Our Guide to a Family Vacation in Mexico

Travel+Leisure World's Best Awards 2023 logo in white

Published on: March 4th, 2020

Last updated: July 28th, 2023

Mexico is far more than just Cancun - with fascinating history, incredible food and dazzling beaches, it is an extremely diverse destination.

A captivating patchwork of regions that vary in their cultural quirks, dynamic cuisine and breath-taking natural sights, Mexico is sure to be a hit with the whole family.

From swimming in ancient cenotes to exploring the vibrant Mexico City, read on for our guide to how to make the most out of your family vacation in Mexico.

1) Swim in Cenotes

Mexico’s alluring Yucatán Peninsula covers three states – Yucatán, Quintana Roo and Campeche – and is one of the most beautiful regions across Central America. With almost universal appeal, here you’ll find perfect Caribbean beaches, excellent snorkelling opportunities and vibrant cultures. With something for every type of traveller, it’s the perfect family destination. It’s wonderfully easy to get around too, with no internal flights needed – and so it’s a great option for those looking to travel more sustainably. 

One of the Yucatán Peninsula’s most impressive features are the mesmerising cenotes, or underground sinkholes. Some of these sacred Mayan wells are open to the elements and surrounding jungle, whilst others are water-filled caverns where the light only seeps in through a few cracks in the wall. Swimming amongst these incredible wells is almost ethereal – you can often see tropical fish swimming beneath you, without even having to don a snorkelling mask. Many of these cenotes are quite deep, so young children will need supervision – but swimming in one is a truly memorable family-friendly experience! 

2) Discover Mayan history

With Mexico the home of the ancient Maya civilisation, the Yucatán Peninsula is also home to a plethora of wonderful Mayan sites. In Tulum, the sites are easily accessible from the beach and are a fairly small, manageable area. Reached by a forested walkway, the original city walls open onto a grassy plain. The weathered remnants of this once prosperous Maya trading hub are laid out before you, and are an impressive reminder of the region’s past. A former port and the only Maya settlement built on the coast, its most exciting (and largest) building is the stepped pyramid, the Castillo, set right on the edge of the cliffs and used for religious and astronomical ceremonies. It was originally brightly painted. Look out for serpent carvings on some of the structures, as well as the bizarre upside-down winged figure, the ‘descending god’. 

Perhaps Mexico’s most famous Mayan ruin though is Chichén Itzà, one of the New 7 Wonders of the World. At over a thousand years old, Chichén Itzà is one of the best preserved Mayan ruin sites on the Yucatán Peninsula, with its centerpiece being the incredible pyramid El Castillo. A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1988, Chichén Itzá has also been included in the New Seven Wonders of the World. At just under three hours from Playa del Carmen and 90 minutes from Mérida,  Chichén Itzá makes for a hassle-free day tip. If you’re travelling from Playa del Carmen, don’t miss the pretty colonial city of Valladolid en route. As it’s one of the most famous Mayan sites, Chichén Itzà gets pretty busy pretty quickly – so it’s worth arriving early. If you’d rather skip the early start, book a stay at the authentic Hacienda Chichen, which is just a stone’s throw from the ancient Mayan site. 


3) Kick back on pristine beaches

Mexico is often hailed as a ‘beach flop’ destination, and there’s a good reason why. With over 6,000 miles of coastline, there are plenty of beaches to choose from, but the best ones can be found in the Yucatán. With pristine white sand, warm Caribbean currents and the odd roaming sea turtle, these beaches between Tulum and Playa del Carmen are perfectly suited to families. 

The water gradient is usually quite shallow, food and entertainment is never far from the water’s edge and most of the hotels along the Riviera Maya are overflowing with kids clubs and activities. If your family enjoys underwater adventures, be sure to spend a couple of days in Isla Mujeres, a mere 15-minute boat ride away from the bustling city of Cancun. 


4) Explore Mexico City

The ‘megalopolis’ that is Mexico City may initially seem fairly intimidating for young and old families alike, but it is actually one of the most multi-layered, multi-faceted and multi-cultural cities on Earth. With a simply spoiling amount of things to do on offer here, this bustling city is also filled with hidden gems for kids to get involved in. Spend your time here exploring the city’s world-class aquarium, the interactive children’s museum or verdant parks. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, head to one of Mexico’s many foodie hotspots.

Where to stay in Mexico

Some of Jacada's favourite family-friendly hotels

Get in touch to start building your next family adventure to Mexico.