A Family Affair
The Yucatán Peninsula is an excellent family destination, with sights and activities that are fun for kids as well as parents. The Caribbean coast has terrific beaches, easy snorkeling, and numerous family-friendly eco-parks. Inland, the Maya ruins are fascinating to visitors of all ages, as are outings like bird-watching and swimming in cenotes. The region also has excellent lodging, eating, and transportation options, making it suitable for family trips of every size and budget. And the people of the Yucatán Peninsula, as everywhere in Mexico, are open and welcoming to children and families.
Arrive in Cancún and check into your hotel. If you’re in the Zona Hotelera, you won’t be able to resist the beach—the afternoon sun is great and the water is warm. If you’re downtown, take a bus or taxi to the beach or stroll through Parque Las Palapas. In the evenings, lots of local kids play games in the central plaza or ride the small Ferris wheel and kiddy rides. Be sure to buy some churros filled with cajeta (similar to caramel syrup).
Spend the day on the beach. Head to Playa Chac-Mool, where you can rent boogie boards, parasail, or just build sand castles. Have lunch at the Rainforest Café in the Forum by the Sea Mall. After an afternoon break, go to La Isla Shopping Village, where you and the kids can choose from among swimming with dolphins or sharks at the Interactive Aquarium, playing video games, or watching a movie. Book a tour to Xcaret or plan on taking a taxi or bus to the entrance.
Spend the day at the mega eco-park Xcaret. Get there at opening to enjoy it to the hilt.
Rent a car and head inland to the Maya ruins of Chichén Itzá. Either stay at one of the hotels near the archaeological site—most have swimming pools, which are nice after a hot stay at the ruins—or at one of the more modest accommodations in the adjacent town of Pisté. Another option is to stay in the nearby city of Valladolid, which is more pleasant than Pisté and has three easy-to-reach cenotes, where kids are sure to delight in the cool water and eerie, otherworldly environment. At night, go to the sound and light show at the ruins.
Spend the day at the Chichén Itzá ruins. It’s a huge site, and you may not be able to see everything with little ones in tow. There are snack shops at the entrance, and another one inside the site; better yet, pack a lunch and plan on stopping at a shady spot for a mid-visit picnic. Return to the hotel for an afternoon swim. If you’re staying in Valladolid, check out the cenotes or see what’s playing at the movie theater.
Make your way back to Cancún or Playa del Carmen. Starting early, you’ll have plenty of time to spend one last afternoon on the beach. If Chichén Itzá was a real hit, consider stopping on the way at Ek’ Balam, a small ruin just north of Valladolid. It has a huge pyramid—which you can climb, unlike the one at Chichén Itzá—and a spectacular stucco frieze.
© Gary Chandler & Liza Prado from Moon Yucatán Peninsula, 9th edition