Ahhhhh … Mexico! From white sand beaches to misty highlands; from ancient temples to the themed water parks of Xcaret and Xel-Ha; from arid plateaus to rich sea life … this is a land where dreams come true. Mexico is a huge country that will take several trips to truly explore. But if your family enjoys beautifully preserved colonial cities, whale watching, swimming with sea lions or whale sharks, hiking, surfing or just hanging out on pristine beaches, this is where you want to be! When you are ready, there is something for everyone in Mexico!
Our Favorite Places:
Mexico City – the capital city of Mexico and the largest city in North America, has a renowned art and culture scene and some of the best food in the western hemisphere! Better yet, it is affordable, safe (in most areas) and relatively easy to get around in. One of the main tourist areas is the Historic Center of Mexico City which holds the complex of Templo Mayor, the religious center for the Aztec, and the fascinating Museo Nacional de Antroplogía, which many say is the “must see” of Mexico City. The entire area was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.
Oaxaca – This beautiful colonial city, located a couple of hours from Puebla, is truly a treat! At 5,000 feet above sea level and surrounded by the Sierra Madre del Sur mountain range, Oaxaca is the consummate cultural and culinary destination of Mexico. If you like Mexican food, in particular mole, Oaxaca is the place to be. Her nickname is “The Land of the Seven Moles” – who can resist a good mole?
The Baja Peninsula – Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo might be known for their beaches, nightlife and uber glam hotels but the baja is best known as the Mexican Galapagos. Sea kayaking, glamping on isolated beaches, bird watching, hiking, snorkeling, deep sea fishing, or best of all, swimming with whale sharks and sea lions! You name it, adventure awaits in the Mexican Galapagos.
Riviera Maya – the tourism and resort district that runs along the Caribbean coastline in the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico. Formerly known as the Cancun-Tulum corridor (which describes the area perfectly) is known for its white sand beaches; amazing snorkeling and scuba diving opportunities; all inclusive resorts; quaint boutique hotels; fine dining opportunities and tourist attractions. Archaeology is a big draw with the ruins of Tulum, Chichen Itza and Coba being easy to access but just as fascinating are the eco-parks of Xcaret and Xel-Ha. There is definitely something for everyone and flights to Cancun are plentiful!
Cozumel – with an international airport or a one-hour ferry ride from Playa del Carmen (in the Riviera Maya) you can be on the tropical paradise known as Isla Cozumel. With a Mexican heart, Caribbean soul and an immense area of protected reefs, Cozumel is a huge draw for many travelers. From swanky hotels to small bed and breakfasts, there is something for everyone, especially if sea life is what you’re looking for! The average temperature is 80 degrees and the waters are just about the same. The island is near the largest barrier reef system in the Americas, the Mesoamerican reef, and is home to 250 species of fish, including the queen angelfish and the toadfish, which can’t be seen anywhere else in the world. If you like marine life, this is the place you want to be!
San Miguel de Allende – with her colorful buildings and cobblestoned streets, it’s hard to resist the charm of this 500-year-old colonial city. Nestled in the Sierra Madre mountains, San Miguel de Allende, is an off the beaten path draw for music lovers, artists and foodies from all over the world. While the city has seen a huge shift in tourism over the past 50 years which is evidenced by the excellent restaurants and high-class hotels, there is still a laid back atmosphere with a cosmopolitan panache unlike any other city in Mexico. But you’ll have to come see for yourself.
Our Favorite Activities:
National Museum of Anthropology – Mexico City
The Museo Nacional de Antropologia (National Museum of Anthropology) in Mexico City’s Chapultepec Park is the largest and most visited museum in all of Mexico. The museum is home to an enormous collection of artifacts and exhibits relating to the pre-Columbian heritage of the country. The exhibits house many Mayan and Aztec pieces including the famed Stone of the Sun, which is the original Aztec calendar stone. It is easy to spend the good bit of a day here so be prepared with good walking shoes!
San Ignacio Lagoon – Baja Sur
Whale watching in Mexico in amongst the most exciting thing you will ever do with your family! Watching these giant and magnificent creatures breech next to your boat is thrilling – an experience you will never forget! Every year in November more than 10,000 Eastern Pacific gray whales leave the cold waters of Alaska and head for their winter home in the waters off the coast of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula. There are several places to go to see the whales, but none is as spectacular as San Ignacio Lagoon. From January through April, the lagoon is the home to many gray whales, especially mothers and their babies. Because of the number of whales that live here in the winter months, it has become Latin America’s largest wildlife sanctuary. It is a must see for families!
Swim with Sea Lions & Whale Sharks – Espiritu Island, Sea of Cortex
This is a marine wildlife extravaganza kind of day! You’ll swim with the largest fish in the world – whale sharks, snorkel with one of the most playful marine mammals in the world – the sea lion, and have lunch on one of the most beautiful desert islands in the world – Isla Espiritu Santo. I mean really, what more can you ask for?
