Mayan Ruins—The Sky’s the Limit
Towering pre-Columbian temples and archaeological sites dot the land and make for enlightening adventures—even for the history-shy in the family. There’s space and time for the kids to run off and explore, and some of the sites even let you climb on the ruins for a view from the top. Tulum, Coba and Chichén Itzá are three popular Mayan sites that are easily accessible from Playa del Carmen and Riviera Maya.
- Tulum, perched on a cliff above the beautiful turquoise waters of the Caribbean, is beautifully preserved and easy to explore. Visitors can walk amidst the ruins in the daylight hours, but morning is the best time to visit to avoid the crowds.
- Coba, situated in the heart of the jungle, is an archaeological delight and one of the sites where you can clamber up the ruins. Excursions to Coba from the tourist areas often include a visit to a Mayan village for an added cultural activity.
- Chichén Itzá is less than two hours away from Tulum and its beautiful beaches. Children can enjoy a tour in the jungle, where they may spot monkeys and more, in addition to experiencing this magnificent archaeological wonder.
Cenotes—The Underground Window to the World
Cenotes, or subterranean pools created by the collapse of limestone bedrock on cave ceilings, are a must for both adults and adventurous children to discover. Celebrated by the ancient Maya as a source of water in the jungles, these crystal-clear oases are fun to dive into to see colorful fish and marine life, or simply swim in the enchanting environment. Some are deep water with small holes to enter, while others are shallow, wide and open. With thousands of cenotes in the Yucatan, be sure to seek out the quiet ones for a truly unearthly experience, or visit an eco-park for an expanded cultural experience that includes swimming in cenotes along with a variety of other cultural activities.
- Cenotes and cave visits are often included in Mayan ruin tours, like at Ik-Kil, Cho Ha and Hilarios Cave.
- The largest eco-park in the Yucatan region and fabulous for families, Xcaret allows visitors of all ages to learn about Mexican culture and nature through a variety of attractions and activities. These include chocolate-making workshops, Mayan court ball games and equine presentations that allow guests to live the traditions and legends of Mexico.
Immersive Resort Experiences and Local Festivals—at Ground Level
From Puerto Vallarta in the west, Oaxaca in the South and Cancun and Riviera Maya in the east, families can discover the beautiful culture and traditional customs both onsite at family-friendly resorts and in town strolling the many plazas and various year-round festivals.
- For a more traditional Mexican charm, head to El Malecón, the lively pedestrian walkway in Old Town Puerto Vallarta, where vibrant architecture, authentic food and local artists abound. The extravagant sand sculptures and spirited live music make it an entertaining destination to visit day or night.
- With its indigenous markets, traditional handicrafts and colorful fiestas, Oaxaca offers plenty to see and do in an off-the-beaten-path location for families who want to immerse themselves in Mexican culture. Kids can try their hand at spinning wool into yarn at a local village, and a walk through the city center and colorful mercado will bear many interesting conversation starters. Don’t miss the Guelaguetza Festival in July with its beautiful costumes and dances. A fun fact: The town in which Disney’s “Coco” takes place was inspired by Oaxaca!
- Many of the all-inclusive resorts across Mexico offer fun cooking classes for children and adults alike, where you can make and taste Mexican cuisine such as ceviche or mole. Or, for a special cultural experience, watch and interact with local artist León Alva as he paints among diners at Grand Fiesta Americana Coral Beach in Cancun.
- Want to be part of local preservation? From June to December, resort guests at the Casa Magna Marriott in Puerto Vallarta can release baby turtles into the sea as part of the property’s Turtle Protection Program.