Photo: Steph Vissani, Ocean Photo at Waldorf Astoria Cancun

How to Take Your Pup on a Luxury Getaway to the Riviera Maya

Cancún Epic Stays
by Becca Blond Dec 19, 2022

From butler service to in-room doggie dining and a poolside concierge, luxury resorts in Mexico are going above and beyond when it comes to pampering your pup these days. In the last few months, my Chihuahua-mix Poppy and I have spent weeks trawling the beach resorts along the Riviera Maya in search of the ultimate vacation catered to canines.

Although we found some hotels to be duds when it came to really digging dogs, we also found some places that Poppy gives four paws up to for the amenities and VIP (Very Important Pup) service.

Here’s everything you need to know to travel the Riviera Maya with your dog, from logistics to where to stay.

How to travel from the United States to Mexico with a small dog

waldorf astoria cancun doc photoshoot

Photo: Steph Vissani, Ocean Photo at Waldorf Astoria Cancun

Mexico is Poppy’s (and my own) favorite international travel destination for a mom-and-pup getaway. One of the big reasons why is how easy it is for American pets and pet parents to enter the country.

While nearly every international destination requires visiting pets to provide an international health certificate upon arrival (an endeavor that requires a visit to your vet within 10 days of departure, a signature from a second vet at the USDA and an expense of around $300), Mexico allows dogs from the US to enter with just a valid rabies vaccine.

You’ll need to bring the original, signed paperwork for the vaccine (don’t just show up with a rabies dog tag) to show to the agriculture inspector at customs upon arrival. Your pup will then be subjected to a very quick wellness exam where ears, teeth, and paws are inspected for fleas or signs of disease. This usually takes less than five minutes and is free. Once it’s done, you’ll be waved through the airport exit gate.

All in all, travel to Mexico is very easy for American dogs, so long as your pup is on the smaller side. Dogs need to be under 25 pounds and fit into an airline-approved carrier that can slide underneath the seat in front of you. Note that emotional support animals no longer qualify as service pets, so the size restrictions hold true unless your dog is a service animal that’s task trained to help you with a disability (and it is a felony in most states to lie).

You must alert the airline you will be traveling with a pet well before departure, and there’s a fee of around $200 each direction Since there are a limited number of designated seats for pets on each flight, you’ll want to tell your airline as soon as possible to ensure there’s space to accommodate you.

Mexican resorts also cater almost exclusively to small dogs, with most Riviera Maya properties requiring pups to weigh less than 20 pounds to stay. The four hotels listed here are no different.

Secrets Moxché

The new adults-only, all-inclusive Secrets Moxché Playa del Carmen Resort, about 10-minutes outside of Playa del Carmen’s bustling downtown, is where to book if you want your dog included on your honeymoon. The luxury resort is gorgeous, featuring some of the most Instagramable pools I’ve ever seen, from a deep blue cenote inspired waterhole, to a lagoon style zero-entry pool with and a sand beach, to an infinity pool that’s made for mermaid swim moves.

And there’s no need to leave the pup in the room while you head to the pool either. The pool concierge set up a chair for Poppy next to mine complete with a towel. We ordered drinks and a snack: mezcal and soda for me with a cheese quesadilla, a water for Pops and a side of beef. Her meal was delivered in a cardboard carryout box for sanitary reasons, but she didn’t care.

Secrets is an all-inclusive property, which means your Chihuahua can chow down on as much carnitas as she can swallow. For humans, the quality of the meals at the multiple a la carte restaurants (including a French restaurant, Mexican restaurant, and a restaurant with a wood-grill focus) was also excellent.

I stayed in an ocean view junior suite on the Club Level, which also gave me access to premium services like a rooftop lounge with a restaurant and infinity pool. Poppy found her dog bed to be pretty comfy, although she still preferred nesting on the fluffy pillows with perfect thickness thanks to a pillow menu selection. Our favorite part of the room, however, was the balcony with views across the pools to the ocean. It had a shaded chaise-lounger and a soaking deep tub.

If you want to venture off property, Secrets can set up all sorts of activities (with or without your pup). To include your dog, have the concierge book a taxi to downtown Playa del Carmen. Stroll along the famed 5th Ave and you’ll find shops like Somos Perros (where profits benefit street dogs) that cater exclusively to furry friends.

Secrets Moxché: Carretera, Cancun – Chetumal KM 294, Corasol, 77714 Playa del Carmen, Q.R., Mexico

Waldorf Astoria Cancun

We visited the Waldorf Astoria Cancun just two weeks after it opened in November 2022. The most luxurious brand in the Hilton portfolio, the Waldorf is extremely small dog-friendly and Poppy was treated like royalty for her entire stay.

