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Mexico makes for a great family vacation with everything from picture-perfect beaches and soaring mountains to fun outdoor adventures, rich culture and traditions, fantastic food and impressive archaeological sites. It’s also home to many family-friendly resorts for those who just want to take advantage of a wealth of amenities in between spending time on the beach. And, your dollar is likely to go quite a long way here. The difficult part is choosing where to go – there are lots of great destinations you’re probably familiar with, but there may be a few surprises too.
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Puerto Vallarta is home to 26 miles of silky soft sands, located on the Pacific coast along the Bay of Banderas in the state of Jalisco, It’s ideal for snorkeling and diving, with an underwater world filled with a rainbow array of corals and abundant sea life. Other water sports like windsurfing, kayaking, parasailing and fishing can be enjoyed along with excursions on land like jungle tours. This city is increasingly becoming known as a foodie destination with everything from taco stands on the beach to five-star white-tablecloth eateries, many of which have menus focused around fresh seafood.
Isla Mujeres is home to Playa Norte, or North Beach, which is often ranked as the most child-friendly beach in all of Mexico with its soft sands edged by calm, clear shallow waters. Surrounded by coral reefs, it’s ideal for snorkeling and diving too. At its southern tip, you’ll find the ruins of an ancient Mayan temple. While the island is only eight miles from Cancun, it offers an entirely different experience without being saturated with mega-resorts like its neighbor.
If you’re looking for the luxury mega-resort experience with a wide range of things to do, Cancun is home to plenty of family-friendly options that come complete with water parks, massive pools, kids’ clubs and plenty of fun activities. It’s also home to some of the most beautiful powdery stretches of white sands and is easy to reach from most major airports in the U.S. for a no hassle vacation. You can wander through open-air markets like Coral Negro and Ki-Huic to pick up gifts and souvenirs like blankets and jewelry, and visit Xcaret, an eco-park with an underground river for swimming, archaeological marvels and wildlife, including manatees, monkeys and jaguars.
La Paz is a colorful, cosmopolitan city on the southern Baja peninsula that offers a more authentic Mexican vacation and a host of things to do for families, including stunning beaches that rival those found on the Caribbean coast. Called “the world’s aquarium” by Jacques Cousteau thanks to its incredible biodiversity with abundant marine life, it’s a fabulous place for diving and snorkeling. Join Baja Sur Tours on a boat excursion to the protected waters of Isla Epiritu Santo Island, home to a colony of wild sea lions where you can jump in and enjoy face-to-face encounters with a sea lion pup. Just strolling the Malecon, the long path that follows the shoreline, makes for a pleasant afternoon.
Cabo San Lucas
Cabo San Lucas, located at the southern tip of the Baja peninsula, is one of the most popular vacation spots in Mexico. It’s home to Playa El Medano, or Medano Beach, one of the few swimmable beaches in the area, lined with all sorts of bars and eateries, and it also serves as the departure point for boat trips to the famous Arch. During the winter, whale watching is fantastic, and all year-round horseback riding, ATV tours, parasailing, kayaking and windsurfing can be enjoyed. There are also plenty of family-friendly resorts in the area where you can just enjoy relaxing around the pool in between your time at the beach.
This seaside community on the Yucatan peninsula is famous for its turquoise waters and powder sugar-like beaches where giant sea turtles that roam the sand, as well as hosting the site of pre-Columbian Mayan ruins. The temples and castillos here date as far back as the 13th century, and the Tulum ruins sit atop a tall cliff along the Caribbean coast as the only archaeological site to have been built overlooking the sea. There are also stunning nature reserves, opportunities for cave diving, snorkeling, swimming in crystal-clear cenotes and a whole lot more.
Oaxaca is also ideal for a more authentic Mexican vacation with its strong cultural traditions that can be experienced through vibrant festivals and indigenous markets. Plan to visit during one of the special celebrations like the Day of the Dead around Halloween. The kids will especially appreciate that this city is famous for its chocolate, as one of the few spots in the world known for its cacao consuming culture – you’ll find it everywhere and in countless different versions.
Cozumel is the largest inhabited island in Mexico, home to a wide range of all-inclusive resorts and plenty of outdoor adventures, including snorkeling, diving and zip-lining. Venture out on the coastal road and you’ll discover a marine park, small Mayan ruins, and some especially jaw-dropping scenery.
Mérida, the cultural heart of the Yucatán, is a colonial city where you’ll see Mayan women donning brightly embroidered dresses as they walk across the main square balancing baskets of produce and handicrafts on their head. It’s a great place to experience some of Mexico’s culture with a wide range of art galleries, museums, theaters and restaurants along with well-preserved colonial buildings. On a day trip, you can discover Mayan archaeological sites and cenotes.
Ixtapa is an upscale resort area along the Pacific coast known for its folk art shops and palapa seafood restaurants. It’s home to Playa las Gatas which offers gentle waves for tiny tots, as well as Playa la Ropa, popular for boogie boarding. The coral reef offshore is home to 40 popular diving spots and includes sunken ships – snorkeling is outstanding here too. Plus, many of the resorts here specialize in family-friendly programs with a diverse array of activities too.