Mexico's Top Ten Family Resorts/Destinations
Mexico has so much to offer families that it's hard to pick the top destinations. As you will see below, however, some offer more for families than others.
Acapulco is now one of Mexico's true family resorts. The magnificent beach that frames Acapulco Bay has calm water, though you may want to swim in beachside pools instead. Since the four-lane toll road opened from Mexico City, Mexican families come here by the droves on weekends. The resort has responded with affordable restaurants and lots for kids to do. One of the biggest family attractions is the fifty-two-acre Papagayo Park, with carnival rides, an aviary, and a replica of a Spanish galleon — all for free. Ci Ci Aquatic Park, with aquarium, animal show, wave-maker and water slide, plus Mágic Mundo Marino, another splendid water park, provide fun for the entire family. Fort San Diego, one of the oldest attractions, is suddenly new since the installation of an excellent exhibit telling the story of the trade route from Spain to China. Your kids will love climbing the ramparts while you and your spouse learn about history. And let's not forget Acapulco's famous cliff divers.
One of Mexico's newest resorts, this beach destination has everything you need to make your vacation complete — lots of restaurants, loads of shopping, and a variety of sporting facilities. It's a great place to use as a base for exploration of nearby sites. You can take a quick ferry ride over to the island of Isla Mujeres for the day to snorkel or just sit by the waterfront and watch the boats come in and out. Or you might want to take a tour to Tulum or Coba, two nearby archaeological sites, and Chichén Itzá, one a bit further away. If you're interested in nature, then you'll enjoy a boat trip to Isla Contoy, a bird sanctuary. To complete the marine theme, there are also excursions aboard the floating submarines
Though most families head to one of Mexico's beach resorts for their vacation, some have discovered the charm and rich history of its colonial cities, most of which you'll find in central Mexico. The most popular of these cities, San Miguel de Allende and Guanajuato, attract visitors for entirely different reasons. The first has a large American and Canadian expatriate community, with opportunities for learning Spanish and various arts and crafts. The second, Mexico's most successful mining town, gives you a chance to explore Mexican culture to the fullest. Both these cities, as well as a number of others, offer fine museums with artistic and historical treasures, superb architecture, murals, and historic monuments. Three learning institutions in San Miguel focus on the arts, literature, and language instruction. Its most famous structure, La Parroquia Church, dominates the central square of El Jardin. Guanajuato, on the other hand, features a labyrinth of winding streets and an underground highway built on a former riverbed. As one of Mexico's most Spanish-looking cities, Guanajuato offers you a chance to visit a silver mine or attend a performance in a Victorian-style theater.
The city of Chihuahua sits in the middle of the Chihuahua Desert. Begin at Qunita Luz, Pancho Villa's home, now the Museo de la Revolución (Museum of the Revolution), to see the bullet-ridden car he was driving when he was assassinated. Then catch the Chihuahua al Pacifico Railroad train for a ride through the Barranca de Cobre (Copper Canyon), four times larger than the Grand Canyon. Many consider the rail line to be one of the greatest engineering feats of the twentieth century. Two hundred gorges link to form a series of six interconnected canyons. You should stop along the way to visit Creel and see the culture of the Tarahumara Indians and further on, stop at Bahuichivo to take a wild ride to the bottom of one of the canyons to visit the former mining town of Batopilas. If your family loves adventure, this is the place.
Though Cozumel is known for its excellent diving and snorkeling opportunities, it also offers other attractions. Its main town, San Miguel, offers a variety of restaurants and shops lining its
This dual destination offers both sunny beaches as well as the charm of a fishing village. Like Cancún, the Mexican government created Ixtapa in the 1970s. About the only thing to see or do besides lounging under a palapa on the beach is to take advantage of the Marina Ixtapa's boat, tennis, and golf facilities. The eighteen-hole golf course is of a unique links design similar to golfing between grass-covered dunes much as they originally did in Scotland. But you'll want to head for the village of Zihuatanejo to see more of the real Mexico. Here, you'll find unusual shops, affordable eateries, a traditional marketplace, and seaside cafés serving grilled shrimp. Beautiful beaches line Zihuatanejo Bay. From here, you can take short boat trips to either Isla Ixtapa, with its four beaches, or to Playa Las Gatas on the outermost tip of the bay, where you'll discover great snorkeling and seafood served at open-air seaside restaurants. Ixtapa also has its own water park, Magic World Aquatic Park, featuring a giant pirate ship with water slides. But your family might also enjoy cycling on the six-mile bike path, horseback riding along the beaches in Zihuatanejo, deep-sea fishing, diving at over fifty dive sites, or playing golf on either of two excellent eighteen-hole courses.
This active beach town is Mexico's answer to Daytona Beach. While Spring Break partiers descend upon it from March to May, it's a great place to bring your family the rest of the year. Broad sandy beaches are just one attraction. You'll enjoy taking your family to the aquarium and botanical gardens, where your children can learn about undersea life. A trained seal show and tanks containing over 250 species will captivate your children. To see Mazatlán at its best, you can take a harbor tour, visiting Old Mazatlán and the city market en route. You can also stroll along the malecón, the seaside promenade that connects Mazatlán's Zona Dorada (tourist zone) with the old part of town. To get a glimpse of Mexico's colonial past, you can take an all-day tour traveling along a scenic highway to the towns of Concordia and Copala.
As one of the most exciting and vibrant cities in the world, Mexico City has a lot to offer families. Beginning at the
One of the best all-round Mexican beach resorts, Puerto Vallarta has something for everyone. If you've never been to Mexico or have experienced Cancún and are looking for a place that's more Mexican, Puerto Vallarta may be for you. Originally a fishing village, the town received international notoriety when John Houston chose it as the site for his film,
The newest development in Mexico is taking place along the coast of the state of Quintana Roo, south of Cancún. Known as the Riviera Maya, it once offered a string of secluded beaches looking out on the turquoise-blue Caribbean Sea. But the popularity of Cancún and its tremendous growth in the 1990s brought in a younger crowd, spurring the development of chic, upscale resorts and all-inclusives along the coast south toward Tulum. Today, a four-lane highway links Cancún to the region. The once sleepy town of Playa del Carmen has become a tourist boomtown overnight. Besides its main archaeological site of Tulum, you can also visit the one at nearby Coba. To further enhance your Riviera Maya experience, you'll enjoy a visit to Xcaret, a former ranch converted into an ecological park, with theme park, zoo, two rivers for floating or snorkeling, and a lagoon for swimming with dolphins. Be aware that this
Further down the coast is Xel-Há, a natural aquarium fed by springs and underground rivers that offers excellent snorkeling. Because the archaeological site of Tulum is the most accessible to tourists from Cancún and the Riviera Maya, it's overrun with tour buses much of the time. The only seaside Mayan site, it features over sixty buildings, most of them small temples. One of the most unique attractions along the coast is Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve, a 1.3-million-acre ecological park traversed by canals built by the Maya. You'll enjoy taking a boat trip through its lagoons and canals to experience one of the Western Hemisphere's great wilderness areas.