Maybe back in your college days, you knew Cabo as the spring break destination or now you think of it as the place fancy people run off to, when they’re hosting fantasy destination weddings. Let me assure you, there’s more to it, especially if you’re thinking of family travel.
Cabo is an amazingly beautiful place with so much to do that your family will run out of energy before you run out of options.
With my own kids now official tweens at 8 and 10, our vacations have become a chance to get out and experience adventures — in other words, no more holding a baby in water wings in a hotel pool while I wonder how much an overpriced sitter is going to cost me if I want to get out for dinner one night.
If you’re nodding along, I’m excited to share my experiences at Marina Fiesta Resort Los Cabos, a family-friendly resort in Los Cabos, Mexico that I recently visited.
Now, while I did travel here alone on a press junket for the purpose of a travel review (tough job, I know), next time I wouldn’t hesitate to bring the kids.
Oh, and there will definitely be a next time.
Here, my tips and tricks for getting around and making the most out of a resort vacation.
The moment I arrived at Marina Fiesta, I was received like royalty — or at least a member of the press they wanted to impress, but from what I could see, every guest got the same fantastic treatment.
I felt instantly relaxed in the open-air lobby which was filled with original local artwork and artifacts. Nice break from the generic look of the chain resorts a lot of travelers are used to.
You immediately feel like you’re being taken care of, and everything is easy and stress-free — especially if you don’t speak the language or haven’t been to Mexico before. A local informed us that Cabo really wants to keep up its reputation as a nice destination, and that’s really reflected in the lengths everyone goes to keep the resort clean, extremely safe, and welcoming.
Getting out: Water activities
As nice as my airy suite was, with the fresh fruit plate that greeted my arrival, that is not where I planned on spending my trip.
One of the benefits of a resort like Marina Fiesta, is that they have relationships with all kinds of trusted companies, and make it super easy to book different activities. Each one even has its own shuttle to get you where you’re going.
Judging by the crazy roads, I absolutely recommend accepting that free, chilled water and letting someone else get you around town instead of renting a car.
My experience on a sightseeing and snorkel trip on a pontoon boat with Rancho Tours was terrific. It costs about $80 per person for a two-hour trip (just the right amount of time) and includes unlimited water, beer, and sodas, plus the snorkeling equipment you’ll need.
We were able to see the famous El Arco, the amazing rock formation you’ve seen in a zillion movies. Also memorable: catching a colony of barking sea lions before anchoring in a snorkeling spot utterly resplendent with coral and tropical fish.
I saw tons of kids snorkeling at El Arco and parasailing around the bay, some as young as 7. So really this is a perfect family activity.
If snorkeling isn’t your thing, other water activities include SCUBA diving, sportfishing, kayaking, glass bottom boat tours (perfect for even little non-swimmers), parasailing, waverunner rentals — or hey, just visit the local beaches and chill. At night, you can enjoy a sunset cruise which sounds divine.
If you happen to be planning a Cabo trip over spring break, you’re in luck: from January to April, you can book a whale watching tour which is something every kid should experience if given the opportunity.
Oh, and if water makes you a little nervous, know that the area in the Sea of Cortes where we snorkeled was warm, calm, and free of sharks or anything scary. Next time, I would love to take my 10-year-old daughter along.
Stuff to do: Land adventures
If you can bear to take some time out from the glorious sea, there are tons of land activities in Cabo to consider including horseback riding, ATV riding, and ziplining. You’ll have to check each activity for ages, but most tweens and teens are good for everything, and some activities welcome kids as young as 6.
As for me, I was psyched to go a bit off the beaten path, and book a camel safari with Cabo Adventures, which is ideal if you’re with kids over 5.
The shuttle delivers you to the picturesque trail, where a knowledgeable guide then takes you on a short nature hike through the Baja Outback before loading up the crew into a Mercedes-Benz Unimog ATV for the short ride to the camel sanctuary.
You can meet and kiss Louis the camel, as I did, before mounting up on your own dromedary for an unforgettable 20-minute beachside camel ride.
If your kids are younger — or less adventurous — parents can ride with kids. I was also reassured knowing the camels are under a trainer’s control at all times, so you don’t have to worry about losing a kid to the cacti.
Bonus: As you can see from the pics, the helmets have attachments that make everyone look like Lawrence of Arabia, and they use drones to take your picture.
After your ride, you’ll be treated to an amazing home cooked meal in an open-air pavilion, and the adults can enjoy a tequila tasting. Try the hibiscus tea margarita — trust me.
While I really enjoyed this outing, I will add the caveat that we were definitely operating on island time. Everything seemed to run a little slow and behind schedule, so I’d suggest you have the kids bring a book or something to entertain themselves during the downtime.
Stuff to do: The beach. (Of course!)
Now here’s the bad news: If you’re looking to just chill comfortably on a beach all day, this may not be the resort for you.
Marina Fiesta is actually situated on the marina, so unfortunately the beach is a 10 to 30 minute hike — depending on whether you want a short, sweaty walk past barbed wire and construction, or a longer, more leisurely walk down the marina and across hot sand.
