Sunny beaches and Mayan ruins make for fabulously adventurous holidays
On the whole, only 10 hours stand between you and your family holiday to Mexico.
Mexico is one of those sunny destinations that looks good from all angles, year-round. That’s because this patch of the Americas stays warm around the clock, which makes its bevy of beaches, ancient temples and lush jungles that much easier for the whole family to enjoy.
Cancun is the picture of a Renaissance city, with a zoo, kid-friendly museums and outdoor activities to its name, while Riviera Maya boasts one of the largest barrier reefs in the world. Beach babies will have no trouble picking up snorkelling gear and getting an up close meet-and-greet with the finned friends below. Then there’s Puerto Vallarta, a bona fide beach haven for sun-loving families. Out here, there are crowded shores and lazy ones alike, speckled with restaurants, bars and watersporting opportunities galore.
Best family friendly beaches
With 24 kilometres of coast to its name, Cancun wins the crown for beach variety. Playa Las Perlas is one of the closest to the city, and features waves that are nice and calm for little paddlers. Playa Tortugas is the spot to head for watersports, while Playa del Carmen is heavy on restaurants and beach bars so you won’t have to worry about a picnic lunch.
Playa Los Muertos in Puerto Vallarta is another popular choice for families, packed with sports both off and on the sand, and a line of restaurants, cafes and bars at the back. Over in Riviera Maya, Akumel is a lengthy beach with restaurants in the central portions and reefs up north. But for comatose days on the coast, Playa Paraiso, ranked one of the prettiest in all of Mexico.
Best family activities in Mexico
Though Mexico’s beaches are the obvious starting points for family fun, there are just as many activities off the coasts as there are on. Cancun is family activity central with Xcaret, the archaeological theme park complete with a waterpark and zoo, or the Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza. There are more ruins to be explored in Tulum, which is accessible from Riviera Maya – when you aren’t snorkelling here, that is.
Another way to explore the terrain is by picking up a jungle tour from Puerto Vallarta. From there, you can cut through the greenery via zipline and spot animals like monkeys and ocelots.
Vast city park
The fascinating capital, Mexico City, is one of the largest cities in the world and stretching off from its central Paseo de la Reforma is a huge – 1,600-acre – park.
Bosque de Chapultepec encompasses a zoo, a castle-turned-museum, forests, lakes and cycle tracks, play areas, botanical gardens and much more.
The museums in the park are enough to keep you and your family amused for days on end, including the world-leading National Museum of Anthropology and the Modern Art Museum.
Set in the impressive Chapultepec Castle, where the Emperor Maximilian once lived, is the National History Museum. And there’s also the intriguing Papalote Museo del Nino – The Museum of the Child – where kids learn by playing with the interactive science, technology and art exhibits.
The museums are easy to get to as they’re situated in the first section of the park along with Chapultepec Zoo and Botanical Gardens. Or you could wander further to explore the forests and lakes, take pony rides, cycle or row a boat.
Don’t miss the cultural performance known as the dance of the voladores – flyers – which takes place daily just outside the main entrance to the National Museum of Anthropology and involves four men in traditional costumes playing instruments and doing acrobatics while attached by ropes to the top of a tall pole.
There are also regular free weekend concerts and performances across the park including ballet and acrobatics.
You can in Cancun
No longer just a party city, Cancun has some big attractions to offer families and – if you want to stay away from its hubbub – you can set up base in the beautiful Riviera Maya and make a trip there.
Perhaps the best-known family attraction is Xcaret, a popular eco-park with aviaries full of parrots. There’s a butterfly pavilion to walk through, and you can see flamingos and manatees in their natural habitat.
There are also a number of cultural shows featuring Mexican and Mayan dancing and traditions.
At Hidden Worlds Cenotes Park you can float around in underground caves and explore cenotes, which are natural sinkholes once formed by underground rivers. Skycycles whiz overhead for amazing views, or you can zipline to splash down in the lakes.
This hotel might be pretty sleek, but it's a family-friendly hotspot at heart. Of the five pools, one is exclusively for kids and comes ready with a splash park. Picky eaters will also be pleased to know there are six restaurants, including a pizza place. There's tennis, beach volleyball and football, too, not to mention a spa that also has treatments for kids. While you're in the adults-only pool, kids can stay active at the kids' club with its very own kid kitchen and craft zone.
The Sunscape Puerto Vallarta dials up the family fun with round-the-clock food, drink and entertainment. While parents stay occupied with tequila tastings and stints at the pool, kids can join the hotel-run kids' clubs for film nights, sandcastle competitions and weekly campouts. There are even activities and facilities for teens, including table games and films. Five restaurants make up the dining scene, ensuring everyone is taken care of.
One seriously massive pool scene headlines at this big time hotel, along with a kids' waterpark. In addition to the eight restaurants and snack bars on offer here, there's tennis, football, basketball and bike hires, plus a kids' club and introductory scuba diving classes. Live music, karaoke and a clutch of bars anchor the nightlife scene, along with a mini disco. Spacious family rooms accommodate the whole gang, along with child minding services should you want to hit the hotel's night club sans little ones.
It's all about the numbers at the Gran Sirenis in Riviera Maya – there are three pools and a lazy river, 10 restaurants and 12 bars and a long list of activities that include snorkelling, bike tours, beach volleyball, football and canoe rentals. For little ones, there's a kids' club and playroom, while adults can indulge in the disco and evening entertainment that takes the form of karaoke, bingo and quizzes.