Family Vacation Guide – Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya

Hard Rock Riviera Maya (HRRM) is probably the single hotel we’ve spent the most time at as a family over the years! HRRM is actually the first all-inclusive resort in Mexico our daughter visited at just 2 months old. Since then we’ve had the opportunity to stay often overnight for a few nights at a time and even on occasion with daypasses. We do work quite often at HRRM and the resort has quickly become one of our favourites both professionally and personally.

I’ve always loved the look and feel of the resort as the entire property has a unique take on traditional Mexican architecture mixed with a fun modern Hard Rock vibe. It’s one of the few resorts we go to that we think allows guests to feel like they’re actually in Mexico versus a hotel filled with polished marble, brass & foreign pieces of art everywhere. Here’s a detailed look at our experience at staying at Hard Rock Riviera Maya with our young daughter.

 

  • Location

The hotel is located just south of Playa del Carmen in the Puerto Aventuras area. It takes approximately an hour to get to HRRM from the Cancun airport although I’d say closer to 80 minutes or so if you’re travelling during the day because I find the traffic through Playa del Carmen to be pretty bad.

Just plan ahead to have snacks, juice, milk or water on hand for little ones for that last leg of the drive to get to the hotel as you’re adding on another hour and a bit from the time you actually get through the airport after a fairly long travel day.

 

Canexican Insider Tip

*Take a private transfer! When travelling with kids and needing to drive at least an hour to get to a resort from the airport I feel a private transfer is definitely worth it. The resort shuttles are often on large coach buses and some depending on the tour operator you booked through may end up having to make a few stops to let off passengers to other hotels. A private van just allows you to comfortably stretch out.

 

*If you take a private shuttle or taxi to the hotel and need snacks for the kids or feel for a quick little coffee pick me up for the drive…there is a Starbucks with a drive-thru and a 7-Eleven convenience store located just about 10 minutes from the airport on the same side of the highway you’ll be travelling. You can ask the driver to make a quick stop for you as it’s on the way.

  • Kids Club

My daughter has spent a lot of time in Hard Rock Riviera Maya’s Kids Club. I have fun memories of taking her in as a baby and then as a toddler just to check things out, play with other kids or just watch what was going on. The Hard Rock kids club staff have always been great with the kids. Each day they have a schedule of activities usually with a theme for example like pirates complete with a day filled with treasure hunts, making pirate hats and pirate face painting. Even between their scheduled activities I find they are amazing at keeping the kids occupied during the day in between by doing face painting, playing board games like lotteria (Mexico’s version of bingo), painting, colouring with the kids, making beaded necklaces or playing dress up. I’ve even picked up my daughter at the end of the day with her hair fully braided. I just find they’re super hands on with kids and want to engage them and play.

Canexican Insider Tip

*Pack a little bag for your child with anything they might need while not with you. I usually make sure my daughter has a sweater (the a/c in the kids club or buffet area can get quite cool), a change of clothes, a bathing suit and sunscreen when I’ve given the kids club staff permission to let her participate in one of their designated pool or beach times and snacks and water. I know you’re at an all-inclusive but the kids club isn’t normally stocked with any kind of food and I like Isla to have her own reusable water bottle she knows she can run to grab a sip without fumbling with a water bottle cap or confusion as to which one is hers.

  • Pools, Splash Pad & Water Park

There are really only two pools on the Hacienda section but the main family pool is a huge freeform pool that spans across the oceanside of the lobby essentially from buildings 6 to 9. There are tons of bridges and pathways overtop of the pool which is nice so you can grab a lounge chair just about anywhere and still be poolside.

The kids pool is zero entry which means it has a large gradual slope entrance which is great for small kids. In the middle of the pool is a small water play structure with a slide & water spraying features. Right next to the kids pool in front of the kids club is a fun little splash pad area. It’s great because they’ve put down an artificial turf type of flooring which is cushier on little feet and helps prevent slips and falls on concrete which allows kids to be able to let loose a little more and freely run around without worrying.

The Rockaway Bay Water Park is open every day from 12-5pm. There’s a variety of different slides including high speed slides, tube slides and kids slides in the splash pad area. There are lots of fun water play areas for kids of all ages to find a spot to keep them busy.

Canexican Insider Tip

*Find the shaded little jacuzzi like areas of the main family pool closest towards the kids pool if you have a little one who could use a break from the sun. There are two large round sections of the pool protected by fabric awnings casting some shade. I find it’s also a great spot for parents to sit on the pool bench that wraps around the inside while the kids can safely practice some swimming and splashing around.

