the other side of the three-storey building has sea views. Jade has its own exclusive infinity pool with plentiful cabanas, sun loungers and sofas.

You have your own private all-day bar with a host of brilliant local Mexican mixologists to craft you a cocktail or tempt you with an impressive wine and beer list along with freshly cooked lunchtime snacking and nightly entertainment.

Max was welcomed each morning with his special hand-made mango smoothie and life since has been a struggle without it! Jade is the only area on the property which is off limits to other guests, but Jade guests have free reign of the entire resort and of course we made the most of that.

Max Rodger enjoys the food and drink at Club Med Cancun.
Max's mango madness: poolside mango smoothie and fresh mango on a stick. Photo credit: Newshub.

A few minutes' walk down the coast Max and I discovered the new Aquamarine block built especially for families with a huge pool and shallow paddling pools for the young ones. Surrounded by family-sized cabanas and the cutest little toddler-sized covered sun-loungers, the area has a large bar and café serving drinks and over-the-counter food all day.

This block is the farthest from the centre of the resort and the main entertainment quarter and buffet, but fear not there is a frequent fleet of golfcarts to ferry tuckered-out toddlers and their carers if needs be.

That central hub is nestled between the lagoon and the beach, the main restaurant and bar flanks the resort's biggest deepest pool, the beach has a swathe of sun loungers and umbrellas and is safe and sensational swimming with the rest of the accommodation stretching around the lagoon to the kids clubs and sports area.

Each and every pool along with the beach is watched over by resort lifeguards, no excuse of course for not watching your little ones in the water yourself but they were such a comfort to see and all just so great with the kids. The one downside of the lifeguards? The pools are closed for swimming in the early morning and at night which was a real downer as there is little I love more than night swims.

All the rooms and indoor facilities are air conditioned and trust me, you'll need it. It's the sort of place where your sunglasses instantly steam up when you walk outside into the 30-degree Mexican sunshine and humidity. We visited in early May and it was only going to heat up from there on into high summer, but honestly, after just a day or two we were well accustomed and after our non-existent rubbish Aotearoa summer the heat was heavenly.

One thing I had heard was an issue on the Yucatán beaches was seaweed. If you google 'Cancún seaweed' you'll see they have a seaweed 'season' and it inconveniently kicks off at the beginning of their summer high season.

Thanks to global warming, it's worsened, with a seasonal influx washing up on the coast's pristine beaches. Along the reef-side of Club Med there is a daily morning tractor scooping up the seaweed and it's not great swimming there. The main resort beach thankfully is sheltered from the main ocean currents and protected by the tip of the peninsula, so that was entirely seaweed-free and fabulous safe swimming. 

Max and Kate Rodger at Club Med Cancun.
Sunrise ahead of our early start to Tulum and the incredible cenotes. Photo credit: Newshub.

Food and drink

Our favourite buffet restaurant - Taco Arte - is a stone's throw from Jade. A large thatched-roof wooden space right on the water, a gentle sea breeze and ceiling fans help you browse the buffet offerings for breakfast, lunch and dinner with all day gelato, sweets and drinks.

Here I would start the morning with plates piled high with fresh fruit and croissant, lunchtime fish ceviche, tacos or fajitas along with crêpes, then at night a cheeky margarita or glass of pinot noir with local pan-fried salmon steaks on a bed of saffron risotto.

Buffet eating is just brilliant for a 10-year-old. Max would pair his Nutella breakfast crêpes with a hash brown alongside a healthy serving of Fruit Loops and a rasher or two of bacon and wash it all down with a mango smoothie before heading back to the buffet for round two. Then three. And sometimes four. And no holiday buffet is complete without a double-sided chocolate fountain - dark chocolate on one and white chocolate on the other.

Foodies take note: if you've been scarred for life by lashings of nothing but fried food on resort kids menus and not much better for the grown-ups, Club Med brings the French love of cuisine to the delectable diet of Mexico.

