Planning a family vacation? Look no further than our neighbor to the south. Mexico has everything you need to have a fun, memorable, and safe family getaway. Looking for beautiful beaches? Check. Feel like outdoor adventure? Check. Arts and culture? Check. Incredibly good food? Triple check. History? You got it. Actually, off of the top of our heads, we can’t think of too many other destinations where you can spend a day snorkeling in the morning, walk around ancient ruins in the afternoon, and devour delicious street food at night. After all, according to MoneyCrashers.com, research shows that family vacations have benefits that go way beyond spending quality time together. Read on for our list of the best places in Mexico for your next family vacation.
While you're thinking about Mexico, you should also check out our favorite family hotels and resorts in Cancun here.
Don’t let Cancun’s reputation as a party-heavy spring break destination scare it off your family vacation list. This Mexican hotspot is also great for families with kids. For starters, it’s roughly 15 minutes from the airport, meaning you won’t have to add much more travel time to your already-long travel day. Once you’re settled, take your pick from kid-friendly activities like wandering through ruins at the El Meco Archeological Site, swashbuckling on the Captain Hook Pirate Dinner Cruise or aboard the Jolly Roger Pirate Show, and zip through the rides and water courses at the Xavage Adventure Park by Xcaret. This is all in addition to beach time, snorkeling, catamaran cruises, and shopping at the famous Mercado 28.
Pro tip: Families can also opt to stay outside of the Hotel Zone — and we actually recommend it. Picking the right family-friendly all-inclusive resort can give you a stress-free vacation. That includes convenient kid-friendly features (clubs, kids’ menus, entertainment, and pools) right at your door. Check out options in Playa Mujeres, just north of town, or the Riviera Cancun, just to the south. Even if you are set on staying in the Hotel Zone, though, there are several options available that are less rowdy than the booze-heavy properties for which Cancun is famous (like our pick below).
Intimate? No. Packed with kid-friendly amenities (and great adult features too)? Yes. The Grand at Moon Palace Cancun is the higher-end section of the incredibly popular Moon Palace Cancun. You can expect everything from a full schedule of family activities plus a huge array of pools, a nice beach, and — of course — an epic water park to keep the kids entertained. Need some adult time? Head to the beautiful spa.
Los Cabos is a great choice for families who want to be active together and prefer a more chilled-out vibe than Cancun. In order to get this low-key escape, though, you should know that Cabo is split into two beachfront towns. Families should stick to the milder of the two — San Jose del Cabo — and the resorts that line the coast in between them, which is sometimes referred to as The Corridor.
Family-friendly snorkeling trips are a must, though these are best done with tour guides as the waters in the region aren’t always safe for swimming. You’ll also want to brush up on the swimmable beaches of the region, which include Medano Beach and Chileno Bay Beach. Check out our full list of the swimmable beaches in Los Cabos here.
Be sure to look into seasonal activities like whale watching (November to March) and volunteering with baby turtles (July through November). Otherwise, spend the days lazing on the beautiful beach, eating fresh seafood and tasty tacos, and wandering through the town’s cobblestone streets, which are especially fun on Thursday nights for the ArtWalk.
When it comes to family-friendly resorts along the Cabo coast, it’s hard to top the Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos. This all-inclusive property manages to feel polished and upscale while still catering to families with kids. There’s an absolutely massive pool with plenty of space for everyone to splash around, plus snack stands that sling kid favorites like chicken fingers and burgers. Of course, more refined meals are on offer as well. The kids’ and teens’ clubs are extensive, and there’s even a children’s splash area with small waterslides.
The charming inland Yucatan city of Merida is a great choice for families who want to avoid the hubbub of larger touristy cities (or who have already been-there-done-that). It’s an altogether different take on Mexico than the destinations we’ve already told you about. You’ll feel a far more authentic vibe here than in Cancun, plus Merida is incredibly budget friendly when compared to hotspots on the Riviera Maya coastline. Merida is about a three-hour drive from Cancun International Airport (or you can fly direct to Merida, but it costs more) and offers an unpretentious atmosphere, excellent Mayan and Yucatecan eats, and a look at Mexico’s colonial history.
Plaza Grande plays host to most of the action in town, including live performances that showcase Mayan culture, flag ceremonies, craft fairs, and live music on many nights. There are also a handful of museums that highlight Mayan culture and the area’s colonial history. Many are free.