 

*Be sure to bring a life jacket or puddle jumper style wearable flotation device for your child if they’re still not comfortable swimming on their own. The hotel doesn’t provide any so it’s a good reminder to one to bring with you.

 

*You’re also allowed to bring your own fun pool float (yes like those gigantic sit on flamingo floaties) which is much cheaper than the ones they sell in the gift shops on the property.

  • Food

I’ve always been very happy with the food at Hard Rock Riviera Maya. It’s always been tasty and fresh with a great selection. The Market buffet restaurant is located in the main Hacienda lobby and has tons of different options including a children’s station with kid friendly foods for pickier eaters like pasta, chicken fingers and hamburgers. There’s also fresh pizzas available in the back corner of The Market buffet.

Although The Market is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner we always seem to end up there for lunch and prefer one of the slightly smaller buffet restaurant options for breakfast like at Ipanema. They usually carry the same buffet menu items but we like Ipanema for breakfast because of the ocean view tables or you can even sit outside on the patio if you’re comfortable with the sun and heat.

Another great lunch option if you’re hanging out around the pool is Pizzeto. At Pizzeto you can get a made to order individual size brick oven baked pizza to eat at a table in the shade or to take back to the pool or beach. We make sure we do pizzas here at least once or twice per visit to HRRM.

If we’re only going to do one dinner reservation it’s always Zen. Living in Mexico we don’t get a ton of access to amazing Asian cuisine so it’s our go to. We also really enjoy Ipanema which is Brazilian style dining serving various cuts of meat sliced right at your table.

 

  • Getting Around the Resort

HRRM is kind of just the right size…not too big where it’s exhausting to walk the whole property but not so small either where everyone and everything is on top of each other! The hotel is easily walkable with littles and the pathways are stroller friendly. There are elevators located throughout each block of rooms so you can easily get up and down to each floor as well as follow the halls back to the main lobby where several of the restaurants are located.

There are golf carts that can give you a lift which I find is really only worth it if I need to get over to the Heaven section or if my daughter is just dying to go for a fun golf cart ride. If you’re staying in building 4 or 5 you can hop on the lobby to lobby golf carts that run between Hacienda section and Heaven section on the back side behind the resort (opposite side of the ocean). There’s a bit of an informal stop in front of the convention centre by building 5 or if you get on from the lobby you can just let the driver know where your room is and they’ll get you there as close as possible on their way over to the Heaven section.

Canexican Insider Tip

*No matter where your room is (buildings 4-9 are reserved for the Hacienda section which is the family friendly side at Hard Rock) there are advantages. Buildings 7-9 have closest access to the pools, buildings 6 & 7 are closest to the Kids Club, building 9 has the shortest walk to the beach and buildings 6 & 5 give you the best chance at seeing wild spider monkeys roaming the grounds.

  • Rooms

The rooms at Hard Rock Riviera Maya have a really fun vibe and can be quite spacious. Rooms are usually 1 king bed or 2 doubles. Each room has a large jacuzzi inside which is great when you have little ones who prefer a bath over a shower. On a rainy day that jacuzzi becomes a lifesaver with kids to pass some time with a giant bubble bath and a movie.

Sky Terrace rooms are also popular with families because each room gets a private rooftop terrace complete with a jacuzzi which is perfect if you have little ones who need to get to bed early as it gives parents a place to hang out without being stuck right inside the room. For families who need a bit more space (& possibly beds) deluxe family rooms have two connecting rooms one with a king size bed and the second with two doubles.

  • Beach

The coastline along Puerto Aventuras tends to be a little rockier than other parts of the Mayan Riviera. For this reason Hard Rock constructed some beach cove type inlets along the property. Some people get hung up over the fact it’s not a natural beach but I actually love Hard Rock Riviera Maya’s beaches. We’ve been going to HRRM with our daughter since she was just a few months old and regularly since then. The calm clear water is quite shallow and very gradually gets deeper so it’s great for kids who want to be in the ocean without getting splashed around by big waves.

From the beach you can also take advantage of their non-motorized water-sports activities like kayaks, stand-up paddleboards and ReefBoards snorkel boards. You can sign any of them out for free at the little station next to the Secret Bar in front of the Hacienda Beach.

Canexican Insider Tip

*Go searching for shells! The Hacienda beach is actually filled with some of the cutest tiny shells. They’re incredibly tiny and easy to miss but worth the mini shell hunt to find them.

Nanny Service

We have been using the nanny service at Hard Rock since our daughter was quite little. For us it became a very convenient service we relied on while we worked. That way we could work the entire day with our daughter being cared for right on the premises. Hard Rock uses Cancun Nanny Services as their approved babysitting service and we always had great experiences.

