Mexico- a country of diversity, exquisite natural beauty, warm climates and rich with cultural heritage.
The country is home to some 9,300km of coastline, of which nearly 3,000km sits on the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea and is home to some of the worlds best beaches.
The Yucatán Peninsula separates the Gulf of Mexico from the Caribbean Sea. Known as Mexico's Riviera Maya resort, the strip is cushioned in between two popular destinations: Cancún on the north side, with its high-rise hotels, and down the coast, Tulum, a rare seaside town pairing ancient Mayan ruins with a very distinctive boho, beach vibe.
We flew direct from Frankfurt into Cancun on a 12 hour direct flight with Lufthansa and headed south to Tulum to our boutique hotel for 5 nights of beach bliss.
Photo credit: Ali Garcia, Pexels
Tulum which was once a sleepy fishing town, has now morphed into a destination popular with the A list. The town is made up of two parts- downtown and the beach. We stayed on the beach which is around 90 minutes from Cancun airport and made up of eco chic hotels & treehouses, happy go lucky vibes, incense in the air, music, sounds of the jungle and twinkling lights – that’s Tulum. If you are looking for a back to nature holiday with a stylish twist – this is the place. But is Tulum suitable with kids?
Photo: Tulum beach
Tulum has lots to offer for children and there are many activities for them nearby such as:
- Visit the nearby Cenotes- the Yucatan Peninsula is home to the worlds most impressive natural swimming holes, they are a sight to behold! Here is a list of Cenotes near Tulum.
- Swim with Turtles in Akumal
- Visit the Chitzen Itza or Tulum ruins
- Visit the Unesco World Heritage Site - the biosphere of Sian Ka´an
- Visit the many nearby adventure parks such as Xel-Ha, Xcaret, Xenses etc
- Lazy days playing on the beautiful beaches of Tulum.
Photo: Cenote close to Tulum
Many of these activities are accessible from all along the coast, so we decided to focus on what was geographically closer to each of our locations to limit time in the car.
During our stay in Tulum we visited a beautiful local cenote, we went to Xel-Ha the worlds largest outdoor experiential aquarium, and the Tulum ruins, which were both within a 10 minute drive. Xel-ha was our top pick of all the parks, a truly unforgettable experience. It combines an outdoor waterpark with living Aquarium in which you can snorkel in crystal clear lagoons, swim in cenotes and leisurely float in a natural lazy river. The Tulum ruins were easy to access and a must do if you´re interested in Mayan history. The Tulum ruins are a stones through from Tulum centre, and much closer that Chitzen Itza. Sadly for us, our kids didn't find it interesting , but we would recommend it nonetheless.
Tulum has a huge choice of amazing restaurants with everything on offer from food trucks to high-end culinary dining experiences. Our favourite restaurants were Hartwood and Arca but you will find many choices on Trip Advisor.
Photo credit: La Zebra Hotel @booking.com
We stayed in La Zebra Hotel which was positioned on the south side of the beach. It had an excellent restaurant and beautiful rooms, ours came with a plunge pool and sea view. The hotel even had an outdoor pool which the kids loved and a play area on the beach. At night time the entire hotel is alight with candles, giving a truly magical feel.
Downsides to Tulum?
We had heard that Tulum was a love or hate place. Whilst loved by influencers, party people and the like, it has had a bit of bad press in recent times. From a family perspective a few things that were immediately noticeable for us was the heavy traffic going in and out of Tulum on one singular road, the lack of pavements and after the first night- the mosquitos. If you are planning excursions from Tulum you should avoid peak traffic time where you can be sat for over an hour on a 3km stretch of road. If you´re with a baby, opt for a baby carrier instead of a stroller and be sure to pack lots of mosquito repellent!
Despite the few negatives, we would definitely go back to Tulum.
We decided to spend the next part of our trip in the Mayakoba nature area situated on the Riveria Maya, just south of Cancun. The Mayakoba reserve offers a truly exceptional and diverse landscape, with 620 acres of white, sugar-sand beachfront, flourishing mangroves and crystal clear lagoons—home to a myriad of indigenous species of birds, fish and mammals. We stayed at the Banyan Tree Mayakoba resort where our kids were thrilled for find turtles in the garden of our villas as well as regular visits from raccoons at night.
Photo credit: The Banyan Tree Hotel @myluxurytravel.fr
The entire resort is huge and bicycles are provided to explore the grounds as well as golf buggies. There is a number of restaurants in the resort as well as a spa and kids play room. Each guest has their own villa with a private pool so we spent the majority of our stay enjoying all the resort had to offer and the privacy of our own space.
