Nowhere captures the imagination quite like ancient, cultured and colourful Mexico. But is it right for family holidays?
Visit the Yucatan Peninsula on the Caribbean coast and you’ll wonder why you even asked.
Beachy and sunny this is the area with exceptional resorts where you don’t have to travel far to find ancient history.
On the Pacific coast, head for Puerto Vallarta where the Sierra Madres supply adventure and kilometres of white sand does everything else from fantastic water sports to turtle watching.
And if you need cities in the mix: Oaxaca is home of one of Mexico’s most famous Dia de Los Muertos festivals, Mexico City is ridiculously exciting and Acapulco is the city of extreme water-sports and luxury lifestyles but with an extraordinarily eco-conscious heart.
There are direct flights from London to Cancun and Mexico City.
Over 60 native languages exist in Mexico today – only India has more.
Mexico traces its roots back to Mayan and Aztec civilisations, has more World Heritage sites than anywhere in the Americas and even the country’s traditional cuisine has UNESCO World Heritage status.
Grey Whales, Whale Sharks and Monarch Butterflies all migrate through Mexico annually. The country is one of the world’s top-five most bio-diverse with almost 3000 native bird and animal species and 30,000 indigenous plant species.
Mexico’s amazingly rich landscape is made for outdoor adventure whether it’s white water rafting in jungle forests or diving and surfing on the coast.
Flights from the UK aren’t cheap but the cost is balanced by Mexico’s good value accommodation, activities, food and travel. If money is no object, Mexico has 14 Five-Diamond resorts – more than Canada, the Caribbean and Hawaii combined.
Forget everything you’ve heard about Mexico City and consider: it has a population of 20 million and the crime rate is a third of Washington DC. It’s a huge and thrilling capital, packed with astonishing sights, historic monuments and endless activity. Not 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 – especially with older kids.
Just an hour’s drive west of Cancun, this is where the Caribbean coast does its best beaches and fewer crowds. The weather’s fantastic all year round, the sea is world famous for diving and there’s jungle to explore if you can drag the kids off the pure white sands. The Mayan sites at Tulum are also in this area, the Sian Ka’an UNESCO biosphere reserve is where to see turtles and Xel-Ha is the world’s largest, natural aquarium – a magical experience for children. Playa del Carmen is a popular family resort for all-inclusive hotels and superb water sports.
To the far south of the Baja Peninsula (just over the border from Southern California) Los Cabos is surfing heaven for teens and laid-back beach vibe for families. Iconic towering sea stacks and monumental rock formations define the awe-inspiring coast. The hotels are superb and think of everything. And a mix of friendly local life, cute shopping, intriguing galleries, museums and great restaurants steers Los Cabos clear of a bland resort experience.
The historic town of Puerto Vallarta on Mexico’s Pacific coast is the best of all worlds: hiking and horse riding in the Sierra Madres’ foothills and beautiful beaches. There’s tradition in the holiday equation here too and it’s a great town for fiestas, art events, children’s festivals and spectacular food (Basilio Badillo AKA Restaurant Row is one of the south west’s foodie hotspots). Visit in August and kids can help with hatchlings at the local turtle farm.
City of cliff divers, high glamour and awe-inspiring beaches, Acapulco is the grand old dame of Mexico’s Pacific coast resorts. Perfect for families who want the thrill of serious water sports, lively resort life and eco-experiences like camping on sensational Ventura Beach. Naturally there are dozens of enormous resort hotels here, self-catering is another good option and 5-star camping near Saint Jean de Monts is ideal for families.
Whether kids want to spot or get into the water with these amazing creatures, there’s an experience to fulfil their dreams. Vallarta Adventures
The only Mayan city built on the coast is a day trip from Cancun or Playa del Carmen. Tulum
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. Cabo Pulmo
Five times a day the legendary Acapulco cliff divers perform their feats of daring – they dive with torches in the evening. La Quebrada
Have a day away from the beach and explore the Sierra Madres foothills on a guided horseback tour. Rancho Charro
The world’s largest natural aquarium where kids can swim and dive with the aquatic residents. Xel-Ha
From glimpsing spider monkeys, dolphins and turtles to swimming and kayaking with ancient Mayans this mesmerising biosphere is another side of Mexico’s Caribbean. Sian Ka’An
Seven worlds in one vast park include wet ‘n’ wild, Grand Prix, Dolphinaris. Ventura Park
Tropical island escape just 15 minutes by boat from Cancun and packed with kid-size excitement – visit for the turtle farm. Isla Mujeres
Mayan culture and an amazing theme park with children’s events and festivals all year round. Xcaret
How you decide to travel around when you arrive in Mexico really depends on what type of holiday you’re having. Most resorts will have regular transport to main attractions or be able to organise reliable and inexpensive taxis. If you want to tour independently, car hire is convenient and easy to arrange. Make sure you know the area you’re driving around, 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 look at the UK Government Travel Information site for up to date advice.