To enjoy the beach, you need to find a public spread of sand. Unfortunately however, each hotel along the beach ropes off their own sections, so you might not feel comfortable just dropping your belongings in the middle of nowhere.
Plus, be aware that public areas are inundated with people who aggressively try to push souvenirs on you. While I didn’t feel unsafe, it is an annoyance.
But then, this is the benefit of staying at a resort like Marina Fiesta overall when you’re visiting a destination like Cabo with family; Marina Fiesta has key locks inside and out, to limit the property to staff and guests only. Just…not on any stretch of beach.
That lovely pool
Now, if you’re more of a pool family, you’re in luck. The pool at the resort is a a hotbed for families and playful children. However there’s also a secondary, calmer pool if the main pool is too busy.
I saw tons of kids splashing around happily, and the main pool has various depths so that even little ones will feel at home.
Stuff to do: Spa time!
If you’re into spa visits as part of your vacation, like I am, I was impressed with the options at both Marina Fiesta and its sister property, Hacienda Encantada (which is easily accessible by shuttle from Marina Fiesta).
I’m talking aromatherapy massages which leave you limp and oily in the best possible ways, indoor saunas and jet tubs that take away the tension, facials and pedicures to freshen you up, even couples’ massages, if your kids are old enough to spend an hour or so on their own. And oof, the rooftop Jacuzzi with the view? What a way to watch the sun go down.
The view from the rooftop Jacuzzi. I know! I’m jealous of myself!
The spa is quiet and calm, mostly aimed at adult guests over 18, so this would not be the best place for little kids. A mom and tween daughter pedicure, though? Pure bliss.
The good news is that the concierge will be happy to book on-site childcare for you.
Yay! Now get to the spa.
Eating choices made easy
While most all-inclusive resorts, like the Azul Beach Hotels, offer lots of on-property restaurants, I really liked that the Marina Fiesta opens up the options with a Dine Out all-inclusive plan. It’s not essential, and you can do the math and decide whether you’d rather pay out-of-pocket for each meal. But here’s why I suggest it:
When you arrive, you receive a numbered bracelet that gives you complimentary access to plenty of restaurants and bars on the resort property, as well as several in “The Golden Zone,” an area within easy walking distance on the marina thoroughfare.
If you’re on the European plan, which includes breakfast only, two kids can eat for free. Yay! That gives you a lot of freedom the rest of the day but at least covers you when the kids wake up starving.
If you’re on the all-inclusive plan, each kid adds about $69 per day so the value of that depends if you’ve got a kid who eats like five french fries at a meal, or can polish off a massive plate of carnitas.
In my opinion though, considering the prices at the restaurant are pretty inflated for walk-in diners, the all-inclusive plan can end up being a pretty good deal. (Plus, I love not having to do math while on vacation.)
It could not be easier; you don’t need to carry cash or credit cards — with a few weird exceptions. For example, everything at the sushi restaurant was included, except the eel…which happens to be my favorite sushi.
Tips are also said to be included, but I would suggest tipping anyway. Servers do appreciate some extra pesos and I definitely sense that it’s expected.
Another perk with the plan is that the resort restocks your minibar each day, and you’re entitled to four complimentary waters, four sodas, and two beers — plus most house liquors at the restaurants.
Since drinking the local water isn’t recommended (hello, Mexico!) the included beverages come in extremely handy throughout your entire stay.
And there is another benefit to the all-inclusive plan which is great for families: room service! While it’s available to all guests, the plan gives you 40% off which is a nice break. Perfect for quieter breakfasts before you head out in the morning, or even feeding the kids if they’re completely wiped at the end of the day.
As for the restaurant options at the resort, they are definitely family-friendly. There’s a pizza and pasta place, an oyster bar, a breakfast bar, a bar and grill, and a seafood restaurant, which features local favorites like the special Cabo lobster. My favorite restaurant was Los Deseos, which serves authentic Mexican food. The flaming tequila-cheese dip was incredible — although maybe not for kids.
I’d also recommend taking the free shuttle over to Hacienda Encantada for an amazing dinner at sunset at Los Riscos, a rooftop restaurant overlooking the cliffs. Definitely don’t miss their bespoke cocktails and the cashew-bacon soup.
So are the food choices overall a little…American? Well yes, some of it. I think for most families that only means life is a little easier. You have some easy options for picky kids plus more authentic local fare side-by-side, and everyone is happy.
And for those of you with food allergies or sensitivities, I’ve got to say that I was impressed with how respectful each restaurant was regarding my need to eat gluten free — even bringing me my own special dessert when I couldn’t partake of their regular offerings. I can only imagine they’d be just as great with picky kids.
Fun just for kids
Parents of little kids will love discovering there’s a place for them to run wild with no complaints from other guests: A small playground situated in a nice big green area.
It’s contained as well, so tired parents will get a chance to settle down without having to helicopter — too much.
The entire resort, in fact, is safely contained. And if you’re concerned about kids who who wander, also rest assured that the marina has fencing around the water and docks which should put a lot of minds at ease.