On Sundays, rent bikes and take part in the Biciruta family bike ride along Paseo de Montejo. Other family-friendly activities include walking tours, perusing through the town’s vibrant markets, architecture and cathedral tours, visiting (and swimming in!) the many nearby cenotes, and —of course — eating your way through town. You can also hit the beach at Progreso, which is less than an hour west of Merida by car.
Hotel Maria del Carmen is a solid option right in the center of town — only three blocks from Merida’s main square. Rooms are simple, but some open right onto the pool area and are a hit with families and children. If you’re after a good value and don’t need a ton of frills, this is a great bet.
Cozumel is a fun and easy island escape that’s perfect for families who are keen on exploring. Thanks to its location along the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef (second in size only to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef), it’s home to some of the best snorkeling and diving in the world — and, bonus — the island’s waters can accommodate any experience level. For a drier approach, join an Atlantis Submarine tour and observe the underwater world from inside a submarine pod or hop aboard a glass-bottom boat tour.
You can also spend your days beach club hopping around the island, visiting a real-life pearl farm (an all-day experience that includes lunch and beach time), and zip-lining or splashing in the lagoon at the Chankanaab Adventure Beach Park. Day trips via ferry to Playa del Carmen are also an option, though many families also visit Cozumel as a day trip from mainland Riviera Maya destinations.
El Cozumeleno may not be the freshest hotel on the block, but in terms of Cozumel hotels for families, it’s one of the most popular. And with good reason. The resort packs in mini-golf, a great kids’ club, and three large interconnected pools — all of which are kid-pleasing amenities. It’s also situated right on the beach, which isn’t always a given in Cozumel.
If you’re looking for an island vacation that’s a little more low-key than Cozumel — but actually easier to reach — look no further than Isla Mujeres. A 15-minute ferry ride from Cancun will take you there, where it’s impossible not to fall under the slow-paced spell of island time. The preferred mode of transportation on Isla Mujeres is walking or by golf cart.
Surprisingly, there are only a few beaches on Isla Mujeres — and Playa Norte at the tip of the island is the best (it’s also one of the most kid-friendly beaches in the Riviera Maya). While you’re here, rent a golf cart and drive 30 minutes to Punta Sur, the southernmost point of the island, stopping to feed turtles at the small turtle sanctuary on the way.
Isla Mujeres’ downtown area is walkable, safe, and has a few streets’ worth of souvenir shops and artisan stalls worth checking out. Otherwise, the action takes place in the gorgeous turquoise waters that are calm and shallow enough in some areas to wade safely. However, if your kids are a bit older and good swimmers, it’s worth considering a trip to MUSA, an underwater museum containing over 500 submerged sculptures or booking a snorkeling or diving excursion to the nearby Garrafon Natural Reef Park.
Want to vacation on your own private island? Well — Mia Reef Isla Mujeres is your chance. Situated off Playa Norte (and connected by a foot bridge), this resort is one of the most family-friendly on Isla Mujeres (or, well, next to it to be more accurate). Rooms are spacious and come in many configurations, and there’s both a kids’ club and a constant array of kid-friendly activities on offer.
This west coast beach city has a vibrant, touristy scene with several fun-in-the-sun options for families. And Puerto Vallarta is LGBTQ friendly to boot! Active families can enjoy classic water activities like snorkeling, swimming, and paddle-boarding, or kick it up a notch and try their hand at surfing, windsurfing, or parasailing.
Delicious options on Restaurant Row, walks through Old Town, and strolls up and down the 12-block beachfront esplanade are ways to kill time between the beach. Ziplining, horseback riding, hiking, and seasonal whale watching trips are also big draws for adventure-seeking families.
If you’re after day trips, hop on one of the many boats that depart from Puerto Vallarta’s marina for towns like Yelapa, where fun waterfall day hikes and a more laid-back scene are the name of the game. Good thing you can wind down every night with a gorgeous sunset when you’re back in PV.
While it’s 30 minutes from the busy center of Puerto Vallarta, Samba Vallarta remains one of the most family-friendly resorts in the region. It’s also far smaller than many of the massive resorts in the region, making it a great option for families who want a slightly calmer vibe. With a large pool, small waterslides, a great section of beach, and a kids’ club with activities throughout the day, this all-inclusive ticks all the family options you’d need in Puerto Vallarta.
