Our Guide to a Family Vacation in Mexico
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.
Our Team's Favourite Family Trips to Mexico
Where to stay in Mexico
Four Seasons Punta MitaThis superb beach front hotel exudes 5-star luxury at every turn. From the perfectly manicured grounds to the super helpful staff, the attention to detail at Four Seasons Punta Mita will ensure your visit is firstly, suitably luxurious (as one would expect from the Four Seasons) and secondly, truly special. There are 173 rooms and suites in total, all beautifully decorated and well appointed with all the modern amenities you would expect from a property like this. Plasma screen TVs, high speed Internet access and iPod docks come as standard, as do private balconies or terraces and L’Occitane bath products. The hotel boasts four excellent restaurants, several stylish lounge bars and an extensive Spa. You are spoilt for choice when it comes to its leisure facilities, which include swimming pools, tennis courts, two private beaches and two Jack Nicklaus designed golf courses.
Rosewood MayakobaA resort with flair, seclusion and serious style: it’s not hard to see why Rosewood Mayakoba is one of the World’s Top 100 Hotels (according to Conde Nast). This 1,600-acre luxury resort enclave along the coastline, just north of Playa del Carmen (4 miles) and south of Cancun (35 miles), is built along a serene Caribbean lagoon and you arrive to your suite’s own private dock via a luxury boat or by golf buggy. Each of these luxurious and cutting-edge suites is self-contained for privacy and enjoy their own rooftop sundeck, plunge pool, terraces and boat dock. With a couple of infinity pools, powder-white beaches to swim in, golf, and full-spa to spoil you, the hotel is also well placed to explore the natural and archaeological wonders of the Mayan Riviera. The service is outstanding, as is the food, making this possibly the best hotel in Playa del Carmen if not on this entire stretch of coastline. The hotel is also lauded for its actions in sustainable tourism and social responsibility, having helped build a local school that provides education to over 200 students.
Hacienda XcanatunLocated just outside the city on the road to the Gulf coast, this lovely hacienda has estate-sized grounds lending not only a charming historic character but space and seclusion. It’s also within easy reach of both the city and beach too. Its cavernous eighteen rooms are very spacious, as are its ample patios, surrounding tropical gardens and pool area. Decorated in the rural hacienda style of the affluent Old World, heavy and dark handmade furniture, gilt frames, tall shutters, intricate tiled floors and stone pillared archways are prominent, successfully transporting you back to this magnificent era. The staff are immensely helpful and warm, the spa is well-equipped with a large menu of treatments and the atmosphere is delightfully peaceful.