Upon checking in to our deluxe ocean front king room, we discovered a handwritten welcome note, homemade treat amenity, size-appropriate toys, and the only dog bed that Poppy has ever loved – she forewent the human bed to spend hours on it. We decided to order room service for breakfast the next day and I was impressed with the dog menu’s variety. There were four options ranging from chicken nuggets to yellowfin tuna, beef and veggies to meatballs.

waldorf astoria cancun dog service

Photo: Steph Vissani, Ocean Photo at Waldorf Astoria Cancun

The Waldorf is a sophisticated resort with impeccable style. The lobby dazzles with the brand’s signature clock along with elegant lighting and a bold gold, silver, and blue color scheme. My room featured a furnished balcony that Poppy enjoyed sunbathing on along with a plunge pool that’s easily accessible from the shower via a glass sliding door.

Property amenities include two angular swimming pools and three jacuzzis along with more chairs on the resort’s narrow beachfront. Dogs are welcome to sit by the pools, they just can’t jump in. There are also three restaurants and a spa. Malpeque is the signature restaurant and serves a seafood focused menu. Chaya serves international and Mexican fare three meals a day. I especially loved the crab benedict with fresh meat (not a crab cake) at breakfast.

If the Waldorf is a little to posh for your liking, check out its sister property, the Hilton Cancun, An All-Inclusive Resort on the same grounds. Opened in 2021, it is also dog-friendly and offers a more affordable stay. The food at the Hilton is very good for an all-inclusive and Poppy absolutely loved the carnitas tacos.

The rooms are also high quality, although the ones facing the sea are much nicer than the jungle view abodes. For romance, book a room with a swim-up balcony and sunset views or an ocean-front suite with panoramic views from a wrap-around balcony.

Waldorf Asotria Cancun: 1E, Carr Federal Libre 307 Cancun-Tulum, UPE 248-868, 77580 Cancún, Q.R., Mexico

Hotel Xcaret Arte

If your dog demands butler service, then you’ll want to book the Hotel Xcaret Arte, where guests (and their VIPs) are assigned a personal butler at check-in. An all-inclusive, adults-only resort, Hotel Xcaret Arte pays homage to Mexican artists throughout its 900 suites as well as its public spaces.

Hotel Xcaret Arte’s dog beds stand out even among dog-focused hotels. We were greeted with a small dog sized teepee inside of which was a comfy pillow bed and a toy. Poppy loved running into the teepee and kicking up the bed before laying on it.

Booking this resort offers free access to all the Grupo Xcaret theme parks. Some, like Xcaret, are kid-focused, but others, like Xel-Ha and Xplor, are more adult oriented with activities like snorkeling or floating down a river with stops for jumping off a 16-foot cliff or zip-lining that ends with a splash in the park’s inlet. All the parks have a serious focus on sustainability, which is another plus.

It was easy to spend a day out at the parks and not have to worry about Poppy needing to go out or being bored thanks to the butler service. My butler team came and walked Poppy upon request as well as just spent some time with her in the room. Because I was in constant touch with the butlers via WhatsApp, and they sent pictures, I felt comfortable with the service.

Back at the hotel, there’s an amazing beach area with clear turquoise water. A lagoon area where you can take a kayak or SUP board out is accessible from the beach. Hotel Xcaret Arte also has 10 restaurants onsite with food from around the globe. The oversized swimming pool with a swim-up bar is another perk.

Hotel Xcaret Arte: Carretera Chetumal-Puerto Juárez, Km. 282 L21-3 Colonia Rancho Xcaret, 77710 Playa del Carmen, Q.R., Mexico

Nizuc Resort

Located on a lovely stretch of white sand beach in Punta Nizuc, removed from the chaos of the Cancun hotel zone, Nizuc Resort & Spa is an award-winning, luxury property that is perfect for active woofers as well as people. The grounds are sprawling, which is great if your dog likes to walk, as the resort amenities, are quite far removed from the rooms. If your dog isn’t up for much walking, golf carts can ferry you back and forth.

Poppy loved the giant monogrammed biscuit that awaited her when we got to our room. And I loved the thoughtful service touches like a framed photo of Poppy and I that was printed from one of my social media accounts and placed on the bedside table. There is also a doggie room service menu here with three different meal selections.

The room itself is enormous, with a bathroom that doubles as a changing area with space for suitcases and a large closet along with a rain shower and separate soaking tub. Rooms also feature ultrahigh ceilings and floor-to-ceiling sliding doors opening onto a large balcony with a plunge pool and two sun-loungers with thick cushions. Poppy adored hanging out here, taking a chair for herself, then protesting when I insisted it was time to explore.

She got over it fast, however, when we reached the beach. As a Chihuahua, swimming isn’t Poppy’s favorite sport, but she does like to dip her paws into the sea every so often. The beach at Nizuc is soft, white sand and the water is shallow, clear, warm, and, best of all, calm, making it a great place for small dogs to get over any water fears. We also took a kayak out, which Poppy really enjoyed. Afterwards she ran zoomies on the sand for an hour straight before passing out on an umbrella shaded beach chair for a well-deserved snoozle.

Nizuc Resort: Blvd. Kukulcan Mz 59 Lote 1-03 Km 21.26, Nizuc, 77500 Cancún, Q.R., Mexico

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