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Family Vacations to Mexico

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Mexico – Family Vacation Guide

With its rich culture and textured history, delicious cuisine and stunning beaches, nowhere captures the imagination quite like Mexico. Especially when it comes to family travel. There’s nothing like seeing your child’s eyes light up the first time they see one of the country’s ancient Mayan ruins. And what kid doesn’t love Mexican food? Add to that great family-friendly resorts scattered across the country, a favorable exchange rate and easy access from most of the U.S., and you couldn’t ask for a better place to go on vacation.

Why Go

  • Direct Flights

    There are direct flights from most major U.S. cities to Mexico’s popular vacation destinations, including Cancun, Los Cabos, Puerto Vallarta, Acapulco and Mexico City.

  • Native Languages

    Over 60 native languages exist in Mexico today – only India has more.

  • Rich Culture

    Mexico traces its roots back to Mayan and Aztec civilizations and has more UNESCO World Heritage sites than anywhere in the Americas. Even the country’s traditional cuisine has UNESCO World Heritage status.

  • Diverse Wildlife

    Gray whales, whale sharks and monarch butterflies all migrate through Mexico annually. This is one of the world’s top-five most bio-diverse countries, with almost 3,000 native bird and animal species and 30,000 indigenous plant species.

  • Lush Landscapes

    Whether it’s white-water rafting in jungle forests or diving and surfing on the turquoise-blue coast, Mexico has a spectacular landscape that is made for outdoor adventure.

Where to Go

Generally speaking, flights to Mexico from the U.S. are reasonably priced. You can also drive across the border from a number of spots in the U.S., including California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. With the current exchange rate, accommodations, activities and food are also a good value. But if money is no object, Mexico has over-the-top resorts that deliver all the luxury you could ever want. No matter what kind of family vacation experience you’re looking for, Mexico has a resort area for you. Read on to find info about some of the major desinations to visit.

Yucatan Peninsula

Whether it’s exploring jungle forests or diving in cenotes (natural pools) or surfing on the turquoise-blue coast, the Yucatan has a spectacular landscape that is made for outdoor adventure.

Cancun was one of Mexico’s first planned resort destinations in the Yucatan, carved out of a peninsula that juts into the ocean with talcum-sand beaches and gin-clear water.  The Yucatan has resorts lined up along the coast, including a number of family-friendly all-inclusive options. But there’s also Riviera Maya, just an hour’s drive south of Cancun. This is the Caribbean coast at its finest. The Riviera Maya is home to the beach towns of Playa del Carmen and Tulum. Further inland, you’ll find the impressive Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza and plenty of historic villages to explore (don’t miss Merida).

There’s plenty to do here,  Another perk of a vacation in the Yucatan: There are direct flights from across the U.S., so it’s easy to get here.

Take Me to Yucatan Peninsula

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Baja Peninsula

Extending south from California, the Baja Peninsula is also known as Baja California and is bordered by the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Cortés. On the southern tip is Los Cabos. You’ve probably heard of this destination as a perfect place for families, with a laid-back beach vibe combined with plenty of action for teens (surfing, boating). Iconic towering sea stacks and monumental rock formations define the awe-inspiring coast.

Don’t miss Todos Santos, an oasis in the desert an hour north of Los Cabos. This little town is an official Pueblo Mágico, a select group of villages in Mexico that have been given this designation thanks to their natural beauty, cultural riches or historical relevance. It’s no surprise that the New York Times named Todos Santos one of the top 50 travel destinations in the world: Todos Santos has been colonized by artists and surfers looking for a magical setting.

Take Me to Baja Peninsula

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Pacific Coast

No matter what kind of family vacation experience you’re looking for, Mexico’s Pacific Coast has a resort area for you. There’s the historic town of Puerto Vallarta offering the best of Mexico: beautiful beaches, hiking and horse riding in the foothills of the Sierra Madres. Expanding north of Puerto Vallarta, from Nuevo Vallarta to Sayulita and beyond, is Riviera Nayarit. This lesser-explored area along the Pacific Coast offers expansive, all-inclusive resorts, boutique surfer-chic hotels and a thoroughly authentic experience. Then there is the glittering city of cliff divers, high glamour and awe-inspiring beaches. Acapulco is the grand old dame of Mexico’s Pacific coast resorts. It’s perfect for families who want the thrill of serious water sports and lively resort life.

Take Me to the Pacific Coast

Mexico City

Forget everything you’ve heard about Mexico City and consider: This sprawling metropolis has a population of 20 million and the crime rate is a third of Washington, D.C. It’s a huge, thrilling — and modern — capital with a trailblazing art scene, cutting-edge cuisine, historic monuments and endless activity. It might not be the first choice for an entire family holiday, but if you have a flight stopover on the way to the beach, think about spending a day or two here – especially with older kids. Mexico City also has a wide choice of international hotel brands and boutique properties with heritage status.

What to Do

  • La Quebrada Cliff Divers, Acapulco. Five times a day, the legendary Acapulco cliff divers perform their feats of daring – they dive with torches in the evening.
  • Riding in the Sierra Madres, Puerto Vallarta. Have a day away from the beach and explore the foothills of the Sierra Madres on a guided horseback tour.
  • Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park. Home to colonies of sea lions and Mexico’s only hard coral reef, this adventure in conservation is unforgettable for children and just over an hour from Los Cabos.
  • Isla Mujeres, Cancun. Tropical island escape just 15 minutes by boat from Cancun and packed with kid-size excitement – visit for the turtle farm.
  • Tulum Mayan Ruins, Riviera Maya. The only Mayan city built on the coast is a day trip from Cancun or Playa del Carmen.
  • Xel-Ha Aquarium, Riviera Maya. The world’s largest natural aquarium, where kids can swim and dive with the aquatic residents.
  • Sian Ka’an Nature Reserve, Riviera Maya. From glimpsing spider monkeys, dolphins and turtles to swimming and kayaking with ancient Mayans this mesmerizing biosphere is another side of Mexico’s Caribbean.
  • Xcaret, Riviera Maya. Mayan culture and an amazing theme park with children’s events and festivals all year round.

Educational Value for Kids

  • Taxco is known as the prettiest town in Mexico. Unspoiled and historic, it’s fascinating for older children and less than two hours from Acapulco.
  • You’ll find eco-adventures all along the Caribbean and Pacific coast.
  • Visit at least one of the Mayan sites near Riviera Maya.
  • Join in local fiestas and celebrations (even the sinister-seeming Dia de Los Muertos has a kid’s festival the day before).
  • If you’re in Mexico City, make time to visit the Diego Rivera Museum; oder teenagers might like to tour Frida Kahlo’s studio.
  • Mexico’s resorts are famous for water sports and most offer beginner’s courses for kids.
  • Eat local and introduce kids to new tastes . Traditional Mexican cuisine has World Heritage status. Just watch out for chile in food: Strong spices can cause stomach upset in younger kids.

Getting Around

How you decide to travel around when you arrive in Mexico really depends on what type of vacation you’re taking. Most resorts will provide transportation to attractions or be able to organize reliable and inexpensive taxis. If you want to tour independently, it’s convenient and easy to arrange a car rental. Make sure you have a paper map as well as GPS and keep your phone charged. Always carry water and snacks in the car, even on short journeys. Before you travel in Mexico, especially by car, look at the State Department website for up-to-date safety advice.

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