And if you want a little time to yourself, or even a little more to do there with the kids, there’s an activity director on site who can hook you up with pool volleyball, cooking classes, Spanish lessons and more.
The roomy, cool, impressively clean rooms at Marina Fiesta are perfect for families, especially because each room or suite comes with a fully stocked mini kitchen including a stovetop, microwave, fridge, pots and pans, and utensils.
I loved the beautiful stone shower too which is a touch I hadn’t expected.
Although every room is considered a “suite,” families should be advised that only the Nautical One Bedroom Suite actually has a separate bedroom with a door that can be closed to the living area. The other suite options are ultimately only one room, even though they have a table and chairs. Probably not the best bet if you want want a little more…adult time.
Definitely check the rates and decide whether upgrading to the two-room suite is worth it.
The balcony overlooking the pool and marina is also perfectly pleasant — except when some rude neighbors ignored the No Smoking signs and had what felt like an all-night chain smoking party complete with stinky cigars. Honestly, that was my biggest complaint about the resort: In an attempt to be polite and accommodating, the staff ignored a lot of Americans smoking in common areas.
That said, when I slid my balcony door closed, I couldn’t hear a thing — including rowdy kids in the pool area. The pool closes relatively early, though, so it’s not like partying college students will keep your kids up all night. Except on Spring Break. All bets are off, then.
Side note for those of you concerned about noise and partiers: Honestly, the loudest and rudest nighttime revelers seemed to be grandparents who were part of multigenerational family trips. Go figure, right? Get rid of that cigar and turn down the Skynyrd, grandpa!
Tips and tricks for a Marina Fiesta family vacation
After a few nights, here are a few of my tips to help make your trip fun, easy, and a little more affordable:
–Save by booking a smaller room. Especially if you’re planning to be out doing activities day and night. Really, how much time will you spend in your room, unless you’ve got really little ones who require naps all day?
–Plan to have a few meals (like breakfast) or snacks in your room. There’s a small bodega within walking distance, and free shuttles can take you to a supermarket if you need more. I know my kids would want to live on nothing but fresh fruit and guacamole.
–Consider the all-inclusive dining plan just for the adults. If you have a one-chicken-nugget-and-done kind of a kid, it makes more financial sense to eat and drink your own heart out, but spend a few pesos at every meal for something smaller for the kids. I totally get that most kids can’t eat $69 worth of food per day. Even if it is really great food.
–Make use of the free lobby Wi-Fi. It’s only about $25 a week for Wi-Fi in your room, but if you want to save a bit, and you’re not addicted to posting every moment on Instagram, go where it’s free when you can.
–Request a marina or pool-view room. One of the buildings at the hotel does not have views nearly as lovely as mine was. I’m guessing you’d probably prefer to face the marina than another hotel.
–Go off season. Spring Break is crazy, Christmas and New Years are expensive. August and September are the cheapest.
–Book your shuttle through the hotel. This gives you a guaranteed rate — and perhaps more importantly, guaranteed safety. Those Dabo taxi drivers are aggressive! Plus, it’s about 40 bucks from the airport to the hotel in a cab so…yes. Shuttle.
–Look for deals on activities online before you go. We found an online coupon for our snorkeling trip which saved us $10 per person. Those savings can add up!
–Use ATMs, save on conversion fees. As with any foreign travel, if you change a lot of money before you leave, you pay hefty fees. You just don’t need to bring a lot of pesos with you. Everything booked through the concierge is in dollars; I only needed cash for tips, my snorkeling tour, and taxis, souvenirs or groceries off-site. That said, learn from my own mistake and read the ATM screens carefully. I intended to withdraw 50 pesos instead of $50, which is…only about $2.50 U.S. It ended up costing me a second ATM fee for a second transaction to pay for snorkeling.
–Compare rates on everything. The resort claims you can shave off some of the cost by booking both hotel and air through them. But definitely check their direct rates against Travelocity, Expedia, and similar travel sites. I randomly ran some numbers through and did find some amazing deals from other sources when booking as a package.
–Hacienda Encantada is worth a visit, if not a stay. The sister property I mentioned, Hacienda Encantada, is seriously gorgeous, perched over high cliffs above the crashing sea. It’s quiet and lovely with incredible amenities — and definitely pricier than the Marina Fiesta. Especially in an ultra posh private villa. If that’s out of your price range, the views and food are worth the time it’ll take you to hop on the free shuttle. It’s like getting some of the luxury treatment without the luxury price. They’ll even let you use the pools and snooze on one of the hammocks.
–Bring a Spanish-English dictionary. Every employee or guide I met spoke English, with the exception of my masseuse. Even so, the locals in any foreign country at all — even ones that totally cater to English-speakers — will always be grateful if you try to speak the native language. At minimum, learn hello, please and thank you.
–Kiss a camel. You have to!
For more info on Marina Fiesta, visit the website. Thanks so much to Mexico Grand Hotels and Marina Fiesta for including Cool Mom Picks in their press junket to evaluate the hotel, and for covering airfare and accommodations.