Mexico is huge, encompassing far more than you can possibly tick off in one visit. So, on any trip to Mexico with 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 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 where you’ll also find reviews, sample itineraries and prices.
Mexico with kids – Our Top 10
1. Swim, snorkel and kayak or relax 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 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 water 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. You might also want to find out the best time to visit Mexico.
2. 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. You’ll be wowed by beautiful carvings, masses of trees, and some sections that have been reclaimed by the jungle. Unlike the larger pyramid at Chichen Itza, there are so few other visitors that if you get here early, you pretty much have the place to yourselves. Uxmal is included on both of our example Mexico itineraries. Also, see a Stubborn Mule family’s verdict on the best pyramids to climb in Yucatan.
3. Try out zip-lines, giant rope ladders and canoes at Punta Laguna
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 that are just perfect for families and a great start to any trip to Mexico with the kids. Hike in the forest to look for monkeys before zip-lining over a lake. Then you canoe slowly back across the lake before reaching a cave cenote, where you are lowered down into the cave and the pool below. You can swim around, while a few bats flit 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. Search for flamingos and crocs in Celestun
If you’ve had your fill of 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 search for crocs. See our Places to Visit in Mexico for more inspiration.
5. Explore the ‘yellow city’ of Izamal
The small city of Izamal is famed as Mexico’s most photographed city: its distinctive yellow buildings are a joy to behold. The city is also known as the ‘city of three cultures’ due to its blend of pre-Colombian, colonial, and modern cultures. 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.
6. Boat and float through the mangroves at Sian Ka’an
Sian Ka’an 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 where you swap the boat for a lifejacket and simply float along one of the narrow channels. This is a fantastic addition to any holiday in Mexico with kids. For more information, check out our Best of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula itinerary.
7. Cycle around the Mayan ruins at Coba
Archaeologists believe that the Mayan ruins at Coba are one of the most important in the Yucatan Peninsula. Comprising a central pyramid-like Chichen Itza, but with ruins strewn over a 30 square kilometre site, the best way to see it is by bike, which can be rented on-site. (There’s also a cycle-rickshaw option for those with really little – or very tired – legs). The perfect way to keep the whole family engaged in our Mexico with Kids adventure.
8. Stay in a luxury hacienda and explore by jeep
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 here in the mid-19th century. Some have been converted into exquisite rural hotels, many with swimming pools. 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 splendor. See other ideas of where to stay.
9. Explore the world’s longest underground river system
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 stalagmites. The channels open into huge caverns, sometimes lit from above by shafts of sunlight that penetrate through openings in the rock. Ask us about including Sac Actun in a tailor-made family itinerary.
10. Cool off with a gelato on Holbox Island
Separated from the north Yucatan mainland and part of the Yum Balam Nature Reserve, Holbox Island, or Isla Holbox is a car-free Caribbean Island that teems with wildlife. From the whale sharks and sea turtles to the flamingos and pelicans in the Yalahau Lagoon, it’s an oasis for marine life and provides the perfect backdrop for some R & R. Hard to believe that Cancun airport is a short ferry ride and just under two hours away! Life in Holbox Village and Punca Coco Beach is laid back and chilled. Ice cream or gelato, anyone?
Next steps when planning a holiday in Mexico with kids
You can also find out more in our Mexico family holidays section, with a pricing guide, Mexico reviews, accommodation ideas and some example Mexico itineraries: Best of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and Best of Yucatan Peninsula and Belize. Or simply ring us on 01728 752751 to speak to one of our Mexico specialists and we can help you plan your perfect trip to Mexico with kids. Or get in touch via our website form. We’d love to hear from you.
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 out more about Liddy and the team.)