Mexico is huge. On a map it doesn’t look so large, sitting as it does next to the super-sized US and Canada. But it’s still huge, encompassing far more than you can possibly tick off in one visit. So, on any trip to Mexico with the kids, you need to choose which area to concentrate on. We think the most family friendly area is the Yucatan Peninsula, a wonderland of mysterious Mayan ruins, crystal clear cenotes (swimming holes), beautiful colonial towns, peaceful rural haciendas, exciting activities and picture perfect Caribbean beaches.
There is so much to do here that it’s been hard to whittle down the list, but we’ve picked out (from strong competition!) our Top 10 things to do in Mexico with the kids, with a specific focus on the Yucatan Peninsula. (If you’re looking for a quick country overview, you can jump straight to our Mexico family holiday section first where you’ll also find reviews, sample itineraries and prices.)
Mexico with kids – Our Top 10
1. Swim, snorkel and kayak at Lake Bacalar
Lake Bacalar is known as the Lagoon of Seven Colours. It is a stunningly beautiful place where the differing depths of the lake lend it different colours across the spectrum from dark navy to a beautiful pale turquoise. Here many of the hotels are situated directly on the lagoon and offer free use of their kayaks and stand up paddle boards (SUPs), so you can head out onto the lagoon and explore. It’s particularly beautiful at sunrise or sunset and will be a highlight of any trip to Mexico with the kids.
Check out our example Mexico itineraries, which both include time at Lake Bacalar.
2. Cycling around the Mayan ruins at Coba
Any trip to Mexico with the children is likely to involve a few Mayan ruins and if we are honest, the novelty may wear off relatively quickly for the kids. However, in Coba you can hire a bike and cycle around the ruins, the perfect way to keep the children engaged as you explore. Younger children can go in the back of a cycle rickshaw instead.
3. Zip-lining, giant rope ladders and canoeing at Punta Laguna
Deep in the jungle just 2 hours from Cancun, is a small reserve that is home to a thriving population of spider and howler monkeys. The enterprising local villagers have created a series of activities here which are just perfect for families and a great start to any trip to Mexico with the kids. After receiving a blessing from the shaman (not everyone’s cup of tea but it’s over quickly), you take a hike in the forest to look for monkeys before zip-lining over a lake. Then you canoe slowly back across the lake, enjoying the peace and quiet, before reaching a cave cenote. Here you get strapped into a harness and are lowered down into the cave, into the darkness until you reach the water. You can swim around, a few bats flitting here and there around the shaft of sunlight, before climbing back out, up a giant rope ladder.
See our Best of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula itinerary.
4. Take a horse cart ride in Izamal
The small town of Izamal is particularly picturesque, the one storey buildings all painted a distinctive yellow colour. The narrow streets are very peaceful and meander alongside the remains of a number of vast Mayan pyramids, now dilapidated but with traces of their former splendour. The best way to explore the city is by horse cart, ambling slowly along the roads at a sedate pace – the ideal way to appreciate the view.
Check out our example itinerary to Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula which includes time in Izamal.
5. Search for flamingos and crocs in Celestun
One of the great things about a trip to Mexico with kids is the sheer variety that you will encounter along the way. For a complete antidote to Mayan ruins, head to the Gulf of Mexico to Celestun, one of the main habitats for the large population of flamingos in the Yucatan. Here you can take a boat out into the estuary where you will hopefully see large groups of flamingos perched on underwater sand banks or gliding gracefully across the sky. The captain will also take you into the mangroves where you can disembark to search for crocs amidst the tree roots.
As an added bonus you can cool off afterwards at a superb seafood restaurant right on the beach. Have a swim then sit under a thatched roof, toes curling in the sand, for a large platter of morning-fresh cerviche or lobster.
See our Places to Visit in Mexico for more inspiration.
6. Float through the mangroves in Sian Kaan Lagoon
Sian Kaan biosphere is a vast natural reserve that stretches along the coast and is home to a series of lagoons connected by channels carved by the Mayans millennia ago. You can take a boat ride across the lagoon and then through the narrow channels with the mangroves arching overhead. There is a small Mayan temple deep in the biosphere and here you leave the boat behind. Put your lifejacket on like a nappy (yes, we didn’t believe it either) and float along one of the narrow channels. This is a fantastic addition to any holiday in Mexico with kids as they will love lying back in the water, arms outstretched as the current carries them along, watching the birds circling overhead.
Stop at Sian Ka’an biosphere on your way to Tulum on our Best of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula itinerary.
7. Visit the Mayan ruins at Uxmal
If there is one set of ruins in Yucatan that you should visit when on a holiday in Mexico with the kids, then Uxmal is it. Whilst none of the individual structures may have the majesty of the main pyramid in Chichen Itza, the site is very extensive, with beautiful carvings, masses of trees and some sections that have been reclaimed by the jungle. Unlike at Chichen Itza you are allowed to climb up the temples here, so you get fabulous views over both the ruins and the surrounding area. And there are so few other visitors that if you get here early, you pretty much have the place to yourselves.
Also see a Stubborn Mule family’s verdict on the best pyramids to climb in Yucatan.
8. Explore underground cave systems
Find your inner spelunker and explore some of the underground cave systems that riddle the Yucatan Peninsula. These include the extensive network of caves and caverns at Loltun, a hugely atmospheric place to visit, with prehistoric hand prints on the wall dating back 8,000 to 10,000 years (see Wikipedia). For older children and a more extreme visit, try the caves at Calcehtok, where you have to squeeze through narrow crevices in the rock and navigate your way (with a guide) deep underground. (Check out Lonely Planet for more).
9. Stay in a rural Hacienda
Ranged across the Yucatan Peninsula are a number of beautiful haciendas, old colonial properties that were the weekend retreats of the sisal barons who made their fortune in this area in the mid 19th century. Whilst many of these have been reclaimed by the jungle, others have been converted into exquisite rural hotels. Enhance your holiday in Mexico with the kids with a couple of nights either on a working sisal plantation or in a luxury hacienda for some colonial splendour. A highlight for the children will be the swimming pools and on-site cenotes, the perfect place to cool off after a walk around the plantation or a ride on a mule train.
10. Explore the underground world of Sac Actun
You’ll find yourselves swimming in many a cenote on any trip to Mexico with the children, but few offer as much adventure as Sac Actun. Here you can access the longest known underground river system in the world and, donning snorkel, mask and wetsuit, can explore this underground world. Descending first into a cave, you will swim along narrow channels, ducking low under stalactites and swimming between stalacmites. The channels open into huge caverns, sometimes lit from above by shafts of sunlight that penetrate through openings in the rock. It’s a huge adventure and kids absolutely love it.
Ask us about including Sac Actun in a tailor-made family itinerary.
More about holidaying in Mexico with kids
It’s been so difficult to stick to 10 activities. We haven’t even mentioned the beach, snorkelling with turtles in Akumal, spending the day at the waterpark in Xel-Ha (see our Mexico family holiday page).
To speak to one of our Mexico specialists and decide how to plan your perfect trip to Mexico with kids, please give us a call on 01728 752751 or get in touch via our website form
You can also find out more in our Mexico family holidays website section, see a pricing guide, read reviews, find out about accommodation and check out some example Mexico itineraries: Best of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and Best of Yucatan Peninsula and Belize.
We always love to hear from families who have travelled with us, so please do continue to send us your photos and reviews of holidaying in Mexico with kids.
Liddy Pleasants, MD Stubborn Mule Travel
(Find our more about Liddy and the team)