Mexico City might not be the first place that comes to mind when you think family vacation, but it’s a smart option for families with older kids who want to immerse themselves in a vibrant scene full of art, culture, and excellent food. Mexico City is the most populated city in North America, and is one of only two founded by indigenous peoples (the other is Quito, Ecuador). The problem here isn’t finding things to do, it’s narrowing down all the options.
There are several ways to take in the art here, from street mural tours or gallery and museum hopping to visiting Frida Kahlo’s house, and shopping artisan souvenirs at La Ciudadela, and exploring the colonial Centro Historico and Catedral Metropolitana. Of course, the city’s famous National Museum of Anthropology is worth a visit for any family, as it chronicles the people of Mexico over the centuries and is home to stunning Mayan, Aztec, and other indigenous artifacts.
Outdoor activities include floating through canals of Xochimilco, a UNESCO World Heritage Site; walking, biking, hiking or having dinner in the Chapultepec Forest, the city’s massive urban park; or just taking in the city through different themed walking tours. There’s also a cool underground aquarium (Acuario Inbursa), a Six Flags theme park, and children’s museum (Papalota Museo del Nino).
If you want to get up close and personal with ancient history, you shouldn’t miss a day trip to the ancient Mesoamerican pyramids of Teotihuacan, located just an hour north of the city. There, you can climb the Pyramid of the Sun for some truly epic views (and memories).
Looking for a resort-like experience but don’t want to sacrifice all of the cool urban adventure of Mexico City? You’d be smart to stay at the St. Regis Mexico City with your family. This contemporary hotel is located along Avenida Reforma and near the Angel of Independence. It packs in a pool, spa, and fitness center, plus great dining. Families are in luck as the hotel also has a kids’ club.
Akumal is a small strip of beachfront located between Playa del Carmen and Tulum. It’s name means “Place of the Turtles” and has become known as the place to swim with sea turtles right off shore (read: the water is packed full of eager tourists hoping to spot a turtle). Tourism has picked up speed over the last decade, and the locals-only vibe no longer exists, though Akumal remains a chill place to spend a little time with your family. It’s a great alternative to the party-hard vibe of Playa del Carmen and the hip buzz of Tulum.
While you’re here you might as well take a few dips in the water to see if you can get lucky enough to see a turtle, or come during nesting season (May to November) and see if you can spot a hatchling. There’s also a dive shop and snorkeling opportunities in the mangrove-filled Casa Cenote Manatee and in the shallow, crystal clear waters of Yakul Lagoon. Aktun Chen is another famous spot, a beautiful cave cenote with stunning rock formations. If you’re in town on a Wednesday or Saturday, check out the Akumal Farmer’s Market, where you’ll find fresh fruits and veggies and a handful of local artisan craft stalls.
Part of a massive resort development just outside of Akumal, this all-inclusive is a great place for families who like lots of activities and options for things to do. The property as a whole consists of four total resorts (three of which are open to families). White Sand is the nicest among the family-friendly options, and provides spacious rooms, tons of kids’ activities, access to pools and water parks, and all sorts of other perks.
Bacalar promises a laid-back, low-frills getaway surrounded by nature. It’s being compared to the Tulum of yore — before the shoreline there was swallowed by an endless string of hipster hotels. But you should get here now, before that changes.
One of the biggest draws in Bacalar is the beautiful Lake of the Seven Colors. The water’s many shallow areas and insane visibility make it perfect for new swimmers, and the kaleidoscope of blue shades is practically mesmerizing (and great for family photoshoots). Breezy days can be filled with boat trips around the lagoon, swimming in Cenote Azul, kayaking, riding horses at the Num Ka’an Ranch, and exploring the ruins of the Fort of San Felipe and checking out its pirate museum.
Our Pick for a Family-Friendly Bacalar Hotel: Rancho Encantado
For quiet families who like to kick back and unplug, Rancho Encantado is a great fit. The hotel is situated right along the lagoon, with several places to relax and viewpoints over the lagoon. Rooms come in a variety of configurations, including options for families. Aside from a pool and a well-liked restaurant (Los Hechizos), there aren’t a ton of amenities here — but that’s the point.
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