Hands-down this is the best resort eating I've ever experienced. There is even a specialty Argentinian steak restaurant on site called The Estancia open for dinner and late night snacks. Eating there comes at no extra cost, but make sure you book ahead - it gets busy.

None of the other restaurants - including the main buffet La Hacienda - require booking, but just remember kids dinner time is the busiest - and noisiest! There is also an all-day crêperie by the big pool.

The one main disappointment was my eternal hunt for a decent strong morning coffee. I'm a flat white girl, and while a quick black coffee hit from the in-room Nespresso was an option, I was otherwise left bereft of good coffee for the week.

And a warning: drink the La Hacienda main buffet coffee at your peril.

Max Rodger at Club Med Cancun.
The astonishing Playa Norte on Isla Mujeres with its crystal clear water. Photo credit: Newshub.


While you can snorkel, sail and kayak as much as you like during your stay, if like me you want to scuba dive, it's one of the few things at Club Med you pay extra for.

I had done my PADI almost three decades ago in the nearby Cayman Islands and hadn't dived the Caribbean since. So my mission in Cancún was to dive with turtles on the world's second largest coral reef.

We went out off the coast on the Club Med dive boat with Poncho and Olga, two of the resort's dive instructors who were just excellent. The visibility wasn't nearly as clear as I'd hoped, but at a depth of 6m we were able to cruise along the reef with a host of coral sea life including some big barracuda, clown fish and parrot fish.

With just 10 minutes left on our tanks, we reached turtle heaven. Two large sea turtles flapped gently into our wake, overtaking us and then tolerating us as we followed in their slipstream watching them nibble on long sea grass before disappearing from sight.

It was truly magical.

In addition to my dive, we also signed up for two excursions from the resort; one of which was an absolute must-do: the short ferry ride out to Isla Mujeres just off the coast of Cancún. The island is absolutely stunning.

You won't experience water like this anywhere in the world and you walk from straight from the ferry through the bustling township to the most phenomenal beach, Playa Norte. Find yourself a beach bar, order a crisp cool cerveza then throw yourself into the sea (again and again!).

Our second outing was hands-down the best day of our holiday. We took a half-day tour by bus to the Mayan temple ruins in Tulum. I would recommend getting there early before the heat and the crowds.

We went from there into the jungle and with hard-hats, dive shoes and lifejackets on, Max and I climbed down a long wooden ladder into the local underwater 'cenotes' (caves). There, the water was fresh, cool and clear as we slowly floated past incredible rock formations, through echoey caves and then finally out into the bright sunshine again.

We finished off with another big cenote, an open-air cave with much deeper water for swimming and diving. It was absolutely amazing, beautiful day that felt like one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

Kate and Max Rodger in a cenote near Tulum, Mexico.
Max and mum dive deep into the cenote. Photo credit: Newshub.

Getting there

Of course, getting to Cancún is not the short commute that makes the Pacific Island getaways such an easy and accessible getaway, but it's not the long-haul trek you might think.

After a 12 hour leg to mainland USA - Los Angeles, San Francisco or maybe Houston - then it's just a five or six hour flight from there.

For a week-long holiday it's totally worth it, in my view, but as a tropical chapter in a bigger adventure perhaps to LA for Disneyland, Warner Bros and Universal Studios, it's an absolute sitter of a choice.

The cost

Club Med Cancún prices start at US$1750 (NZ$2900) per person for an all-inclusive seven night stay for two adults, with all food and drink - including most alcohol - included.

Those prices go up during peak times and vary depending on how many adults and children are staying.

You have to pay for extras including the spa, wine-tastings, scuba diving and off-resort tours and excursions with prices like:

  • One tank scuba dive including skills refresher from US$130
  • The Tulum half-day cenote tour from US$116 per person
  • The fast ferry to Isla Mujeres was from US$17 each way for the 20 minute trip.


Kate and Max travelled to Cancún and enjoyed their stay courtesy of Club Med.