The Riveria Maya is the perfect access point to access a number of attractions such as Xplor, Xenses or Xcaret but we decided to just enjoy the facilities of the Banyan Tree. Next on our agenda we headed north for one and a half hours to arrive at the port of Chiquila. From here we took a 30 minute ferry ride to discover one of Mexico's best kept secrets, Isla Holbox.
Holbox is a narrow island on the north coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. It is the island paradise we had always dreamed of. It has no cars, no paved roads, miles, and miles of pristine undeveloped beaches peppered with beach shacks and massage tables.
Most of the island is protected as the Yum Balum Biosphere Reserve and is renowned for its underwater life and bird life. Depending on when you visit, you can swim with whale sharks, see flocks of flamingos or see turtles and dolphins.
Photo: Holbox island
It is the perfect place for families looking to get away from the built up Mayan Riviera coast. The shallow and calm waters make it perfect for children. There is some sea grass washed up on the beaches, but it doesn’t take away from the beautiful beach.
You won´t find resorts or hotel chains here, the island is home to a handful of eco-resorts, backpacker hostels and boutique hotels. We stayed at Instagram hotspot Aldea Kuka and Hotel Ser Casasandra. Both are within walking distance in the hotel zone and on the most pristine beach with shallow turquoise waters.
Photo: Hotel Ser Casasandra
Aldea Kuka has a pool, kids play area, two restaurants, free yoga, a spa and regular entertainment. Our kids loved splashing around in the black tiled pool and we enjoyed the grown up boho vibe of this resort.
Hotel Ser Casasandra is a very classy, elegant hotel with an excellent restaurant, beautiful sea views, a gorgeous beach club and a lovely intimate pool area and spa. They also offered free yoga classes and an array of holistic treatments.
What to do in Holbox with kids?
Photo credit: @islandlifemexico.com
- See the Bioluminescent plankton. This natural spectacle is caused by phytoplankton (a type of microalgae that floats at the surface of the ocean water. They emit a mesmerising bright blue light after they become agitated by wave movements or nearby swimming fish. The best time to see this is from July to January.
- Take a boat tour to the surrounding islands and swim in a Cenote. We took the three island boat tour to secluded islands populated by many species of birds included Toucans. We swam in a cenote (freshwater swimming hole) that is only accessible by boat. If you are lucky you will see crocodiles, flamingos, osprey and pelicans as you zip through the bay.
- Holbox is best known for the whale sharks that visit the waters off the coast in the summer months. You can take a boat tour in Holbox and swim with the whale sharks from June to September, Holbox’s busiest months. Although we didn't see the whale sharks this time, we all agreed that this is now on our family’s bucket list!
- Bum around on the beach. Sip a coconut, eat some mango from the beach vendors and get a massage. Your children will play for hours in the bath like temperature, shallow sea waters. The beaches of Holbox are unlike anywhere in the world and in our opinion as good as the Maldives.
- Water-sports- you can choose from kite boarding, paddling boarding (SUP), kayaks or snorkelling.
- Walk the sand bars to Punta Mosquito. The shallow waters of Holbox mean that at low tide you can walk the sand bars that extend along the beach. This is where you can view flamingos in season and where you will see lots of kite boarders. Our kids enjoyed lounging on the calm shallow sand bars. There are numerous beach club restaurants that you can stop for lunch or a drink.
Photo credit: Punta Mosquito @holidaytrust.nl
We love Mexican cuisine which is based on simple but strong flavours and the freshest ingredients. The food choice and quality was excellent almost everywhere and we were surprised to find some of hte best food on Holbox. Our favorites were Kukatch at Aldea Kuka hotel, and Piedra Santa. You can also enjoy food from the street vendors on the square next to the kids play area. Our kids were particularly fond of the chocolate crepes.
Photo credit: Hannah Brannigan from Pexels
Thankfully major development has not started on Holbox and we hope this stays that way. The majority of hotels are clustered together on the beach and having stayed in three whilst on the island, and having visited many more, here is our top 3:
Top choices for Holbox are.
- Hotel Ser Cassandra- great for families and art enthusiasts.
- Aldea Kuka- for influencers, hipsters and honeymooners.
- Hotel Casa Las Tortugas- intimate, stylish and chic.
Is Mexico Safe?
Mexico gets a lot of bad press but the truth is most of the crime is concentrated to the border towns and does not affect most residents and tourists. The Yucatan Peninsula is one of the safest places for travellers in Mexico, while petty crime can be found in most places, it has one of the lowest rates of homicide in Mexico (10 times lower than the rest of the country) and safer than major cities such as New York, Cairo and London (Google). As a family we felt extremely safe during the entire duration of our trip. Mexico is a country of warm, friendly and relaxed people and that family friendly attitude makes it an ideal place to be with kids.