Warm sun. Family-friendly fiestas. Beautiful Beaches. Comida deliciousa! (Delicious food!) A rich culture. A short flight. Vamos! (Let's go!)
Mexico is a great family vacation destination. It's an easy-to-get-to international destination from most U.S. cities, very family-friendly, and each of the 32 states within Mexico offers all kinds of adventures, from heritage and cultural experiences to beautiful beaches and water sports.
The most common vacation destinations are the Mexican Caribbean on the east coast or Mexican Riviera on the west coast. The Mexican Caribbean is tropical, lush, and humid and is known for Cancun and Cozumel. The Mexican Rivera is arid, dry, and hot and known for Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, Acapulco, and Cabo San Lucas.
Let's explore a sampling of what Mexico offers and some of the top family destinations. And be sure to download the KeeKee Kid’s Corner Mini-Guide to Mexico for the kids.
Mexico has an extremely rich heritage full of culture, history, architecture, and cuisine. It's a great first international destination for your kids.
There are more than 193 archaeological sites in Mexico, including the ruins of pyramids, palaces, and temples. These can be found in central and southern Mexico and are artifacts of the Olmec, Maya, Toltec, and Aztec cultures that flourished more than a thousand years before the arrival of Spanish explorers. There are also great Mayan cities in the Yucatan Peninsula, such as Chichén Itzá, Uxmal, Tulum, and Cobá.
It's a culture full of fiestas and celebrations. In addition to national holidays and countrywide festivities like Carnaval and the Day of the Dead, every town celebrates its patron saint's day.
Mexico is the sound of the mariachis. While the tradition of hiring a mariachi band began in the state of Jalisco, you'll find them across the country decked out in charro costumes (Mexican cowboys), including wide-brimmed sombreros and lots of silver spangles.
You can enjoy authentic Mexican dishes in every destination, like salsas, tacos, tamales, tortas, frijoles (beans), chiles rellenos (stuffed chiles), pozole (stew), ceviche, churros, and specialties by region. Flour tortillas are used for northern Mexican tacos, and smaller yellow or white corn tortillas are used in central and southern Mexico.
While Spanish is the native language, English is widely spoken, particularly in larger cities and resorts. You can hear over 50 indigenous languages and many more dialects outside major cities and towns.
The big beach resort areas, like Cancún, Los Cabos, Puerto Vallarta, Acapulco, and Ixtapa, are popular for first-time visitors as they offer the lure of a foreign country yet offer familiarities of home. And they are full of family-friendly hotels and activities.
There are beautiful beaches along both coasts. The resorts offer a wide variety of water sports, from water skiing and windsurfing to snorkeling and diving to sailing and parasailing. There are world-class golf courses at many beach resorts as well.
Snorkeling is exceptional on the Caribbean coasts with clear, shallow waters, brilliantly colored fish, and incredible coral formations. Other good locations for snorkeling and scuba exploration are Puerto Vallarta and Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo.
You'll also find active adventures like biking, diving, hiking, kayaking, ziplining, horseback riding, and other outdoor activities. And Mexico offers some of the best deep-sea fishing in the world.
POPULAR FAMILY DESTINATIONS
Cancun sits on the northeastern tip of the Yucatan Peninsula and gives visitors a taste of the Caribbean and Mexico. It's the top of the Riviera Maya, the 81-mile strip of coastline that runs along the Peninsula between Cancun and Tulum.
It is one of the most popular family destinations, famous for its white-sand beaches, ancient ruins, Mayan culture, and all-inclusive resorts full of family-friendly activities.
The 14-mile-long and a quarter-mile-wide Hotel Zone is full of upscale hotels, all-inclusive resorts, hotel spas, shopping areas, and souvenir markets.
There are also exciting day trips for families to do in this area.
The eco-park Xcaret (meaning small inlet) is water, amusement, and archeological park all in one. It has 50 natural and cultural attractions, including the swimmable underground river, Coral Reef Aquarium with a sea turtle center, and a Rainforest Trail. The Mayans used this spot as a merchandise port.
The Akumal Monkey Sanctuary & Rescued Animals is a wildlife preserve with more than 200 animals across 55 species.
Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve is a UNESCO Heritage Site and home to sea turtles and hundreds of birds. Here you can snorkel at the largest natural aquarium in the world. Sian Ka'an, meaning 'where the sky is born,' was inhabited by ancient Mayans for over 1200 years. The reserve has twenty-three archaeological sites, the earliest dating to 350 BC.
Inland to the west of Cancun, take a day trip to Chichén Itzá, one of Mexico's most visited archaeological sites. It has 26 Mayan ruins and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1988. Its famous Kukulcán Pyramid became one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007.
Located off the Yucatan Peninsula coast is Cozumel. If snorkeling is at the top of your family's list of things to do, Cozumel is your destination! Its beautiful beaches and Mayan culture are a short flight or ferry ride from Cancun.
The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef is the second largest living reef in the world and is home to the best snorkeling and diving you'll find anywhere in Mexico. And it's an excellent location for beginner snorkelers, perfect for the kids.
The Mayan ruins at San Gervasio are a great day trip on the island. Families love it because it's easy to reach and often less crowded than the more famous ruins like Chichén Itzá. The archeological complex dates to 100 BC and has many areas to explore.
At the southern tip of the Baja California Peninsula on Mexico's west coast sits Los Cabos, with two capes, San Jose del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas. Families tend to choose San Jose del Cabo, the relaxed town, over Cabo San Lucas, the livelier town.
San Jose del Cabo is best for relaxing, sunning, kayaking, horseback riding, and more. The cozy downtown is a great place to visit and explore the local producers' market offering local crafts.
Take a trip to Estero San José del Cabo, a natural refuge of 440 acres full of hundreds of birds, reptiles, and fish. Nature lovers can go on guided kayak trips for bird watching.
Beaches in this region can have big waves rough, so families should choose a resort with a safe beach area.
For the quintessential west coast Mexican beach vacation, visit Puerto Vallarta. About halfway up the west coast, south of Mazatlan and north of Acapulco, the historical town sits between the ocean and mountains along horseshoe-shaped Banderas Bay.
You'll find tropical beauty, great beaches, luxury resorts, charming cobblestone streets of Viejo Vallarta (Old Town), and outstanding local restaurants.
There are plenty of watersports to enjoy —snorkeling, surfing, kayaking, windsurfing, parasailing, and seasonal whale-watching.
Behind the city is the Sierra Madre Occidental Mountain range, which provides a lush, green backdrop with outdoor adventure and nature activities like zip lines, ATV rides, horseback riding or mountain bike tours, rappelling, and peaceful nature walks.
While Mexico's capital isn't a beach town, it can be a great destination for families who want to experience culture, art, and cuisine.
It is the most populated city in North America and full of things to see and do. Xochimilco is a UNESCO World Heritage Site you can tour by traditional trajinera boats. Visit the country’s largest and most visited museum, the National Museum of Anthropology. Explore La Ciudadela Market, the vibrant neighborhood of Coyoacan, and the home of the famous artist Frida Khalo. There's a world-class underground aquarium and a zoo.
You'll also want to plan a day trip to the Aztec city of Teotihuacan, about an hour north of Mexico City, where you explore ancient Mesopotamian pyramids, including the Pyramid of the Sun.
Whatever your choice for a family vacation in Mexico, you're sure to enjoy sun, culture, and fun.
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