Sea Turtle Camp Adventure – Baja Sur
This is a wonderful opportunity for volunteers to work with local biologists on the coast of the Pacific to protect the endangered Olive Ridley marine turtles. Each night volunteers and biologists patrol the beach, watching for the 100-pound female turtles as they haul their bodies out of the ocean and make their way to the ideal nesting spot. Each female will leave 90-120 white ping-pong shaped eggs in a sandy hole, camouflage the nest with a characteristic belly dance, and then leave the offspring to chance. That’s where we come in. Predators, coastal development and illegal poaching all threaten sea turtle populations throughout the world. At this sea turtle research station you can help combat declining populations by volunteering with biologists as they collect the eggs and relocate them to a protective nursery. This heart-warming experience leaves you and your children longing to become a marine biologist!
Mexican Cooking Class – Baja Sur
Local lawyer turned chef Iker Algorri, author of Cooking Adventures in Baja and chef-in-residence at Los Colibris Casitas, leads this wonderful Mexican Survival Cooking Class. The emphasis is on having as much fun as possible! During the class you will gain the skills to make some truly delicious Mexican dishes following Chef Iker’s cooking philosophy, the Magnificence of Simplicity. You’ll also probably learn about some great Latin music you’ve never heard before. But be warned – dancing is often known to follow this class!
Cenote Dos Ojos –Tulum, Yucatan Peninsula
Just outside of Tulum is Cenote Dos Ojos, one of the country’s largest underwater cave systems. The name means the cavern of two eyes, referring to the two sinkholes connected by a long passageway. The water in the caverns is filtered through limestone, making it exceptionally clear. As a result, Cenote Dos Ojos is wildly popular with both snorkelers and more serious scuba divers, some of whom head deep into the underwater cavern. It is a thrilling adventure that families always enjoy!
Chichen Itza – Riviera Maya, Yucatan Peninsula
One of the most visited tourist destinations in Mexico is Chichen Itza (for good reason). Chichen Itza is the largest of the Maya cities in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. The most famous landmark of this complex is the temple-pyramid of El Castillo. The design of the temple has special astronomical significance. Each face of the pyramid has a stairway with 91 steps, which together with the shared step at the top, add up to 365, the number of days in a year. Some of the other highlights include the Great Ballcourt and El Caracol, a circular temple that served as an astronomical observatory. This is truly one of the most amazing Mayan ruins in Mexico – from a cultural perspective; these ruins are definitely worth a see!
Xcaret and/or Xel-Ha – Riviera Maya, Yucatan Peninsula
Two wild and crazy adventures in the Riviera Maya that families love are Xcaret and/or Xel-Ha. Xcaret is a cultural playground with traditional Mexican food, Pre-Hispanic Dances and performances, nature, music and handmade crafts. Xel-Há, on the other hand, is a natural playground ripe for adventure! There is unlimited snorkeling in spectacularly clear pools, cenotes and coves with amazing reef like formations. You can also walk through the trail systems to see: coatis, tropical birds, raccoons, and other wildlife. But best of all are the aquatic zip-lines and/or proving you are brave enough to jump from the Cliff of Courage. This is the adrenaline rush that families clamor for!
Dia de los Muertos – Oaxaca
Dia de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead) is celebrated all over Latin America but in Mexico, the city of Oaxaca is known for having one of the best festivals in the country! The festival can be traced back thousands of years to the indigenous cultures such as the Zapotec and Aztec and is still celebrated in high style today. In Oaxaca the Day of the Dead Festival starts at the end of October when families leave offerings for the spirits in the cemeteries and decorate home alters. But the festivities take place on November 1st and 2nd when Oaxacans honor the return of their deceased loved ones with ornately rich celebrations!
Surf Lessons – Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca
A couple of hours drive from Oaxaca is the sleepy surf town of Puerto Escondido, known as a world-class surf destination. If you’ve ever wanted to learn to surf, this is the place. From beginner to advanced, you can take lessons that will thrill everyone in your family. There isn’t anything much better than a day at the beach watching each other learn to ride the big waves!
I hope you enjoyed our favorite things to see and do in Mexico! If you’d like to talk more about creating an amazing family adventure for the holidays, sign up for a 30-minute discovery session at calendly.com/bambi. I’ll do everything I can to make your dreams come true!
Now let’s go explore the world!
All my best,
Bambi Wineland is the mother of two internationally adopted children, a traveler, a Certified Professional Coach, and the Founder and CEO of Motherland Travel. Motherland Travel began by designing Heritage Journeys for families with internationally adopted children. The emphasis of those Heritage Journeys has always been on deepening family connections, building self-esteem and cultivating pride in a family’s multi-cultural heritage. Motherland Travel also uses the philosophies of transformative Travel for designing family trips with purpose – building rich connections, with each other and the world! Read more about her here >> http://motherlandtravel.com/