Colourful, culturally rich and very child-friendly, magical Mexico is a great spot for family holidays. It’s a vast country so plan accordingly: we enjoyed 2 separate trips to different regions with our small fry, and both were truly memorable for all the right reasons
Most European travellers head for former Mayan stronghold the Yucatan Peninsula, entering the country via Cancun (beloved of package holiday-makers). Travel an hour south along the coast, past Playa del Carmen, to the perfect powder-soft sands of Xpu-Ha.
Here is Paradise Found in the luxurious white-on-white Hotel Esencia, whose spacious rooms and top-notch restaurant are matched by wonderful service and an organic spa. Yet families are made more than welcome: you get 2 hours of complimentary childcare while in the restaurant or spa (the latter also has chocolate treatments specifically for kids), and the swimming pool is heated; there’s also a separate kids’ pool, plus cookery classes and free kids’ yoga. If you can leave the pristine beach, there’s an eco-archaeological park up the road where you can swim with dolphins, discover local species in the aviary and butterfly pavilion, go snorkeling, and learn about Mayan culture.
Laid-back Tulum, only 25 minutes further south, is beloved of travellers for its well-preserved Mayan ruins, large number of natural cenotes (sinkholes) and delightful Caribbean beaches. Dreamy oceanfront Jashita is popular with parents, as the waters in Soliman Bay are sheltered and shallow. You get a good-sized kids’ pool, double deluxe suites, complimentary kayaks, babysitting and a child-friendly cafe. What’s more, the hotel runs daily boat tours offering snorkelling and diving, and the Hidden Worlds family cenote adventure park is nearby.
If flying via Mexico City, we recommend staying a couple of nights to experience one of the world’s most exciting metropolises. Base yourselves in the pedestrian-friendly Zona Rosa, just west of the historic centre, for plenty of shopping and restaurants. Kids under 12 stay for free at Room Mate Valentina, which has playful and funkily styled rooms, and sits opposite a mall stuffed with authentic eateries. You’re also just a few blocks from the world’s largest city park, Bosque de Chapultepec, which has a great Museum of Anthropology, a zoo, an amusement park, a boating lake and a children’s museum.
The turquoise seas, wonderful biodiversity and jungle-clad mountains of the Pacific Coast are also appealing for families – there are both major holiday centres and sleepy fishing villages. Fly to laid-back Puerto Escondido, best known for hosting the World Surfing Championships every November, and stay to the west of the main town, only 5 minutes from the airport.
Here, above a tranquil bay of golden sands (which lacks surfing waves), you’ll find relaxed resort Villas Carrizalillo. Charming terraces, a bubbling fountain, a swimming pool and an open-sided restaurant with glorious views accompany the chic self-catering villas, over half of which have 2 or more bedrooms. There are bikes to borrow, surfboards to rent, and games and toys available. Descend secure steps to the gently shelving beach below.
Alternatively, for a more off-the-beaten-track experience, fly to over-developed Los Cabos at the tip of the Baja California peninsula and then head out of town. Northwards are deserted beaches facing the Sea of Cortez, backed by arid brush.
We adored staying at the unique El Encanto de Cabo Pulmo for its bold Mexican styling, beautiful walled desert garden, enchanting objets and comfy interiors. And we especially loved off-the-grid Cabo Pulmo itself for its simple fishing shacks, long stretches of safe beach, wondrous sunrises and total lack of light pollution. Offshore is a marine park, and the town has a couple of outfits offering snorkelling (with seals!), kayaking and diving; gray whales pass by in the winter. A hummingbird alighted at our window every morning, and horses nibbled at our roof. Bliss defined!