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Mexico Family Holidays

Cenote, Yucatan.Cenote, Yucatan.© Visit Mexico
Teotihuacan.Teotihuacan.© Visit Mexico
Day of the Dead display.Day of the Dead display.© Visit Mexico
Flyboarding on the Pacific coast.Flyboarding on the Pacific coast.© Vallarta Adventures
Tolantongo Caves.Tolantongo Caves.© Visit Mexico
Whale-watching, Baja California.Whale-watching, Baja California.© Visit Mexico
Xochimilco, Mexico City.Xochimilco, Mexico City.© Visit Mexico
Mole ingredients.Mole ingredients.© Visit Mexico
Sand sculpture, Puerto Vallarta.Sand sculpture, Puerto Vallarta.© Visit Mexico
Capital City Mexico City
Flying Time 11.25hrs
Carbon Footprint 10.3 CO2
Timezone GMT -6
Currency Mexican Peso

Today

Overview

Mexico is exotic, fascinating and beautiful and yet a relatively safe – and affordable – option for family holidays, having hosted hordes of American visitors over the years. It's also one of those places where you can opt for full-on adventure or indulge in the ultimate in Caribbean beach life – or both.

From Cancún in the east to Puerto Vallarta on the Pacific coast, it's possible to get very good family package-holiday deals at one of Mexico's huge choice of quality, child-friendly resorts. But it's not just about all-inclusive fun – Aztec and Mayan ruins, colonial cities, and the mountains and deserts of the north-west all make for wonderful destinations to explore with older kids, especially if they're studying the Aztecs at school.

Note that The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society advises against all swimming with dolphins, even in the wild.

Things to do with kids in Mexico

Explore Mexico’s cities. The capital, Mexico City, can be hot and overwhelming with younger kids. With older kids, make a beeline for the canals of Xochimilco, once an Aztec transport system now offering water-gondola rides, food and crafts stalls, and mariachi band music. It's here that you'll find the eerie Island of the Dolls, where toys hanging from trees commemorate a one-time tragedy in this spot.

Visit the Aztec ruins surrounding Mexico City, especially the vast site of Teotihuacan with its several large pyramids.  

Don't miss the Tolantongo canyon about three hours north of Mexico City, where grottos emit volanically heated water that flows into small pools into which you can have a soak. There's also rappelling, spelunking and hiking on-site, and you can choose between hotels and campsites.

Explore the country’s second city, Guadalajara, about 470km west of Mexico City. A lot easier to visit than the capital, the birthplace of tequila and mariachi groups is full of Mexican cowboys. 

Go to the beautiful, UNESCO-listed colonial city of Oaxaca about 450km southeast of Mexico City, for handicrafts shopping, trips into the mountains and markets where you can enjoy the regional cuisine with its pre-Hispanic influences, including chapulines (fried grasshoppers) and mole negro (sauce with chocolate and chilli). The city is also one of the best places to head to for the Day of the Dead celebrations (see When to Go), and there are wonderful archaeological sites in the vicinity.

Head east of Oaxaca to the Yucatán Peninsula with its extraordinary Mayan ruins, including the breathtaking UNESCO World Heritage site of Chichén Itzá, voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Play Indiana Jones in the lush jungle, climbing over crumbling towers and peering through the vegetation to discover altars once used for human sacrifice.

Visit the beautiful Caribbean beaches around the Yucatán/Mayan Riviera resort of Cancún, even if you can’t face the city itself. In its favour, Cancún’s status as an über-resort means it has plenty of family-friendly activities and enough waterparks to keep everyone entertained. And you're within day-trip distance of the region's cenotes – underground caverns with subterranean lakes where you can swim, snorkel or dive.

Leave behind Cancún’s chain hotels and head south along the Yucatán Peninsula coast for miles of white-sand beaches and the turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea. Playa del Carmen and stunning Mayan Tulum have accommodation for all budgets plus the chance to snorkel or scuba-dive along the world’s second-largest coral reef. 

Alternatively, experience Mexico’s Pacific coastline. Puerto Vallarta is great for families, especially on Sunday nights when its boardwalk comes alive with free shows, mime artists and souvenir sellers. Just 45 minutes from Vallarta, those aged eight and up can swing through the tropical forest canopy of the Sierra Madre Mountains with Vallarta Adventures, who also offer a range of watersports in the area.

Try Acapulco down the Pacific Coast for unadulterated fun, but stop your children emulating the famous high-divers. Like Cancún, Acapulco is well-equipped with family-friendly attractions including waterparks.

Go surfing mad on the Pacific’s undeveloped Costa Chica or ‘Little Coast’ south of Acapulco and Oaxaca, where vast deserted beaches are punctuated only by somnolent villages. Though some of the waves attract budding surf champs, others are gentle enough for beginners, and there is also canoeing in lagoons and estuaries, turtle- and crocodile-viewing tours at the remote, paradisiacal Playa Ventanilla, and tours of the National Mexican Turtle Center, a conservation centre where you can see all of the country’s sea turtle varieties. Just be wary of riptides along this coast: don’t swim if nobody else is. 

Discover the the growing resorts of the Baja California region on the Pacific, to the north, which offer a less-developed alternative to some of Mexico’s more famous resorts. Los Cabos at Baja’s southern tip offers a number of family-friendly all-inclusives, but be aware that the waters that attract laidback surfers make many of the beaches unsuitable for swimming. On the eastern coast, near La Paz, there are opportunities for watching whale birthings and sea-kayaking.

With older children, venture into the wonderful mountains and deserts of the north-west.

Eat

Mexican cuisine hardly needs an introduction, but though popular internationally it’s at its best eaten in its home country. The staples, tortillas, frijoles (beans) and chillis, are eaten throughout the country, with many regional varieties and subtle differences. 

There are many places to eat a blander international cuisine for those with fussier children, but the fabulous fresh fruit and desserts should encourage kids to experience at least a taste of Mexico. Seafood is fabulous here, but only eat it on the coast. Don’t miss ceviche: marinated raw fish with a sublime lime, onion, chilli, garlic and tomato sauce.

When to go to Mexico

Mexico has two high seasons, the first between December and April, then a second peak during the school holidays in July and August, though you may wish to avoid coastal resorts during the hot, humid months from May to September, particularly with very young kids. The official hurricane season is June to November, with the greatest risk of tropical storms occurring August through to October. Inland, temperatures get decidedly chilly between November and February. 

The Day of the Dead celebrations on 2 November are one of Mexico’s most colourful and magical holidays. Dancing skeletons, chocolate coffins and Day of the Dead bread are just some of the sights that entrance kids and adults alike.

Cities are especially busy at Easter. The most impressive Semana Santa (Holy Week) celebrations take place at Iztapalapa, when the whole city enacts the Passion of Christ, drawing crowds of up to 4 million people.

Cost

The currency in Mexico is pesos; many tourist shops and suchlike take US dollars but this will increase your chances of being ripped off. A full lunch or dinner in a reasonable restaurant averages £12-20. Never order in a place where the menu is not clearly marked with prices.

Expect to pay from about £2000pp for all-inclusive package family holidays to Cancún, including flights and transfers, interconnecting rooms, and many activities. 

By Zannah Ingraham

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