Mexico is full of fun resorts, lively cities, ancient archaeology and adventure parks for all ages, but the ideal location will depend on who you’re travelling with. We take you through the best places to stay for families, whether it’s in a quiet spot with attractions on tap, or a cultured city that’s fun for everyone.
And for you couples there’s just one place with your name on it – Cancun. But it’s such a diverse place that we’ve divided it up for you, depending on whether you want an escape or a party pit stop close to the action. Either way, our ideas for things to do in Cancun together will give you plenty of food for thought.
A family break to Riviera Maya
Riviera Maya makes an ideal family base as your hotel will be situated in one of the quieter resorts between Playa Del Carmen and Tulum. The area is rich with adventure parks and nature reserves, so you don’t have to go far for enticing attractions.
If you’re staying at a hotel near Playa Del Carmen the Xcaret Eco Park is right on hand, with its regional wildlife, Butterfly Pavilion, Children’s World of Slides, hanging bridges and tunnels.
The family-focused Occidental Grand Xcaret hotel is actually linked by a waterway to this sprawling natural theme park. So you can cross over to the ziplines and rafts of the explore Xplor zone, Xenses sensory theme park, or Río Secreto underground river and caves.
Inland, Cenote Chaak Tun caves are ideal for explorers old enough to don snorkelling gear, although they can just swim with the aid of a life vest. There are two cenotes with open roofs and one cave, where children will love spotting the bats hanging from the ceiling.
Further south, there are a number of family hotels near Chacalal, like Gran Bahia Principe Coba, which are close to the Tulum Ruins and numerous other attractions. Travel south to the protected jungle preserve, Reserva de la Biosfera Sian Ka’an, for boat tours, wildlife sightings and more Mayan ruins.
Parque Xel-Há is a huge natural aquarium with diverse marine life, or head to the scenic rainforest park, Aktun Chen, which has an underground river for swimming and a long zip line over the treetops. There’s another sinkhole in this area, Cenote Azul with transparent water for swimming.
A family break to Puerto Vallarta
On completely the opposite side of Mexico, situated at the south of the Gulf of California, is Puerto Vallarta. A cultured city to take the kids to, it has two excellent beaches – busier Los Muertos Beach, lined with restaurants and cafes, or more peaceful Playa Los Camerones.
At the northern end of Los Camerones Beach, you can stay at Sunscape Puerto Vallarta Resort and Spa with an Unlimited Fun® concept, great for families. There’s round-the-clock food, drink and entertainment, plus kids get treated to their own check-in experience with a red carpet and treats.
This arty city has an outdoor sculpture trail along the pedestrianised seaside promenade in Malecon. The boardwalk really comes to life on Sunday evenings with street performers, sand sculptors and local craft stalls.
Other activities include climbing to the top of the El Faro lighthouse for stunning views, heading to Vallarta Botanical Gardens in the mountains on the outskirts of the city, or kayaking around Los Arcos Marine Park.
If you’d prefer to stay dry, a pirate ship leaves from Puerto Vallarta for a seven-hour trip of pirate shows, local food and stops for kayaking, swimming and playing on secluded beaches.
And if you’re in town for humpback whale season between November and March, take a boat trip out to see these giant sea creatures.
A couples’ escape to Cancun
There are two main things that Cancun is known for – the 24 kilometres of white sand that wiggles along the coast and the big nightlife scene. These are both major selling points for couples, but add on romantic, luxury hotels, interesting attractions and unique day trips and you have a prime couples’ escape.
Much of Cancun’s nightlife can be found in a pocket of the Hotel Zone at the tip of the peninsula, just behind Chac Mool Beach. On your holiday you should go to Coco Bongo nightclub at least once to witness the acrobat shows and themed nights with acts like Beetlejuice and the Jackson 5.
Mandala and Vaquita are other venues to try for great music and a lively atmosphere.
Stay somewhere like the Riu Cancun Hotel to be close to the action, or further south at adults-only Hideaway at Royalton Riviera Cancun. They’re both luxury hotels ideal for a romantic break with plenty of quality time together.
When you’re not chilling out, diving and snorkelling conditions here are superb thanks to the second-largest coral reef in the world, the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef.
For a dive experience unlike any other, drift below to the Underwater Museum of Art where over 500 life-size sculptures are attached to the sea floor. As well as looking good, they’re made of a material that encourages coral life.
Or, if it’s an established coral reef dive you want, take a 20-minute boat trip to the tranquil Isla Mujeres to explore its waters. The island also has a sanctuary for sea turtles and the remains of a Mayan temple, El Meco, complete with iguanas.
Although four hours away, Cancun offers a direct route to Chichen Itza, one of the Seven Wonders of the World and undeniably the most famous Mayan ruin. Whatever time of day you visit, the temples and other ancient buildings will impress.
If you travel at night you can see the structures illuminated and watch a Light and Sound Show projected onto the Temple of Kukulkan.
If you can’t make the trip, instead stay in Cancun and learn about Mayan culture at the Maya Museum. This modern museum houses around 400 pieces of Mayan jewellery, ceramics and other finds from the area. You also get free entry to the adjoining San Miguelito archaeological site in the ticket price.
We hope you’ve got some inspiration for your next Mexico break. Let us know where you decide to stay.