Depending on the age of your child you can let the sitter know what your comfort level is with what they do that day as well as any other rules or dietary restrictions. When our daughter was quite small we were comfortable with the sitter taking our daughter to the kids club to play with other kids for awhile (the nanny of course would stay with her the entire time) but preferred they ate in the room ordering room service instead of a sitter being responsible for wrangling our toddler daughter in a busy buffet.

You can either book a sitter in advance of your stay directly through Cancun Nanny Services or when you arrive to the hotel. If booking from the hotel you can just pick up the room phone to call the front desk and ask to be put through to the nanny service. We usually did it this way because then we already had a room number assigned and fresh details to provide to them regarding the day and time we would like the sitter.

Canexican Insider Tip

*Give yourselves an extra 15 minutes or so when the sitter arrives before you need to head out the door to give everyone time to meet and get comfortable. We always made sure we exchanged phone numbers with the sitter so we could message via WhatsApp (test that messages are going through between you both before leaving the room).

 

*Also don’t forget to get a room key made to give to the nanny so she can freely come back and forth from the room with your child to be able to return for a nap, meals or if they forget something in the room.

  • Entertainment Activities

Every night there is usually some kind of entertainment or activity either put on by staff, outside performers or at times by the kids club ladies. It can range from their popular Michael Jackson, Mayan or Circus shows to theme nights like Art night run by the kids club and set up in the Hacienda lobby allowing kids to create a variety of different masterpieces each at different stations.

The hotel is also amazing at coming up with a theme night celebrating different holidays. We’ve been there during both American & Mexican Independence Days and other holidays and they often set up an outdoor buffet in the large Woodstock Terrace area complete with live entertainment.

  • Woodward Riviera Maya

With our daughter quite young we actually didn’t start making visits to Woodward until she was 4. I think we could have taken her at a younger age but she wouldn’t really have been able to take advantage of the whole facility then. Now at 5 she excitedly runs in ready to try everything.

There are actually several different areas of Woodward all included with your admission. The main area is similar to what you might find in a gymnastics facility with trampolines, spring floors and a huge foam pit. Upstairs there is a parkour area set across some Mayan ruin like structures as well as a climbing wall, Down below is a large concrete skatepark ideal for BMX bikes, scooters and skateboards (all included with admission).

Outside there is a Ninja Obstacle Course (additional cost apart from the admission for the inside facility). The ninja course is fun and involves all kinds of obstacles to test things like balance, climbing, strength and problem solving in order to conquer each part. If your child is unsure about participating in Woodward overall the Ninja Course is a good place to start because it’s a lot cheaper.

Canexican Insider Tip

*Don’t miss out on eating at Woodward’s small eatery Moondoe’s. It’s actually so good we’ve made special trips in just for their Philly cheese steak sandwiches with fries! Their menu is slightly different from anywhere else at the resort and surprisingly stand out good and all made fresh to order. All guests at Hard Rock can eat at Moondoe’s as it’s part of the all-inclusive or if you’re a local visiting Woodward the food & beverages are included with your admission.

Additional Tips & Extras Worth Noting

  • Remember the Cafetto cafe if you’re ever looking for a bit of a lighter lunch or quick snack. In addition to ice cream, hot drinks and pastries they also make fresh salads and panini sandwiches they will toast for you.
  • For the best spot to take an aerial view picture of the resort & selfie spot head inside the Hacienda lobby to the upper floor. When you get to the top of the staircase turn left and you’ll find a door leading to the outside in the very corner.
  • Room service doesn’t carry any hot speciality beverages like cappuccino or hot chocolate. They just offer coffee or tea. What we often do is order our room service and then one of us runs down to the lobby to get our drinks.
  • Hard Rock Hotel also offers delivery of a Fender guitar to use in your room through their “Sound of Your Stay” program. They will also supply headphones and an amp to create a mini pop-up studio right in your room. You can also follow along in-room lessons on the tv if you’re just starting out.
  • There are a few ways the family can get in a little physical activity together at the hotel without hitting the gym. There’s a spot to play volleyball and basketball, bicycles you can use to tour around the property as well as a running track which has marked distances along the way to help give you a little extra push (the track is really nice first thing in the morning).
  • Another area many people tend to miss is the Obstacle Course located behind the rock climbing wall. There aren’t really any big fancy signs marking it and you just have to know where to find it. You can take yourself through the course anytime of day. It’s a pretty rustic course but my daughter has always enjoyed it as we often like to keep ourselves doing other things than just siting by the pool all day.

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